Tag Archives: innovation leadership

Belts and Tools Not Needed to Improve Service

As I was looking at some forums over the weekend, I ran across a poor fellow that was trying to improve his organization.  He had been duped into thinking that he was a Lean Six Sigma Green belt trying to do things only a Master Black Belt could do.  It was demoralizing that his willingness to improve was being blocked by an artificial barrier.

I have long taking the stance that I am a “reformed” Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt.  This is no slight to Dr. Frony Ward who I worked with to achieve the designation, as she saw little value in the multitude of statistical components needed to be a Master Black Belt (but proceeded to teach them and tell us why they were of little value).  In the manufacturing world, Dr. Ward is one of the best.

Most of the reformation came from working in service industry and discovering through application that lean manufacturing tools and belt designations have so little to do with improvement.  In fact, after reading Freedom from Command and Control did the pieces start to fit.  You see  manufacturing is different from service (in many ways) and all the efforts to improve were making things worse or new management decisions were reversing the improvements.

Here in the US it has become almost comical how in order to achieve uniformity of service and reduce costs we have increased them.  Over-standardized and entrapped with technology costs have risen.  In an effort to stem the rise in costs companies do things like outsource or share services which compound the problem.

The  green, black and master black belt  clan have created an elitist group to implement improvement through projects.  Over and over again do I hear stories of organizations (that subscribe to the belt mentality)  that show savings after each project.  However, they never show up in the financial reports.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. – Peter Drucker

With lean manufacturing tools like 5S, standardization does not allow for the absorption of variety of demand that customers bring.  This variety is much greater in service than manufacturing.  With tools, there is a missed  opportunity to study this variety and design better systems through understanding customer demand.

The important part of the non-belt and tool crowd to know is that by studying the “what and why” of current performance and deriving customer purpose and measures you can learn to improve the systems you work in.  The only class you need is to get knowledge of your system and its interaction with customers.

Armed with knowledge of customer purpose and measures you can begin to experiment with method and innovate.  New methods will be found and the discovery of new ways for your problems in service will advance the thinking.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at tripp@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Worker Mistakes – How to End Them

*Reader warning: as this blog post will require some thinking and possibly learning.

When a system is stable, telling the worker about mistakes is only tampering. – W. Edwards Deming

Not long ago, I observed a manager informing workers about their mistakes.  Explaining in a calm tome about the types of mistakes that were coming out later in the process.  Workers intently listened and there were promises to do better.  Later, I asked the manager how often these mistakes occurred.  She replied, “all the time.”

DanielPenfield 22:16, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
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Although I have seen managers try to end mistakes through training, software edits, mistake-proofing, etc. I rarely find they understand the source of these mistake.  A manager and anyone else wanting to reduce mistakes must understand variation.  If you do not understand variation you may want to read this post (Service Metrics: What You Need to Understand) to give you some clue before reading on.

Too many managers treat mistakes as if each one is a special cause, when they are being produced predictably by the system (structure, work design, measures, technology, etc.) that they work in.  The use of control charts is the ONLY way to know whether the system is stable or not.  In service industry I rarely find many special causes with regards to mistakes, when I do I may find a new worker in training or an unusual circumstance that that worker already knows about.

However, when mistakes are predictable (between the limits) and the result of a stable system, more training and/or more communications about them will do no good.  In a stable system, the focus on the worker is misguided.  Systemic changes are needed to eliminate the mistakes.  Wishing, begging, inspecting or imploring workers will do no good.

Systemic issues have to be corrected in the design and management of the work.  Too many managers see the system as something they can’t control (too hard to do for department-separated service organizations) and instead turn to the one thing they can control . . . the worker.  The worker becomes frustrated, morale falls and business improvement is not achieved.

Systems that workers work in need management . . . workers, not so much.  Understanding the nature of these systems and aligning them with customer purpose almost always leads to breakthrough performance and innovation leadership.  The only time it doesn’t is when organizations give up.

To improve systems requires experimentation with method (innovation).  This requires that we derive measures associated with customer purpose (what matters to customers).  All of this requires a different approach to how we handle mistakes.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at tripp@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Droids We Build

I challenge myself each day to hearing something different.  Sometimes this is about education, liberals, conservatives, tree huggers or many other opinions and topics that counter my perspective.  For me, this develops new perspectives on problems and issues that service organizations face.  Even if the topic is distasteful and challenges my core values.

Scientific management theory has long driven our education, management thinking and our design of work.  The plight of Call Center Cindy in a government agency still haunts me.  Too many service organizations have killed innovation and destroyed hopes for change (that is improvement) by the organizations we have built.

Students are trained to do well on tests and workers are trained to comply with scripts, audits, monitoring, entrapping technology, and procedures.  Then the question is asked “why can’t we get workers to change?”  Because the system has built droids that learn to comply and not think.

The sad news is that this thinking is making us less competitive.  We have a few people making decisions at the top based on information from financials and reports.   This gives executives little context to make decisions and to make better ones they need the help of those that understand the work that pleases customers.

The gap organizations have built between the top floor and the front-line may only be an elevator ride, but they may as well be in different continents with different languages.  Service organizations have coffee with the boss days, Undercover Boss programs on TV, summer picnics and other activities to bridge the gap.  But when push comes to shove . . . manager’s manager and worker’s work.

Executives need a new perspective when making decisions.  This perspective needs to be from understanding the work and how customers view the performance against their purpose (or what matters to them).  This act only turns front-line workers from droids to important sources of information to drive revenue and reduce costs.

Together a combination of executives, managers and workers can look at their systems and perform check on their system.  This will help all to understand customer purpose, core end-to-end processes, capability and the systems conditions that exist that help us understand why the system behaves that way.  All focused on a common purpose and not the type of office or which function you work in.

Droids armed with customer purpose (and customer measures derived from purpose)  become innovative juggernauts.  Executives can clear paths for innovation as workers experiment with method to achieve customer purpose.  Roles may change, but executives and managers will replace conformance and rules with innovation.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at tripp@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Breaking the Cycle of Command and Control Management

 

M1A1 abrams front
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So few companies have the environment of a systems thinking organization.  They compete with other companies on the same command and control playing field . . . so why break the epitome of best practices? 

As I wrote in my last post, perspective is needed or we wind up not challenging existing thinking.  It is pretty safe to say the design and management of work hasn’t changed in a 100 years (except for the Japanese industrial miracle).   Since then, we have done everything to copy what the Japanese did with things like lean, JIT, TQM, etc.  The result has been less than spectacular (seen any new Toyota companies lately).

The perspective we need is quite different than the command and control sort.  let’s review what command and control management gives us.

  • A top-down hierarchy
  • Decisions made from financials, reports and anecdotal evidence (separated from the work)
  • Compliance to contracts
  • Measures from outputs, activity, targets and (of course) budgets
  • Executives controlling budgets and managing the people
  • Extrinsic motivation (rewards, bonuses, incentives) to make work tolerable, interesting and/or to control the actions of workers
  • Work separated by function

For as fast as we have moved with new technology, we sure love command and control.  Huge leaps in flying to the moon, cell phones, automobiles . . . just don’t change the way work is designed and managed.  Change is for the front-line, not managers.

Few people understand that when they give up command and control thinking they don’t lose control, but gain it instead.  This is a management paradox to the way managers think.  They believe that unless they monitor, inspect, incentivize, cajole, badger, etc. the worker that we can’t get work done.

Instead if we do things differently, we may find better ways of managing.  In systems thinking using the 95 Method we have found this is not only true, but leads to profound improvement in culture, sales and reducing costs.  The irony is none of these things are the focus.

If we focus our efforts outside-in rather than top-down we can find a whole new set of measures that relate to customer purpose.  Decision-making with the work the work creates both better decisions and and improved culture.  Taking action on the system rather than plans and milestones leads to experimentation with method and innovation follows.

All these things and more await those that seek a different path.  The first step is always the hardest . . . so let’s begin.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at tripp@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Managers in Service or Any Industry

 

Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii, from a 3rd cent...
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Systems thinking is both simple and profound and one of the issues I run into often is managers and respect.  The command and control system has the managers making decisions and workers working.  Respect is earned by being tough by wielding coercive control or more common today silver-tongued managers that deploy psychological or rational arguments.   

Instead of these traditional methods I have found a better way to get respect and that is to relinquish control to the worker and allow them to particpate in or make the decisions about the work they do.  In a management paradox this gives a manager the respect they seek.  Counter-intuitively, this also gives managers more control and not less.

Workers are held accountable for their work, so why can’t we allow them the ability to participate in decision-making?  Participation means creating a culture that is enjoyable to work in, better decisions and innovation.  No longer do workers have to check their brains at the door when they enter the workplace.

Workers with a different view of the work because they interact with customers (instead of reports) give us insight to better decisions.  These insights into customer purpose (e.g., what matters to customers), and customer measures that are derived from this purpose are the pillars for improvement and innovation.  As innovation comes from experimentation with method and not from strategic plans or technology.

As awe inspiring as the take charge leaders of yesteryear were like Patton and MacArthur or Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun.  There are newer and better leadership strategies to be used in managing this generation of workers than those deployed by the leaders in history books.  Different thinking needs to be used today to gain respect and the added benefit is improved organizational performance.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Radical Improvement through Experimentation with Method

Just like a stale piece of toast, service organizations miss a huge opportunity to improve their systems by experimenting with method.  My observation is that there are way too many management projects (top-down), policies, rules-based cultures, control issues, and entrapping technology.  The familiar theme is that service organizations have to do these things to gain control.

The truth (and management paradox) is that all this effort to control leaves management with no control.  Instead they are saddling their organizations with some of the biggest boat anchors and paperweights that do nothing but weigh down the corporation and stifle innovation.  Maybe not the intention . . . but the outcome is predictable.

As entropy takes over these stagnant (and I might add boring to work in) systems things deteriorate.  This the law of nature.  So more time controlling systems will do one thing . . . lead your service organization to ruin.

Quite simply, workers need room to grow.  They need simpler systems that allow freedom to think and innovate.  The result is more interesting work and greater innovation with more profit.

Workers that understand customer purpose and are allowed to experiment with method can really provide new ways to improve the work or even redesign the work to better absorb customer demand.  The possibilities are endless and the work is exciting especially when compared to those stale toast “do as I say” systems.  Management that commands employees through rules-based thinking or control through targets can’t compete against systems with freedom to move.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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“That All Men are Created Equal”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Our Forefathers in the US wrote the above words for a reason.  To declare independence from Great Britain and set the tone for a new world.  That world has changed many times since then . . . some good and some not so good.

Regardless, the fact that “all men are created equal” has been displayed again and again in history.  There is no time like the present to bring it up again.

Whenever I talk in terms of the system being accountable for 95% of the performance of any organization and 5% is attributable to an individual.  I get all types of resistance.  Somehow, this is interpreted (wrongly) as meaning that the individual doesn’t matter in applying systems thinking.  This is far from the intended line of thought.

In systems thinking (especially the 95 Method), the individual becomes more important, not less.  Think about it, when decision-making is put back with the work we wind up with workers that have engaged minds.  It is to have relevance in a job and not just an environment of policies, rules, scripts and other command and control shenanigans.

Individuals with understanding of customer purpose and armed with customer measures have great freedom to experiment with method in pursuit of perfection.  This makes the individual more relevant and the culture energized.

There is no need to coerce people with rewards and incentives to do things that are detrimental to the system.  Individuals do things with intrinsic motivation and aren’t required to be cajoled or prodded.  A novel concept for a business world filled with the fact that some are “more equal” than others.

It is our history of manager’s managing and worker’s working that has led us to our current work design.  This is ineffective and inefficient.  Why not have the brains of all people in an organization working on building a better system and not just a few?

I am disappointed in the fact that so few organizations see the benefit of this thinking.  We stand to make the individual less relevant with our current line of thinking.  So, if you want to stand up for the individual’s place in an organization than systems thinking puts you in better stead.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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New Thinking for Auto Dealerships

 

Ortynsky CarI was in Canada last week working with two auto dealerships, one in Yorkton, SK and the other in Winnipeg.  These are not just any auto dealerships.  They are run by an innovative and forward-thinking owner named Terry Ortynsky.

Mr. Ortynsky has been working on systems thinking for a little over a year.  His tinkering with the concept during that time has led him to fully commit.  He sees systems thinking as a way to build a better auto dealership.

The Ortynsky dealerships had long fashioned their work to be customer-friendly like so many other dealers.  The difference being the action he has taken to live this principle.  Mr. Ortynsky doesn’t pay his salespeople by commission, they are paid by salary so that when sales are made they are in the best interest of the customer.

His commitment and belief that doing things in the best interest of the customer in sales and service led him to systems thinking.  He understands that by focusing the design and management of work to serve the customer will decrease costs, improve service and achieve a culture that people want to work in. 

Despite pressure from the manufacturers to submit to targets and other dysfunctional behavior, the Ortynsky automotive groups are focused on creating a better customer experience.  They are in the process of improving the customer experience by understanding the “what and why” of current performance and “what matters” to their customers.  This will lead to a system of continual redesign as employees are engaged at all levels to find new ways to serve customers.

A better leadership strategy (especially innovation leadership) can now be found in a car dealership.  Mr. Ortynsky and his folks are on a mission to serve the people of Canada though better service and thinking . . . for sure.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Innovation without Technology


Let me take you back to a simpler time when people helped people.  I’m not talking about Little House on the Prairie times, but probably late-70s and early 80s where computers began to dominate the scene.  Since this time our fascination and zombie-like attitude toward information technology (IT) has continued . . . at great cost.

A combination of media, business and government  with unbridled exuberance has done nothing to . . . well, keep things in perspective.  When improvement is needed we turn to technology.  Innovation leadership can not be achieved without IT, correct?  Wrong, and not just wrong but costly wrong.

In our collective psyche we have managed to place IT on such a pedestal it has become a dominate industry, more so than the industries to which they serve.  But in a management paradox, IT has failed to deliver in many cases.  And I am not just talking about missed schedules and cost over-runs.

The problem is that in our rush to go paperless (never happened) and automate (not always a good idea), we lost track of the ability to design and manage work optimally.  The current thinking of outsourcing, shared services, business analytics, Business Process Management, IVRs would never have been possible without Information Technology.  But one question never seems to get asked, “Since IT can, should it?”

I have to say a resounding NO is in order.  In fact, I would submit to you that larger gains in innovation can be achieved through better thinking around the design and management of work and pulling IT into the work as needed is more in order.  Then maybe, just maybe we can learn that cost reduction and business improvement can come from better thinking and not IT.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Entropy: The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

My enemy is command and control thinking so why is entropy my friend?  Well, it is because entropy says that things left alone will deteriorate.  Command and control is all about “maintenance” and protecting.  These folks love to hide behind contracts, manipulated surveys and data, lots of inspection, attorneys, bean counters, reports and other non-value-added activities that add costs and waste.  The problem is with their focus on adding waste the value work is deteriorating.  Sometimes this is a trickle and sometimes this is a flood.  If you are not improving the system you are deteriorating.

The systems thinking organization understands entropy and that customer demands shift.  Management sets up the front-line workers to work with them to help understand this changing demand as it happens instead of trying to figure it out on a report.  Innovation leadership means having a close ear to changes in customer demand and what creates value.

So thank you entropy you can make changing thinking much easier by what you do naturally.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control thinking and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking.  Download free Understanding Your Organization as a System and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt.

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