Tag Archives: scientific management theory

Deming’s Profound Changes – A Conversation

Frederick Winslow Taylor

Frederick Winslow Taylor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I sometimes reread certain books that have depth and knowledge associated with them.  Out of the Crisis, The New Economics,  The Deming Dimension and The Reckoning are those that I have revisited a number of times.  Another called, Deming’s Profound Changes was written by Ken Delavigne and Dan Robertson.

Deming’s Profound Changes outlines the American perspective on management.  This perspective is rooted in Scientific Management (aka Taylorism) developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor back in the early 1900s.  The authors do an excellent job of breaking down the elements of Scientific Management and describe what they call Neo-Taylorism or the “New Taylorism.”

An analysis of Taylorism leaves us with eight flaws (from Deming’s Profound Changes):

  1. Belief in management control as the essential precondition for increasing productivity.
  2. Belief in the possibility of optimal processes.
  3. A narrow view of process improvement.
  4. Low-level optimization instead of holistic, total-system improvement.
  5. Recognition of only one cause of defects: people.
  6. Separation of planning and doing.
  7. Failure to recognize systems and communities in the organization.
  8. View of workers as interchangeable, bionic machines.

The book goes on to describe how these flaws have continued to embed in themselves in the design of organizations.  This is done through a comparison of the Taylorism flaws as perpetuated in the New Taylorism.  The comparisons in the book leave you feeling that the US has absorbed the bad and entropy has taken over the rest of the American perspective.

I was fortunate enough to spend close to two hours speaking with one of the authors – Dan Robertson.  He shared with me that Perry Gluckman was the source of their (Ken Delavigne and Dan) inspiration to write Deming’s Profound Changes – interestingly the name of the slides Dr. Gluckman used. Dr. Gluckman was directly guided by Dr. Deming in learning his method.  Dan described his interactions with Dr. Gluckman as sometimes confusing, but that the careful guidance of Gluckman always allowed the learning to advance.

Dan Robertson is from Indiana (Clinton county), but lives outside the Bay area today.  He is traveling back to Indiana this week and I hope to have coffee with him in late June or early July to learn more about his experiences.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Management – A Little Neglect

A little neglect may breed great mischief…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.  – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin had wrote many an interesting article or letter during his day.  His bemoaning of neglect provides insight to the nagging nature of management.

Management has long wrestled with making things better, only to making things worse.  And so, we have neglected management in moving our thinking forward.  The industrialized, backward thinking of management has created a large chasm to cross in the pursuit of improvement.

We have neglected management as part of the problem for so long that improvement efforts have become focused on the front-line.  This has become an acceptable place for improvement to begin . . . and end.  The inches between the ears of management avoided as not to make waves.

It is true that work represents the place to make improvements, but if management is completely separated from the work there can be no real improvement or learning.  Management designed the work that workers do, workers can make some improvements but dramatic improvement requires management participation to understand.  You can not lead  or fix the design from from behind.

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.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Industrialized and Mass-Production Thinking is Still the Enemy

W. Edwards Deming in Tokyo
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To take a look at business we have to go back in time to a Post WW II world.  Manufacturing was decimated by the war, except in one country . . . the United States. The world turned to the US for products.

Because of world demand, the US focused its manufacturing on mass production and the thinking from Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford.  How many can we produce and how fast?   . . . Were the questions that US manufacturing was trying to solve.  No competition and no focus on quality.

This worked well until a meeting in Japan on July 13th, 1950.  Where W. Edwards Deming met with 21 presidents of industry that represented about 80% of the capital of Japan.  Dr. Deming promised that if they followed better thinking that the US would be screaming for protection from Japanese goods in 5 years, they did it in 3.

In the greatest upset in economic history, US manufacturing faltered . . . culminating in the 1970’s with the bankruptcy of auto industry giants – Chrysler and Ford.  This lead to some self-reflection in the US about how a small country like Japan with few natural resources could put the US on its heels.

In 2011, the design of American manufacturing and service still has that mass-production flavor.  Some have managed to change to just survive (always good motivation to do so), but service still lags in thinking.  Many technology organizations think of their software development process as a production line.  A wholly wrong approach if you hope to make good software.

I have talked about economies of flow before, but it is scale thinking that still wins the day.  Reducing costs through outsourcing, shared services leads to service designs that have the opposite outcome of what is desired . . . or unintended consequences.  In this case, the unintended consequences are increased costs, worse service and reduced morale.

Economies of flow thinking helps lead us to better design as what is good for the customer always is good for the bottom-line.  To many, this is counter-intuitive.  The prevailing thinking is that better service costs money and it is with the industrialized thinking of yesteryear.

And so as we enter 2011, we still have the fundamental thinking problems about the design and management of work.  Will this be the year that you do something about 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.  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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The Management Brain Enema: If You Want Change, Change Your Mind

Most of the feedback I have received about my Quality Digest column and other columns I write has been positive with respect to the need for management to get a brain enema.  Of course there is always one reader with a different view.  This reader believes that a brain enema means you have sh*t for brains.

An interesting take and may apply to this reader, but not my operational definition.

It plain terms it means there is a need to flush out old thinking and replace it with new and better thinking.

So, what is the old thinking?

  • Scientific Management Theory – Born from Frederick Taylor back in the early 1900s and created the functional separation of work that hampers most organizations.
  • Management by the Numbers – Initiated by AP Sloan back in 1930s GM.  Separated the decision-making from the work where manager’s manage and worker’s work.  Targets became fashionable and we now know the damage they create.
  • Economies of scale thinking – This thinking dominates manager’s minds where we now know that costs in the flow (economies of flow).  Costs are end-to-end from a customer’s perspective.
  • Valuing hierarchy over the work – In today’s companies, managers believe position is more important than knowledge.  This is how bad decisions get made.  Very few managers understand the work they manage which is a always a costly mistake.  Decisions made with the work can eliminate the need for excessive planning.
  • Information technology is a cure-all – Today’s managers (especially government management) believe that any manual process should be automated and if it is not should be obsolete.  IT is good for some things, but people absorb variety better.
  • Standardization is good – Too often managers work to standardize processes.  This thinking was born from manufacturing and is a costly assumption for service. Variety of demand is the biggest challenge for service.  Organizations standardize and entrap workers with technology.  Service companies need to absorb variety not turn it away.
  • Rewards and incentives make workers better – Nothing is more controversial than this topic in the US.  Workers and managers are definitely motivated by incentives, but the targets become the defacto purpose and drive the wrong behaviors costing money and customers.  Anybody still remember the banking crisis?

There are a slew of others that could be written about what to change.  This thinking is creating waste on a colossal scale.  Some may be offended by the analogy of a management brain enema.  But if the old thinking prevails and money and customers are thrown out the window than . . . hmmm . . . maybe my reader is on to something?

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.

Tripp Babbitt is a columnist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.

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Questions at a High School about Systems Thinking

 

I was asked to speak at a high school today and presented a historical timeline of management thinking.  The teacher wanted to be sure that I put something in about the future in jobs, which I did.  The picture I painted was probably more optimistic than I actually feel as jobs are outsourced or shipped over seas.

I gave them the usual timeline of Frederick Taylor and scientific management theory that led to the functional separation of work with incentives.  I added in the bit about Schmidt, Taylor’s worker that could increase his wage from $1.15 perday to $1.85 per day by increasing productivity.  This is the model American management still runs at great peril.

I told them about A.P. Sloan ad “management by the numbers” and the use of targets.  Sloan separated management and worker and lived by manager’s manage and worker’s work.  Management caught in the work or not making their numbers were frowned upon or fired.  Hasn’t changed  much here in the US, other than now you can get fired for making your financial targets because someone up the ladder didn’t make theirs.

I told them about Shewhart, Deming and the Japanese Industrial Miracle.  How we didn’t pay attention to what Deming taught us and we continue our decline that started in 1968.

We talked about bad service that we get in companies like Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and McDonalds ( hard to get no onions . . . this is important to a high school senior).  This led to a discussion on why companies give bad service, when it osts them more money and loses them customers.  I explained this is what happens when you manage by the financial cost, costs increase . . . always.

The hope is that these Seniors will be smarter than our generation and that fads like Lean and Six Sigma will die away in favor of better thinking.  There is great opportunity to change management thinking and redesign the work to serve customers.  The work is more interesting and the culture improves.

One student asked about an “aggressive customer” that might take advantage of the company if you do what the customer says.  Those people exist, but they are the exception.  The problem is that we design our systems as if they are the norm (common causes of variation), when they are not. Rules, procedures and inspection follow at great cost.

The teacher asked what is the one thing that a student should know.  I replied Statistical Process Control (SPC) should be required study for any student in high school.  Just the basics would be a huge differentiator.

I can only hope that an education system wraught with command and control thinking can see the way to better thinking . . . we can only hope.

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.

Tripp Babbitt is a columnist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.

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Broken Promise – The Hope of Information Technology Turns into False Hope

 

Homer Simpson Toy
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The story is the same that I have heard played many times.  Information technology to the rescue.  We were expecting Ironman and instead got Underdog or Homer Simpson.  The broken promise of IT and the carnage left behind can only leave one shaking their head in disbelief.

Yet, organizations both private and public keep believing that this time will be the magic answer.  Modernization is our future and may careers are at stake so let’s go to the well one more time. 

Maybe a different path would be more appropriate.

Information technology has followed the same path as faulty operational thinking.  You can’t hear the machines running like in manufacturing, but the brains still follow scientific management methods in hope that we can create the economic glory of early post-WWII America.

Where information technology had great promise we now have instead software developers buried behind business analysts and project managers. Only to find that we now plan to miss dates and make the customer worse.

Mind-boggling, as IT continues to carry a false bravado that only an executive from Enron, WorldCom and Tyco could pull off.  The salespeople sell the sizzle . . . because there ain’t no steak.

In fairness, the organizations are dysfunctional too, but we lock in the waste with information technology.  Workflow where the work already doesn’t flow, so let’s automate the poor work design . . . that’ll fix it!  Management gets piles of reports with data and now we have to (data) mine it for the best of the nuggets of information.  More technology sold with little value.

Until organizations begin to understand that improving the work BEFORE information technology is introduced the redundancy of failure is sure to continue.  AND when we quit hiring loads of non-value IT positions that keep software developers away from the work, we may have hope.  Unfortunately, we will be left with the same management thinking that built the work design and IT in the first place.

Where do we go from here?  A better thinking path that promotes information technology in a supporting role would be a beginning.  Redesigning the work to optimize the system BEFORE technology would be a good start.  Regardless, seems any path is better than the present.

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.

Tripp Babbitt is a columist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.

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The Curse of W. Edwards Deming

We all know about the sports famous curses:

Babe Ruth, full-length portrait, standing, fac...
Image via Wikipedia

 

  • The Bambino Curse– From the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees by the Boston Red Sox.  Subsequently, one of the great sports draughts where the Yankees would win 26 World Series and the Boston Red Sox did not win one for 86 years (ending in 2004).
  • The Andretti Curse – Mario Andretti won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, but despite 25 years of efforts he was unable to win again.
  • The Curse of 1940 – Cited as the reason for the New York Rangers inability to win the Stanley Cup until 1994.

Many other curses with strange names and funny stories like the Curse of Biddy Early, the Buffalo Sports Curse, Curse of the Billy Goat, the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx and the list goes on.  However, I believe we are under the W. Edwards Deming Curse.

It was Deming that said we have been in economic decline since 1968, which he noted as the high water mark for the US.  Just as General Lewis Armistead’s fall at Gettysburg marked the decline of the South during the Civil War. 

It hasn’t been a complete disaster with a few rays of sunshine here and there.  But government deficits have built.  

A tiny country with few resources (Japan) has brought manufacturing to its knees . . . and do we really want to talk about how poor service is in the US?  The fall has been incremental so many haven’t felt the decline just as a frog that boils in the kettle doesn’t feel small changes in heat.

What have we missed?  We have had fads like lean, six sigma, TQM and an assortment of promising strategies to break the curse.  Yet, we wallow in the cesspool of an economic conundrum that has everyone turning to China to fund government deficits and manufacture cheap products.  In service, we outsource to cheap labor countries based on our thinking that economies of scale and quarterly dividends will right the ship.

The source of the Curse has been blamed on the lazy, overpaid and uneducated worker.  Most of the improvement fads place emphasis on the front-line measuring productivity, copying and cutting costs (and heads).  Yet costs continue to rise and creative ways to make short-term profits improve are embraced.  Only to compromise the long-term and the day of reckoning has come.

So, if the Curse of W. Edwards Deming doesn’t manifest itself in the front-line where is our opportunity to do what the Red Sox did?  Break the Curse.

For many it lies in the things that haven’t changed, Dr. Deming warned that management must reinvent itself.  Doing so with an emphasis to create value and jobs and something for the greater good.  Rather than the bottom-line thinking that has crushed both value and jobs.

Management  has to begin to understand that economies are in the flow, not the scale.  The functional separation of work  started by Frederick Taylor at the turn of the last century is stagnant.  Leading management to reinventing itself by redesigning the work and its own thinking.

Whether this Curse lifts or not, depends largely in part on whether curiosity leads us to experiment with our 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/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Tripp Babbitt is a columist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.  

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Net Promoter Score is Nothing More than Another Lagging Measure

When a whole industry emerges from a single measure, I get concerned.  The aim of Net Promoter Score) NPS is to increase the score of a lagging measure and this puts into the same category as financial and productivity measures.  The measure doesn’t tell us how to increase or indicate “what matters” to customers.

What is the NPS?  You basically ask the question “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”  The customer responds with a score of 1-10.  A 9-10 makes you a promoter, 7-8 makes you a passive and 1-6 a detractor. Subtract the percentage of promoters from detractors and voila . . . you have an NPS score.

Of course I have found that companies have targets for their NPS.  The defacto purpose is to increase a lagging measure.  You can improve the number by firing detractor customers or improving the service.  A lot of debate about firing customers in the blogosphere, but I usually find this not to be a good idea.

Service organizations don’t need more lagging measures they need to find measures that are leading and derived from “what matters” to customers or customer purpose.  Leading measures that if improved will make customers happier and costs lower.  These measures drive NPS, financial and productivity measures.

The job in service organizations is to study your system by conducting “check” and determine what matters to customers.  Determine customer measures and design work so that there is improvement in these measures.  In the hands of workers, customer measures can be improved by experimentation with method.

A goal without a method is nonsense. – W. Edwards Deming

service organizations can not improve or achieve business cost reduction with lagging measures.  This can only be done with measures derived from customer purpose and innovation through new method.

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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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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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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