Tag Archives: management article

A Costly Paradigm – The Inverse Influence Factor

Many a business that seeks improvement starts with business processes to improve and miss the huge opportunities to fix how they design and manage  work.  Near the top of the list is what I call the “Inverse Influence Factor” . . . where the influence of how systems (including processes) are put together by those that are further away from the work.

The Inverse Influence Factor (IIF) is defined by decisions that are made further from the work.  Defined – The farther from the work one is in the hierarchy or roles, the greater the influence on the work and the design of the work.  This would seem illogical to most and it is, but it is practiced in business and government on a daily basis.

Why would the supporting casts of finance, information technology and human resources wield more control over systems then those that operationally perform the service?  Add management with their “big picture” thinking and the affects of decision-making on the work can be devastating.

The existing business improvement fads of recent ignore the need for change in these areas pressing ahead for process improvement using kaizen events.  These fads completely miss or ignore the fact that IIF is at play.

The problem with ignoring IIF is the people that make decisions in traditional organizations have no knowledge of how things operate.  Improvement rarely comes without knowledge about how services are delivered.  Management and supporting roles lack perspective and they happily move forward with process improvement, because they don’t have to change.  Change is (after all) for the little people from their perspective.

The truth is that no improvement comes without systemic change.  And with the largest area of need for change being the design and management of work, there is much to address. When we fail to address these the results are anemic or non-existent.

Systems demand that they be run by the people with knowledge of the work.  Not from people that have theories and ideologies separated from the work.

Improvement begins with getting knowledge about work or leaving the decision-making in the hands of those that do and/or understand the work. This is a course correction for many service and government organizations that plan first and think later.

If the IIF is in play in your organization, waste and sub-optimization will prevail in your system.  Influence should come from knowledge, not hierarchy.

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 [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Who? Me? Change?

World history is full of change and most of it has come from war or disease.  The coercive approach is certainly more direct and can yield results (submission), but uneasiness and resentment soon led to the next revolution.  Which leads us to more civilized times . . . of course a few hundred years from now they may not say that.

Organization change management is a difficult thing for many organizations.  Management articles and books abound about how to implement change in organizations.  The common denominator in many of them are that the workers need to change and management doesn’t.

Too often I hear executives and managers say “We just can’t get our workers to change.”  Really, because I rarely find that to be the problem.  The problem is that most change is done command and control style.

Executives come up with ideas from the reports and anecdotal evidence and build plans (strategic, project, risk management, etc.).  Top-down they are implemented and when workers start to see the change the resistance begins.  What positive culture there was collapses.

I find two primary reasons for the resistance:

  1. The change is not an improvement.
  2. Workers were beaten into submission for the last change and the new revolution begins to get compliance for this change.

The workers sometimes participate in these plans for change, but let’s be honest the manager makes the decision.  Change may come without death, but it just feels that way for the worker.  If you want to make change in the command and control world, you need to have power.

Two things are important for a systems thinking approach:

  1. Organizations look at change outside-in (vs. top-down)
  2. Decision-making is made with the work

The command and control nature of organizations prevents this from happening.  We have built whole organizations of strategic planners, project managers, marketers, etc. into our structure to implement what the all-seeing and crystal ball-reading executives and managers want.  The result is increased costs and workers wondering what brilliant idea is being force fed to them now.

A simple proposition to look at the organization from a customer perspective and put decision-making with the work meets with cheers from the workers and managers saying “Who? Me? Change . . . but I make all the decisions.”  Now whose cheese just got moved?

The approach is foreign to most managers, but I find that the results are far better and certainly less costly (that is if you can move the real dead weight from paper pushers and hall monitors to value-adders).  Worker engagement means decisions made with them and not to them.  Otherwise, how do managers make a worker accountable for decisions they made?

Change that is improvement needs to be emergent from understanding the context of the work and its interaction with customers.  You can only get this knowledge from the points of transaction where your customers do business.  This isn’t a “everybody hold hands and sing campfire songs” exercise, real learning about customer purpose needs to be achieved.

The result is predictable . . . experimentation with method against customer purpose will lead to improvement.  But managers must change the way they change.

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 [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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CEO Tips to Finding the Truth

 

Image via Wikipedia

As frequent writer for several internet magazines, I love to read what others write.  No subject is more important to CEOs in forums and management articles than how to get to the truth.  The larger the organization . . . the more difficult this becomes.

The first tip is to do this:  walk out of your office, lock the door, tell the admin you are playing golf and go straight to the point where your customers transact business with you (service) or go to the place your product is being used (manufacturing).  This sounds simple enough especially the golfing part, people will believe you unless it is raining.

The show Undercover Boss is not what I am talking about here.  If the CEO has that little recognition in a company . . . well . . . let’s just say it isn’t good.  CEOs need to know what is really important in an organization and it is not those marathon meetings discussing the balance sheet and income statement.  There is a need to get context to the data that you can only get by observation and this can not be delegated.

Yes, people will be nervous at first, but that is no reason to avoid doing the job of CEO.  Recently, I spoke with a CEO that was proud that she met with every new employee and made sure that the employee knew that he/she was welcome to come to her office.  When I inquired about how many had shown up, she said “none.”  And so it is with CEOs that sit in their offices, you have to get out there and see for yourself.

Once a CEO gets to the work just observe what a customer might see and after a while can begin to ask questions.  Like:

  • What types of demands does a customer make?
  • What matters to customers about those types of demand?
  • Are the types of demand of value to the customer or the result of failure to do something or do something right for a customer?
  • What do the managers pay attention to about the work?
  • What drives the workers thinking is it the customer, procedures, targets . . . ?

Seeing the gap between what happens upstairs and what happens where it matters is crucial to get perspective of the customer and those that deliver value to them on the front-line.  This needs to be an activity done on a consistent basis to work through the show that is performed on your first few visits.  The truth will be found with this approach.

You can learn more by reading the Fit for the Future series to help you begin to find a better way to make the work work. 

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 our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Good Management or Good Fortune?

I just finished an ezine management article about American arrogance and our collective inability to change thinking, especially management thinking.   My belief is that we are still basking in the sun of our tremendous wealth that was produced between 1950-1968.  All until the Japanese came along and ate our collective lunches.  Bye! Bye! Manufacturing! But that’s OK we have service right?

Service industry with a huge competitive advantage in technology.  Oops! We outsource software development and hardware manufacturing.  After all, good management means a good IT outsourcing strategy to other countries.

Good call center management means that we lower transaction costs to add to that bottom line.  What fool wouldn’t want bigger short-term profits to hit that quarterly dividend target or bonus? 

Unfortunately, just like the Mesabi Iron Range . . . the cream is gone.  Our management style no longer achieves innovation leadership.  Instead we follow in the wake of our short-term thinking.  All the while thinking how great US management is.  Except for the awakening that we have fallen behind because we mistook good fortune for good management.

Leave me a comment. . . what do you think?!  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 [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Peter Pan’s Shadow

People who know me understand how much I love everything Disney.  Disney World andMe and Minnie! Disney movies always take me back to a simpler fantasy world away from the realities of business and life.  I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to watch Disney movies mostly so I could watch them with them and relive the fantasy world I so enjoyed as a child.  And to see my children wide-eyed at their first sight of the Magic Kingdom and Mickey.  It is a great experience as an adult even though the highlight for my children now-a-days is who gets to push the elevator button first.

One of my favorite movies is Peter Pan.  The symbolism of Peter and his shadow is the movement from a fantasy world to the world of reality.  Since the great victory the US had in WWII, we have been fortunate as a nation . . . living a fantasy if you will.  With Europe decimated, the world turned to our country for most of its goods and services.  A productivity mindset set the stage for the next 25 years to meet the world’s demand.

W. Edwards Deming rejected in the US went to Japan to start the next generation of thinking moving a country from one of command and control thinking (productivity mindset) to systems thinking (quality and improvement mindset).  The start of the Japanese Industrial Miracle had begun.  By the 70s the US was in a crisis, the auto manufacturers were under attack.  Deming returned from Japan with a new message and new thinking that was watered down into tools . . . if we could just copy what the Japanese did we would be back on top.  The Japanese understanding the change was systemic invited the Americans to their plants to see what they had done and the Americans left with tools.  Later, another group of Americans went to Japan to see what Taiichi Ohno had done in the development of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and called it “lean.”  The lean toolkit would follow and again the need for a change of thinking was missed.  Three opportunities to change thinking and three opportunities missed, if this were baseball we would be “out.”

Business improvement has turned into classes of certifications and tools for lean, six sigma and lean six sigma that does little to change thinking.  The command and control, productivity mindset still prevails today.  I am afraid that even the current crisis will not awaken the US and the deterioration of our ability to compete continues to diminish.  I see it in my networking meetings where people once in manufacturing are now selling homes or work in service industry now.  If we don’t change our thinking, what is left after service?

For the curious, my blogs, management articles and website outline different thinking that must occur to compete internationally.  We are left with a choice we can continue to live in the fantasy world of the command and control, productivity mindset or begin the process of reattaching our shadow (like Peter Pan) and live in a world of reality.

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 [email protected]  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Misconceptions: W. Edwards Deming and Systems Thinking

I find it interesting that the most quoted Deming phrase on Twitter is “It is not necessary to change, survival is not mandatory.”  This is probably because Tony Robbins used it.  I have added another series of Deming phrases and one this past week drew many questions, it reads:

“For Quality:
Stamp out fires, automate, computerize, MBO, install merit pay, rank people,
best efforts, zero defects.
Wrong!!!
Missing ingredient:
Profound Knowledge.”
 
 

Too often I have seen folks try to fit Deming into their own paradigm rather than realizing he was on a whole different plane of thinking.  We are guilty of making Deming what we wanted him to be, instead of who he was.  Hopefully, this will encourage people to read Out of the Crisis and The New Economics

I first went to one of Dr. Deming’s four-day seminars back in 1987 and saw him him many times there after.  The problem with this is I (like many Deming supporters) got more enthralled by the man, rather than the thinking.  This made it easy to make him be what fit our existing paradigm where he really wanted to change our mindset.

History has shown that the “sticky” issues have long been ignored.  We still automate or overuse technology whether we need to or not.  Many organizations are still using MBO.  Merit pay and ranking people are still in place to “motivate” people.  We still try to overcome systemic business problems by best efforts and zero defects.  The thinking never changed.

I have written many management articles and blogs regarding systems thinking where hopefully I am addressing more of the thinking than the man without ignoring Dr. Deming’s tremendous contributions. Like his System of Profound Knowledge (from The New Economics): appreciation for a system, theory of variation, theory of knowledge and psychology.  They all teach us a different way to think and in a management paradox to the way management currently thinks.

This is my 100th blog. I am hopeful that we can begin to address the fundamental thinking problem that stands in the way of a majority of organizations.  The conventional wisdom of command and control thinking has all the momentum. But to quote Socrates: “You can’t find the truth by counting heads” and so our search for profound knowledge continues.

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 [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt.

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Systems Thinking Management Articles

I have gotten the feedback that my FREE download (Understanding Your Organization as a System) is too long (160 pages) and has way more material than be possibly consumed by one human.  I apologize for my partners (95 Consulting Ltd.) that wrote the work with all the exercises and information.  They have a tendency to write on and on with disregard for command and control thinking and pointing out the problems that businesses encounter such as outdated thinking like using scientific management theory.  After all they come from the land of queuing and fly tipping.  They even go way to far talking about what to do to get started to improve your business . . . bastards!

For those of you that do better with smaller bites, I am offering links to management articles that provide the same general information on systems thinking as the download.  The Fit for the Future series is partitioned into smaller, more palatable bites (six in all).  This way you can still watch Family Guy and the Simpsons without missing a beat.  These are 15 minute reads each and for slow readers like me maybe 20 minutes.

Here are the links:

Fit for the Future – Part 1

Fit for the Future – Part 2

Fit for the Future – Part 3

Fit for the Future – Part 4

Fit for the Future – Part 5

Fit for the Future – Part 6

These management articles are pretty plain (in title) . . . after all this is the land of no ice in soft drinks and Yorkshire pudding (don’t tell them it doesn’t have any taste).

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