How not to use metrics?

MetricsLet’s assume that graphs above present the performance of two different teams in the same company. The black line is an external metric shared with the management, the blue one is observed internally. The black lines are exactly the same so both teams were able to reduce errors significantly to the same level – the goal was achieved.  One may say that there is no difference between these two teams. For sure the difference is not observable for a management. Project was finished successfully so we are waiting for a next challenges.

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Who is responsible for the delay?

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The company measures our performance and effectiveness by looking on the charts, numbers. The theory is simple. The managers set up goals, priorities, coordinate tasks. The employees are responsible for the results. Who is responsible for the delays?

– I have a problem with the hardware and software. It didn’t work. I couldn’t do my tasks.
– Oh… your performance is terrible. Take a look at this chart? Try to read the guidelines.
– I have a problem with the hardware and software. It didn’t work. I couldn’t do my tasks.
– Oh… this task is the most important now. You should finished as soon as possible. Try to restart your hardware next time.

Who is responsible for the delays in the above situation? Employee? Manager? Partners? None of them and all of them.

The question is not who is responsible for this situation but what to do now? Charts help us to identify the existence of the problem, not the reasons or solutions. The problem may be simple or complex but to solve it we have to start asking to understand its nature.

How asking about “who” helps? In my opinion it helps to increase the delay and nothing more.

ASAP

rysunekAs soon as possible… how does it look like in the long run?

The goal is to do tasks immediately. Unfortunately in most cases tasks cannot be separated. When we build a house we start from foundations. We have to be sure that everything is good enough to start building a walls. Otherwise, after some period of time our house will be turned into a piles of rubble. Can we enjoy fast results if we will be forced to repeat everything? Sometimes we are doing our tasks ASAP, but like a hamster in a spinning-wheel we are stuck in the same place. What do you think about that?

Gemba walk

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Are you responsible for communicating the problems and solutions?
Yes, I am.

Is your manager responsible for observing your work and improve your working environment?
–  I don’t know… I have never seen this.

Do you like to talk about your problems?
– I fell like in front of the court, but what else can I do? Unfortunately, it is often impossible to change anything.

– What do you do?
I feel like I should pretend that everything is fine… but it is hard to change your values.

The key to any process improvement is to question everything; not just accept the status quo.

References:

  1. http://www.therightapproachconsulting.com/2015/09/01/gemba-walk/

High quality innovations. Oxymoron?

dilbert_startup_innovationThinking about innovation and quality management may lead us to contradictions. Preparing to this article I have found number of empirical case studies that  describe the relationship between quality management practices and innovation performance. One of such may be found here.

[…] several scholars reject the positive relationship between TQM and innovation for the reason that it possesses principles and practices that could hinder innovation. Slater and Narver (1998) and Wind and Mahajan (1997) agree that a customer focus philosophy could easily lead organizations to focus only on incremental improvements in their current products and service activities rather than trying to create novel solutions. Consequently, this leads to the development of uncompetitive “me-too” products rather than the development of real innovation. Customer focus, therefore, could build a “tyranny of the served market” in which managers see the world only through their current customers’ eyes. In this way, such firms could fail to explore customers’ latent needs.

Authors convince that quality management practices may positively influence innovations by creating a safe environment for them.

Combining the two sections of the above analysis provides a plausible evidence and explanation on the positive and significant relationship between TQM practices and innovation performance because not only TQM itself would lead to innovation performance, but the quality performance resulting from TQM practices also contributes to innovation performance. […] This means that although quality management does not directly result in innovation, organizations that want to pursue a high innovation performance must have the capability to manage quality requirements of their products before hand, as asserted by Bolwijn and Kumpe (1990) and Ferdows and DeMeyer (1990). In other words, quality management is a prerequisite for innovation management, and, therefore, TQMis necessary although not sufficient for innovation

How it looks like from employee’s perspective? As an engineer I like discoveries, experiments and innovations. I realize that my interests may lead me to failures. In most cases unacceptable in a corporate environment.  It is a difficult task to be innovative and reliable in the same time. It is difficult to be innovative inside the well-working factory. Where is the golden mean between standardization and innovations?

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Deadline is coming….

dilbert2Do you ever wonder what gives you energy to work? Last time I thought about different ways of motivating people.

One way is declaring a deadline. Unfortunately, not in my case… I don’t need deadlines to be disciplined. To be disciplined… that’s the goal, isn’t it?

One may say that tight deadline is the most effective. It is a challenge, isn’t it? In my opinion tight deadline may be a challenge when we talking about reducing a working time on specified task permanently. Unfortunately, in most cases tight deadline is set because someone is in a hurry. Then, we sacrifice a quality…. then we have even more problems.

So what motivates me? I like to feel a sense of my work regardless of a deadline. Is it strange? Check this out: How deadlines can murder a motivation?

When I need to motivate myself to do something I don’t enjoy, I use rewards and deadlines – and, no doubt, I’m better off for doing that. But, when I already enjoy doing something (and given that I am a disciplined person), then I just need to let nature take its course.

What motivates you?

Hoshin Kanri. An alternative for MBO?

Previously, I have described Management by Objectives. This article presents Hoshin Kanri as an alternative to Management by Objectives. Hoshin Kanri was introduced by Toyota Motors Company. The detailed description of Hoshin Kanri may be found here.

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Hoshin Kanri is a systematic and disciplined process to align, communicate and execute business strategy by focusing on those vital few breakthrough objectives that give you competitive advantage […] Hoshin Kanri can be thought of as the application of Deming’s PDCA cycle to the management process.

It sounds like Management by Objectives, so where is the difference?

  • Objectives are set up by leaders who spent enough time at the specified workplace (gemba). They are aware of the real situation in the company, department and team. The goals couldn’t be imposed by leaders.
  • The process of setting the targets and planning the strategy couldn’t be independent. Leaders have to know how to achieve something before they expect that. Asking “how” is as important as asking “what”.
  • Measuring the progress allows to adapt to the situation.
  • There are no rewards for achievements. Hoshin Kanri is for benchmarking our projects and determining where we are in relation to the company’s vision.

It sounds totally different than Management by Objectives ;)