I’ve written here a few times about cognitive biases. They encompass a wide variety of mental phenomena. Blind spots, biases, etc. etc. They enable fast thinking based on patterns and previous experiences. One assumes this is valuable for instantaneous decision making. But when “the good gets in the way of the best,” it’s a source of interest for many people.
A friend pointed me to the The March 2014 Scientific American piece on Why Good Thoughts Block Better Ones (intro only) by Merim Bilalić and Peter McLeod that talks about the Einstellung Effect. (An earlier version of the article is available as When Good Thoughts Block Better Ones by Merim Bilalić, Peter McLeod and Fernand Gobet published in Cognition in 2008.)
This particular cognitive bias is the “I have a hammer, therefore everything is a nail.” They demonstrate this through chess players who get locked into a favorite closing move, even though there is an even better closing move on the table. There’s a sidebar on how they did the research. Of course, this doesn’t only happen with chess players - the original Einstellung research was on doing relatively simple math problems. And we see ourselves getting stuck with familiar solutions all the time - at least I see myself getting stuck on familiar when there might be opportunities for better solutions if I were to just step back and think differently.
It would be nice to see more discussion of how to break oneself of the bias. The Scientific American article suggests that people overcome the bias as they gain more expertise - I suspect this is because they gain more experience that tells them to look beyond the first solution. The article also said that even Grand Masters are not infallible.
It is entertaining that the earlier paper closes with a 400-year-old quote from Francis Bacon. (And the SA article with a quote from Darwin.) This isn’t something people are just noticing:
The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion ... draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate. ... Men mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by. But with far more subtlety does this mischief insinuate itself into philosophy and the sciences, in which the first conclusion colours and brings into conformity with itself all that comes after ... It is the peculiar and particular error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than negatives (p. 36 of Novum Organum).
[Photo: "Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher (Bias musicus)" by Tom Tarrant]
Several weeks ago I spoke with Ralph Marlbrough at APQC on a variety of topics, centered around their themes of critical knowledge. I couldn’t help myself, and we blew through the 30 minutes we had allotted to talk, and the result is two blog posts on the APQC website. The first was posted last week, Identifying Critical Knowledge Starts with Good Collaboration. And the second posted on Monday, Transferring Critical Knowledge in a Crisis. It was a fun conversation, and I couldn’t help weave together the knowledge management topics with the operational excellence work I have been doing as well.
Here’s how they introduced the discussion:
APQC recently interviewed Jack Vinson on a wide range of topics regarding transferring critical knowledge. In part one of our interview, he talks about why identifying critical knowledge can be a difficult collaboration between management and workers. In part two, Jack will discuss the challenge of transferring and using critical knowledge during a crisis.
Thanks again for the discussion, APQC.
I just re-read The Choice, Revised Edition by Eli Goldratt and Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag. My first reading was of the pre-publication galleys, when it was being called Inherent Simplicity (my review). There is a paragraph in the appendix that summaries the book:
There are two alternatives: one is to bitch about reality and the other is to harvest the gifts it just gave us. This is what I call the freedom of choice. (p. 240 - final page)
The book is setup as a discussion / debate between Eli and Efrat (father and daughter) around the topics of “how do I think” (like a scientist)? and “how can I have a full life?” The discussion is interspersed with notes from Eli Goldratt to his colleagues on observations he was making in working with clients. These notes were used to illustrate the concepts that arose in the discussion. The way they were used seemed to be contrived - but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if this wasn’t something Eli Goldratt did with his close associates (and family).
The updated version of the book includes a set of thinking notes, presented as Efrat’s Notes, in the back that act as another way to think about the written dialog. They read like notes and include maps of main ideas. I thought of them as a study guide. In terms of summarizing the book, the final map does an excellent job.
The book includes the logic diagram which I attempted to recreate here and explain below.
In order to have a full life, one needs to have enough meaningful successes. To gain the successes, one has to keep trying - to have the stamina to get up after failing. But this isn’t all, one also needs to have the opportunities in which to have the chance to success (or fail). And, since most of those successes aren’t going to come from independent efforts, one must be able to collaborate with people.
In the articulation of the book, all three of these things (stamina, opportunities, collaboration) are all depended on thinking clearly - and more specifically on overcoming a set of common obstacles that people face. Obstacles that prevent them from thinking clearly and creating the necessary conditions for having a full life. These are (obstacle —> opposite)
- The perception that reality is complex —> Every situation is simple
- Accepting conflicts as given —> Every conflict can be removed (nature abhors contradictions)
- Blaming people for problems —> People are good. There is always a win-win.
- Thinking that you know —> Every situation can be substantially improved.
Of course, each of these points gets significant discussion in the course of the book. And each point could be a source of its own blog post. I like how these all hang together. It helps that I have been participating in a number of Theory of Constraints communities and conferences, and these ideas have come up several times.
One thing that was interesting was the idea of the “mystery analysis” or what people should do when confronted a surprising result. Rather than accepting the result, it is my responsibility to discover why the result was so significantly different from expectations. This is the OODA loop or Plan-Do-Check-Act or POOGI or any of the continuous improvement cycles. The focus here is on checking what I was thinking about the situation, rather than on the situation itself. What did I misunderstand about the system that created the vastly different result? And it ties together some of the ideas around the last obstacle to thinking clearly - “thinking that you know”. This is also directly related to Eli Schragenheim’s talk on Learning the TOC Way from last year’s TOC ICO conference.
Ron Friedmann has a great find in law firm continuous improvement Clifford Chance Adopts Continuous Improvement Program:
[This month] Clifford Chance, one of the largest law firms in the world, published a white paper called Applying Continuous Improvement to high-end legal services. I view it as a potential turning point in BigLaw.
Ron offers a great summary, if you just want the top level. The white paper itself provides the detail and suggests this isn’t something new - Clifford Chance have been pursuing this effort for five years.
Given the language in the white paper, they are primarily talking about Lean and Six Sigma approaches to continuous improvement. Happily, they don’t go crazy with the “insider” language of these disciplines - I am guessing that this white paper is as much an advertisement and position paper aimed at their customers as it is a means to talk about application of these ideas in an unconventional environment.
I’m also encouraged to see language like “people need to agree that there is a problem” before any solution is developed or implemented. And they have been brining in their client where those improvement efforts related to client engagements - especially where the client plays a part in creating the improvement.
I see that they are doing the familiar internal training to bring everyone into the continuous improvement fold. I hope they aren’t making the common assumption that optimizing everywhere is going to lead to success. They need a focusing process as well.
The report’s summary of the results thus far point to internal cost savings (what about the bottom line?) and significant speed improvements. Of course, their clients are seeing these benefits too. I like the comment that improved speed has a ripple effect into their clients’ customer - helping to improve service at that level as well. One almost throwaway comment said they have seen speed improvements of up to 50% - I would probably trumpet that one a little louder!
There are a number of interesting tidbits and a few case studies in the white paper to give a flavor of the projects they’ve undertaken. I like one of the closing thoughts about continuous improvement, so I will close with it as well:
Continuous Improvement will, at some point, change from being something that we do ‘to’ the way we work and will simply become the way we work.
Are successes because of the design or despite the design? What about failures?
Dr. Richard Cook of the Cognitive Technologies Lab has been researching complex systems for 25+ years. He published a short pdf 15 years ago, called How Complex Systems Fail or "Short Treatise on the Nature of Failure; How Failure is Evaluated; How Failure is Attributed to Proximate Cause; and the Resulting New Understanding of Patient Safety”. He presents a series of 18 points on how complex systems are designed (how they emerge?) and where they typically fail. I like his point that there are rarely true single failures in these systems - rather it is often a collection of small failures or changes that end up creating the circumstances for the failure to happen. Pinning the cause on one event (or a person) is often the wrong answer.
Interestingly, the work I have been doing in TOC takes a different view of systems and the forces that drive them. Of course, TOC isn’t usually looking at failures per se, but rather a system that isn’t working as well as it could. But in a system with many moving parts, the changes need to be thought through in terms of potentially negative ramifications. Or “the system” will resist the change because it has been designed - explicitly or implicitly - to work under the old way of doing things. And, of course, TOC has a deep belief in inherent simplicity of systems, rather than the default assumption that everything is complex. But these are different ideas of complex.
He also presented at the O’Reilly Velocity 2012 conference on the same topic, though he introduced it as “How Complex Systems Don’t Fail” - or why they don’t fail as often as it seems like they should. This was recorded as a ~30 minute video. He covers some of the same ground that is in the paper, but he also brings out the ideas of resilience and the engineering that does into designing systems.
For those people interested in Theory of Constraints, there are some nice videos out there that describe the idea and the impact this way of thinking can have.
A lot of what TOC’s ideas provide is a way to help people focus. This video from amdocs is a both a high-level description of Critical Chain Project Management and a great way to get a sense of the impact on how people think about their work differently.
And then there are the TOC Thinking Processes that help people focus on what they are trying to do. Used together, they are a whole set of tools that take you from Goals to Current Reality to Future Reality to the Transition to that new reality. Philip Marris recently published a series of 7 videos with Bill Dettmer, author of The Logical Thinking Processes (my review) and longtime TOC writer and thinker. The series is probably all from one interview, broken into digestible chunks that talks about the full suite of TOC thinking processes (in Bill’s terms). The interviewer is Erik Mano.
The sequence of the Thinking Tools is always interesting to me. Dettmer adds a Goal Tree that describes the goal of the overall system, which then helps frame the following pieces (part 2). The Current Reality Tree helps people think through the underlying cause(s) behind challenges to reaching the goal (part 3). Evaportating Clouds (conflict clouds) help individuals and organizations think through all sorts of conflicts, but in the context of this series it is the Change vs. Don’t Change conflict analysis (part 4). From here you can build the Future Reality Tree (FRT) to take in the injections developed in the problem-solving process and check whether they will produce the desired results AND that they don’t create new undesired results - also known as preventing negative branches (part 5). With that together, the team can build a plan to get to the new solution with the Prerequisite Tree (part 6). The Thinking Processes are frequently used for problem resolution, but they can equally be used to formulate a strategy to reach a new level of performance (part 7).
Teleos and The KNOW Network have announced its 2013 Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises (MAKE) Award winners for the Worldwide awards as well as some of the other regional winners.
The World’s Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises for 2013 are Accenture, Amazon.com, Apple, ConocoPhillips, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Fluor, Google, IBM, Infosys Limited, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, POSCO, PwC, Samsung Group, Schlumberger, Tata Group, Toyota, Vale S.A., and Wipro Limited. And it is Samsung that took the overall. Read the article for more details about each of the companies and a brief description about why they made the list.
KNOW Network has also announced a variety of other related awards:
- 2013 Global Independent Operating Unit (IOU) MAKE Winners
- Several other reports are only available as PDF from their MAKE Summaries:
- 2013 Americas MAKE Study Executive Summary
- 2013 Asia MAKE Study Executive Summary
- 2013 European MAKE Study Executive Summary
- There’s even a 2013 Iran MAKE Study Executive Summary(!)
Bare Bones Change Management by Bob Lewis is pretty much what it says it is: The basics of change management. But it is not something to just toss off to the side. Bob Lewis describes a lot of good, basic information about change management. And he provides plenty of snarky asides and anecdotes that liven up the writing.
The underlying premise of Lewis’ discussion in the book is around the old yarn that people (employees) resist change because they are stupid / dumb / uninformed / don’t understand. His claim, employees resist change because they’re smart. He clarifies that in further discussion that people resist change they expect to be unpleasant - and past experience gives them full justification to be worried. He also mentions another element to this: that the executive ranks are where resistance is often the strongest - where the risk is felt the strongest.
Why is change “hard?” “Most of the important changes businesses undertake mean choosing to experience some pain now so as to avoid more significant pain at some indeterminate time in the future.” Lewis even suggests that a well-run change effort can outstrip “continuous improvement” in the long run. I’m not sure I buy that, but I get the idea. Any change worth doing should create a step change in a measurable business outcome.
The primary content of the book is Lewis’ basic framework for managing a change effort, which covers fairly familiar and mechanical territory: stakeholder analysis, involvement plan, metrics plan, structure plan, training plan, culture change plan, and communication plan. It’s really the material about the material that drew me into the book. Lewis has great comments along the lines that these things should simply be checklists on the way to closing the change effort - they are part of an ongoing process of creating change in the organization. He also acknowledges that there are some topics (culture!) that he can only treat briefly, which suggests to me that this bare bones guide is to get you pointed in the right direction. If you are new to change management, this probably isn’t the only resource you should use.
Some outtakes I highlighted for future reference:
- Stakeholder analysis. You need to know who are the influencers and why the change is good for them. “ROI is the ante that gets you into the game. Personal benefit is what gives you a winning hand.”
- Stakeholder analysis. There will be supporters, acceptors (will go either way), and resisters (rational and irrational) of a change. The acceptors will follow the leader - it is the job of the change to ensure leaders lean towards support more than resistance.
- Structure plan. “Most unanticipated consequences are anticipatable.” They are evidence of a failure to think things through.
- Structure plan. “The only change that’s of any value in an organization is a change to how work is done - that should be self-evident, because if the way work is done doesn’t change, nothing about the organization’s products and services will change.”
- Training plan. “Show employees how to do their jobs, not how to use the tools.” This is a dangerous reality in many change efforts. They are all about the tools, rather than talking about the new way of working that happens to be supported by the tools. What happens if the tools break, people still need to know how to do their work.
- Culture plan. “Culture is the learned behavior employees exhibit in response to their environment.” I like the culture-as-behavior definition. It helps me think through the idea of What Good Looks Like - what actions I want to see on the ground.
- Culture plan. “Tool-enabled cultures change doesn’t succeed because you add something to the job description.” People adopt the tools because they perceive a personal benefit in their use. See the above comment about training: what is the job people are expected to do?
- Culture plan. “The performers are the ones who have to figure out workaround for whatever the process designers miss.” No change is going to be perfect. There has to be mechanisms to make it easy to bring these into the open to see if the change can be improved as a result.
- Communication plan. “Information is the stuff that results in an accurate reduction in uncertainty.” In the context of change-related communication, the “information” in the communication clarifies what is going on more than it scares or confuses them.
- Communication plan. “Whatever you are trying to explain, you know way too much about it, and you’re going to be tempted to explain everything you know.” Don’t.
- Communication plan. “In the context of business change you have to persuade stakeholders on only three subjects: The problem, the solution, and the plan.” - That should sound familiar to my Theory of Constraints friends. And most people who explore these topics.
Another book on my December reading binge was Look Before You Lean by “Employee X.” It was recommended by my friend and fellow curious cat, Steve Holt, in a quick Tweet. I took a look, and the topic seemed right up my alley. Indeed it is. Here is an opening quote
[H]ow … does Lean … continue to thrive when companies hat sign up for it have been droppingn out at a rate of more than 90%? There are people, even among Lean’s most ardent advocates, who have conscientiously tried to deal with this daunting statistic.
That quote gives a good sense of what the book does. It’s a look at a Lean implementation from an employee in a company going through a Lean initiative, rather than from the eyes of a consultant or maybe the internal champion of such an implementation. He’s kept himself anonymous because he is rather negative as to the thinking of the corporate leaders, and he is particularly negative about the way the consultants approached the project. It is definitely framed as a cautionary tale: the author is hoping others will read this before they dive in. I am pretty sure he isn’t saying, “Don’t do it.” He’s saying, “Think.” and “Don’t do it this way."
The story isn’t all negative, because the author did a lot of independent research about Lean and could see where it could/should work. I appreciated this aspect of the writing just as much as the cautionary tale that motivates the book. From his perspective, Lean did not fly at his company - and it doesnt fly at many companies. He pins the blame on both the company leads for abdicating their thinking to the consultants. And he blames the consultants for a roughshod implementation - with plenty of examples of what sound like over-the-top activities.
I pulled some suggestions or food for thought from “Employee X” and the book. Some of these are for the presumed audience of people who are looking at lean. There are other ideas here for just about any change initiative. And there are definitely ideas for consultants (me included).
- Leaders must remain engaged. Specifically, leaders cannot abdicate responsibility for running the organization. That’s their job. (Sounds like I still have Deming in my head.)
- Don’t forget that organizations are made of people. No matter how interesting the process stuff is, it is still executed and followed and gotten-around by the people. It’s a big challenge of Lean and other process-focused approaches to the world. Or maybe it is a challenge of the people drawn to these disciplines.
- Consultants may be helpful, but they aren’t all perfect. Look for the ones that are confident but have some sense of humility.
- Be careful of over-reliance on The Way It’s Done. Be on the lookout for new opportunities and new ways of approaching an initiative. Be on particular lookout for signals that the initiative isn’t going as expected. Maybe even expect some failures. Learn and adjust.
- Don’t treat people like idiots or assume “people don’t like change.” They don’t like being changed. This is also one of those opportunities: where are they stuck, and what about your initiative has left them behind? (Scary discussion of change resisters "antibodies” that must be purged from the organization for the change to succeed.)
- Assign a Vice President of Devil’s Advocacy to be the corporate contrarian (page 106). In other words find a way to make it okay for people to disagree without being seen as an antibody to be purged. I have fond memories of Orbiting the Corporate Hairball and the idea of a “corporate anomaly” in a leadership position.
Give this book a read if you are interested in change management or in the various continuous improvement methodologies like Lean, Theory of Constraints and others. Or if your company is thinking about implementing one of these approaches.
And ask questions.
Another classic quote from Shunryu Suzuki on the Zen idea of a Beginner’s Mind:
If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.
Of course there are all sorts of directions one can take this quote. It came up in the discussion of Goldratt’s The Choice where one of the pillars of having a full life is to “Never say, ‘I know.’” Always look for surprises or new opportunities to learn. In the case of our traditional view of “the expert,” if they believe they know, then there is less chance that they will see.
Eli Goldratt’s Critical Chain is another of his business novels, published in 1997 - about 10 years after The Goal. I have read the book previously, but apparently it has been much longer than I realized. There were elements here that I didn’t remember at all - most of the story line in fact. There is even a couple of chapters of discussion of the roots of TOC to this point (Drum Buffer Rope, Throughput Accounting, and the Thinking Tools). And while I am familiar with the logical build-up of CCPM - the traditional problems of project management, their causes, and the elements of the solution - the way Goldratt presented it made me step back and think a bit about how I have been introducing CCPM in consulting engagements.
The setting for Critical Chain is a university, rather than a business. This way main character, a business school professor, gets to draw on the project management experiences of many students from many backgrounds to build up the common challenges and the Theory of Constraints way of thinking about projects. The way it is presented in the book is that CCPM is created through logical thinking about the situation over the course of a semester.
A notable difference is that by the time of writing this book Goldratt and others had developed Theory of Constraints more fully, and the development of Critical Chain Project Management in the book is more logical. Either that or I am so deep into CCPM these days that I could really see some interesting points. Also, like many business novels, it reads quickly, though there are aspects that merit pausing and thinking, particularly as I have been working with these concepts for years.
Specifically, I was interested to see that the path of thinking started out focusing strictly on the logic of the project: which tasks must be completed before others can start and where are the integration points of multiple legs.* With the basic critical path schedule, Goldratt has the characters spend a lot of time talking about task estimates and safety and the fact that nearly all safety gets lost in execution. These are things like Parkinson’s Law, Student’s Syndrome, and integration points. And a lot of local efficiency thinking that ends up killing the overall project. The characters come up with the idea of trimming task safety, buffering the project, buffering integration points in planning. And then in execution they come up with the idea of using remaining duration estimates (not % complete) for tasks, and a simple early-warning system for the task participants that critical tasks are coming up.
Goldratt doesn’t use the term "full kit," but that is what a lot of the advance warning mechanism sounded like. Goldratt also perfectly described in one of his vignettes the importance of full kit. In this case it was visiting a printer for a job:
They [quote] you four weeks. You come with all the needed final material in your hands, and you are willing to pay more, and they agree to do it in four days.
While there is the aspect of money here, the thing I really clued into was the fact that “all the needed material” was available, rather than the default assumption that the handoff would be bad, and the printer would need more information before they could really get started. This is full kit.
It was only once Goldratt had developed the basic problems of projects and the basic solution that he added the additional aspect of resource constraints. The same resource type might be needed in multiple legs of a project, causing resource contention (multitasking) within the project. The solution is to account for resources in the project plan. This is one of the central elements of CCPM: the critical chain of the project is the longest path through the project that accounts for resource contentions.
With resource contention dealt with inside a project, the next step is to look at resource contention across projects in a similar way. Ensure that the key resource of the organization is scheduled, and then schedule the rest of the work around that resource. I thought this brief section was a great introduction to the concept of pipelining.
Of course, there are some ideas here that haven’t ever taken root. The idea of a resource buffer to manage interactions for constraint resources hasn’t been applied in CCPM software I have used in favor of using project and feeding buffers. And the idea of expanding Throughput Accounting with the idea of “flush” to try to monitor the value of projects in units of dollar-days never turned into anything solid within the TOC community. (It used to come up on the TOC discussion lists from time to time.)
* Interestingly, there was no discussion of the quality of the logic. I find in many CCPM implementations that people are often challenged with devising a project plan that has the correct logic sequencing, much less conversations about task durations, multitasking and resource contentions.
I’ve had Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s Out of the Crisis sitting in my to-read pile for longer than I can remember. I might have even started it several years ago, but put it down. This time, though, I got through it fairly quickly. I suspect the things he wrote about 30 years ago are resonating with me now more than they did when I first took a peek. There are certainly a lot of very familiar ideas in this book.
The crisis in the context of this book is the decline of American (US) industry, as it was seen in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The book was published in 1982, following Deming’s many years consulting with companies all over, particularly in Japan since the 1950’s.
The books’ mantra: The basic cause of sickness in American industry … is failure of top management to manage.
Deming repeats the main mantra over and over: Management owns the system. It is the system that generates the results. If those results are unacceptable, it is management’s responsibility to investigate and improve the system. Repeatedly. This is continuous improvement and is the only way to survive. Management should not pin the blame on their employees, the equipment, their suppliers, their customers, the weather, or anything else. Management are responsible. Period.
In particular, he condemns the lack of understanding of variability and the resulting ill effects that this generates in business. Uncertainty and variability exist in all systems. Management should know how to analyze the system - and analyze recommendations for improvement to the system.
Deming’s world and specialty is that of statistics. So when he talks about the system, he is talking about the system generating measurable output that one can analyze for common cause (within the statistical system) or special cause (outside of the statistical system).
One of the specific things that came from Deming and are reported in this book (possibly for the first time when it was published) were Deming’s 14 Points for Management (paraphrased here) and reported in many many places:
- Create constancy of purpose
- Adopt the new philosophy of management
- Cease depend on inspection to achieve quality
- Stop awarding (and taking) business based on price tag
- Improve the system constantly and forever (from the perspective of the customer)
- Create on the job training
- Leadership - how do we supervise management (not just the workers)
- Drive out fear
- Break down barriers between departments
- No more exhortations!
- Eliminate work quotas and management by objective
- Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship
- Institute vigorous programs of education and self-improvement
- Transformation is everybody’s job
A challenge I have with the book - and maybe this is why I put it down the first time - is that he is very strident in his voice in this book. I think that is intentional, but many of the chapters have the tone of a talk where he really trying to twist the knife of the message he is sending.
Some fun quotes and comments I highlighted as I read:
- “Defects are not free. Somebody makes them, and gets paid for making them.” (p. 11). This made me think of David Anderson’s comments about the Vice President of Delay. Who gets paid for creating a system that generates poor results? Who gets blamed?
- “Gadgets … are not the answer either.” (p. 13) and “We doubt that new machinery would bring any improvement. … [It] would bring on a whole new set of problems until management understand what is wrong under present circumstances and what their responsibilities are for improvement.” (p. 400) Automating a broken system, and you get automatically broken results. And you probably can blame the technology (instead of management - the owners of the system).
- Constant improvement (point 5 above) makes me wonder about how to maintain the drive. Which then makes me see a connection to Kotter’s concept of urgency. Both creating urgency and this constant drive to improve are not once-in-a-while activities.
- “There is widespread resistance of knowledge. Advances of the kind needed in Western industry require knowledge, yet people are afraid of knowledge. Pride may play a part in resistance to knowledge. New knowledge brought into the company might disclose some of our failings. A better outlook is of course to embrace new knowledge because it might help us to do a better job.” (p. 59).
- “Companies take inventory of physical property, but they fail in taking inventory of knowledge.” (p 472) A topic that has been highlighted by the intellectual capital crowd in the 1990’s.
- “Why is it that every endeavor to put out a product or service is one of a kind?” (p. 164) Deming had an interesting thread through the later chapters around this “one of a kind” idea. Why is it that organizations never seem to learn from the last time? Why do they seem to run into the same roadblocks every time?
- Chapter 9 on “Operational Definitions, Conformance, Performance” was a great discussion of language and being clear what we mean when we set requirements and specifications for results.
- “We shall speak of faults of the system as common causes of trouble, and faults from fleeting events as special causes.” (p 314) Always a good reminder on this terminology.
- “The company has several products. One of them is fires, and their production of fires is stable.” (p. 323) A specific example of the system generating results that management don’t want, but it is a great example of the system being the problem, not necessarily the people in it.
- One more time: “The central problem in management, leadership, and production … is failure to understand the nature and interpretation of variation.” (p. 465)