continuous+improvement category archives

Break away from Groundhog Day of solving the same problem over and over. Dissolve the problem instead of merely resolving it.
More on time management and multitasking. It's a topic near and dear to what I've been doing for many years.
Stephen Bungay's "The Art of Action" brings together ideas around how people and organizations should be led, based on the study of Carl von Clausewitz and other military thinkers around how they deal with the fact of life: we can't know everything before we must act.
In my work the idea of "flow" is all about ensuring the right work gets started - work that will create value for the organization. And, once it has started, that it doesn't get stuck or stopped or held up until the value is created. Ideally: customer buys the results; savings are truly achieved.
So, is multitasking bad or good. This author talks about both sides and then decides he wants to continue multitasking anyway.
"Pride and Joy" by Alex Knight is a Theory of Constraints business novel about a hospital in chaos and a way of thinking that can help move beyond the chaos to a truly patient-centric, high quality environment.
Big Visible posted a great photo / poster a few weeks ago with their article Velocity Is Like A Helium Balloon. While their focus is Agile development, the thinking behind it can be applied to just about any area of improvement. "Velocity is like a helium balloon. It will rise on its own, if nothing is holding it down!"
One of the many people I follow on Twitter, Richard Cushing, has been interviewed and the results posted as "Where Does Your ERP Selection Fit with Your Continuous Improvement Efforts?"
Yishai Ashlag's new book, TOC Thinking: Removing Constraints for Business Growth, is a good overview of the Theory of Constraints approach to thinking about running organizations.
The "four concepts of flow" come from a 2008 article that Eli Goldratt wrote that describe the innovations from Henry Ford and Taiichi Ohno that have inspired him to create Theory of Constraints.
I read the 20-year-old Raving Fans recently. It has some great ideas that help people think about how to grow and develop your business. The key is to turn your customers into raving fans.
Several weeks ago I spoke with APQC on a variety of topics, centered around their themes of critical knowledge. That has turned into two blog posts at APQC.
The book in two sentences: "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."
Ron Friedmann has a great find in law firm continuous improvement Clifford Chance Adopts Continuous Improvement Program:
Some good videos that I've come across recently on Theory of Constraint: Critical Chain and the Thinking Processes.
"Bare Bones Change Management" by Bob Lewis is pretty much what it says it is: The basics of change management. 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.
"Look before you lean" by Employee X is an interesting study of a Lean implementation from the perspective of someone on the inside who didn't like what he saw.
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. Continuous improvement.
Are you suffering the effects of fluctuation? Or are you Focusing on constraints?
I picked up Steve Tendon and Wolfram Muller's Tame the Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Management shortly after the TOCICO conference in June, and every time I pick it up I glean a different take on the embedded ideas. I enjoyed the thinking here, particularly since I am seeing more and more project management that is all about managing the flow of knowledge work.
We've all seen W. Edwards Deming quotes and articles in a variety of management communities. Here's a video of him talking about his Five Deadly Diseases of management.
How can we take advantage of what Theory of Constraints teaches as well as bring in thinking from other disciplines to learn? Specifically, how do we learn from a single occurrence - an occurrence of something going awry? This was the question that Eli Schragenheim tried to answer in his talk this morning on "Learning from ONE event: A structured organizational learning process to inquire and learn the right lessons from a single event."
My review of "The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win" by Gene Kim and gang. I enjoyed it, and ended up staying up late to finish it. The structure of the book is quite familiar: business novel; looming disaster; averted with the determination of the protagonist (and colleagues) and the help of a wacky "guru." There are some new-to-me concepts that fit neatly with my current worldview.
I re-read Eli Goldratt's The Goal. I enjoyed reading it again for the nuggets embedded throughout and the reminder that this is a solid way to help people and organizations think differently about their situation.
Believing in the inherent value and quality of people comes out in how you challenge them and what you expect of them. It has much less to do with your direct personal style.
Creativity and productivity are both enhanced by acknowledging and working with full understanding of the operating constraints. An HBR article from Matthew E May reminds me of the idea once again, "How Intelligent Constraints Drive Creativity."
PEX Network has some useful thoughts on best practices and benchmarking. Best practices are only indicators of what you really want - results. Don't confuse the two.
Thanks to Mark Graban's recent Leanblog podcast with Steve Bell, I found a long list of "information wastes" that serve as an appendix to Bell and Orzen's _Lean IT: Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation_ (2010).
Thomas Corbett's _Throughput Accounting_ is a quick read and very familiar for someone who has been in the Theory of Constraints world. I wonder if anyone comes to TOC via this route, rather than through The Goal and some of the other business novels.
I came across a pair of articles that compare Lean, Theory of Constraints and several other process improvement approaches. Both decide that Lean is the best, but the authors appear to emphasize Lean in their work as well. TOC doesn't get a very good hearing.
"The High-Velocity Edge" was given to the attendees at the Lean Software & Systems Conference this year, as Steven J. Spear was one of the keynote speakers. I enjoyed the book and have dog-eared pages and underlined throughout.
I've written about the common focus on efficiency several times here. This time it's inspired by an HBR blogs article by Casey Haksins and Peter Sims, "The Most Efficient Die Early.'
The 2012 World's MAKE has been announced with Apple as the overall winner.
Our definition of "good" is tied up in our values and the contexts in which we work. If you want "better" outcomes, then think about what you value in your work. Thanks to Dan Ward for putting these things together in my head.
Sometimes we focus a little too much on just getting stuff done or starting the exciting new projects. We forget to stand back and think about how it worked last time, how we could do things better, or how our understanding has changed.
John Hagel has a great piece on "The Paradox of Preparing for Change" that talks about the importance of planning for what DOESN'T change, along with the stuff that does.
JP Rangaswami's "Continuing to muse lazily about sharing at work" blog post from last week had a useful differentiation between the tools and behavior that I liked.
This Saturday's (20 Oct 2012) Boston Globe business section had one of those articles that is guaranteed to blow your mind. A company made 10x improvements in turnaround times, but they were only doing it for a week and then back to normal.
Strategy+Business has an interview with Jeffrey Liker, one of the academics who have studied the Toyota Production System in great detail. "Jeffrey Liker: The Thought Leader Interview."
Portia Tung has a choose-your-own adventure version of a business novel, this time about going into a client as an Agile Coach (consultant) with five days to turn things around.
A nice reference source of Drucker thinking from the Process Excellence Network. "Making Knowledge Workers More Productive: Insights from the Works of Peter F. Drucker"
Interested in personal effectiveness? What about how people work together? One seemingly simple aspect of this is the design of the workplace itself - the space, the technology, the tools. Sometimes these simple things get in the way of our being more effective. A Dan Morris article has me thinking, "Most overlooked place for efficiency improvement? It's right in front of you!"
The idea of standard work applies to the management of knowledge work, rather than to the specifics of the work.
Make it easy to improve or fix the system! Ask question like "what makes it hard to do your work better?" or "How can we do this differently?"
On the one hand, we want people to be involved and participating in the operation and improvement of their business. On the other hand, we also want to make sure those improvements make a real difference to the bottom line and to the people.
All but the most basic tools require experimenting and learning how they work in your environment. Very few things work as advertised immediately. Good reminder for anyone involved in knowledge work.
Some curious research results from Ethan Bernstein showing that in some environments, having some privacy from management can actually be a source of improvements. I suggest that maybe management is the problem.
Good stuff from Harold Jarche on learning organizations and how the idea of net work relates to the topic.
I attended an interesting talk by Dan Vacanti last week at the monthly Agile New England meeting. I enjoyed the talk overall, and I particularly enjoyed his emphasis on the Cumulative Flow Diagram as a key diagnostic tool - it's predictive.
Interesting definition of slack from Jim Benson: The gaps between work that make flow possible and define cadence

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