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This category contains 77 posts

Kaizen & Changing the Way People Think

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” – Albert Einstein For most people, structured problem-solving is not a natural process.  After years of being rewarded for quick answers and telling people what to do, along with the fact that most of us are overloaded, the ability to approach a problem without a preconceived solution is counter to the way people work.  Many see structured … Continue reading

Flattening the Organization- Probably Not the Answer

One of the reasons often given for eliminating layers of management is that managers get in the way and slow down processes. Although often true, eliminating layers is not necessarily addressing the root cause of the problem. The company can benefit more by understanding why its leadership is ineffective and its processes and systems are slow, rather than assuming it is because of excessive layers. Continue reading

Driving Improvement Through Systems Thinking

The more people learn the connections the components have with each other to achieve the overall business objectives, the easier it will be to see the problems and set improvement targets based on reality rather than gut feel. Continue reading

Short-Term vs Long-Term: They Both Matter

Over the years, I have found many organizations the lack the ability to effectively balance short-term pressures with long-term improvement. The situation causes frustration in people because, in the end, the short-term virtually always wins while the focus on the long-term suffers. There are a number of reasons for a tendency toward short-term thinking. First of all, people tend to be measured and rewarded based on achieving current year targets much more than long-term improvements.  Another factor driving a short-term focus is the targets are right … Continue reading

No Systems Thinking in Trump’s Plans

Another difficult to quantify consequence of significant tariff increases is the effect on developing nations that rely on access to the U.S. market to continue growing. The administration wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep people from crossing into the U.S. illegally. Since many of those coming into the U.S. from Latin America do so for economic reasons, raising tariffs and pressuring manufacturers to scrap foreign factories to build in the U.S. will result in lost jobs and other problems for those countries. It seems logical then, that this action could actually increase the number of people attempting to cross into the U.S. to escape poverty. Continue reading

There’s No Generalizing in Lean

It has been decades since we first learned about the Toyota Production System and how it contributes to the company’s quality, productivity, and competitive success.  And although some companies have done very well with lean, most have struggled.  There are many reasons for failed applications of lean, but one that gets very little attention is the … Continue reading

Confidence and Humility: Two Critical Leadership Traits

Many people tend to confuse confidence and arrogance. The characteristics of confidence that make it a vital leadership trait are not present in ones who display arrogance. Discussions that include condescending remarks, as well as an overall lack of focus on developing others are clear signs of arrogance rather than confidence. Conveying negative energy, a lack of openness to questioning of decisions and actions, and overall uncomfortableness are other characteristics of arrogant leaders. Continue reading

A Simple a Process for Achieving the Vision

Determining the gap involves breaking down the vision, which is often stated as a generalization, into specific 3-5 year objectives (which often include targets for safety, quality, production/schedule, and cost, although other areas can be covered). The objectives are regularly compared to current performance to determine the gaps that needs to be closed to move the organization closer to the vision. Continue reading

What Matters More? Process or Results

If the room is too cold, do you work on the thermometer or the heater? Which is more important . . . process or results? It’s a question that spurs debate on bulletin boards and in blog posts. The problem with the question is that it approaches the two as disconnected rather than one-in-the same. … Continue reading

The Case Against the Flat Organization

Since the 1990s, consultants and authors have been touting the benefits of the flat organization.  Among the advantages commonly associated with flattened organizations are improved innovation, empowered employees, and faster decision-making.  I’ve worked with many “flat” organizations over the years and, rather than improved flexibility and increased speed, found burned out managers, frustrated employees, and … Continue reading