Act on Causes not Outcomes

Properly reporting and interpreting the movement in the monthly unemployment rate requires one to have an understanding of variation.  Yes, while it may be a surprise to many, monthly outcomes do vary from month to month irrespective of whether there is an identifiable cause—you can call this random noise.  There are also variation patterns that are not noise but signal that something has changed, that something is different in the system. Being able to discern signal from noise is critical to the proper interpretation of what is going on (or not) in the system that produces the outcome—it informs sound decision-making. Continue reading

Leading With Vision

A New York Times article, Lessons in Longevity From I.B.M., by Steve Lohr used IBM reaching the 100-year old mark to call attention to practices that contribute to an organization’s longevity.  A noteworthy point made is that past success can impede future success.  The article seems to suggest that all companies will lose their dominance and only a few will be able to survive beyond the dominance they once held.  Although this may be a common occurrence it should not be concluded that it is inevitable! Continue reading

Lean Understanding

It is estimated that about 70% of organizations initiating lean programs don’t realize the promised or anticipated success.  So it would seem that either lean is a bad idea or lean is not properly understood.  Given Toyota’s notable success, I think we’ll go with the latter!   Continue reading

Replace Performance Reviews with Leadership for Quality

A recent issue of Knowledge@Wharton indicates, that while 91% of companies worldwide have performance appraisals only 35% to 40% do performance reviews well.  The question remains, what does doing them well mean?  What are the criteria for the performance of performance reviews?  Can performance reviews (as we’ve come to know and love them) really be done well?  Should they be done at all?  If not what should be put in their place? Continue reading

Statistically Speaking

Quantum physicists tell us that at the subatomic level there is indeterminacy to the interactions and interconnections of particles—that they do not take place at a definite place and time—and thus (they) exhibit a likelihood of occurring; reality is associated with a statistical probability distribution.  In other words, variation is an inherent phenomenon characteristic of reality. Continue reading

The Worker Is Not the Problem

If the education system wasn’t designed to consistently produce the results that it is producing then we wouldn’t be getting the results we are getting!  Yet again and again the focus of the reformer is on the teacher, not the system itself.  Why?  Because it is far easier to turn attention away from what the system is doing—and the system is management’s responsibility—toward what the worker is doing.   Yet the worker can only do what the system allows! Continue reading

Want to Improve Quality, Listen Up

Often those with authority over a system/organization—frequently referred to as ‘the leadership’—use the thing they believe is valued by most as a way of resolving a complex problem such as quality. That is, they throw money at it!  Since money is the thing we greatly value, then what better way to demonstrate commitment to quality than to willingly spend it in the name of quality! Continue reading

Insights from the Impoverished

In a recent HuffingtonPost article David Chura brings to light the affect that poverty, despair and hopelessness have on people, especially during the formative years.  When individuals grow up in an environment within which such dark currents flow, they feel trapped and, as David Chura relates, a way out is likely imperceptible. Continue reading

Data Should Lead to Understanding

In a Baseline Scenario article titled Bad Data James Kwak stated,  “to make a vast generalization, we live in a society where quantitative data are becoming more and more important. Some of this is because of the vast increase in the availability of data, which is itself largely due to computers. Some is because of the vast increase in the capacity to process data, which is also largely due to computers.”  Although computers have made the collection and accumulation of data much easier, so much so that we can get overwhelmed with information, computers are not the reason we are unable to understand and use data appropriately. Continue reading

Fiddling as Rome Burns

Why are we always solving the same issue yet calling it something else?  Answer: A systemic problem manifests as different symptoms, yet we focus only on the symptoms and never the system of causes.  We do this because in general: we react to the symptom-of-the-moment; we are lead by fear not understanding; and we don’t suspend, detach from and challenge our thoughts in order to understand the patterns of symptoms.  In short, we don’t think critically, systemically and statistically. Continue reading