Saturday, September 29, 2007

decisions: "follow the decisions you made" vs. "they were made"

I saw a link to this on Dan Creswell's

Train-Wreck Management by Mary Poppendieck.

The article is referenced on InfoQ. The Poppendiecks are my favorite methodologists. I have yet to be disappointed with Lean thinking.

I highlighted some sections that stood out to me:

Exhorting people to "be careful," "try harder," and "work smarter" is not useful if individuals have little effect on results. Rewarding or punishing people for outcomes that are not under their control can only result in discouragement - or in gaming the system. Instead, chronic problems must be fixed by finding their underlying causes and addressing these effectively. As Deming points out, this usually involves changing the system - the way things are done. And according to Deming, it is management's job to change the system.

Deming: All of the empowered, motivated, teamed-up, self-directed, incentivized, accountable, reengineered, and reinvented people you can muster cannot compensate for a dysfunctional system.... A well-run organization with well-functioning systems allows people from top to bottom do work of which they can be proud.

"There is something called standard work, but standards should be changed constantly. Instead, if you think of the standard as the best you can do, it's all over. The standard work is only a baseline for doing further kaizen. It is kai-aku [change for the worse] if things get worse than now, and it is kaizen [change for the better] if things get better than now. Standards are set arbitrarily by humans, so how can they not change?

"When creating Standard Work, it will be difficult to establish a standard if you are trying to achieve 'the best way.' This is a big mistake. Document exactly what you are doing now. If you make it better than it is now, it is kaizen. If not, and you establish the best possible way, the motivation for kaizen will be gone.

"We need to use the words 'you made' as in 'follow the decisions you made.' When we say 'they were made' people feel like it was forced upon them.

Standards are not about how work should be done, but how work is being done. You don't want the standard to be too perfect, because that leaves no incentive for workers to improve their standards.

That is, workers - led by their team leader - do many rapid experiments, find a better way, agree on the improvement, quickly document the new way, and use it. When a standard is improved, the decision for the change must be made by the people doing the work, so they won't feel it is being forced upon them.

When Deming said "change the system", he was talking about changing the complex, interrelated processes used to get work done. Deming believed that changing the system is management's primary job, and in order to do this, managers need competency in four areas: 1. Appreciation for the overall system in which work is done 2. An understanding of variation - and the true relationship between cause and effect 3. Constant pursuit of learning (improvement) through designed experiments 4. An understanding of the psychology of people When all of these areas are balanced and working together, great things can happen.

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