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Little’s Law goes a long way September 25, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!.
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Arrow at Barrique'sOne of the most useful equations to understand in process management is Little’s Law, which ties together the concept of lead time, work-in-process, and completion rates. Lead time (LT) is essentially the time it takes to deliver one’s service/product, once it has been requested. Work-in-process (WIP) refers to anything that is currently waiting to be finished–people in line, requests/reports to be finished, etc. Completion rate (CR) is the time it takes to finish processing each item (i.e., minutes, hours, days, weeks). Simply put, Little’s Law states that:

Lead Time (LT) = Amount of Work-in-Process (WIP)
Average Completion Rate (CR)

This is extremely useful in understanding and improving processes–we can reduce lead time by reducing WIP or increasing CR. The simple act of tracking lead times allows us to see, understand, and reduce variations in our processes, which is the foundation of quality control.


Imagineering at work September 14, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!.
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MyiBoardMost of us in the working world have heard the term “think out of the box” many times, because we are asked – implicitly or explicitly – to apply this principle in our work all the time. Rather than get foolishly frustrated by the lack of team creativity, organizations should provide visual cues in the work place to help people generate innovative ideas as well as provide an atmosphere that fosters creativity. People can be taught to be more creative, and the best way is to make it a daily habit. An iBoard (ideas, inspiration, or imagination?), where people can regularly post and share materials – from photos and magazine clippings to lists of words and websites, as well as personal observations, experiences and stories – could help stimulate creative thinking in groups and individuals. That way, people get excited about that next brainstorming session, which translate to more and better ideas generated.

Agile learning September 5, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!.
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Railroad tracksThe Agile Manifesto summarizes the underlying philosophy and approach behind one of the hottest new computer programming languages called Ruby on Rails:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • responding to change over following a plan

These principles easily map onto how change should be managed in organizations. Just like a programming language, organizations need to be agile in order to accommodate changing needs and environments, or face the prospect of being obsolete and outclassed by the competition.

From Deming to Wooden August 29, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!.
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Pyramid of Success“Eliminate numerical goals, numerical quotas and management by objectives. Substitute leadership.”
As one of the pillars of W. Edward Deming’s 14 KEY PRINCIPLES for management, leadership is perhaps the most critical, and the most difficult to learn. John Wooden, easily the most celebrated coach in college basketball, developed the PYRAMID OF SUCCESS, where we can glean the attributes, behaviors, and values for successful leadership. Coach Wooden won ten championships in a dozen years of coaching at UCLA–we can certainly learn something useful from someone who successfully managed all those huge egos within a competitive environment.

Hit the road, Jack? August 21, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!.
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Jack Welch on FortuneThe July 11 issue of Fortune magazine turned a critical eye on Jack Welch’s formula for corporate success, identifying the “new” rules, which include the need for organizational agility, innovation outsourcing, niche-making, and customer-orientedness, among others (CLICK HERE to read the article online) . Younger CEOs are embracing a paradigm for success and improvement that de-emphasizes measurement and no-nonsense management in favor of “softer” attributes such as passion, creativity, and vision. Sometimes it seems like a no-brainer, but it’s much harder to motivate people without the profit incentive.

Barriers to successful change August 12, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Projects, Questions.
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Some of the barriers to success in improvement efforts include:

  • there’s just no time to do it
  • competing priorities and agendas
  • no buy-in from key decision-makers and opinion leaders
  • staff resistance to change
  • change proposed is too big and ambitious
  • change proposed is not exciting nor relevant
  • poor team communication
  • people fear change
  • lack of evidence of effectiveness
  • roles are not well-defined
  • added work
  • too many (unproductive) meetings

Which of these are the most significant, and how could we overcome the challenges they provide?

Dimensions of change August 2, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!, Questions.
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Inside the BoxWhat are some of the more difficult questions organizations face? There are some – like how to balance productivity and creativity, how to encourage more conversations, or how to make measuring performance less of a burden – that can be solved by reallocating resources or by changing the system’s environmental parameters. (more…)

Getting things done July 31, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!, Projects.
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GTD GraphicMany improvement projects drag on for months with no clear direction or outcome, wasting organizational resources and damaging group morale. They fail not because of lack of innovation or managerial support, but because of poor execution. Basketball offers a powerful analogy on how to get things done. (more…)

Design matters July 16, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!.
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ctrlz.jpgHere are some useful principles, approaches, and concepts culled from (human factors) design:

  • The Don’t Make Them Think Principle. Standardizing processes, creating rituals, and the K.I.S.S. concept go a long way.
  • The Boomerang Principle. Providing good system feedback to users – like “you are here” or “the road ahead” maps -and ensuring the primacy of user safety is non-negotiable.
  • The Ctrl-Z Principle. Creating a system that is error-forgiving – where you provide a way for people to retrace their steps and undo the “oops” and “uh-ohs” – is important because we are wired to make errors and mistakes. (more…)

Fishy musings July 15, 2006

Posted by Joey Valdez in Ideas!.
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fish.jpgSome things amateur marine aquarists learn (the hard way):
1) make sure the specific needs of each specimen are met (otherwise, they’ll waste away); 2) the fish are compatible with one another; 3) the tank has enough room for them to swim around; 4) temperature fluctuations are kept to a minimum; 5) there is vigorous water circulation; 6) there is good water quality by checking chemical parameters and replacing dirty water with fresh water on a regular basis; 7) they are fed properly, on schedule.
The direct analogies with our working environments are plenty and somewhat obvious. It’s also interesting to note that the success rate for novice aquarists is quite low. As in all things, patience and constant conscientiousness pay dividends.