Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Risks and innovation

January 19, 2014

In 1979, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky won the Nobel Prize for Economics for their “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk”.

This theory shows that we prefer certainty to taking a risk. We see this on auction sites where the “Buy It Now” price is often much higher than the price of similar items sold by auctions. The BIN price may influence the bidding but it is for those of us who are willing to pay more for certainty.

Stable, well-established organizations tend to be risk averse. They place great value on their stability and choose continual improvement instead of innovating. Indeed, most organizations with process-based management systems continually improve their goods, services and processes. Some also go beyond development to design something entirely new.

Sustainable organizations do both; they continually improve and they innovate to find new ways of fulfilling their missions.

Successfully managing risk implies formal largely predicable processes. Being innovative tells us that selected team members interact in an informal free-thinking “sandbox” of collaborative effort. How do process-based organizational management systems help their leaders to manage innovation and the risks inherent to innovation?

First, let us never forget that effective process-based management systems deliver a valuable resource: time. By preventing problems, the management system substantially reduces time wasted on firefighting. The organization has time to innovate. Secondly, remember the leaders who serve to lead. Such leaders remove causes of fear from their systems. Their words and actions earn trust by selflessly taking responsibility for helping employees to understand and fulfill stakeholder needs. In this supportive environment, noble causes can stimulate innovation to find new ways of creating successful stakeholders.

The leader challenges and authorizes the special innovation team that comprises accomplished problem solvers. Unlike capable processes, innovating requires the leader’s patience and to expect to “fail” many times. Of course, knowing what does not work is not really a failure. And so-called failures may be successful in completely unexpected ways. Think Post It Note®.

Innovative teams comprise a mixture of different types of people with a wide variety of talents. Instead of endlessly talking, the team creates prototypes as soon as possible. Prototyping a new service may require a focus group. The team allows for the fact that focus groups usually comprise people who favor certainty. The prototype must impart value by solving a costly problem.

A shared understanding of the costly problem is a vital input to innovating. In bringing the innovation to market (internally or externally), successful organizations decide which innovations yield the greatest benefit to stakeholders. They determine which innovations have the greatest chance of success. The latter stages of innovating show that innovating is a process that really is design rather than development. It is a process that includes such risk assessment techniques as SMEA (Success Modes and Effects Analysis) and FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) before verifying and then validating the design.

Of course, risk has an upside. Nevertheless, risk managers tend to manage risk to avoid loss instead of managing risk to add value. Prospect Theory can help them to understand this. By fully appreciating risk, we recognize and manage both the downside and the upside of our decisions including our decisions to innovate.

In responding to a recognized adverse risk or threat, we use our management system to avoid, accept, transfer and mitigate aspects of the threat. Similarly, we respond to a recognized positive risk or opportunity by using our management system to share, enhance, accept and realize the opportunity.

Knowing Kahneman and Tversky’s Prospect Theory, we can dissolve the fear that would otherwise stop us from making difficult investment decisions. Organizations can enjoy the thrill and rewards of innovation by recognizing the value of taking positive risks that are essential for sustainable organizations to create even more successful stakeholders.

Effectiveness, value then efficiency

December 10, 2013

All of us have a responsibility for achieving more with less. To be more efficient, we experiment to see what works for customers, what nearly works and what does not work.

Organizations should start by studying themselves as systems. Once their leaders understand how their system helps employees to fulfill their mission or not, they think and work differently. They start their efficiency improvement cycles by developing their management system to drive their processes through the walls of silos to focus on customers. Then they can focus on improving the system to deliver what customers value.

Given an environment that supports such thinking, together with our colleagues, we start the experiment by studying customer demand, what customers’ value and waste. We may then set ourselves a hypothesis to test the best way to satisfy value demand and reduce failure demand. We carefully work to our new or updated procedure to see if it is effective. We try again until successful. We institutionalize the successful new process so others in the system can depend on it. This also enables us to improve efficiency further with another cycle of improvement.

Improvement often starts by eliminating the local causes of problems from a process. Perhaps by mistake-proofing the riskiest processes too. But, after several improvement cycles, we find the wider system has the greatest impact, both adverse and beneficial, on our process. System-wide impacts come from other processes in the system. These impacts include the shared organizational beliefs (or culture) that leaders reinforce or weaken with their processes.

When the continual improvement cycle is effective it continues to make the system and its processes more efficient. The speed of this investment should be a result of the calculation of risk and reward on behalf of investors who share the mission for customer value. The management system should deliver the information needed for these risk-reward decisions from the data collected on what customers’ value.

Conformity is necessary for effectiveness and predictable effectiveness is necessary for delivering value and improving efficiency. Predictable outcomes are a mark of effective processes and systems. “Luck” best describes an organization happening to fulfill a requirement with an unknown process or system.

Start by understanding your organization as a system. How does it help your organization to fulfill your mission? What are the leadership processes? Be prepared to think and work differently. Start your efficiency improvement cycles by developing your management system so it is process-based leaving no silos. Then focus on improving your system and its processes to deliver what your current and future customers value.

Is quality the cheapest option?

November 1, 2013

Some of us instinctively think quality products should cost more. But by removing the costs of nonconformity, quality products actually cost less to produce. Nonconformity, by the way, is a failure to meet the requirements including the requirements of customers. Some managers pay the price of nonconformity instead of making quality a reality for employees and customers.

At the normal 2 or 3 sigma, the price of nonconformity is 40% of turnover. Many times the level of profit for most organizations. Leaders may not need to measure these avoidable costs to eliminate the causes of failures to meet requirements from their systems. They may even help their suppliers to remove these avoidable costs too.

But more product verification will not help because it is too late. Inspection or testing merely sorts bad product from good product. Therefore, verification of the product is part of the price paid for failing to design capable processes. Capable processes are validated to result in products that need no inspection or testing.

Accordingly, we work to make sure our organizational management systems help employees and suppliers to add value for each customer. Adding value faster while preventing loss sooner. Having prevented nonconformity in our goods, we should also design the service part of our products so we avoid paying the price of service nonconformity too.

Leaders, who choose to avoid paying the price of nonconformity, invest in their process-based organizational management systems so more work is right the first time. They discover that buying and delivering quality costs a lot less than the alternatives. What’s more, in markets, where quality rarely is delivered, customers may be willing to pay a little more to have their requirements fulfilled exactly.

Even so, “quality is free” because it is cheaper to buy and deliver quality than not. Here we see the cost of quality at its lowest when the product exactly meets the requirements of the customer:

Earlier versions of these cost of quality curves mistakenly showed costs tending to infinity with perfection. The old curves showed perfection is not quality. Thankfully, in 1999, these curves were corrected to accord with reality and Crosby’s 1979 definition of quality. Of course, by then Taguchi had also showed that any deviation from the requirement increases costs to society.

In summary, managers of quality prevent nonconforming products to assure quality and satisfy customers. They govern their organizational management systems for creating more successful customers by making and keeping more competitive promises. Tomorrow’s managers of quality will also be focused on sustainability for all by creating more successful stakeholders.

As we can see, designing and producing quality remains the cheapest sustainable option.

What level of human error is acceptable?

September 17, 2013

Even competent humans make mistakes. Mistakes may not result in failures to meet requirements. Some systems evolve to become tolerant of mistakes or some organizations employ their management systems to prevent nonconformity.

The only bad nonconformity it the one we do not know about.

Understanding this fact is the key for leaders and their managers being careful not to create a culture that hides nonconformity.

Even so it is common for managers to demand no mistakes and to react badly to errors.

Leading organizations provide employees with management systems that help them to understand and fulfill the requirements. And servant leaders provide a management system to help their employees to eliminate the causes of nonconformity. They do this gradually, according to the 80:20 (or 50:4) rule, so they always start with the vital few nonconformities that cost the most.

Zero Defects (zero nonconformity actually) has to come with humble managers who take responsibility for their management system causing the nonconformity. Care and respect remain to most powerful parts of such management systems. It should not require courage for employees to talk about problems in doing the right work right.

These organizations welcome nonconformity reports to show where the management system needs further improvement to prevent failures to fulfill requirements. They know the only bad nonconformity is the one that remains hidden.

Thriving instead of just surviving

July 4, 2013

Thriving companies make effective use of resources to create successful customers. Zombie companies earn just enough to pay the interest on their debts. Low interest rates allow zombie companies to exist without investing in new products, processes and their management systems. As interest rates rise, the zombie companies will disappear unless they act now.

How do companies stop surviving and start thriving in this economy?

Refocus on your mission:

Your company’s mission is the reason your company exists. It is the system’s purpose. Cutting everything by 20% or more may be instinctive but without regard for the mission, it will put the system, your company, into a death spiral.

Instead, be creative. Your core process (from customer needs to cash in the bank) is mission critical. Determine the vital few changes that will yield most of the efficiency improvements.

Study your marketing and selling process. Perhaps you can go viral via social networks to explain clearly how your company creates successful customers. Study your innovation process. Do you fully understand, from the customer’s point of view, each of their objectives? Then design creative solutions with superlative service (see below) to help each customer to fulfill their objectives. Sell the value as seen by each customer but do not cut prices. Use your management system to improve efficiency and reduce costs but do not offer discounts.

Superlative customer service:

Companies often focus their management systems on tangible goods. Indeed, for nearly three decades, accredited registrars have encouraged their system certification clients to ignore their service design processes!

Leaders know that superlative customer service can influence each customer to buy on value instead of price.

Study your product design process. Ensure it designs the whole experience the customer has with your company. Engage your employees in the redesign of their interactions with customers by analyzing the customer’s experiences as they are. Agree upon the service changes so they are as they should be from the customer’s perspective. Make this new process part of your management system by changing the affected processes such as training, selling and maintaining the computer network. Continually improve the customer experience with your management system.

By engaging your employees in the redesign of their interactions with customers, you inspire them so they help your company to thrive again.

Serving the People to Lead the Organization

May 26, 2013

Live and work to serve the people. This is the vital but rarely mentioned part of any effective management system. Servant leaders live and work this way. They foster a community that shares commitment to the needs of others. Indeed, servant leaders are selfless. They put themselves last. They put first the interests of the community, so their organization can make a positive difference. Next, they put the well-being and interests of the people who rely on them. Last, and last all the time, they consider their own interests.

What are the other attributes of the leaders who serve to lead?

Servant leaders understand the power of their organization as a system. They take responsibility for their system. They ensure their organizational management system is responsive to the needs of stakeholders. They consider the needs of employees, customers, suppliers, owners and others affected by the organization. A servant leader does not blame others for the poor performance of their system. They make followers less fearful of speaking up; however unpopular the truth may be.

Servant leaders ensure departments collaborate effectively. Their management system is cross-functional or process-based. Such systems enable organizational learning of future opportunities. Such systems also reduce the associated adverse risks. Servant leaders persuade, monitor and coach users to show respect for the requirements. They also show their respect for the organizational management system. They ensure it is improved and changed as necessary to enable the organization to improve its performance for stakeholders.

Servant leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They understand that their team members have innate strengths and weaknesses too. They ensure process teams blend the different strengths of individuals for shared success. They nurture the personal, professional and spiritual growth of individual team members so individuals can make the best use of their talents.

Servant leaders are able communicators. Their systems gather data. After data analysis, information helps with effective decisions. Servant leaders actively listen and encourage active listening by decision-makers. Servant leaders also observe and seek to understand the needs of any silent stakeholders.

Servant leaders see beyond the limits of their organization with respect for customer needs and the needs of other stakeholders. Servant leaders focus on long-term organizational change. They develop future leaders so their organization continues to enable success for the stakeholders.

Servant leaders exemplify, align and share the behaviors, ethics and values of their organization. Their inspirational organizational culture creates and sustains a healthy work environment. It is integral to the holistic management system that is conducive to quality in everything the organization does.

How do I measure the effectiveness of training?

February 19, 2013

Why do we feel a need to measure the benefits of doing the right thing? We find this in quality costing too. Most quality costing is about the cost benefits of keeping promises instead of the cost benefits of making the promises valued by customers. Likewise, we need to do enough of the right thing the right way with our organization as a system to fulfill our collective objectives of creating (and keeping) more successful customers.

People, of diverse innate abilities, benefit in different ways from education and training. Some employees benefit immediately from the formal education and training. Others benefit more from workplace experiences following the education or training. Moreover, we all benefit from a process-based management system that helps us to determine requirements and coordinate our work to fulfill requirements.

Taking the individual out of the system, one could measure the abilities, skills and knowledge of each individual before and after the training session. However, we cannot change the innate abilities of anyone and the slower learners from workplace experiences may be marked down. This is not to mention the contributions or impediments of the leaders and the rest of the system.

Diverse process and project teams comprising individuals of different strengths and weaknesses help each other to fulfill objectives. Managers wisely play to the strengths of their people and avoid exposing their weaknesses. We cannot make everyone the same like robots.

What counts is competence of the individual, the process, leadership and the system of which all three are part. Therefore, we have to optimize the system (parts that work together) so it adds value faster and prevents loss sooner. $ per millisecond may be the ultimate metric appearing on the dashboard for all to see as a smoothed moving average.

Playing our part in value networks

December 22, 2012

Stakeholders may dream of having their requirements satisfied by the organizations that affect them. Some politicians and NGOs say the stakeholders have the right to have their requirements fulfilled. Others say that stakeholders, who can, should earn that right. It is intensely political as the forces for “equal opportunities” fight the forces for “equal outcomes”.

Organizations can understand themselves as systems and then develop their process-based organizational management systems to enable workers to add value faster and prevent loss sooner to benefit all stakeholders. They reward employees for working to benefit customers so employees can look after their families, their communities and themselves.

Businesses network and these networks comprise many different organizations so they are complex. Members may organize themselves to become a value network. Organizations are the nodes in the value network. Each node interfaces with other nodes that use contracts to govern their relationships as customers and as suppliers. Building, supporting and running a value network requires transparent, voluntary, consensus standards. Some of these standards specify more reliable management systems. Organizations develop and use their management systems to govern their work. They may even show they are ethical and competent enough to join and remain members of the value network. Once a supplier promises a standard, customers may use contracts to enforce even the voluntary standards. Organizations can and do impose strict selection and re-selection criteria on the members of their value networks.

Of course, the leaders and managers of the value networks and the organizations that comprise these networks should personally be transparent and accountable. However, to encourage risk taking to generate wealth, the individual decision makers are largely protected by their organization becoming the person accountable in the eyes of the law.

This separation of the organization from the people that run it creates mistrust. How then are customers confident enough to do business? Personal relationships count for a lot in making and accepting promises. The organizational management system helps salespeople and sales processes to make and keep competitive promises for their customers.

Customers and other stakeholders rely more and more on the law to protect them from poor decisions and broken promises. Organizations can see the rules are changing and want to stay ahead by broadening their duty of care to include customers, employees and communities. Indeed, the 2006 Companies Act in the UK reminds company directors of these wider duties.

Now we see companies climbing on the long bandwagon named “Sustainability for ALL Through Being Socially Responsible in Everything We Do”. Even if it were available, ISO 26000 certification would not “prove” social responsibility or sustainability credentials.

Instead, organizations have to perform to prove their heads, hearts, decisions and actions are socially responsible to their stakeholders. Stakeholder trust may then grow from websites that truth-check the social responsibility and sustainability claims of any organization. Indeed, stakeholders may fund these websites directly or indirectly.

Instead of publishing socially irresponsible versions of “greenwash”, may we see more leadership by global companies benefiting their stakeholders wherever they operate?

The primacy of process

November 3, 2012

Many people confuse processes with procedures. Processes are the work of cross-functional teams. Procedures are the specified way of doing the work. Procedures can be mind-numbing for competent workers especially when they specify unnecessary detail or are used instead of training.

A process may or may not add value. A procedure may or may not be effective and may or may not be documented.

Processes are the counterculture where the culture is for functions to congregate in departments to politick for promotion. Such departmental thinking has to change for the functions to coordinate their work to form a joined-up process to create more successful customers.

Indeed, processes refocus workers from keeping old-style departmental bosses happy to collaborate in satisfying customers. Processes that add value to inputs are the lifeblood of organizations that want to create more successful customers. This makes the new-style process bosses very happy.

Processes usually bring resources and controls so the work of humans can add value to a wide variety of inputs. Resources include skills, knowledge, facilities and equipment. Controls include care, coordination, methods and decisions. Get the inputs, resources and controls right and the output will be free from defects and other failures to fulfill requirements

Middle managers add value by coordinating, monitoring and improving the performance of cross-functional process teams to make sure everyone has what they need to keep their work in balance with customer demand. When customer demand reduces, middle managers or coaches help process teams improve their skills, facilities, equipment, methods or remove kinks from their processes. Or, as a last resort, they may be redeployed to under-resourced processes.

Leaders add value by establishing and living the values that impart care for customers and the requirements of other stakeholders. They ensure their organizations work effectively as systems to direct, nurture, support, redesign and remove processes as necessary to fulfill the organization’s mission. Small companies grow and become successful by providing value and continually improving their management systems, processes and products.

Process Management within well-designed systems are necessary for our work to pay our way in this world as we create more successful customers.

Justifiably Confident Leaders

July 27, 2012

Quality, it can be said, is about making and keeping competitive promises that result in more successful stakeholders. Indeed, this is the basis for quality coming from individuals, processes and organizations that meet requirements.

Never question the commitment of senior managers; only their ability to show their commitment to requirements by what they say and do. Recognize that they can feel uncertain, embarrassed or powerless talking about quality leading to actions that may send the opposite message to that intended.

Leaders tend to avoid talking about quality, or showing their commitment to requirements, unless:

A. They agree on what exactly quality means to them and those who rely on them;
B. They have the means to manage quality proactively with their process-based organizational management system; and
C. They know how their organization works as a system to deliver quality.

Once you have A, B and C in place then run an awareness leaders workshop for them. Do not proceed with the workshop unless all three aspects are in place. For example, take action to deliver B if the management system attempts to deliver quality by overreliance on product inspection.

This workshop enables the leaders to develop their message and prepare to explain how their management system brings obligations and benefits as it helps employees and suppliers to determine and meet requirements.

Once suitably equipped and prepared as recommended above, the leaders should feel confident enough to visibly demonstrate their commitment to quality and remove causes of doubt and fear every day of the week.

Before this the leaders will remain unsure about quality and their organization’s ability to keep its promises.