Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lessons From a Japan Study Mission

Many US companies have sent delegations to Japan to study a wide variety of Japanese manufacturing techniques.

Below is a summary of the lessons learned from one such study mission.

1. Everything in the work environment is considered a process, to be measured, controlled, standardized, and continuously improved upon.

2. The Company will find and implement the "most reliable method" for manufacturing, (and by extension, other activities) and implement it everywhere in the Company, so that all similar activities will be standardized. The Company will be open to new, improved methods which, when proved, will become the new "most reliable method."

3. We should never talk about "optimizing" since, once we do, we accept the status quo. Instead we must talk of "continuing improvement" in every aspect of our work.

4. Education drives the organization; the job of the manager is to educate.

5. The Company must be close to the consumer; we should not seek compliments, but complaints and criticism; it is every employee's responsibility to regularly submit criticism of the way things are done, with suggestions for improvements.

6. The Customer defines quality, through a concept called "fitness for use". If a product is not "fit for use", it should not be made. This concept applies to staff group work products as well.

7. Staff groups must appreciate the concept of internal customers and apply the "close to the customer", "criticism", and "fitness for use" approaches to them, both "up" and "down" the process.

8. Aim for what we do; do not settle for anything less.

9. Goals are to be carefully spelled out and mutually agreed to, but methods are also to be spelled out.

10. Controls are to be established to show when any "process" is in or out of control; when out of control, a correction plan is to be prepared; each employee is responsible for seeing that his/her parameters are in control; each supervisor is held accountable for ensuring that his supervisor's goals remain "in control."

11. "Failure" is a foreign concept; "out of control" simply represents a problem (opportunity, responsibility) to solve, without blame, but with willing and eager help from all who can contribute.

12. Clean offices represent the concept of clear thinking, discipline, elimination of wasteful processes and procedures.

13. Purposes for automation include elimination of drudgery and danger.

14. "Apply your brain" to the problem.

15. In manufacturing, stress no or low inventory, just in time delivery, and mixed mode production.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Honda on Managing Change

Tips From Honda CEO on Managing Change

An article in the June 16 Wall Street Journal has a lot to say about change.

Accompanying an article about the challenges Honda faces in achieving a “green” image, CEO Takeo Fukui offers five tips for managing change:

1. Create a work environment where all employees can advance and utilize their talents

2. Understand that no one can be satisfied unless the customer is satisfied

3. Achieve the highest quality in all areas through continuous improvement and innovation

4. Develop helpful technology. In the auto industry, for example, work on technology that will benefit the environment and improve fuel efficiency

5. Challenge employees – only then will they learn to adapt quickly, value teamwork, and innovate.

These tips are equally applicable to any workplace. We’ll talk further about change in future posts.

Theory X - Theory Y

Theory X & Theory Y

In the material below, I have borrowed extensively from my friend and colleague Peter Scholtes, author of The Leader’s Handbook.

In 1960, Douglas McGregor articulated his famous theory of the workplace, arguing that changing kinds of work and workers demanded changing ways of thinking.

Theory X

McGregor identified the traditional views about direction and control (in the 1960s) in the following way:

1. Most people have an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if (s)he can.

2. Therefore, people in the workplace must be coerced, controlled, directed, or threatened with punishment to get them to put forth effort on behalf of their organization. (One still sees many of the old (POSDCORB) managerial expectations stated in position descriptions (Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, etc.))

3. Most people prefer to be directed, wish to avoid responsibility, have relatively little ambition, and want security over all. (This belief was so prevalent in the late 1900s and early 20th century that A Message to Garcia became among the 10 most widely read documents in human history)

McGregor argued that those who view people and the workplace in this way will see carrots and sticks as the only way to get things done. Those who use carrots and sticks are implicitly subscribing to Theory X assumptions. When you see carrots and sticks being offered to effect changes in human behavior, consider what this says about the offerer.

Theory Y

McGregor’s experience taught him that people in general react in much different ways.

1. The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest

2. People will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objective to which they are committed

3. Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement. The most significant of these rewards are ego and self-actualization (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for further information on these needs).

4. The average person learns not only to accept, but to seek responsibility. Avoidance of responsibility and lack of ambition are generally the result of experience in a hostile work environment, rather than the cause of it.

5. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity in the workplace is widely distributed in the population.

6. In today’s workplace, the intellectual potential of people is only partly used.

In future blogs, we will explore Maslow’s Hierarchy, team building, and shared leadership further.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Competencies for the Future

I have used a set of competencies for the future in assessing the likelihood of success for leaders of organizations, and thought readers might like to share this knowledge.

1. Results Orientation... working to achieve high levels of personal and organizational performance

2. Initiative... taking independent action and going beyond what the job or situation requires

3. Efficiency... finding ways to accomplish the most with the least amount of time and resources

4. Commitment/Persistence... being concerned with doing the job well and persevering in the face of obstacles or challenges

5. Thoroughness... making sure that work is done correctly, completely, and to the highest standards

6. Information Seeking... gathering current information about situations and getting the facts before making decisions

7. Process Thinking... taking a well‑ordered and systematic approach to analyzing problems, organizing work and planning action

8. Conceptual Thinking... identifying the key aspects of complex situations and understanding the big picture

9. Forward Thinking... anticipating and planning to deal with future events, problems and opportunities

10. Building Consensus... using collaborative approaches to build support for objectives

11. Political Astuteness... understanding how the influence process works in organizations and using it effectively

12. Relationship Building... developing and maintaining positive business relationships

13. Teamwork . cooperating positively with others to achieve a common purpose

14. Confidence/Assertiveness... demonstrating sell‑assurance in own ideas, judgments and capabilities

15. Giving Direction... Letting others know what is needed, and communicating standards and performance expectations

16. Providing Support... helping others while respecting their accomplishments, concerns and needs

17. Communication... speaking, writing and listening effectively

18. Interpersonal Perceptiveness... being aware of the feelings, attitudes, concerns and capabilities of others

19. Customer Orientation... anticipating and responding to the needs of internal and external customer/uses, and others he/she supports

20. Developing Others... providing assignments, guidance and feedback to improve others' performance

Ken Karch

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

SHOA Board Goals & Measures for 2008

On December 15, 2007 the SHOA Board adopted a set of nine Goals and 18 Measures for 2007-2008, as it has done in each of the last few years

The goals are typically set early in the life of the new Board, and performance reviewed against them in June, in time to report to the membership at the Annual Members’ meeting in July

This year’s goals (not in any order) include covenant enforcement; improved use of volunteers; building trust and satisfaction, limiting budget increases; improving maintenance of SHOA assets; replacing the footbridges; improving operational efficiencies; improving waterways, and improving our water system.

A complete set of goals and measures is shown below.

SHOA Organizational Alignment – 2007-2008 Goals - Adopted 12/15/07

Goal (in bold type) and Measures

Covenant Enforcement - Board adopt policies for majority of key covenant provisions by 7/1/08 and SHOA attain & maintain 90% closure rate on complaints within 6 months

Improve Use of Volunteers - SHOA develop & maintain inventory of volunteers; skills; interests; history, and Board recognize active volunteers in annual recognition event

Build Trust & Satisfaction - Board secure member feedback on needs & wants annually (Identify important issues) and Board secure member feedback on satisfaction with Board priorities & results (Meet important issues)

Limit Budget - SHOA update Schwindt study; conform current asset plan to it and Board set 2008 & beyond budget goals based on operational and capital reserve needs

Improve Maintenance of Assets - Board adopt & implement SHOA asset maintenance plan by 4/1/08 and SHOA prepare performance report on asset maintenance by 7/1/08

Replace Footbridges - Board complete footbridge replacement on time & on budget by 7/1/08 and SHOA institute maintenance plan for footbridges by 7/1/08

Improve Operational Efficiencies - SHOA adopt & implement improvement plans for 20 key business processes by 7/1/08 and SHOA adopt & implement improvement plans for 20 key operational processes by 7/1/08

Improve Waterways - Board adopt & implement waterway enhancement plan by 4/1/08 and SHOA assess performance of plan activities by 7/1/08

Improve Water System - SHOA complete 6-Year Water Plan by 4/1/08 and SHOA integrate 6-Year Water Plan elements into Asset/Facilities Management Plan and Board set 6 Key Water System Improvement Goals by 4/1/08 (eg., re metering; water conservation; cross-connection control; hydrant replacement; shallow well future; generator protection, etc.)

SHOA Blog Startup

Hi, readers,

Recently I announced the cessation of publication of a weekly email newsletter (called the WeekEnder since 2004) to members of the Surfside Homeowners Association in Ocean Park, WA. I indicated at that time I would be starting an alternative newsletter, to be sent via email, placed on a web site, or converted to a blog. Since then, I have studied the blogging environment and feel it is the appropriate format. This, then is the first in a series of blog messages. I expect this will be a learning experience for me as well as my readers, of whom about a hundred have signed up already to receive the next version of my Weekender.

I started the WeekEnder in December, 2004 and have published it (with a few exceptions) weekly ever since (usually on Sunday evenings) to give all members an update on activities in Surfside on a weekly basis. Members were invited to sign up for this free subscription, recognizing that considerably less than 100 % of SHOA members have regular access to email, and that, of those who do, not everyone would want to have such a message sent to them regularly (some might consider it SPAM). Prior to that, the only widespread communication to all members (other than the notices of the Annual Meeting and Budget mailings) was the quarterly SHOAndTell newsletter. In addition, the WeekEnder has been added to the SHOA web site. The Newsletter is a “push” communication (that is, we send it to all SHOA members), the Web site is a “pull” (that is, a member must take an affirmative action to access it), and the WeekEnder is a hybrid of the two (members who want it must sign up, but we do not send it to everyone for whom we have an email address (about 600 of our 2000 members)).

The WeekEnder has always sought contributions from members, and has published hundreds of such contributions); guidelines for contributors have been published regularly. Most recently, the Board has adopted the WeekEnder guidelines as its own, with minimal changes. This was welcomed by me as an expression that the Board shared my view of communicating as well and as often as possible with the members.

The Weekender is Board-controlled now, in that the President makes regular contributions, Board actions at every Board meeting are reported, and miscellaneous news from staff and committees, who work under Board direction, are regularly included. Over the past 3 years, the Weekender has received more positive comments from members than all other SHOA activities combined. I want to personally thank all of you who responded to the WeekEnder. If you like it, and would like to continue receiving it (or something like it), please let the Board know.

All Board members, Committees, and staff members have always been invited to contribute material for the Weekender (subject only to minimal limitations pertaining to good taste, etc., contained in a set of WeekEnder Guidelines for Contributors), and contributions were always welcome and all of them have been published.

I will soon begin publishing my own email letter, web site, or blog, focusing on SHOA activities, including commentary, but with a much heavier emphasis on management topics, including management philosophy, and will send it to anyone who wishes to receive it (but you must contact me at to sign up). The e-mailing list will be private and not provided to anyone, and you may remove yourself simply by asking. If you are interested in learning more about topics like leadership, customer satisfaction management, strategic planning, business process improvement, human resource management, issue analysis, information management, performance measurement, and more than 30 other management topics, please sign up.

Note: This last paragraph of the above announcement of June 4 has been slightly overtaken by my desire to convert to a blog format.

Ken Karch, PE