Change Management

It Starts With Us

I don’t practice what I preach. This became a hard reality for me recently. I was reading Mark Graban’s book and he talks about how easy it is to find fault in others and not see what we may be doing wrong.

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WARNING: Studying Deming will haunt you for the rest of your life!

Deming talks about the transformation of the individual. Its really true. I equate it to taking the red pill. Afterwards, I was often angry with others—why didn’t they get it?? It was too easy to climb up on my soap box and start preaching. It wasn’t really getting me anywhere, though. This added to my own frustration. But wait, didn’t Deming talk about the need for understanding Psychology? Wouldn’t I need to understand it in order to change people’s minds? If so, why wasn’t I doing that? Worse, was getting angry and telling people what they should believe increasing their own knowledge and adding to their joy? I wasn’t practicing what I preached!

And what about my own life? I’m out of shape. I don’t eat the greatest. Was I chasing short term pay offs instead of focusing on the long term like I had been preaching? And then there’s my own family. Was I improving their life? Was I teaching my children the importance of collaboration and helping them find pride in their work and showing them how to continuously improve?

I read a book some time ago about how we influence others and I remember taking away from it that my strongest ability to influence was by modeling. People are watching me. Whether its my Kanban board at work or just watching how I interact and treat others. When one chooses to take the red pill, you’ve entered a new world and have a huge responsibility to help others.

Some things I could be doing better:

  1. How’s my constancy of purpose? Do I even have one? Once I identify it, do I even have the willpower to pursue it and achieve it?
  2. I need more energy and focus. In order to do this, I need to eat more healthy and exercise. In order to do it, I’ll need discipline. I need to go out and get some.
  3. If I want to help others improve, I need to learn how to influence them. I need to be studying psychology more.
  4. I need to be reducing variation in my own life. I can do this by building quality in. For example—just maintaining what I already have (oil changes, taking care of my clothes, keeping my house tidy and clean, finding ways to simplify).
  5. Identify when I’m being short-term minded. I’m stunned at how easy it is to fall into this trap.
  6. I need to be conducting my own experiments and PDSA. Currently I’m experimenting with meditation to boost my will power.
  7. Be more humble. I don’t have it all figured out and I never will. There are others out there who have knowledge.
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So easy to get into this mindset. I need to check it at the door.

BOOK REVIEW: The Toyota Way to Service Excellence

the-toyota-way-to-service-excellence-by-liker-and-rossDAN’S SCORE: Stars 4
The Toyota Way to Service Excellence
by Jeff Liker and Karyn Ross


Liker’s first book, The Toyota Way, was a game changer for me. The points he made kept me up at night. Seriously! I recommend it as a go-to book for people learning agile (or even for those who have been at it for awhile!).

When I saw his new book, The Toyota Way to Service Excellence, co-written with Karyn Ross, was about to be released, I knew I had to get it. I was excited to see it was geared toward the service industry, which many say agile concepts don’t fit.

I wasn’t disappointed. The book is full of nuggets that got me thinking. Looking back over my notes, I have tick marks, stars, and the word “interesting” in the margins all over. Here are some of my favorites:

  • This book talks a lot about change management. That in itself was a good reason to get it. Liker explains the difficulties with American vs. Japanese paradigms and why Lean type of management makes sense to the Japanese but is harder for Americans to grasp. Part of this is Mechanistic (Americans) vs Systems (Japanese) thinking. He included  a cool graph showing the differences. He also pointed out that the Japanese are better at organizational learning than Americans (we are better at individual learning).
  • Related, Liker states its been his experience we cannot change a person’s paradigms with logic, facts, motivational speeches, and intense classroom training. Liker said there are too many defense mechanisms for the brain. It takes time and practice and corrective feedback from skilled coaches. In short “you cannot order, buy, or quickly achieve changes in philosophy.” This is exactly the opposite of what American management wants to hear. We want things NOW. This makes it very tough to change a Western-style organization.
  • He shared researcher Geert Hofstede’s website that shows comparisons of world cultures indicating our emphasis on Individualism, Long term orientation, and Risk avoidance. Americans are highly individualistic, think short term, and take risks. The Japanese are collective thinkers, think long term, and are risk adverse. I’ve shared this website with my own company. Because we are international, I thought it might help us understand each other better and how we work.
  • He has a section titled “Changing Senior Management Thinking.” Liker says senior managers get where they are because they are confident, passionate, convincing and believe they are right. This makes a very tough nut to crack, especially when they are stuck in a traditional American/Western mindset. His advice for midlevel professionals on this matter:“Do your best to learn and grow and make your team the best in the business. The worst that will happen is that lower performers will resent you. But in the long term you will win because you are learning and developing your team and will be rewarded at your current or next employer. Taking on the kingdom and attempting to transform the culture of a multinational corporation is self-defeating. Do what you can with what you’ve got. Start by changing yourself and then find ways to positively influence others, one person at a time.” This is similar to what Deming admonished (and yes, Deming was mentioned often in the book. Liker calls him sensei Deming. Heh.).
  • He gives a really good example of PDCA in action and shows how it can be rapidly deployed. It really got me to better understand how PDCA works and I’m looking to see where I can apply it with my own work.
  • He talks about how Toyota carefully chooses and grows its partners. He has a section warning on the risks of outsourcing services. I’d been drawing this conclusion myself because if one does not have a partner that does not share your values and doesn’t embrace continuous improvement, you are in for a lot of pain. I’ve experienced this in my own company.
  • He states the importance of having a coach or mentor. I’ve thought about this a lot. I certainly read a lot and practice on my own, but I think this is where I am really lacking. I’m really not sure where to find one or one who would be willing to mentor me. Maybe I should make more of an effort to find one.

So, why does it get 4 stars instead of 5? Admittedly, some of this stuff just didn’t make sense to me. The book is very nuts and bolts and if it made my head begin to hurt, I skipped the section (the part about A3 particularly made me cross-eyed). Perhaps I’m not ready for some parts yet and need to come back and study it when my understanding matures. Also—the book switches to a narrative/fiction like style to explain a typical Lean transformation at a fictional service industry. While the point was certainly made (and I applaud Liker for trying something different), at times this format came off a little too hokey for me. It started sounding a little too “rainbows and unicorns.” I’d like to have seen these dialed back a little.

Despite this being an excellent book, I think it may be a little too advanced for the beginner. Liker references Toyota Kata throughout the book. I’m wondering if one should start there or perhaps read The Toyota Way.

Overall, though—excellent book. Glad its in my library. I’ll be referring to it.

Also–the co-author, Karyn Ross, recently did an interview over on LeanBlog sharing some of her experiences about writing the book and her own journey learning Lean. Her interview gave me some seeds for another post.

Buy the book here.

Implementing Change Using Kanban- Part V

The previous post in this series is here.

Here’s some of the latest events with our experiment with the Kanban board. I think what amazes me the most is how it continues to evolve–in how it looks, how we use it, and how we are starting to view our work.

  • I added another board to the left of the original. I call this board “Provisioning.” This represents all the sites that are in progress with our partner. There are no process columns. Its because I don’t have a clear understanding of their process. However, I know what sites they have, and I started writing a post-it note for each. It became time consuming to write each and once its on the board, I have a hard time finding it again because there are so many. I decided I would just make the post-it when the partner sent the site. If something needed to be addressed before it was sent over, I would create the post-it and label it with the block or action item. I must say, though, having so many post-its on the board gives us a better visual of how many sites are coming over and the enormity of the work involved.

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    This is a new board–it represents the work we are waiting for from our partner. In hindsight, I’m not so sure we really needed it. We just need to know how many the partner has and if there are any areas that need our attention (i.e. items that are blocked or needs some sort of action).

  • I also added another wall for our clean up. I didn’t create a white wall for this one. I just use pins and the post its and move them over column by column (there are only three). This represents disconnecting the old circuits portion of the project. Once these are completed, the site is considered done. What disturbs me, and I have been pointing this out to our team, is that there are only about 6 sites absolutely done. Why aren’t we finishing? I believe the problem is because of the emphasis on getting the sites to the TTU portion of the project. Once that is done, the interest in the site begins to wane. Management wants us to put our effort into completing more TTUs. As a result, the sites are stacking and not finishing the whole process. I believe the board is highlighting this problem and management is beginning to see the issue. They are giving us another resource to help us finish these up.
  • I believe the importance of working upstream vs. downstream has dawned on us. (is this pull vs. push?) When we work, we read the boards from right to left. I believe this is helping us understand the concept of finishing what we have started. I believe this is a big jump for us. I have spoken to my manager about this concept and he agrees that it is the smartest way to work. That is a relief.
  • Bottlenecks are much more apparent. I really hate seeing them. For one, I quickly run out of space in my columns. See below.

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    See the two long columns of green and yellow? This is a result of working in large batches. The greens will sit there for several days before work begins on them. If I get any more that need to go into this column, the post its are going to get piled on top of each other (which has actually already started). These areas are called “queues.” These items are waiting for us to have time to work on them

  • Bottlenecks are exacerbated because we are working in large batches. Our partner is working in batches of 25. We get nothing then all of the sudden we get a whole lot. One of my team mates is following a similar pattern. He started setting one time a day in the week to work on all the sites that have been sent to him. I understand why he is doing it. He has conflicting priorities, and if he can schedule a couple of hours where he isn’t disturbed he can get it done. The problem is the sites are sitting there anywhere from a day up to a week and it increases lag time. We’ve been talking about batches lately and the trouble of working with large ones. I even showed my manager the concept of single-piece flow. At first he was skeptical, but I think he began to see its merits.

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    Notice how items are piling up in columns–the result of working in large batches. These items come in all at once and then wait. There is also an emphasis on a certain point on the board to be completed. As a result the items to the right of that point are not getting completed. See how all the post-its are clogging on the right hand side of the board? We have a lot of starting and not enough finishing.

  • We are starting to talk about the concept of flow vs. large chunks come through and how it would be better if items were coming over more frequently but in smaller batches. We aren’t sure exactly how to make it happen. My feeling is we will have to change how our partner does their work.
  • Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my supervisor and the head of the IT department is when we are at the board. I can explain and show things to them. It also helps that I keep charts and statistical data nearby so they can se the data. I think they appreciate the transparency.
  • I did a training on Kanban boards. One manager experimented with it some, but so far no one has started using one. I’m told I’m still an inspiration to them though and they love coming into my area. I wish I could help more. I think I just need to work with them more often. Its tough because all our time is limited.
  • I’ve gotten more concrete with our additional post-its. Blue is for action items. Pink is for blocks. Blocks mean the item can not move forward. Blue means the item can move, but there is something we need to do with it. Also, I put the date in the bottom right, the company owner in the bottom center, and the site the problem is associated with in the bottom left. Admittedly, it can get tiring doing this, but it really helps us keep track of so many things we need to work on and the visual lets us see any patterns where these items are becoming a problem. For instance, we see a lot of blue after our TTU. This is because that many issues are encountered during TTU that we have to address. Its made us think more about putting the quality in the first time around and trying to be more proactive instead of fixing it afterward.
  • I use the post-its to hold data (usually in the form of dates) which I then transfer to excel and create graphs. The charts that seem to matter the most to management is the burndown and the run chart showing rate of circuit completions per week (which needs to be at 15 a week in order to meet our target deadline). I keep up-to-date charts near the board so everyone can see it. I believe the charts reinforces the idea that my project management philosophy doesn’t end at colorful post-it notes on a white board—I have a lot of hard data.
  • I’m still getting mixed reactions from different people on the boards themselves. Folks who have never seen them before will often snap their heads with a double take when they enter the room. Sometimes I find people just staring at them.  I did have someone say I had made a mess creating them. Others have told me they think they are really cool. An agile coach told me to talk them up. I’ve been doing that.
  • There is still talk of moving to another location. I’d be fine packing the boards up. It would be pretty easy actually. My concern is having wall space near my future work area. I hope I will be accommodated.

Things I wish we could change to make it better:

  • Have our partner work in smaller and more frequent batches. I think this would even out our overall workload and create flow.
  • Have my supervisor and our IT head see the boards more often. We usually have some good conversations when they come over. I can tell they “get it” and they are getting used to looking at the boards to help them understand what is going on (even if they still don’t understand the nuances).
  • I wish all those who work with the Kanban board were near it. I think it would make it easier for them to identify what needs to be worked on.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Implementing Change Using Kanban- Part IV

Here’s some latest happenings on my wall charts. The last post is here.

  • The head of our IT department came by my cubicle the other week. My boards attract his attention whenever he’s in the area. We started discussing what was going on with the project. He could see from the board that sites were starting to move through the process which made him glad. He could plainly see the blocks. He was able to help me get rid of six. He seemed a little perturbed we hadn’t figured out how to get rid of them ourselves, though. He then looked at the burn down chart next to the board, pointed at the WIP which was still way above the sloping diagonal line and said he wanted the WIP on the line the next time I gave my report. That was unnerving. All I could say was I wanted it on the line too. Maybe he isn’t pleased how things are progressing, but I hope he appreciates the transparency I am trying to show. Its something he once said he wanted from the project managers. I actually wished he would come by more often so we could have more discussions. At the same time, if he did, I can’t help wonder if he will only blame me for not getting more work done.
  • My other team member gave input on how the board could be better changed– showing the sites that have been queued the longest from top to bottom. He also has becoming by more frequently to look what needs to be done. I wish he sat closer to me so he could have more easy access to it. I think it would help. The problem is, my project is just one of three or four others he has to work on and my supervisor who sits in the next room over, prefers my team member to be closer to him, also, I don’t sit with the rest of my department (which is sort of good, because there is no wall space there).

 

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My teammate’s contribution to improving the board. He wanted to identify how long our sites had been in provisioning.  Note the burn down to the left.

 

  • One day, this same team member came by to look at the board. I heard one of the other employees chiding him about getting into the whole post-it note thing. My team member replied that the board actually had its merits.
  • I had someone ask me how to make a Kanban board so they could use it for their own purposes.  I had to cram what I could in a 30 minute session because his time was limited. He’s used similar boards in the past but hadn’t thought of putting in ‘Done’ columns. I also explained to him the importance of limiting WIP but I’m not certain he understood. Since I went over with him how to make the board (a few weeks now), I’ve seen his board still lying on the ground next to his cubicle. He said he’s been busy. Whenever he comes by he still marvels at my board. Wish I could do more to help him.
  • This same person I helped said that one of these board would help one of the other teams. I had the same thought because what they do is similar to what I do. I know their manager has seen my boards, but she is one of the folks who doesn’t understand why I just don’t use a spreadsheet. Her team would have to want a board like this, and they haven’t shown much interest, and I’m not certain how supportive she would be.
  • There’s some talk of moving the department and there is a concern there won’t be any wall space for my board. I’m not sure what I’ll do in that situation. I could go electronic, but the board will lose a lot if its power if I do that. Its size and location is much of its strength. It will be more difficult to have conversations about it if its tucked away on my computer. It will also make it more difficult to read. Of course, since I’ve been here, there has been talk of moving and it hasn’t happened.
  • I had another project manager come by to view my boards. She really liked them and I could see the wheels turning on how she could create her own. It reinforces the idea that I need to make time to teach how these work. This same project manager said my ideas would find more acceptance and traction in her department than in mine. Maybe.
  • The board is getting more and more crowded with work. Its starting to look like a parking lot. My company does not understand or appreciate the concept of limiting WIP or flow. I’m thinking of ways to rearrange the board that will highlight where items are queuing. My concern is this will only cause people to get upset that we aren’t doing our work. We’ll see. Perhaps it will start more conversations about how having too much WIP is slowing us down.

The next post in this series is here.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

The Story of NUMMI: The Difficulty of Changing Paradigms

nummi-plant-toyotaMost people would probably tell you they don’t have a problem with change. The unspoken add-on should be, “as long as it doesn’t contradict my core beliefs.” Whether we realize it or not, we are prisoners of our own culture, ideas, and experience—i.e., our paradigms, and we must change them to find success.

I first heard the story of NUMMI when I attended my CSM class. Its a popular story in the Lean circles. NUMMI was a joint venture between Toyota and GM during the 1980s. Toyota wanted to start making cars in the U.S. GM wanted to know what Toyota’s methods were. At the time, foreign cars, particularly Toyota, was cutting more and more into GM’s market share and GM didn’t know how to make small inexpensive fuel-efficient cars.

GM brought to the table its former plant in Freemont, a facility notorious for its poor quality, productivity, and hostility between workers and employers. Toyota brought its now fabled Toyota Production System. The transformation was incredible. Folks predicted this would be the turning point in GM’s misfortunes.

They were wrong.

Despite NUMMI’s success, the lessons learned couldn’t spread to other plants because GM simply couldn’t change its paradigms. This culminated in its 2009 bankruptcy and the multi-billion dollar government bailout and the subsequent closure of NUMMI.

The NUMMI story can be found at This American Life podcast or transcript.

nummi-time-of-death-921-am-pacific-daylight-time-18822_2

Last Corolla off the NUMMI plant floor when it closed in 2010. A bad combination of economic downturn and folks unable to change their paradigms. The plant is now Tesla Motors.

A retrospective of NUMMI from Steve Bera, one of the 16 GM employees selected to use the lessons from NUMMI to change GM, the dubbed “NUMMI commandos,” can be found at a pair of podcasts on leanblog.org here and here.

 

After listening to these programs, I found myself a little depressed. One of the podcasts stated NUMMI succeeded because the plant had to start from scratch. The workers had to change because they couldn’t find jobs. The other GM plants were still in business and despite NUMMI’s success, people’s paradigms (i.e. “that won’t work here”) killed the change movement. Without a crisis, the GM plants weren’t willing to change its ways.

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“It would be a mistake to export American management to a friendly country.” BEST DEMING QUOTE EVER.

This is a direct parallel with what Deming taught. He pointed out that after WWII, Japan had to change because its infrastructure and culture lay in ashes and ruins. He said America’s crisis was invisible–we had been successful because we had no competitors after the war. We could manage however we wanted to and still be successful (and we were). Because we were successful, we thought our management methods were sound. How could we know otherwise? But those days are over. The other countries have recovered and now our chickens are coming home to roost. Our ways of management, i.e. our paradigms, have to change or we will become extinct.

 

It made me wonder– if an organization hasn’t been brought to its knees, is it possible to change its ways? Do we have to destroy the old system first? And if true, are we change agents wasting our time?

Implementing Change Using Kanban- Part III

For those who know me, you know I like boards. Some know I’ve used Kanban boards. Here’s my latest.

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As cool as this one is, the board is actually not a true Kanban board. In order for it to be, we would have to be limiting our work in progress (WIP). This is actually one of the reasons why I struggled with moving to a Kanban board–because I couldn’t figure out how to limit the WIP.

Why couldn’t I limit the WIP? My company takes the traditional approach that the best results are achieved if everyone is at capacity and believes push is more effective than pull. Also, we rely on a partner who have their own methodology for completion. That’s a battle we’ll have to fight another day. Hopefully the board will help highlight the problems of this strategy and one day it can grow up to be a real Kanban board and the company will benefit from it.

One of the benefits Anderson touts about Kanban boards is that they create change by showing the flaws in a system and sparking conversation. Admittedly, I’m a little disappointed this hasn’t happened. Folks haven’t said a whole lot about it (where as the old boards did). Perhaps this is because, to them, it’s just a dry erase board with some post-its, which is rather common place. Or they have just gotten used to me making boards all the time and figure this is just another one of the odd things I do to stay organized. A friend of mine pointed out the board might get more attention if I was more centrally located (I’m kind of tucked away in a corner).

Despite the board not catching on like I’d like yet, it’s still the best tool I have. It’s helped us become better organized, helped highlight troubled areas and streamline our processes, and it continues to keep us hyper aware. Also, personally, the board has helped me understand the concept of push vs. pull and has certainly made me think more about the problem with queues. Also, a couple of project managers in the development department have asked me to do a training session on Kanban. Maybe it won’t catch on in my area but perhaps it will in others.

The board is fairly new and the project is just getting off the ground. There is still plenty of time for it to generate discussion and evolve. I’ll be posting from time to time on how this is going.

I’m ending this post with a couple of close-up shots of the board and stickies.

It’s evolved over time. Glad its dry erase!

Each site gets two post it-colors. One for circuits and one for equipment. These are going on in tandem so go to different areas of the board. Dates indicate when equipment is sent or a circuit installed. Big black checkmark indicates it actually happened. The smiley face means we received an IP from the internet provider.

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Blocks are pink, describe what the problem is, and gives a date on when it became an issue.

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Here’s an example of how the board highlights potential bottle necks. This area got filled really quick one morning. Our tech lead is responsible for completing these. My supervisor saw this cluster and when I explained what it was, he gave kind of a sheepish grin and said, “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t have asked him (the tech lead) to go take care of something at the other building then.”

Fortunately, it was quickly relieved and perhaps the board helped highlight this issue, but this shows the problem of a push vs pull mentality and not understanding limiting WIP.

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The next post of this series is here.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Implementing Change Using Kanban-Part II

The wall charts I were using were good, but had their issues.

I used Kanban boards in the past and loved them. From the beginning of the project, I wanted one. I tried several times to prototype something. But I couldn’t figure it out. I re-read Anderson’s Kanban book (thanks Carolyn!). Still couldn’t figure it out. For about a week, I gave up, thinking maybe a Kanban board just wouldn’t work with this project. There were just too many intricacies.

Something must have gotten into my subconscious, though, because for some reason, almost overnight, I figured it out.

I had used cardboard for my original wall charts. I knew a dry erase board would be better, but they were expensive and I wasn’t sure I could convince management to get me one. I looked around for a cheap alternative and found this video. Voila, Dry erase board + markers and erasers for @ $20. What a bargain.

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The board is divided into each step of the process, similar to the original wall charts. What’s really different is the post-its. Each one represents a site. They work in pairs. Green represents the equipment for the site. Yellow represents the circuit. Pink represents a block. Orange is a note that requires attention.

The pros of using this type of board vs the original.

  1. It accommodates a lot more sites. There are currently 44 on the board with a lot of room to have more (this had been a concern for management with my original boards).
  2. Its dry erase so I can modify it easily (which is pretty regular). The other boards used tape which was harder to change.
  3. It shows what people are working on. I can spot a bottle neck a mile away.
  4. It’s easier to read. The old wall chart had a lot of different colored pins that one had to remember in order to read the board correctly.
  5. Related—it’s easier to maintain because it doesn’t have so many pins to keep track of. I don’t have to worry about them falling on the floor or being put in the wrong row or column.
  6. It was less expensive (a little). The other chart required tape, pins, and 3×5 cards. All that added up after a while.
  7. It was easier to make. The old wall charts required me to make the grids which could take over an hour per board. I then had to make the column headings, the card, and add the pens. For this board–I just slapped some command strips to the back of this baby, drew some lines, added the post-its, and it was to ready.
  8. It’s prettier. The brown cardboard for the old charts was kind of ugly and ghetto.

Cons

  1. It’s harder to find a site because there are a lot on the board. The old charts were organized by site so I could find them quicker.
  2. The post-it notes don’t always stick. I keep poster putty nearby. If a post-it falls, I just put a little putty on the back and re-stick. Works like a charm.

Next post—my experience using the board.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Implementing Change Using Kanban-Part I

I think the hardest part of being Agile or a Deming disciple is dealing with resistance to change. I’ve heard the phrase that a scrum master’s lot in life is to have to swim upstream. Sometimes it feels like swimming up a waterfall.

I’m in a department that is not Agile. Fortunately, my managers are tolerant of me using agile/Deming methods and tools (I’m not sure they realize that’s what I’m doing). I thought I’d share my experiences of using them here.

My main tool is the card wall. This is one of the first things I created when I started. It stems from Deming’s emphasis on understanding a system. The tool itself is inspired by my experience with Kanban boards. Here’s a picture of it.

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Yeah, its a little blurry. Sorry. I have an old phone.

 

Why a wall chart for implementing change? I got the idea from David Anderson’s Kanban system. It’s a visual representation of a project’s system. Its like holding up a huge mirror to the project. People see the flaws and  fix it. According to Anderson, its a good way of implementing change for an organization that is resistant to change because it doesn’t ask for any changes. It just shows the flaws.

For this project, we had to upgrade the networks for 31 sites in Canada. We had to track the circuit installs, the equipment being configured and shipped, and the final install when equipment and circuits were connected.

Each row on the chart represented a different site and each column represented a different step of the process. Half of a 3×5 card contained various information about the site including install dates and indicated where in the process the site was. Different colored pens indicated the types of equipment and the type of circuit being installed and where it was in the process. Pink scraps of post-it note indicated blocks and issues.

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The result- I became hyper aware of what was going on with the project. At a glance, I could tell what was going on at each site. Few things, if any, got by me. It was my number one weapon and thank God for it.

When I put these up (there were eventually four of them) they got a lot of attention from the other employees. No one here uses wall charts so they didn’t know what to make of them. Some thought it was cool. Most were indifferent and took the tack, “well, whatever works for you.” Some didn’t get why I was doing it. I was often asked why I just didn’t use a spreadsheet. Some asked what I would do if I was moved (i.e. I’d lose all the information on the chart because it wasn’t portable). I could also tell there were some who thought it was a waste of time.

One comment did catch my attention and made me think about my strategy. This person pointed out that the 31 Canadian sites were just the tip of the iceberg. After Canada, I had almost 500 sites in the U.S. I would have to track. Though I had four charts, they accommodated only about 40 sites! What was I going to do?

There was another thing about these charts that bothered me. Though I could tell what each site needed and what was happening next, I couldn’t really see what our team was working on and where the bottle necks were.

The last thing that bothered me: I seemed to be the only one using them. I think I had made it a little too complicated for people to understand. If I want to change people’s minds, I needed them to better see what was going on. Simplicity was key.

I had to think of something else.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Handling Change: The Warrior or the Sage?

MACARTHUR LUZON

General Douglas MacArthur. It was the pipe that terrified them. Obviously.

I’ve come to realize Agile is missing an important ingredient in its philosophy: how do you get people stuck in their ways to change their minds?

I believe one of the key skills for being a good scrum master is knowing how to be a good change agent. An agile mentality is not intuitive and runs counter to much of what we’ve grown up with. What do you do when you meet resistance? My go-to strategy is to be empathetic, compassionate, and try to understand underlying reasons for non-compliance.

I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends and fellow scrum master, Carl Allen, who has a very different approach. Here’s some of our exchange:

Carl E. Allen 11:48 AM:
the fact of the matter is there are “the wrong people in the wrong seats of the bus” who feel they don’t have to do what everyone else has to do.
there has to be some consequence for willful disregard of rules and process.
M. Dan Bracewell 11:49 AM:
how do you know they are a willful disregard? why are they being disregarded? Isn’t that the real question?
Carl E. Allen 11:49 AM:
we’re not talking about ignorance, or not knowing any better, we’re talking about acute blatant insubordination here.
M. Dan Bracewell 11:49 AM:
I don’t buy it.
Carl E. Allen 11:51 AM:
the system is at fault, but unfortunately, you have to resort to brutality to correct a very narrow margin right now.
M. Dan Bracewell 11:53 AM:
I don’t agree. that’s managing by fear and intimidation.
Carl E. Allen 11:54 AM:
sometimes.. SOMETIMES you need that. Because if you have just politics and kumbya then the people get to a point where they KNOW there’s nothing that’s going to happen to them.
M. Dan Bracewell 11:55 AM:
this isn’t war.
Carl E. Allen 11:55 AM:
Everything is war.
Sun Tzu =)
M. Dan Bracewell 11:55 AM:
I don’t agree with Sun Tzu.
we’ve got to change our mindsets or we will continue to have these problems.
Carl E. Allen 11:56 AM:
well we have a problem that politics and peace won’t solve.

 

w-edwards-deming-1950s_650

W. Edwards Deming. Nerdy-looking, but pure business god.

Carl contends that some people are beyond fixing. Whether they did it to themselves or a corrupt environment did it to them is besides the point. They simply need to go.

 

It made me think of the Post-War Japanese Economic Miracle. Two people are cited for this event: General McArthur and Dr. W. Edwards Deming. After the Japanese were brought to their knees by crisis, McArthur came in and ripped out what was left of the old empirical Japanese system. Deming then came along and taught the Japanese how to do business.

When Deming came back to America, he found himself the proverbial prophet in his own land. Business managers would have little or nothing to do with him. After all, they were all successful. Why did they need to make any changes? (never mind WWII had destroyed all their major competitors and they had a free hand in the market). Even when the Japanese began to finally catch up and surpass the Americans in quality and productivity, few could comprehend Deming’s philosophy. He still met resistance from those stuck in their ways.

The descendants of Deming’s ideas, like we agilists, face the same problem he did. How do we get people to change for the better who are resistant? Carl would suggest we be like McArthur: rip out the old environment so folks who can make productive change like Deming can do their jobs.

I’m not convinced Carl is right, but he certainly got me thinking. What do you think? Is this a viable strategy to create change? Do we need the warriors to first come in with their swords and warhammers before the sages come in with their books and control charts?