Jan Gillet talks about his book: ‘Making Your Work, Work’

Jan Gillett talks about his book: 'Making Your Work, Work'

In this interview, Jan talks about why he wrote Making Your Work, Work – everyday performance revolution and what it offers to managers and leaders alike.

Jan, who is this book aimed at?

This book is ideal for any manager that wants to improve how their operation works and generate better results. I’ve tried to make it both accessible and thought provoking.

How does this book differ from other improvement books?

I have focused on providing readers with simple actions and behaviours to help them understand what’s going on, what should be happening, and how to do something disciplined to improve. It focuses on practical approaches to management and improvement that are based upon the four key foundations detailed in Dr. W.Edwards Deming’s ‘System of Profound Knowledge’.

What’s special about these ‘simple actions’?

Whilst they are simple to execute the activities are based upon the same principles that underlie the performance of leading global companies. Hence the attitudes and behaviours will scale to the most ambitious challenges a manager will ever encounter.

Why did you decide to open the book with some Epiphanies?

Managing and improving is hard. There are often three steps back for every three steps forward, you can get dispirited.

But, every now and then something wonderful happens, where you can see that when you did something right, in fact a whole sequence of things right, that benefits keep on coming.

It has been those experiences over many years that have kept me going in the more challenging times – such as when you have to get on an early plane to go and deal with a set of disillusioned people who don’t see why they need to change. I hope these Epiphanies inspire people to keep going!

Who is Ann and why use her?

Throughout the book I’ve used a character called ‘Ann’ as a vehicle to tell some real life stories. I was drawn to tell her story because I felt it would help to make the tasks achievable.

Ann is, in fact, many people. Several of the incidents I describe have roughly happened to me, and possibly some will recognise themselves. Others are extended from client stories.

How do you want people to feel at the end of the book?

Most of all a sense of optimism that this different way is do-able! It’s important to me that, no what their role, people can try these activities out. I certainly want them to have an appetite for giving it a try.

If this happens it would be only natural that they should also feel curious and seek to discover more, both about the inspiring achievements we’ve witnessed throughout industry over the last 50+ years and more, and about why so many attempts have failed. I hope they desire to learn how to develop the range of skills and demeanours that are right for them.

And finally, what’s next for Jan Gllett?

Right now I have dates booked through this year to speak to conferences about this topic, and I would like to do justice to that before getting diverted by future plans!

Do you have a question for Jan?

If you have any questions you’d liek to ask Jan about the book, why not get in contact with us? Jan would be more than happy to answer any of your book related questions.

Winning again – the challenge of ongoing excellence

Winning again - the challenge of ongoing excellence

When I heard Mike Forde, former Director of Operations, Chelsea FC, speak at a CQI conference a few years ago I was particularly interested to hear his talk “Tackling Efficiency – Scouting for Success”.

Forde spoke about the importance of adapting and analysing performance in a business where more than 75% of wages are spent on less than 10% of the workforce, return on investment is crucial, effective methods to create a world class team, working in a high-pressure environment, and recognising, developing and retaining top talent.

In the course of his presentation, he referred to a study which explored the effects of success on athletes who reached the top of their sport. The study talks about how the initial journey to win a world or Olympic medal is relatively similar for all athletes.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 17 world champion athletes, representing 7 different sports and 4 different countries with international wins spanning a 25 year period.

The results indicated that athletes who became the best in their sport, subsequently experienced additional demands, with most receiving little or no assistance in dealing with them. While approximately one third of the athletes coped well and continued to win, the remaining two thirds did not – in fact they either never repeated their winning performance or took a significant amount of time to do so.

I was struck that something very similar often happens with organisations that embark upon improvement projects, operational excellence or continuous improvement programmes.

  • An individual or small group of people are identified to learn about improvement tools and methods
  • A company is selected to train them
  • The people return to the work place and embark upon a project

Making your project a success

Personal Drive

There’s no doubt about it that people who have passion and fire in their belly to make change and achieve results through applying the tools and methods, have a greater chance of success with their first improvement project.

Leadership Support

The most successful change agents have sponsorship and leadership who provide guidance and support. If resistance or barriers are encountered, then the Sponsor plays a vital role in keeping the project on track and the enthusiasm for what they are trying to achieve.

Tools and Methods

There’s no point handing a footballer a pair of ballet shoes and asking them to ‘get on with it’. The same is true for you. Understanding of and access to the right tools and methodology is crucial for you to accomplish project success. For example, if you want to understand what causes variation in your process, you need to know how to use and interpret a Control Chart.

Influencing Skills

It is essential to understand the psychology of change and the ability to influence is often the most vital of skills at their disposal. It will make the difference between bringing the team and the people in the workplace with you or leaving a trail of dissatisfied colleagues who do not buy into the new principles of working you are trying to establish.

Be a Realist

If the first project you embark upon is a ‘fix the world’ problem, something people have continually struggled with over for years, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to fare any better than your predecessors. If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions/statements about your project, you’re likely to be on the right track.

  • Is this do-able over a 3 month period?
  • Are you addressing an issue that is important to your organisation and gives sufficient dissatisfaction?
  • Does it give you, with your Sponsor’s support, the authority to change?
  • Can you put together a small, carefully selected team (3-7 people) to investigate, work on and implement solutions – not merely recommend solutions?

For the majority of people, their Lean Six Sigma training helps them answer these questions, which means that most organisations who invest in improvement training do get a degree of success at first. They get their first ‘Gold Medal’.
Do results begat results?

You would think that this first result would be enough to drive them to go on and achieve further results.

However, much like two-thirds of the athletes, many change agents get little or no assistance in dealing with future demands on them.

We hear all kinds of reasons why people were unable to sustain the momentum including:

“I was required to get on with my day job’

“‘We launched a huge improvement or change programme with little resource, authority or budget to support it and it just eventually died a death’

“‘We couldn’t agree where to start next; not everyone thought it had been a success’.

Some do have another go at some point in the future, often because a new crisis has come along which provides the burning platform for them to reinvigorate their drive, and get leadership support and authority.

This is not a vision for sustainable success and improvement.
Sustaining Ongoing Excellence – Staying Thirsty

We can’t deny the evidence that sustaining ongoing excellence requires a continuous level of dedication and commitment.

A thirst for understanding how what you do today is going to enable you to be more successful than yesterday, whether you are an athlete or a change agent.

We also need to acknowledge that some success may result in complacency, a sense that once you’ve achieved a result, you don’t need to keep trying.

This complacency is a guarantee of future failure.
How do you sustain improvement, transformation, and success?

Here are some themes for you to consider:

  1. Transformation is a team event! You can’t do it alone. You need the leadership commitment to sponsor and support your improvements, whether they are project based or continuous and every day. Think about running a leadership workshop to get buy-in and understanding up front.
  2. Keep it real. Use your tools and methods to repeat success don’t just trust in your instinct. You need data and evidence of how the work is performing to begin to improve it. The best athletes video themselves and analyse every step of their performance, they understand precisely how they use their body, how they use their equipment. Warren Knight, in his blog I didn’t tell you because you didn’t ask, referred to a customer he once worked with where each process operator was invited to video themselves whilst they work and review it with their teammates. What methods do you have to create that depth of understanding in your organisation about how the work is done?
  3. Challenge your thinking every day. What can you learn from others? What can you learn from outside your organisation? I heard a great story recently from a rail company who had visited a Formula 1 team in their quest to reduce their fuel bills. As a result, they have implemented their regenerative braking technology. Who knew there could be a link between F1 and trains?
  4. Context is King. Initiatives and enthusiasm are great, but they need to be accompanied by understanding your audience and bringing them with you so they understand what you are trying to achieve and the part you want them to play. They need to understand the context. One customer was recently thrilled to learn that we would cover 5S in their training course. He has been carrying around a 5S card for months, he has been told by his company that it is essential he keeps it with him, but he didn’t know what 5S was!
  5. If in doubt, ask yourself 3 questions. What are we trying to accomplish? How will we know that a change is an improvement? What changes can we make that will result in improvement? Use PDSA throughout. If you know the answers to the 3 questions, and you continue to ask them, you will achieve results.
  6. Find a Coach or mentor that you trust. The world’s top athletes, sports professionals and business leaders have a coach who works with them to achieve their full potential – even when things get tough! Coaching is about challenging you to think deeper, it helps you to understand your strengths, how to use them and how others see them. Think about who might be a good Mentor. Is there someone in your business who has the skills and expertise, who you can learn from and draw on their knowledge?

Be relentless – hard work is the key to success

The thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard they work.

Of course, talent and a little bit of luck along the way will always help, but you can’t beat the fact that practice makes perfect, as the psychologist K Anders Ericsson discovered when they analysed amateur pianists with professionals.

The emerging picture from studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert – in anything. Daniel Levitin, Neurologist.

Sport, music, business transformation – they are all the same. Excellence requires a critical minimum level of practice.

Managing for Continuous Improvement

Managing for Continuous Improvement

A familiar scenario?

Here is a situation that you might recognise.

You discover that the tools and methods your organisation has committed to adopt have been set aside and instead one of your colleagues is persisting in managing their people and processes the way they always have.

Their influence and attitudinal behaviour flows down through to their own team so that your challenge now becomes more than just dealing with the manager, it is how to get the whole team and their outputs to contribute consistently towards your goals.

“Leadership implies working on the system to continually improve it, with the help of people”      Myron Tirbus

It’s a common enough frustration faced by leaders, particularly when trying to lead and inspire a programme of continuous improvement or change initiative.

On the bus but not on the team?

Recently a client of mine described to me how his whole business has embarked on a principle based programme of transformation.

They have trained their people, shared and celebrated numerous project successes and implemented visual management systems so that everyone can see what they are doing and what they are achieving.

Behaviour, language, thinking and daily methods have all been adapted to encourage continuous systemic leadership.

The Executive team is strong and supportive.

Sounds fantastic.

Except there is one manager who, very quietly, continues to work in exactly the same way they always have. They resist involving the team, do not seek input and avoid any attempts at studying a change or measuring process performance.

Based upon their years of experience, the manager thinks they know the right things to do and believes that is why they have been employed in this role. The person in question is bright and understands the complexity of what the business produces. They have attended Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training and witnessed the successes their peer managers have had by adopting these tools and methods.

So, what’s the problem?

My client believes there are two issues that are affecting the manager’s behaviour.

The initial project that the manager chartered was too big, so it became unwieldy and unsuccessful. For the manager, this has become ‘evidence’ against the methods despite them being successfully deployed elsewhere in the business. This manager hasn’t considered the impact of not seeking his teams contribution, nor the application of the tools to measure process performance. While the manager may have made the intellectual connection to the change, he has not made the emotional commitment that will allow him to build this into his everyday practice.

At PMI we would say this person has not bought into the ‘bottom of the hamburger’- or the part of The Gibb Model that deals with ‘how we feel about it. 

This means that when faced with challenges in the workplace, the manager reverts to type – unconscious, automatic responses, formed through years of working that way. They simply don’t feel the need to stop and ask questions of themselves and even less of the team – the people who actually do the work – before taking action.

The Gibb Model

This ‘managing in the moment’ strategy is sometimes successful but often is not – clearly their leadership method has much inherent variability. Because they are successful some of the time, there is no compulsion to change. When their boss questions their approach, they have ready excuses for why they don’t use tools or methods.

Hope is not enough!

This manager’s behaviour is unlikely to change without intervention – some new strategies are required.

Going back to first principles, looking for small changes, my client has decided to tackle this challenge by adapting the conversation style they have with this manager.

If any of this sounds familiar, here are a few approaches that have worked for us:

    • Check your own behaviour first
      Most of us respond to what we see and hear around us. Are you exhibiting the behaviours you want to see in others? Are you praising the use of process management, not praising successful firefighting?
    • Are you prepared to give this some time and attention?
      This manager will need deliberate support, can you justify the time? Are you committed to helping and coaching them? If not, who else in your organisation would be a good coach and mentor?
    • Watch your language and change your questions
      Rather than “What will you do?”, ask “What is your theory of what will happen?” This is PDSA in action. Write down the theory so you can study the results with them afterwards.
    • Use time-based data to test theories rather than accept unqualified statements
      Show how time-based data can prove that a change is an improvement e.g. “The output is now stable and capable – here is my control chart to show it.” Not “Output is up this week.”
    • Go to Gemba with the colleague (go and see where the work is actually done)
      Have conversations with them and their team in the place where the actual work is performed. Ask about what data they have, who controls and reports the data, what theories do they have about what will happen?

Do not be deflected by short-term circumstance

Leading transformation requires persistence. It is common for people to want to go back to old habits, particularly when the going gets tough, rather than put the effort into systemic thinking methods.

Lead by example and build an environment in which your managers and their teams naturally imitate your behaviour and go on to develop and practice improvement thinking for themselves.

Leaders who develop their approach to work on improvement thinking first, and then draw on improvement methods, have a better appreciation of the right time and the right place to use the available tools.

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Blinded by blame, resticted from wisdom

Blinded by blame, restricted from wisdom

Using PDSA to move beyond a blame culture.

The devastation caused by the recent storms and rainfall hitting the UK has been truly heart-breaking. Communities have been devastated and families have been separated from the place they call home. The norm has been replaced. Lives have been utterly transformed.

In times such as these it is not uncommon to search for a ‘cause’ and then assign blame for the situation in which the people directly affected, official bodies and governments find themselves.

The intriguing aspect of this is that by trying to assign blame we become polarised and fail to learn.

The reality of what is happening today, is the result of the ‘natural system of things’. A natural system of order where all things are interdependent, where continual change and self-organisation is the norm. It is not, however, impossible to study, learn and develop a better understanding of how this natural system works, and apply better strategies and plans.
So, how does this relate to our work with business?

We see on a regular basis, organisations large and small, who seek to apply blame, when something did not happen the way it was planned. Too often, the need to assign blame, gets in the way of establishing a better understanding of the true causes. By encouraging and developing the mind-set of system thinking, we can help organisations see that many processes are interdependent and that failure in one may be related to something going on in another.
Moving beyond blame

This requires a mind-set of wanting to continually learn, to continually challenge existing theories. The model I use to accomplish this is PDSA – Plan, Do, Study, Act – the basis of the theory of knowledge and continual learning.

Training leaders to think this way has a profound effect on the organisations ability to learn without the need to blame. Creating a safe environment where people are able and prepared to share their theories through PDSA, is critical to create the shift from one of blame to a culture of learning.

Can a book have quality targets?

Can a book have quality targets

After 9 months of thought, research, writing and checking, “Making your Work work” is in the hands of the printers, too late to change anything now. In a few weeks several thousand copies will arrive.

Readers are likely to have high expectations about the quality of a quality-management related book. But how can we assess the quality of a book? Does the quality management world provide meaningful targets, or do we have to look elsewhere?

Have I got it “right first time”?

Well, the answer depends on what you mean by “right” and “first time”. It’s a little longer than the original estimate, so in that sense it’s already not right. It’s been read by half a dozen people, and I’ve incorporated most of their observations, so right or not, that’s hardly “first time”. After considering proof reading it’s actually but third or fourth time. Is that an indication of success, or failure?

Actually it’s inevitable. In addition, when the intended market (readers who don’t already know very much about using process or quality management for everyday work) sees it, it’s virtually certain that their feedback will lead to changes for a second edition. So, no, it can’t be “right first time”, and in fact having such an aim would paralyse creative work.

But I do of course hope that it is right enough to get a good reaction and for people to recommend it. Then we could do a second edition, which would also take several iterations in development.

So “Right first time” isn’t a helpful target in this case. But it can be. Consider a self-assembly furniture item. Having a high level of right first time achieved by the customers would be great.
Are there “Zero Defects”?

Another deathless phrase, swallowed without thought by many big companies as a target for a change programme before collapsing in the face of real products and services, real customers. It sounded fine in concept, but application shows the arbitrary nature of virtually all definitions of a defect. Agreement between producer and the user over an extended time about what a defect is, is effectively impossible.

No doubt there would be as many definitions of defect in a book as there are readers, so this target is not going to work.

Some zero targets, such as deaths from accidents, are real enough, in fact in that case any other target is an insult, but they are the exception.

Could the book achieve “Six Sigma”?

If not zero defects then, what about the six-sigma target of about 3 errors per million opportunities. Since PMI is a leading consultancy and training firm in Six Sigma we should be able to achieve that, shouldn’t we? But, and it really isn’t an excuse, let’s consider this one carefully too.

If, regardless of the above, we assume we could agree what a defect is (the customer’s tolerance) my book, with about 70,000 words in all, would have no errors at all. Hmm, anyone who has written more than a page or two will see the nonsense here. A Six Sigma achievement would be one error in the entire contents of a small library. In fact, one error per chapter would be pretty impressive, and that with a lot of effort in multiple reviewing, proof reading and so on. That’s about Four Sigma, apparently not much to shout about.

In fact this shows that “Six Sigma” as a target should be used with great care. When used as originally by Motorola to drive up the quality of mass production of new electronic devices, it was transformational. The problem is that it has been adopted so carelessly that for many it is devalued. As a target for publishing it’s no help. Incidentally, if six-sigma as a target isn’t sensible for an organisation, then Six Sigma as a programme name is also not helpful.
How about an older ambition, “on target with minimum variation”?

Going back more than 40 years, in fact to the early 60s, brings us to this phrase, credited to Genichi Taguchi. Although it somehow seems less demanding than the specification-based western rallying cries of zero defects and so on, it is in fact a profoundly rigorous term, that you can apply to every circumstance.

If you seek to get your outputs “On target with minimum variation” you need to;

  • appreciate what your customer values
  • establish criteria that you can measure, both of the customer characteristics and of your output
  • understand the process that leads to the output, and its context (How the work works)
  • optimise the operation of the process to get the mean of the outputs close to the target, and with minimum variation about the mean.

If you are making crankshafts this philosophy enables you to achieve better than six-sigma, in fact it’s pretty routine. Those who have watched Don Wheeler’s video “A Japanese Control chart” will recall that the factory produced many millions of parts with none out of specification.

And it works just as well for a call centre manager trying to do their best with the variety of queries coming in on the phone.
“Making your work, work” – will it be on its target, will the variation be acceptable?

I have tried to keep in mind as my target audience the everyday manager trying to achieve better and more predictable output from their work. Regular managers don’t have time for complications, but do need some analogies, inspiration and explanations. Thus every topic presented temptations to expand, to illustrate or to go into more detail, but doing too much would be going off target. Time will tell if I have achieved an acceptable compromise.

What about errors?

Well here’s a minefield illustrating exactly the problem with defining what a defect is. Obvious ones like spelling surely? Well yes and no, for US or Indian English is not the same as English English. Well how about punctuation and phrasing? Much of that is opinion, with academics disagreeing. Some errors would really be wrong—at one stage I found I had written customer when I meant supplier, and I’m glad to have spotted that! But most are not even likely to be noticed! We found an error in one of our manuals recently that can be traced back to the early 1990s. Nobody had spotted it before. This is a manifestation of the age-old question “if a tree falls in the forest, but if no-one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?” which I explore at some length in the book.

None of which means that we have not tried very hard indeed to eliminate errors, but no doubt some will have slipped through. Most readers will have examples of how inspections fail to pick up errors, so I must brace myself for being informed of some that we missed, and to figure out how to respond!
Conclusion: The most important characteristics are unknown, and probably unknowable.

This was one of Dr. Deming’s many infuriating claims in the 1980s that would cause a regular manager (as I was in those days) much frustration. Only after a lot of reflection did it make sense. We had all been captured by the finance discipline, so that we were used to putting everything in numbers.

In fact one particularly useless cliché that still survives is that “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”. Dr. Deming said that was wrong, and that was hard to take. But he was right of course. Numbers are an abstraction of reality, not the reality itself. The appeal of a Lexus over a BMW, or the other way round, is a matter of opinion, worth £billions, but not actually measureable.

So I hope my book appeals enough to people to inspire them make their work work better, and who also come up with ideas that will help me make the second edition better still.

I didn’t tell you because you didn’t ask!

I didn't tell you because you didn't ask!

When thinking about continuous process improvement it is easy to do so in terms of finding new methodologies or ways of doing things. However, we should be mindful that there is much to learn from what we do today.

An incident in the ‘Knight’ home came as a personal reminder to me that continuous improvement can be just as much about what we do each day and the importance of sharing best practice with one another as it is about different ways of doing things.

Learning from my daughter

My four year old daughter was having a crisis (in a way that only a four year can) because she couldn’t get her left sock on straight when the right one had surrendered straight away.

Wanting to encourage her to do it herself, I suggested that she simply repeat what she had done when putting the first sock on. As my daughter’s “I can’t” responses steadily got louder it occurred to me that she may not be consciously aware of the key factors that made her first attempt successful. As is the case in many business situations and processes, we are often left scratching our heads at the variable results we achieve, feeling frustrated and generally powerless to do anything about it.

I decided to brave the resistance I would naturally receive for trying to help and sat down on the floor next to my daughter. “Just try one more time,” I asked, whilst observing her approach intently. I then proceeded to take my own sock off and put it back on, whilst trying to be very conscious of what I was doing as well. When I compared the two approaches I noticed that if she changed her leg position her foot would be at the same angle as the sock she was holding. I showed her this and then we practised several times – success!

Sharing best practice

Deep process knowledge and best practice is already commonplace within our organisations, the problem is it is often fragmented across many people and buried deep within subconscious habit. We may see glimpses of this in our ‘go to’ operators but for the main part, it is hidden in the noise of day to day performance.

Just think, if we could capture and combine all of this best practice and then adopt it wholeheartedly across our organisations, the resulting change in both level and consistency of performance could be huge. Yet, in a way we wouldn’t be doing anything new, we would be combining the best of what everyone already does!

So, in managing process improvement, our role is much more than simply asking people to find new ways. It is to encourage people to reacquaint themselves with what they do, share and learn from each other and of course try things out to see if they work in reality. When we do uncover good practice, we should seek out ways to help those concerned adopt the knowledge and skills easily so that everyone can do their best work, everywhere, every time. Forever.

So where do we start?

For the answer to this question, I am reminded of a Manufacturing Manager I had the pleasure of meeting around a year ago. His approach to continuous improvement is simple yet effective. He has set up a system where process operators are invited to video themselves whilst they work and then review it with their teammates. They highlight things they like, points of clarification and then discuss what they have learnt. Although difficult at first, perseverance created results that speak for themselves. Together they have developed a basic training manual for what was previously regarded as a black art, manual process where there were either ‘heroes or villains’. Now, all operators have access to the knowledge and skills they need to do their best work. By redesigning some of the basic equipment they use, they have also reduced the risk of repetitive stress injury issues as well.
Everyone wins.

What I have described here is the act of process standardisation, which when viewed firstly as a process of seeking out good practice, rather than making activities consistent, becomes the very foundation of continuous improvement.

So, the answers we are looking for may have been right in front of us all of the time!


Written by Warren Knight
Director Consultant and Head of Strategy
Process Management International

Follow Warren on LinkedIn.

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Learn Knowingly

Learn Knowingly

Do you take the time for your own development?

  1. Why is it that the more senior you become, the less time you have for your own development?

Is it really time, or is it that the opportunity to learn in a way that suits the senior leader isn’t available?

Could it be true that the more senior you are the less important personal development becomes, or it is that you feel you can’t be seen to be taking training because you are senior and should ‘know everything’?

“I don’t have the time”, is something I hear fairly regularly, and not just from clients, but from friends and associates too. I’ve noticed they all have something in common: they are typically senior leaders, directors or business owners.”

You can imagine that I started to ask around, conducting my own personal survey of my clients and my network and what became apparent is that none of my original questions were correct, although to some degree there are elements of each depending on the person.

For instance, a friend of mine who is Head of Clinical Services for a hospital, was absolutely clear that she felt she couldn’t show any sense of fallibility to her staff, given the critical of the decisions they have to make. This makes attending in-house training difficult for her. However, she did say that she does a lot of reflective practice.

I started to research the challenge statement further.

Are these people really not learning anything new?

Or, is it that they don’t notice what they learn on a daily basis?

With so many organisations adopting the 70:20:10 model, learning 70% on the job, 20% through people, 10% formal learning, and a general agreement that this is commonplace, there is a risk that without the right learning support systems in place, people aren’t noticing and knowingly learning on the job or from other people.

In which case that’s up to 90% of their opportunities for learning being wasted!

So, if you don’t notice what you learn every day, you won’t know what those important gaps are. The gaps tell you what formal personal development you need to help you perform at the peak of your potential.

Isn’t this Study, of Plan Do Study Act in action for ourselves?

What do you do to make the most of the opportunity to learn every day?

When I asked this of my coaching client, she happily admitted that this is not on her radar. It hadn’t occurred to her to think about what she does in terms of what she learns.

Not knowingly, anyway.

We agreed to brainstorm what the options might be that would help her notice what she learns in her every day work.

My client’s plan:

  1. Create time to reflect on the events of the week – plan a weekly slot for this
  2. Find an easy way to make notes every day – make notes on my mobile as events happen
  3. Theme concepts of learning – ideas, emotions, knowledge, attitudes, values
  4. Ask questions at the time, of self and the team involved – what is the learning from this? What might we do differently?
  5. Learn from other people’s reflections – invite the team to a regular reflection session, agree principles to make sure this is a safe environment, make it short and voluntary
  6. Seek personal feedback from peers and mentor – use open questions, what went well, what could I do differently, what would you have done?
  7. There are a number of formal models for this which are well established.

Whichever method you choose, the aim is the same:

“a process for developing deeper learning from the everyday situation or experience, which helps you to identify your own strengths, weaknesses and plan your learning needs for continuous personal improvement.”

This client has made a conscious decision to learn knowingly in her daily work, improve herself and has established a method to achieve this.

Does your organisation support you with tools or a method for continuous learning?

If so, how effective is it?

What do you do to make the most of the opportunity to learn every day?

The Habit of Rewards

The Habit of Rewards

Incentivised bonuses are a habit, supported by those who have a vested interest in the sustaining of that habit.

Listening to the news on the BBC today it seems the world is as divided as ever about the merits or otherwise of bonuses. The division is split between those who over the last two or three decades have come to expect bonuses as part of the natural order and those that believe the extrinsic motivator or coercive reward strategy has been damaging, both at a corporate and personal level.

Many studies carried out over the past 30 years has shown, overwhelmingly conclusively, that bonus incentive schemes can damage both businesses and individuals by interfering with intrinsic motivation and induce poor behaviour that can lead to lower quality outputs and diminished morale. The ‘Do this and get that’ mentality is not very different to the ‘do this or else’ coercive management strategy that most leaders of wisdom know to be flawed.

Over this time observers, such as Kohn and Deming, have suggested that paying people well and creating a positive working environment is the most effective way to achieve success. Today many organisations reject the coercive reward strategy because of its inherent flaws yet they do not reject bonus systems.

It was interesting to see Patty McCord of Netflix recently stating that they did not pay performance bonuses because; “Netflix believe that they’re unnecessary if you hire the right people. If your employees are fully formed adults who put the company first, an annual bonus won’t make them work harder or smarter”.

Incentivised bonuses are a habit, supported by those who have a vested interest in the sustaining of that habit.

Perhaps though it is time to consider this a habit we should try hard to kick?

Isn’t it time to move on from Deming?

Isn’t it time to move on from Deming?

It’s a new world now, technologies he never dreamed of, economies utterly transformed.

In September 1993 I saw Dr. Deming for the last time.

I attended a seminar in Washington DC, and thanks to my friendship with Kay Carlson, one of his assistants, we went to his house to collect him and go for dinner with his family. This was most entertaining , revolving around social affairs, about fishing and how his one and only golf game, sometime in the 1930s, had been enough.

This was a suitable finale for me, and he died that December, just twenty years ago.

I had first met him in 1988, and his impact had been as remarkable for me as for many others at that time. Twenty years of my career put into perspective, so many leadership practises I had been diligently trying but failing with having to be cast away. But unlike much of the audiences at his amazing seminars, several hundred every time, I had been fortunate, as I had authority to change, as I was then a managing director. With the pressure on from customers like Ford, I was able to try to implement his ideas. They didn’t all work right first time of course, but I experienced more than one epiphany, and they all last to this day.

But surely that’s enough isn’t it? Deming’s roots lay in the 1930s, his glory days of impact in the old world (!) of the Japanese post war revival or in the US crisis of the 1980s. It’s a new world now, technologies he never dreamed of, economies utterly transformed. There must be new principles, new gurus, ready for the 21 century.

But Deming’s approach has not dated, that’s one of the most amazing and important aspects of it. In the last years of his life he presented us with his System of Profound Knowledge, instructing us to see the organisation as a system, to understand theories of variation and of learning, and to take into account the many aspects of psychology that underpin our relationships. This structure applies just as much to electronic web trading as it does to shops, to a factory in China as one in Warwickshire, or ebook publishing as to metal typesetting. It has formed the basis of my company PMI’s success with clients all over the world, at every level and from many sectors.

In fact, I believe that Dr Deming will prove to be one of those people whose influence will grow in the decades and centuries after his death. Just as Newton’s laws of optics still lead the way in designing a microscope, so the System of Profound Knowledge proved the most robust way of understand how your work works, and how to improve it.

In my book “Making your work work, everyday performance revolution” I explore how to apply these foundations to the regular job challenges of millions of managers around the world. I have dedicated it to my grandchildren, and am convinced it will be valuable to them, no matter the changes in their work over the next 50 years and more.

About our book Making Your Work, Work

Making Your Work, Work; Everyday performance revolution is a practical book, invaluable to individual managers who want to develop their approach to carrying out their own responsibilities. It also helps more senior managers who wish to lead their organisation toward a comprehensive transformation in culture and performance. The book provides practical approaches to management and improvement that are based upon the four key foundations detailed in Dr W. Edwards Deming’s ‘System of Profound Knowledge’.

In writing ‘Making your work work’, author Jan Gillett brings together more than forty years of experience in leading, managing and consulting across many different organisations.

Coaching: what’s the plan?

Coaching stories: what's the plan?

In this blog, I introduce the Interrelationship Diagraph, the purpose of which is to identify and develop a consensus about logically and sequential connections.

  • Picture the scene

My client and his direct reports, in the Boardroom, they have been brainstorming and writing post it notes.

They are excited and have a plethora of ideas which the team have now affinitised into clusters. Each cluster has been given a heading. They stand back, pleased with their work and they look at my client. They all want to know; ‘What’s the plan?’ ‘How do these ideas become a reality?’

  1. How do they prioritise what needs to be done?
  2. How do they turn the clusters into an action plan?

These two steps are crucial to the ultimate success of the process. They will give my client and his team a clear plan of what needs doing and in what order.

What is particularly important is that his team will see that the ideas they produced have actually been heard and actioned.

How many of us have been part of, or witness to, sessions which ask for feedback and then the outputs just seem to disappear?

An option they considered was to work out which team member was most likely to be successful at implementing the idea, either because of their knowledge or enthusiasm for the topic.

They thought that this could result in a good spread of actions amongst the team that they could all get going with. But as they talked this through, they realised that some actions were dependent on each other, the question of priority had not been addressed using this approach.

How else could they approach this?

An Interrelationship Diagram (ID) is a useful tool to identify and develop a consensus about logical and sequential connections i.e. cause and effect relationships, in other words an action plan with the actions in the right order of priority and sequence.

The cluster headings that have been developed from the Affinity Diagram process can be taken two at a time, in sequence, and used to decide:

  1. Are these two ideas related?
  2. Which idea has a greater effect on the other?

Understanding this helps you plan the priorities of actions and develops a visual picture of upstream drivers and downstream effects that you can all agree on.

How to develop an Interrelationship Diagram

To develop an ID, start by writing your question at the top of a flipchart and then arrange the cluster headings in a circle underneath, any order will do, at this stage there is no right way to arrange them.

Now the thinking begins!

Step One
Draw a line connecting ideas which are related. Use an arrowhead at one end of the line to indicate the direction from cause to effect. Use only one-way arrows.

Ask two questions:

  • Are these two ideas related? If so, draw a line.
  • Determine the direction of the arrow by asking; Which idea drives the other? Which is the most downstream? The arrowhead points towards the idea which is being affected.

Go around the circle of ideas systemically so all pairs have been compared once.

Step Two
Once all relationships have been noted, count the number of arrows pointing away (OUT) and pointing towards each header (IN). Place these numbers on top of the idea card (i.e. 8 OUT/1 IN).

Step Three
On a new flipchart, draw a X/Y axis. Place each header card in approximate sequence with the number of arrows pointing away (OUT) on the y-axis and number of arrows pointing towards (IN) on the x-axis.

Step Four
Identify the key cause factors, enablers or drivers. These are the header cards with the most arrows pointing away from them. Draw a heavy line around each of these cards.

Step Five
Identify the key effect factors, outcomes, or receivers as the headers with the most arrows pointing towards them.

You will end up with something which looks like this:

Developing the above view of the order of their priorities enabled the team to create their plan. They could see that they need to tackle the Upstream drivers first so even though they were inclined originally to jump to ideas such as ‘Identify training needs and skill levels’, they could now see that without ‘Establishing the company priorities’ they couldn’t determine what the training needs would be.

They knew what they needed to do, now they understood the order of the activities and could start to assign owners and timescales to deliver their business goals.

They decided that the best approach for them was to take the first 5 Upstream drivers: Establish company priorities; lead the need to change; make time available for the change process; learn how to identify customers and needs; learn how to define and understand processes.

An owner has been assigned to each and they are using the 3 question model to confirm and check their plans:

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • How will we know if a change is an improvement?
  • What will we do to improve?

This doesn’t mean they have forgotten the Downstream effects, these are in their plan to be addressed once they have completed their Upstream priorities.

With better management team engagement and clear priorities, 2014 looks good for my client and his team. I hope it does for you too.