Archive for the 'Lean' Category

8 management ideas for 2013

It’s 2013 now — a new year — and you struggle with inspiration. How can I be a modern manager? Here goes eight management ideas you might want to put more focus on:

1. Autonomous Teams
An autonomous team has skills (cross-functional) and are empowered (self-organized) to make its own decisions. The team has clear constraints for its mission and works towards goals based on outcomes and impacts. Everyone must be comfortable with working in an autonomous team.

2. Beyond Budgeting
Swedish bank SHB has been managed for over 30 years without budgets. Norwegian Statoil is another similar example. Annual budgets encourage managers to focus on making the numbers instead of making a difference. The alternative is dynamic and relative targets, holistic reviews, dynamic forecasts, dynamic resource allocation, and being event-driven rather than calendar-driven.

3. Holistic Thinking
Effect on customer’s or the customer’s customer’s business is more important than whether the individual projects hits estimated time, quality and cost. Fewer parallel projects, less formal roles and more decisions just-in-time makes the organization more flexible to adapt to the prevailing reality. When allocation of individuals is limited to 70-80%, there’s even more room for dynamics. Collaboration and shared goals across the project boundaries increases the total effect. Profitability is more important than cost control.

4. Non-financial incentive models
Team-based incentive programs might reduce the individual’s willingness to corrupt the system. And incentives don’t always have to be financial. With creativity and by listening to the employee, we can discover completely different things that are highly valued by our employees. With digital social tools, some of the rewards may come from colleagues as real-time feedback.

5. Knowledge-creating
Innovation-driven product development is more long-lasting than maintenance driven product development. Successful innovation requires that people from all levels of the organization put effort in monitoring the external environment. New combinations of explicit knowledge need to be internalized and shared by all colleagues. To grow employee’s tacit knowledge (talent) rather than build formal processes (structural capital) gives us an outstanding capacity.

6. Real-time Performance
Rather than annual performance reviews, try 15-30 minutes coordination meetings every week or every second week with your employees. Focus on individual development, not individual measurement. Targets are based on outcomes and impact. The manager’s mission is to help employees achieve their goals by removing impediments.

7. Recruit the right people, rather than the right experience
Don’t overvalue experience from your own field, your tools and your processes when recruiting. Other proficiencies have high value, such as personal energy, ability to complete, ability to learn, social skills, and ability to help the team grow. The new employee shouldn’t only look for the best financial solution. It must be her strategic decision, that this is the best environment for me to grow. She values teamwork and aim for t-shaped skills: depth of related skills and expertise in a single field.

8. Transparency and Visualization
To make all employees feel really involved, decisions must be accessible to everyone. The fact that information is stored somewhere isn’t enough. Abstract views of the current state are visualized on walls of wonder, in office areas where most people are. The visualizations are used as decision support while prioritizing.

And finally, here’s a bonus idea: The office as a laboratory where there´s always small experiments under way.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC


How-To: A3 Report and Value Stream Mapping

A3 Report is a terrific way to implement Deming’s PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act). Toyota uses it for problem solving. You can use this technique too. Don’t fear, it’s simple. Here goes an example:

Fig.1: A3 Report

Fig.1: A3 Report

Theme: Stress free morning procedures

Background: School starts at 8.20. The children need to sleep as long as possible. They must leave home at 7.45 in order to catch the school bus.

Current Condition: Lack of time almost every morning. Stress creates bad atmosphere in family. Value stream map (see fig.2) indicates that value adding processes only takes 17 out of 45 minutes.

Fig.2 Value Stream Map

Fig.2 Value Stream Map

Goal: Ready to leave for the bus within 45 minutes without stress.

Root Cause Analysis: Why stress? Because a considerable amount of time is spent on T2. Why is so much time spent on T2? Because Groa has to wait for the hair brush. Why does she have to wait? Because her sisters use the hair brush.

Countermeasures: 1) Mother buys two more hair brushes. Due Friday. 2) Father reserves space for new hair brushes, when they are not used. Due Saturday. 3) Father will measure if T2 decreases after (1) and (2) is done.

Effect Confirmation: T2 decreases. The whole value stream shrinks in time. Stress is gone.

Follow-up Actions: 1) Mother will buy another two hair brushes. It’s a backup in case of one ordinary is lost. Due Tuesday.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

Do you ALWAYS respect the timebox?

Timbox and Flow

Timbox and Flow

Hi Staffan! Do you ALWAYS respect the 25 minute timebox when you’re in the zone? Can’t this break your flow?

Yes, I always respect the timebox:

  • A short break won’t make me forget everything. I can go on from exactly the point where I left.
  • The break means that I can recharge my brain. Goal free play encourages background processing and right brain thinking. If I put enough effort in last iteration, it will even be guilt free play, which helps me avoid procrastination.
  • Humans love rhythm. From the day we were born to the day we die, our life is filled with rhythms. They make us feel safe and helps us to have sustainable pace.
  • Flow means totally focused on one task. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m doing the most important task. Sometimes flow means efficiency, without effectiveness. To recurrently take a short break and then asses if I’m doing the most important thing will help me navigate in task land.
  • When I’m in the flow, I’m so focused so I’m not really aware that I’m in the flow. When the timebox is finished, it’s impossible to immediately say if I should continue or not.
  • To take a break when arousal is high, makes me eager when it’s time to start the next timebox.

Am I supposed to focus now?

Do you have trouble remembering if you’re in a Pomodoro or not? If you use a mechanical kitchen timer, the ticking sound will remind you. But what if you work in a no-sounds-allowed office?

This is actually a very common problem. Even if you can’t have the ticking sound and the mechanical timer, I do believe that gestures are important. They help your brain to make the transition from free time to focus time and back.

You may put your cell phone on the desk every time you start a Pomodoro and remove it when you end. Or even simpler: take a business card and color it green on the backside with a felt-tip pen. Put the card on your desk. Every time you start a Pomodoro, turn the green side up. Every time you end a Pomodoro, turn the green side down.

  • You can see the card/phone while you’re in a Pomodoro. It reminds you that it’s focus time.
  • The gestures of turning the card will—after a while—be associated with starting and ending a Pomodoro.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

Bibliography from Pomodoro Technique Illustrated

There are many references in Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. Below is a list of the books in the bibliography linked to Amazon. In a future post I will also put links to the referred articles and web sites.

How many of these have you read? Do you have any recommended reading for me?

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

The Now List

(This is an excerpt from the book Pomodoro Technique Illustrated)

In 1933 Hedwig von Restorff performed a set of memory experiments. Her conclusion was that an isolated item, in a list of otherwise similar items, would be better remembered. If I read a shopping list with one
item highlighted in azure blue, it’s more likely that I remember the highlighted item than any of the others. This is now identified as The
Von Restorff effect

The Now List is not another artifact in Pomodoro Technique® (created by Francesco Cirillo). It’s my name for a concept: what I give my attention to right now. The cardinality of my Now List is binary. Either I focus on 1 activity or 0 activities. It can
never be 2, 3, 4 or any other number of activities. Before I wind up the clock, I choose one single activity. My challenge during a 25 minute Pomodoro is to not give another activity attention for a minute or two.

The Von Restorff effect tells me that I can provoke my memory to store things that I highlight. I may use a highlighter felt-tip pen to mark the current activity on the To Do Today sheet. Or I can explicitly write the
activity title on a slip of paper and put it in front of me.

The Now List

The Now List

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

Sustained Momentum

To introduce and implement a new idea in an organization is one thing. To maintain the new level is quite different. It’s easy to forget the latter and just wonder why after a while we are back where we started.

Mary Lynn Manns’ and Linda Rising’s book "Fearless Change" offers many patterns for how to successfully introduce new ideas. Two patterns caught my attention more than the others:

  • Everyone involved
  • Sustained Momentum

Why? Because they are concerned with how to avoid falling back into old, bad habits.
“Everyone Involved” says that everyone should have the opportunity to support innovation and give its unique contribution. “Increasing support from as many people as possible means spreading the responsibility and the ownership of the innovation.”

Equally important is the “Sustained Momentum”. “Our natural tendency is to stop and rest once things are underway, but we run the risk of losing everything if we do not keep it going.” This is one of the strengths of Google. They did not stop with the number one search engine. They keep introducing new tools that drive users to their SERP. Manns/Rising writes: “Take a pro-active approach in the organization to the ongoing work of sustaining the interest in the new idea. Take some small action each day, no matter how insignificant it may seem, to move you closer to your goal.”

This also reminds me very much of Shitsuke in the 5S Kaizen methodology. We must not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways of working.