It pays to stand on the shoulders of giants, those who have come before and exposed eternal truths. You get to see further, you have a reference point to test your own understanding and insight and it gives you the confidence to continue, even when you are not sure of the ground you’re standing on. Their work is the compass you pull from your pocket when you’re not sure which direction to take.
Dr W Edwards Deming was a giant amongst the giants. He studied electrical engineering at undergraduate level, and mathematics and physics as a postgraduate. He worked as a statistician in the US Department of Agriculture and was a leader in the post-war reindustrialisation of Japan. Lean, Six Sigma and TOC all owe Dr Deming an enormous debt.(more…)
One of my all-time favourite authors, Joseph Campbell, when asked for a definition of mythology, gave the devastatingly simple response: ‘Other people’s religion’. He did go on to talk to the three basic functions of myth: to achieve psychological reconciliation with consciousness, life and death; to bind an individual into society’s norms; and to learn how to lead a good life.(more…)
Think of a production system and you’ll probably conjure up some kind of assembly line. Whether you imagine humans or machines doing the work, this mental model feels wedded to manufacturing. It needn’t be—production principles are universal.
An airline’s check-in desk is part of a production line. So is the hospital’s procedure for admitting patients. Running scripts in software development is production. As is the sales pipeline that gets software to market. Insurance claims and loan applications? Production systems. And the barista in the café offers a vivid everyday production system—so obvious we almost don’t see it as such.
The real cost of any decision is what you forego by making that choice. In economics, the cost of a decision based on the cost of the next best option is called the opportunity cost. At its most poetic, Henry David Thoreau put it thus: ‘the price of anything is the amount of life you pay for it’.
At first blush that may seem a little extreme, but it is a truth. We are all finite beings and will one day run out of life. Time really is the ultimate constraint. If we had an infinite amount of time, we could do everything we desired and have time left over to enjoy it all. (more…)
All improvement is change, but not all change is improvement. Organisations typically change because they want to improve their competitive advantage. How do we give ourselves the best possible chance of success?
Change resides in the domain of projects and project management. We most often think of the word project as a noun. But treat the word as a verb and we get a more accurate rendition of what projects are there to do—that is, to project a vision of an improvement into the future. (more…)
In Part One, I wrote about the kind of challenges we all face when trying to define the human, material, information and financial resources available to us. In small groups, we can estimate what is reasonable and possible simply by talking to people and seeing what they have on their plate. But as our projects get larger and more complex, if we can’t properly quantify our resources, we end up flying blind.