The Impact-ology Wheel

by James La Trobe-Bateman on August 20, 2021
Impactology Wheel

Corporations get a bad press.

Mostly because they seem to dehumanize the people who work in them and sometimes spoil the environment for others.  So how do you make corporations ‘more fit for human habitation’? That has been our mission.  But what does this really mean?

Well, we are going to get to that, but first we need think about the idea of a ‘corporation’…

In many ways, you can think of them as like people: some do good, some are self-serving, all are less than perfect, but all aspire to being better.

Corporations are co-operations.  There are other kinds of co-operations, of course, and what we say here applies to them. Like people, they are fundamentally good.  Our standard of living is due to the ability of people to work together for the benefit of others.  Pick almost any object or thing that you use every day and imagine how it could have been created without a group of people working together to make it happen.

So how do we focus on the good aspects of corporations?

Models are part of our business, so here’s a model:

Think of a corporation (/organization/education system) as a wheel rolling through life leaving the world a better place.

How does it work? How is it propelled? What’s it like to be part of it? Is it fun?

First: why do they exist? What is their ‘Purpose’?  Much is written today about having a clear purpose.  More than just a mission statement, although this is what you tend to see. It’s a ‘reason to be’ that requires imagination of a better world for at least some people.

To make the purpose real, people have to create and then provide some thing or service to someone outside.  Those in the company make a ‘Contribution’ which manifests as that thing or service.

When the product or service is delivered, it has an ‘Impact’. This is where the rubber meets the road.  That impact is initially on the customer.  However, there are ripples from that impact, after effects, you could say.

Impact is a neutral sentiment, but ‘Well-being’ is the feeling that you want.  If well-being increases, then the world feels a better place for those in it. That well-being ripples out to the customer’s family, community and the world at large.   If I buy a smart phone, I immediately feel good.  But then the community feels it when people are better connected. And then the world is better when people in remote areas can communicate where they could not do so before. The well-being left behind in the world as the smart phone corporation ‘rolls them out’ is immeasurable, but real.

Let’s talk more about those who work in the corporation.  Do they really feel all these things? Are they really clear about their purpose? Are they allowed to make a contribution? And do they like the working conditions? How is their well-being? Maybe if those employees fully realized the good they are doing, they would find meaning in their work and be motivated to do more.

If the answer to all these questions is a ‘yes’, then they will feel that they ‘Belong’. Think about it. That sense of belonging is the measure of how good that company is to work with and for.  It boils down to satisfying basic human needs: to have a reason to take part, to be able to contribute, to enjoy the journey with others and to find meaning in their work.

We all need some ‘Why?’, ‘What?’ and ‘How?’

With belonging comes a greater sense of purpose and the wheel rolls on with greater contributions.

And so the wheel accelerates away, leaving more and more well-being in the world.

Notice some features:

The outer rim of the wheel is somehow inanimate, it’s just a machine.  But the machine is driven by a human motor.  Its heart is people. The heart is stronger when people Belong.

It’s what we call the ‘Impact-ology Wheel’.

Impact is Hot, Productivity is Not

by James La Trobe-Bateman on April 10, 2019
Impact is not what you do, rather the effect it has on others and what they do
Impact ripples

Let’s face it: ‘productivity’ is a boring word.

I’m also wondering if it is even the ‘right’ word today.

You mostly hear about it as ‘personal productivity’, which tends to be about time management. You might also see in government reports about ‘Productivity Trends’, where one thing, e.g. output, is divided by another ‘input’.  Or perhaps expressed as ‘Revenue per Employee’ in a corporate context.

There seems to be a declining interest in the word.

Isn’t this odd?

My experience in the Productivity Improvement business led me to believe that it is the central measure for increasing the wealth of the world.

So where am I wrong?

Here’s one observation. Productivity is output over input: something DIVIDED. 

What if we looked for an idea that expresses MULTIPLICATION?  We live in an abundant world, where things get better and better all the time (and they do – if you don’t believe it, take a look at some of Hans Rosling’s analysis of world data).  Things multiply, they do not have to be divided.  Shared, probably, but not divided.  If I invent software that works for the whole world, I can share it all, not carve it up into pieces..

So, how about ‘Impact’?

It’s not so much the efficiency with which you do something.  It’s more about the ripples that your actions have. For example, if you cook a meal for your family, it will immediately benefit them…and nobody else.  If you cook a meal, record the recipe and publish a book of recipes, then you will have impacted many more people.  Not just once, but over and over.  That task of cooking is the same, but its impact is different depending on what you do with it. You can even be inefficient at cooking, not very ‘productive’, but still create a larger impact.

So this is not about one complicated thing divided by another complicated thing.  It’s to do with how much our efforts are multiplied…not divided.

Feels much better to me. 

So what impact are you having?

James La Trobe-Bateman

15 Seconds of Silence = $15 Million Y.o.Y.

by James La Trobe-Bateman on August 19, 2016

Stopwatch and money

ILLOGICAL Improvement – Made Real & Logical Overnight

Here’s a true story from few years ago.   Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent…

A growing diagnostic reagent manufacturing business had a bottleneck in its key manufacturing process.  The line was running ‘flat out’ and the production team leader was under pressure to make more to supply a growing market. That´s when his boss called me in. Equipped with stop watch and notebook…went straight to work.  This may sound very ‘60s thinking but it is still worth doing today.   By the end of the day there was enough data to come to a conclusion. A quick analysis showed there was at least 25% spare capacity.  So, why the impression that the line was running flat out?

Coffee was needed with the team leader…

What’s going on? Who are the characters?  There’s Gareth reporting to the team leader, who has responsibilities beyond just this line.  He is experienced and not very opinionated.  He is a solid team member and good follower. On the line itself is Martin and some young and eager people, all willing to do what is needed. It’s Martin who really runs this show.  I had already been told to “watch him”, he holds the key, it seems.   First thing Martin said was, “I’ll eat my hat, if you can come up with ‘anything’ to make this line run faster.”

Hmmm… little did Martin know… I already had come up with something, though it was very important not to say just yet. …And we don’t want Martin to eat his hat; we want him to come up with the ‘something’ himself.   For Martin, who lived and breathed running this line, it was totally illogical there was any improvement possible and it was the machine not running fast enough causing the issue.

Having learned about the Socratic Approach from a training course, you know it is far better to ask people questions so they come up with answers themselves.  When ‘they’ think of the solution, it’s theirs…not yours ‘imposed’ on them.

It’s now time to arrange a little meeting with Martin and a couple of his colleagues, no need for the hierarchy to influence things.

First, we do a conceptual warm up exercise and show a picture of a highway with a traffic snarl up on it to get them thinking from different perspectives of the same issue.   Then start asking the ‘illogical improvement’ questions: “Where is the bottleneck?” and “How can you tell?”

They get the answers right without prompting.  So there is no problem with their fundamental understanding. Now let’s relate it to the problem in hand.  “So, where is the bottleneck, exactly?” Answered correctly.

Now the ‘illogical improvement buster’ question for them to realize the solution…“What do you have to do to maximize throughput?”

At that point I shut up and waited.  It took about 15 seconds for the team to figure it out.

Eventually Martin replies. “You have to keep it working all the time.”

“Excellent! Exactly correct!”

Together we examine the data recorded in the notebook and in more detail explain the findings.  “See here: the critical piece of equipment is idle, and then here again and here and here.” In fact, it was idle more than 25% of the time through the day.

“Oh!?” Martin replied surprised and happy to hear, more importantly, he was now open to the how-to’s.

Instead of ‘telling’ them… again I asked a ‘results thinking’ question, so they were able to come up with the solution themselves, even though I already had the solution… “So what do you have to do to get 25% more output in the day?”

Martin replied without delay: “Keep it working”.

Which lead me to the next question for them to ‘results think’ about: “How are you going to do that?”

Martin thought for a minute: “Well, the reason your notes show a temporary stoppage is that I have to stop sometimes to do these other things.”

Again asking the next ‘results thinking’ question: “So, how could you rearrange the work to avoid this?”

“We need an extra person.  Is it really that easy?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s try it then!”

Then I explained: “You don’t need an extra person: she is already there.  We just need to redistribute the work a bit. Agreed? Can you do it now?”

“Yes”

Very pleased they came to the conclusions themselves asking the right questions for them to ‘results think’ I wrapped it up for them to get on with it:  “Let’s try it then. I’ll leave now and you will do an extra-large batch tomorrow – ‘30% larger’, in fact.  I’ll call you on Monday to find out how you did.”

Monday came and with it the news that Martin has surprised himself and his team.  He is ecstatic to admit that he got 30% more output overnight.

That crew went on to sustain the performance.  That meant sustaining an extra $15 million of business year on year, without capital or extra revenue expense.

Martin didn’t eat his hat, because through the ‘results thinking process’ he came up with the solution and made the change himself.   Martin did admit, few years later, “I really take my hat off to you!”


To make a logical improvements from what appear to be totally illogical or impossible at first sight, leave us a comment or a question below or send us an email at james@reMODELInternational.com. We read every comment and email.

Also we really want to hear from you… let us know you were here.. give us a thumbs up, thumbs down, a share on your own page.  And please let us know what other topics you would like to hear more about.

If you are reading this anywhere other than on reMODELInternational.com, then head on over there where all the goodies are.

Thank you again and as Jeff Walker says… ‘Let’s Go Get ‘Em This Week!’

James La Trobe-Bateman, Co-Founder & C.E.O.

reMODELInternational.com …Since 1997

ILLOGICAL Improvements…Personal, Professional, Business

Email/Contact:  Think@reMODELInternational.com

Advice to Your 20 Year Old Self

by James La Trobe-Bateman on January 22, 2021
Professional and Personal Development

If you could go back in time, what do you wish your 20 year old self knew?

When you’re a professional, engineer or whatever, you think that development is about Professional Development. You are learning new techniques, going on all these professional training programs, all manner of things.

But, in fact, what I didn’t know until really quite recently is that in order to really advance in this world, you need to grow as a person not as a professional.

So I would be telling my 20 year old self to pay attention to Personal Development as much as professional development. Because at the end of the day I like to think of this. If there are ten of you and there is going to be one of you left.  Shall we say: the last one standing. Who’s that going to be? I think you’ll find that it’s probably going to be the most rounded, the wisest (or whatever word you want to use) person. Most people when they get to a point in their career where they resent so and so got promoted over me. Or I don’t know where I am going to go from here, because I don’t want to be one of ‘those kind of bosses’ Those kind of thoughts. You are really talking to yourself and saying ‘what have I not become that I need to become’ in order to be something different. Not necessarily the boss, but something different.

P.s. Hear the full context of these words in the Lean Effect Podcast with Mark De Jong

Read more about this in another blog post.

People Are Fly By Wire

by James La Trobe-Bateman on January 4, 2021
People are fly-by-wire

Why don’t we do what we say we want to do?

For example: “I want to lose weight, but then I didn’t”?

It’s because what you think consciously is not connected directly to what you do. Your steering wheel is not mechanically connected to your wheels. It’s what engineers call ‘fly-by-wire’. In an airplane, there’s something in between the joystick in the cockpit and the control surfaces. That ‘something’ interprets what you are asking, checks against built in programs that it is OK to do what you ask and only then follows the command.

We believe that when we say we’ll do something, we’ll do it. Actually, we know it is not quite as simple as this. What we don’t understand is why that ‘middle man’ stops us.

In the case of an airplane, the computer that stands between the joystick and the parts that move does some calculations to make the job easier and safer. If you move the stick to the left, in a conventional plane the plane would turn and dive slightly. With fly-by-wire, the computer adds some ‘up’ to the control surfaces to hold the plane at the same height. That makes it easier for the pilot. It all sounds good. But if you really want to fly outside normal limits, that computer is going to get in the way of your doing it and, in a way, thwart your efforts.

So it is with people. Under normal circumstances those programs (let’s call them ‘paradigms’) make life semi-automatic and keep you safe. When you want to make an unusual change, the paradigm puts up a resistance. Then, you don’t do what you said you were going to do.

So to make the change, you need to create a new paradigm and that takes more than just wishing it.

Where Is Lean and Six Sigma Going Next?

by James La Trobe-Bateman on November 15, 2020
Lean six sigma improvements need improving

If you are in the business of improvement, then you must use lean, 6 sigma or total quality tools.  Or you have no credibility.

But does it make you effective?

The lean movement outside Toyota has been around for 30 years and yet it still only scores about 25% success rate (ref 1).

Why doesn’t it do better?

Some say ‘try harder’.  Many say that the key part of the Toyota method is ‘respect for people’, ‘empowerment’ or something similar, and that this is still missing from most implementations.  We need more ‘soft skills’, supposedly.  And even if we had them, would we be able to fight the rising tide of shareholder power (“give me results this quarter”) over stakeholder power (“sustain and grow the community that the business feeds from and to”)?   Big issues that ‘trying harder at lean’ will not solve.

That’s the context.

What does it mean for those who practice lean?  Those whose job is to improve things?

One thing is for sure. You do not have job security.  If 3/4 of the time you fail, those accountants aren’t going to want to keep paying you.  I’ve certainly been there, although I jumped before I was pushed.

So what do you do…as an individual working as a change agent?

You have to take a different approach.  You should think about improving yourself, as a person rather than as a professional.  I mean Personal Development not Professional Development.  Not another 5S or Taguchi or Poka Yoke program.  I mean grow as a person.  More Tony Robbins than Shigeo Shingo.

Why?

Because those failures are failures to change people’s minds.  How do you do that if you can’t change your own mind? It starts with you.

Now I know that this is a scary thought for engineer types.  In fact, I have to admit that I ran screaming from a live 2 day Tony Robbins event after only 4 hours of it.  Luckily I have a partner who understood about Terror Barriers and the way through them.  We learnt a model for understanding this that can be taught and that people can internalize.

We live in an ever faster changing world.  You can see this in the strong reaction to it in all walks of life.  The world needs change agents more than ever.  But those change agents must be skilled in more than Lean.  Then they will be really valuable.

There’s some learning to do.  You need to get past your own terror, then you can help others.

Once you get past the terror, you will find freedom.

  1. Ignizio, James P. 2009. Optimizing Factory Performance: Cost-Effective Ways to Achieve Significant and Sustainable Improvement. 1st ed. Mcgraw-Hill Professional.

Your Dog Ate My Piece of Lettuce!

by Lorrie MacGilvray on October 24, 2020
Lettuce

It was a lovely quiet peaceful early morning couple mile walk along the sea and James already had his quick swim at our half way turning around to go back point. Walking back, along the sea edge in the sand… out of nowhere… a woman came running toward us from behind yelling señor wait…stop… We have seen her many times in passing from a distance while on morning walks or sitting at her ‘claimed’ beach stone circle.. the one that protects you from winds here for more enjoyable beach day and picnics.

Stone circle on the beach

After several minutes frantic game of charades hand gestures, finger drawings in the sand.. cobbled super fast Spanish to English – English to Spanish translations back and forth… all the while with a most panicked look on the woman’s face… James finally attempted to share what he thought she was saying to us…. ‘Your Dog Ate My Piece of Lettuce!’…and ‘There Are Little Paw Prints Where I Left It Sitting When I Went For My Walk.. Now It´s Gone!’

James and I are now staring at each other totally dumbfounded trying to let that register and process… for quite a few reasons…

1. That morning the tides were way down. We walked along the beautiful blue sea edge hopping and skipping across the black lava rocks that are exposed when the tides are way down as one of our way of maintaining regular agility and balance workouts while out for our walks. The stone circles are nowhere near the sea edge… They are up at the top of the sand embankment that you would have to cross over all the black lava rocks, go up the sand embankment and back a bit into the sand dune to be anywhere near ‘her’ beach stone circle.

2.. Claire was right by our side the entire time hopping and skipping across the rocks with us… and leading the way making sure we were following her most of the way.

3… Anyone who knows ‘Claire: The International Business Dog’… knows she would never consider touching a piece of lettuce even with the best doggie treat or beef on it.. Now if the woman said vanilla bean ice cream or mango sorbet, Emmental cheese or piece of salami in tiny bits, even teeny tiny cut up bits of apple, pear or peach absolutely possible.. Bit of avocado if her favourite Monika gave it to her would even be possibility. Large Piece of Lettuce, to stand and munch through until gone or carry it away to eat… at 10 years old, missing teeth and super finicky about her food… thinking… 99% no way..

Claire the International Business Dog

James was doing all the listening, game of hand gesture charades and conversing while I watched with zero comprehension what it was all about… The most concerning things for me were how far this woman had run down the beach to catch up with us from where her stone circle was.. had to be nearly quarter mile… Over a single piece of lettuce?? Why?? Her panic demeanour over it all… was even more concerning to watch without any idea what she was trying to say to James..

Now thinking… Oh My Goodness!.. Our dog is being called a ‘lettuce thief’ and blamed for something impossible to even have happened.. and this poor woman looks and is behaving as though she is panicked hungry..

Apparently James first thought he shared with her while apologising for her ‘piece of lettuce loss’ was perhaps it was one of the seagulls?? They are always hanging out on the lookout for food with all the people who picnic at the beach.. The woman also agreed thinking about it.. that was probably most likely what happened.. James and I both continued to apologies for her lettuce loss and she very sadly walked away back toward her stone circle.

As we made our way back to our car along the sea over the mile and bit walk James and I were both very shaken from that encounter, both for the same reasons.. Why would someone chase anyone down running after them that far, over ‘a piece of lettuce’.. if they were not in hunger panic?… Her desperation and look while trying to explain to James what had happen was very disturbing for both of us…

We immediately decided, even though we had not had anything to eat yet and were getting hungry, we must go straight to the local supermarket to buy a few things to take straight back to her..

Shopping list… Lettuce, Loaf of Fresh Sliced Bread, Cheese, Container of Hummus, Butter, Salami, Bananas, Large Bottle of Water… That should keep this poor hungry woman going for several days and help make up for any loss or upset over her missing piece of lettuce..

Picnic food

Back we go and find the woman at her regular stone circle with umbrella over it… There she is.. sitting out in the sun. There are also three very well dressed passers by that seem to know her, standing chatting with her. We wait a bit.. they are not leaving… we wait a bit longer… still standing chatting…

James finally walks up to her with large grocery bag of food and pulls the 3 small heads of lettuce in a package out and says.. “A gift to you from the seagulls”… then he pulls out the fresh bread.. cheese, water…

She absolutely refuses all of it… and starts laughing… no… please no… it´s ok… no… I do not need this… Thank you though for doing this..

At this point… James now tries to give the bag of groceries to the three passers by asking if they would like to have a picnic at the beach with it? Everyone is now laughing… James asks the woman one more time if she will take the bag of food to enjoy it.. and she again says please.. no thank you… I’m ok really…

On our drive home… we were still asking ourselves what that was ‘really’ all about?? Why would someone run chasing us so far down the beach as she did.. blaming Claire… while looking so panicked over a missing ‘piece of lettuce’?

· Perspective · Paradigms · Assumptions ·

She and we had both made wrong conclusions based on our perspectives, paradigms & assumptions, which were completely incorrect about each other..

Had she not chased us down to tell us her ‘assumption’ about Claire: The International Business Dog and us for allowing her to steal her piece of lettuce.. we never would have known her negative and incorrect thinking and feelings that she would have carried about us every time we saw her again in passing while out for our morning walks.. She most likely would also have told others how angry she was at that ‘naughty little dog’ and ‘those people’.

We also made incorrect ‘assumptions’ about her… wondering if she might have become homeless and was now desperate hungry with her little piece of lettuce that disappeared..

No matter the incorrect ‘assumptions’.. we only knew we had to be sure to help her right then …and to be certain if any negative feelings or questions were being harboured by her still.. we had to set that straight even knowing it was impossible what Claire was being accused of doing… knowing we will see her many times again in passing while out for our morning walks… and to be sure there were only positive feeling seeing each other again.

We have seen this woman several mornings since… We still do not know her name, though she is happy smiling waving hello (she never did that before).. Claire also runs up to her and runs around her saying hello when she sees her as we are passing each other and the woman now stops for couple seconds, has big smiles and pets Claire (neither did that before)..

Still no idea what that was ‘really’ all about running chasing us quarter mile down the beach over ‘a piece of missing lettuce’.. though the outcome has been most positive possible.. and will no doubt be even better going forward into the future.

There are times.. you just do the right thing for the right reason and just keep going.. The future will reveal what it was all about one day.. and if not.. you still did the right thing for the right reason.. shifting a few paradigms along the way.

…And most importantly… ALWAYS leaving others better for having met you… whatever the random ‘Your Dog Ate My Piece of Lettuce’ situation that brought you together…

Lean is a Phase B Paradigm

by James La Trobe-Bateman on July 19, 2020
Phase B Paradigm

Or How to Provide Job Security for Lean Experts…

Joel Barker talked about the life cycle of paradigms in his 1992 book ‘Future Edge’.

His definition of the word ‘paradigm’ is more general than mine. He defines it as a consciously defined model or way of doing things that is useful because it solves lots of problems.
My own definition separates ‘paradigms’ from ‘models’ by saying that the paradigm is what you get when a model is sub-conscious. Despite this difference, we are in the same field, because we both care about how you change them.

He talks about the evolution of paradigms. In Phase A, they are being tried out, pioneered and tested on problems that had previously been poorly solved. In Phase B they pass into the mainstream and become adopted as the ‘go-to’ approach for (in this case) improving operations.

Lean and 6 Sigma have been mainstream for several decades, and so very much in Phase B.

But what happens to phase B paradigms?

They handle many situations, but not all. Over time, they accumulate unsolved problems. Sometimes a hammer is NOT the tool to use. Or perhaps I should say the philosophy does not help.

So what are the operational problems that Lean & 6 Sigma fail to solve?
Here are some that we have had to deal with:
• Argue against a proposed factory closure
• Reconcile supplier disputes
• Create co-operation between ‘rival’ sites
• Compare manufacturing systems of product concepts (during design)

…and some that we might have to deal with
• When to change to a new product concept
• Optimize new product design before start of manufacture

…and one that nobody talks about
• How to provide job security for lean experts

The solution to these is one or more new paradigms.

We have one: it’s the use of explicit models that force both parties to a disagreement to be clear about what they want.
But there are an infinity of other new paradigms that would work.

Lean and 6 sigma will keep you going for now.
Eventually you will need to adapt and adopt a new paradigm or two.