Models and Paradigms

by James La Trobe-Bateman on June 23, 2020
Models and Paradigms Blog

‘Models and Paradigms’ means this to us:

Models are explicit.  Things are connected logically.  You can scrutinize the logic and challenge the assumptions. You can change them without emotional upset.

Paradigms are rooted in the human subconscious.  They are implicit. You can only tell they are there, because they show themselves through your behaviors.  The paradigm causes those behaviors.  For example, the way you walk is driven by a paradigm.  Can you describe its precise logic? Can you say why different people walk in different ways?

Or believe different things?

Or make decisions?

So What Do You Do About It?

If you want a different outcome, we have 2 approaches:

  1. Play with the variables of an explicit model for its logic to produce the results you want.
  2. Modify the paradigm so that you dream up a completely new model that produces a better result (this is harder to do)

1 is about Optimizing what you have.  It also serves to open up your thinking ready for 2.

2 is about taking a quantum leap to Create completely new model.

It’s 2 that corporations and modern society really needs, but it gets stuck on those subconscious paradigms.

Remodel International’s approach is to first create explicit models and then work on 2 to invent a new model and make that quantum leap.

Creating models is an intellectual, conscious exercise and lays the groundwork to tackle the subconscious paradigms and unleash your creativity.

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

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.

Trying To Improve Too Far

by James La Trobe-Bateman on June 15, 2020

Suppose you work in a factory which is part of a larger group of companies.

What happens when the operations boss comes to visit you from head office?

He or she will congratulate you on your good work, meet and greet your staff…smile. However, you will always be left with an instruction to ‘keep it up’. This usually means ‘make your products cheaper next year…and the next’.

If you have been that good up to now, you know it is going to get harder and harder to reduce cost.  You will feel that you are being driven against a steep mountain slope and being whipped into going up it.

Here’s what the operations boss knows. His marketing people are telling him that the gross margin of your products is being eroded and that to maintain profitability, unit manufacturing cost must keep coming down.

If there are alternative business approaches that you could take in the market, then you don’t have enough information to say and anyway it’s outside your authority.

If you are truly reaching the limit of cost reductions set by the inherent product design, then it is difficult to say so without the operations boss feeling that you lack determination.  It would put your own future in jeopardy.  .

The upshot is that you continue to work harder and harder to achieve less and less, until the time comes when the last cost reduction that makes any sense is to move the improvement people out and save their salaries.  Your accountants will very quickly be able to tell you how much you will save in this scenario.

In the meantime, a number of increasingly (they have been getting better and better at improving) talented improvement people get more and more frustrated because they know they are achieving little in measurable results.  Plus you will have to pay them.

To avoid this lose-lose situation, you need to know when to stop improving.

At that moment, you will also have to clearly decide: do we stay where we are, do we undertake a significant product redesign or do we explore different business improvement ideas that exploit the ability of manufacturing to be more flexible or responsive for the same cost?

No Go Areas

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 29, 2020

I’m curious about ideas that are “off limits”.

Stanley area minefield map
Sheep in a Falklands minefield

We see life as something of a ‘minefield’.  We carry a picture in our minds that is like a map.  Ideas that are safe to hold [green], ideas that are a bit controversial [blue]  and some definite no-go areas [red].

But what if we did not have any preconceived ideas?  We would be more like the sheep that can’t read the signs. They are oblivious and happy.

Are we better or worse off than the sheep?

Neither option feels right.

If there really ARE mines in there, then we really don’t want to go there.  But what about the places where we are not sure?  Are we just frightened because we don’t know?

Or are we wary because someone else is frightened?

In business, I would say that is more often than not this last.  We don’t take risks because we are making our bosses frightened. Of being seen as irresponsible, overseeing mistakes being made and ultimately losing their jobs.

How do we get past this?  How do you test an area to see if it is safe? What is the equivalent of ‘sending the sheep in first’?

Our answer is to build models.

Models can be exploration devices. A way of going somewhere in your mind before you set foot there.  It’s completely safe. It’s all about ‘What If?’  We have called models a ‘Bridge of Faith’, because you can simulate crossing a chasm without actually stepping into the void.  Visions are what makes leaders stand out.  Some follow naturally, most need to be coaxed.  A model is a coax…and a coach.  It teaches while it explores.

Plus, we have found that models do much more than exploring the unknown. You can defuse fights with them. I once was called in to arbitrate in a dispute between a subcontractor and a major medical diagnostics manufacturer.  The subcontractor was a sole source and had put their prices up by 40%.  What could the customer do here? Accepting the price rise would make their products unprofitable and rejecting the price rise meant losing their own business.  They clearly needed to reach a compromise.  So I built an operations model.  It had a number of scenarios to see what would happen if sales dropped or rose, product mix changed, raw material and labor rates changed and whether manufacturing improvements were made. Each of these scenarios tackled a different risk for the supplier.  They wanted a guaranteed profit margin, but were not in control of demand.  They had demanded the 40% price rise to cover themselves.  But they didn’t need to.  In the end the model became part of the new contract between the companies with a pre-agreed formula for pricing.

They went on this way for more than 5 years, happily.

Models Need Scenarios

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 8, 2020
Factory model and layout

I was reading about a Covid-19 model being ‘rejected’ because it didn’t ‘give the right answer’.

First thought: no models ‘give the right answer’.  But they DO give some clues as to possible futures and tend to rule out impossible ones.

Then, I read that this model had been set up with a number of possible Scenarios.  Each of them showing what would happen if you did different things.  The model was there to guide the best decisions.

Models do not just predict one future.  They allow you to make choices, change assumptions and so predict different futures.  The different scenarios that you imagine are as important as the models themselves.

So, scenarios are as important as the Model.  Choosing a Scenario sets your course. The Model shows where you end up.

When should you reject a model?  When you have a better one!  In general, your ‘gut feeling’ is not a better one, although it is a natural human tendency to believe so.  That ‘gut feeling’ is really nothing more than an unconscious belief.  The model also represents beliefs.  But they are made visible.  You can challenge something visible in a way that you cannot challenge something unconscious. To reject a model, you must say what assumptions are wrong.  Just to say you ‘don’t believe it’ is irrational and gets you nowhere.

You might also say that you have not suggested the best Scenarios.  That’s valid.  But only if you can suggest others that make sense.  Then you can use the model to see where it goes. Or maybe force you to modify the model.  But not to reject it.

When The Tourists Are Gone

by James La Trobe-Bateman on April 15, 2020
in News
Morro Jable in Fuerteventura

Morro Jable with no tourists

Translated from the article by CATALINA GARCÍA for Canarias7

In silence, with the sea a witness to the east and the white dunes of Jandía pushing to the west, the nearly 7,000 residents of Morro Jable await the return of tourists. This town in the municipality of Pájara grew supported by twenty hotels and apartment complexes in nearby Solana-Matorral, today deserted by customers.

As a coastal area, the feeling of confinement is almost double due to the presence of the timeless beach, now out of bounds.The inactivity is so great that even the sand that gives its name to the town threatens to invade the maritime avenue where the only human presence this afternoon is the boys, dressed in orange jumpsuits, who disinfect the promenade and its surroundings. In the distance, someone walks with two grocery bags on each side, a stark outline against the backdrop of 14 kilometers of white sand beach in Jandía.

Morro Jable’s silence is broken by the home water distributors and the sound of televisions through windows and balconies. Behind a protective visor and with gloves, Esidia Cuenta (Barranquilla, Colombia, 1962) works at the Adela minimarket in one of those streets that go to the sea. “I tried to put on a mask to protect myself from infection, but I was sweating, my glasses were fogging up and I only managed to touch my face once and another time while attending to clients. Clients are many fewer in these times of coronavirus. Only half are coming now and they do it for bread, soft drinks, some food and little else.”
It is not the first store that she has run. When she arrived in the island, she started working at the Daisy, on the same street. This is what she did in her native Barranquilla and what he continued to do when she settled in Fuerteventura nine years ago. “In all these years, I have not seen a slump like the one now because of the state of alarm: nobody on the streets, nobody in the shops. Her clients are sure that, when the confinement is lifted, they will leave Morro Jable. Everyone sees the return of tourists to be a long time away. So it will be a long time before the town recovers its economic pulse. “This is a very big drop.”

At the top of the street, suddenly people accumulate forming a kind of line. “Ah, it’s nothing,” explains Esidia, “it’s the queue at the only pharmacy in Morro Jable, that’s why you can see so many people. In the tourist area of Solana-Matorral, we have another one, but we don’t live there”. The rest of the tourist town remains silent, including the port area, where the only daily ferry boat has long departed for Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. On a rooftop, someone is moving: it is a married couple who exercise within their few square meters.

“First? Yes, I am the first taxi in line”. Todor Dragiev Ihiev does not understand Spanish very well, but he figures out his euros and fares like no one else. This Bulgarian taxi driver updates the figures: “There are 77 taxi licenses, but each day we can only work fifteen taxis. Once, two days; and again, three days. With this scenario, revenues have dropped from almost 200 euros a day before Covid-19 to 30 euros now. With this income, life is not sustained. Half of the profits: for the boss. The rest go to pay for the house, the license for the car, the money that I have to send to my daughter who is in Bulgaria and to eat. You have to pay and I don’t know where to get the money for everything.” Todor ends with a smile and the message of hope that is repeated in every citizen. “We only have ourselves and we are healthy, we have not become sick.” The expected afternoon miracle occurs and someone takes a taxi, his own.

At a bus stop in the ravine of El Siervo, something finally moves: it’s the goats.