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People are fly-by-wire

People Are Fly By Wire

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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.

Lean Improvement Words

Where Are Lean People Going Next?

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Lean Improvement Words

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.
Models&Paradigms

Models and Paradigms

By | Featured, Goals - Dreams - Illogical Achieving, Manufacturing - Illogical Improvements, Marketing & Sales - Illogical Goal Achieving, Models, Paradigms - Illogical Improvements & Achieving | No Comments
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.

No Go Areas

By | Featured, Manufacturing - Illogical Improvements, Models | No Comments

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.

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

By | Attitude - Illogical Achieving, Featured, Finance - Illogical Profit, Manufacturing - Illogical Improvements, Paradigms - Illogical Improvements & Achieving | No Comments

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.

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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