Jan 6, 2011

Management Improvement Blog Carnival -- Exploration

The theme of my selections for the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog Carnival is exploration. While we learn by following lean and continuous improvement thinkers, we grow by going outside the boundaries.

The Lean EDGE 
The idea of the Lean EDGE is to bring together an all-star cast of lean authors who share their thinking and engage in dialogues about key issues. Recent contributors include Jamie Flinchbaugh, Art Smalley, Daniel T. Jones, Michael Ballé, Mike Rother, Steven Spear, Mark Graban, Jeff Liker, and Jean Cunningham.

Art Smalley has been showing and explaining concepts from the original Toyota book about the Toyota Production System, most recently in A Continuing Definition Problem. I always rely upon Art to identify Toyota principles that have been misunderstood over the years, especially as concepts meant to apply to efficiency in production operations are extrapolated to the whole organization. Here he discusses Toyota’s approach to training people, based on his own experience at the company.

Pascal Dennis reflects upon value as opposed to waste in Aim for Delightful Value . He reminds us about the Kano model of value, in which delight is the third dimension. And how do you determine if an activity like play is going to lead to the delight of Walt Disney animators producing a Pinocchio or Apple’s designers developing the iPad? It might look like waste, but is it?

Most of us don’t have time to read all the books by all these authors, so we get to sample quite a range of their thinking. If we need to dig deeper, the books can be purchased through the website on Amazon.

I’m a bit disappointed that comments on the blog seem to be disabled. It makes it more awkward for the contributors to keep a discussion organized into a thread, and I can’t add opinions or questions. Even so, I picked the Lean Edge for the carnival because of the authoritativeness of the authors and the high quality of the information they share. It shouldn’t be missed.

Design Thinking
Tim Brown
Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and TED speaker, shares his thoughts in the blog, Design Thinking. IDEO is the innovation firm behind the Bayer Contour blood-glucose meter, MyFordTouch, media:scape furniture for Steelcase, and the Human-Centered Design Toolkit for NGOs and social enterprises. (The Toolkit is free and has been downloaded more than 44,000 times.) Brown has been a TED speaker.

Looking over Tim Brown’s shoulder is too good an opportunity to miss. One recent post, Checks and Balances, was a cogitation over a friend’s question: Why can we design huge buildings with only rare failures, but not a reliable economic system? Brown wonders how we can apply design thinking principles to abstract and intangible things as well as physical objects. And he offers a few lines of inquiry for how to someday do it.

In Design Nations, he ponders about what it takes to provide an innovation infrastructure, and how countries like Finland and Singapore have made strides in that direction. “I have been wondering whether top down government policy is what really makes the difference or whether instead there are emergent characteristics that determine a nation or region’s success in the global innovation economy.” Does Brown have answers? More often he poses questions in a way we may not have thought about before. And isn’t that how new thinking is often generated? Posts are short and pithy, so this blog is well worth adding to your RSS feeds or email subscriptions. You can read them quickly and not take a big chunk out of your day. And because of Tim Brown’s broad followership, comments are many and insightful. I’d like to see more of our lean thinkers’ names showing up there.

Thinking for a Change
Pascal Van Cauwenberghe is a Belgian consultant who says he tries to solve more problems than he creates, and transform work into play. He teaches extreme programming (XP) to development teams and customers with the XP Game. A recent post shows an example of his innovative work -- a Business Value Model that teams can use to keep projects focused on the reasons the business exists, not the way they perform functions. For me, looking at posters covered with sticky notes is a fascinating way to see into how people work and think. In this case, Pascal shows and quickly describes each model, which are amazingly different considering that they started with the same exercise. Then he adds, “To make it perfect…” a few quick coach-style comments.

I like it that Pascal gives us a diary of the evolving definition of business value and how he finds venues to try out the games.  These are not seminars or workshops, but prototyping sessions that allow his own team to develop the next iteration of the learning experience. That’s agile development in action.

In the lean world, we’re only tangentially exposed to agile and XP. Those who are married to lean doctrine may find fault with this convergent evolutionary cycle in IT development, but I think that’s a mistake. Now that recognition that lean needs to be applied in IT, rather than working around it, we need more than ever to promote dialog between the two worlds. That’s why you should subscribe to this blog (RSS only).

Set aside learning time
What if you subscribed to all the blogs in this year’s Management Improvement Carnival? You’d do nothing but read blogs. I manage this problem by setting aside a certain amount of learning time each day, and catch up on a few blogs, make a few comments, and go on to other things. At least that’s what I would do if I were more disciplined about my life. But give it a try, so you continuously expand your exposure to new ideas and shine a new light on your current problems.

Other Blog Carnival posts: Jamie Flinchbaugh reviewed Lean Reflections, and A Lean Journey by Tim McMahon, Tim wrote about Jamie Flinchbaugh’s blog and Got Boondoggle by my friend Mike Wroblewski. Mike featured Lean For Everyone by Jon Wetzel in his Carnival selections. In Evolving Excellence, Kevin Meyer highlighted a few great blogs, including Gemba Panta Rei by Jon Miller   Jon will tell us what he thinks about three blogs on Jan 7, including Daily Kaizen, by Lee Fried, one of my favorites. I’m honored to be part of the Management Improvement Carnival, and hope you’ll look at Jamie Flinchbaugh’s take on John Hunter’s Curious Cat blog.

Does this roundup sound a bit recursive and inbred? Well, aside from the audiences each of us has developed, many of us have gotten to know and respect each other. In social networking terms, blogging -- and commenting -- has created strong virtual relationships. Thanks for being a Lean Reflections reader -- hope to see you become part of the circle with comments here and on the other great blogs in our Carnival.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm