Jan 4, 2013

Management Blog Carnival 2012 - Michel Baudin's Blog

It's another year for the Management Blog Carnival, the brainchild of John Hunter, aka Curious Cat. It's bloggers blogging about other bloggers, and the guide to all of them is on the Curious Cat blog website. This year, the first blog I'm taking a look at is Michel Baudin's Blog.

Michel Baudin’s Blog, titled simply Michel Baudin’s Blog, is one of those combinations of good writing, deep experience, and wide-ranging knowledge. In general, his posts reveal him to be thoughtful, well-read, and erudite, while he avoids being obscure or academic. The blog is easy to read and navigate. It is visually attractive, with a simple layout and enough images to keep it interesting.

As for content, some posts are links to current articles and news related to lean. Michel usually adds his insight -- valuable but short.  The value of having an expert select articles is that it helps the rest of us by sifting the wheat from the chaff.

The best reason to follow Michel’s blog is to read his longer essays. Lately he has been picking out each of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s 14 points for inspiration, reminding us what Dr. Deming said, then how his experience or stories from other books illustrate what the point means. After reading one of these blog posts, you not only know what Deming said -- whether you had been familiar with his work or not -- but you have spent some time thinking about how it relates to your own job.

An example is

Deming’s Point 10 of 14 – Eliminate slogans and exhortations
"Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force."
What usually happens when banners appear in the workplace and word comes down, translated to some version of “work harder” or “stop making mistakes”? Michel relates stories from Ben Hamper’s automotive experience in the 1980s. Slogans are meant to communicate to workers and the public some emphasis on improvement, but they usually fail.  Michel shows some more effective ways used by Toyota, Porsche, VW, and Honda to get the message across.

In an earlier post, Comparative advantage, free trade, and productivity, Michel dissects the meaning of the terminology invented by the 18th century economists, David Ricardo and Adam Smith. Not surprisingly, people are a bit vague on the original meanings of these economic and business terms we throw around, and blank on the context in which the terminology began. You have to like business and manufacturing history to read the whole story, and I wish people did so more often.

Mitigating “Mura,” or unevenness is an article that should not be missed. It takes a long time for lean learners to get past a focus on Muda and start to learn what Mura and Muri are all about. Michel starts by saying:

Mura then really is the conjunction of overburdening some resources while others wait, or of alternating over time between overburdening and underutilizing the same resources.

Then he offers an in-depth exploration of:

    Mura in space, Mura in time, and Mura in space and time
    Degrees of severity: Deterministic, random, and uncertain environments
    What is special about Manufacturing?
    Internal versus external causes of unevenness
    Most useful skills in dealing with Mura

I can’t possibly summarize the article. I’ll just say it’s one you might want to print and hand out, then use for discussion.

Overall, Michel Baudin’s blog is a really good place to learn things missing from your years of education. You’ll get a picture of lean theory and how it plays out in the real world, as well as a dollop of economic and business theory. Highly recommended.

The next blog review in my series will be Square Peg Musings.

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