1. Lean design – Learning from Apple

    February 26, 2014 by ahmed

    Lean is optimising a process to preserve value with less work. Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS).
    Lean aims to eliminate waste in the entire value stream, by creating processes that need less human effort, less space, and less time to make products and services at lower cost, therefore Lean simply means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

    However, how does this relate to Steve Jobs and iPod in particular or all Apple’s iDevices in general?

    Steve Jobs used Lean in another way, instead of thinking of lean as a way of minimising waste in the production process he looked at how to eliminate waste in the way the customer interacts with the iPod.
    For example, the volume up button could have different functions such as selecting a menu choice or taking a photo. This approach enabled Apple to produce mobile phones with just five buttons.

    Apple’s (or perhaps Steve Jobs) innovation is by focusing on customers and how to offer them products without the un-necessary extras from design stage until displayed in an outlet.


    I have an instinctive aversion to hero worship. There is a fine line between valuing the lessons demonstrated by great leaders and slipping into a blind devotion that masks the inevitable flaws to be found in every human personality. Steve Jobs had more than his share of flaws and he possessed more than his share of genius. Reading Walter Isaacson’s recent and excellent biography of Jobs I am struck by the intuitive sense of lean, of flow, of simplicity, that he demanded from both the aesthetics and the technical workings of every product. You would be hard pressed to find an executive with a better sense of the interaction between the social and the technical.

    The Lean Mind

    When we think of lean our mind first goes to the workings of the Toyota factory. However, the principles of eliminating waste and achieving interruption free flow may be found at an even more profound level in the design of Apple’s breakthrough products and the intuition of Steve Jobs. Only nine percent of Americans today work in manufacturing and we might do well to turn our attention to the application of lean principles to less obvious endeavors such as product design and the use of technology.

    From the design of the first Mac to the design of the iPad, Steve obsessed on their design. He understood what we wanted before we wanted it and that was his genius. We didn’t know we wanted GUI’s, an iPod or iPad, and even less did we think we would be attracted to a product by the elegance and simplicity of its packaging. He imagined the customer experience before we had experienced it. This is intuition, a zen appreciation for the movement of the hand and eye and the imperative to eliminate distractions to allow the mind of the user to flow from the first thought to the engagement in the utility of the device.

    On the design of the iPad:

    “As usual Jobs pushed for the purest simplicity. That required determining what was the core essence of the device. The answer: the display screen. So the guiding principle was that everything they did had to defer to the screen. ‘How do we get out of the way so there aren’t a ton of features and buttons that distract from the display?’ Ive (head of design) asked. At every step Jobs pushed to remove and simplify.” (page 514)

    With the story of the development of each product it is easy to see why Jobs nearly drove those around him crazy. It was normal for him to walk around and look at the work of designers and engineers and immediately pronounce their work to be crap! And, a week later he would be gushing about the very same thing he labeled “crap” a week earlier. It was also normal that the work on the new product would be almost finalized, or finalized in the mind of others, and he would wake up in the middle of the night and realize why he was not comfortable with its design. The radius of the corners was wrong! Or, the ionized aluminum casing wasn’t exactly right. He would stop everything and have the entire team working on the product go back and fix things based on his simple feel for the design. Inevitably he would be proven right. And in every case it was a matter of the flow, the movement of the eye and mind from one interaction with the product to the next. It was about “lean” although he would not have felt the need to label it as such. It wasn’t the lean of the factory, but the lean of the customer experience.

    I doubt that any CEO in the history of business has been as intimately involved in the design of breakthrough products. His contribution was not that of a traditional executive at all. It was total intimacy with the customer experience that was his contribution.

    Costs vs. Value

    The way lean is implemented in many companies today it is viewed as primarily a cost reduction tool. Eliminating work-in-process, reducing the need for space, and increasing output per employee are all the natural results of lean and all result in positive impact to the bottom line. Rarely was reducing costs the primary motivation behind Steve Jobs’ decisions. The decision to open retail stores provides a telling example.

    Jobs obsessively wanted to control the entire flow of work from the design of chips to software, to the design of the case, the screen and the packing. This was the motivation for his decision to open Apple Stores. He and Ron Johnson spent many months designing the stores, developing prototypes and obsessing on every detail. From a traditional retailing perspective it made no sense. They didn’t have enough different products to fill a store. Most analysts thought it would be impossible to push enough product through the stores to justify the cost of the space. Gateway was failing miserably in their retail stores and Dell was selling direct to customers. But that is not how Jobs was thinking at all. He was thinking about the brand, the customer experience, the joy that the stores would create.

    Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle was a close friend and Steve repeatedly invited him over to walk through his prototype store.

    “On each visit Jobs prodded Ellison to figure out ways to streamline the process by eliminating some unnecessary step, such as handing over the credit card or printing a receipt. ‘If you look at the stores and the products, you will see Steve’s obsession with beauty and simplicity – this Bauhous aesthetic and wonderful minimalism, which goes all the way to the checkout process in the stores,’ said Ellison. ‘It means absolute minimum number of steps. Steve gave us the exact explicit recipe for how he wanted the checkout to work.” (page 386)

    That is lean thinking at its best.

    Most experts predicted failure. “Maybe it’s time Steve Jobs stopped thinking quite so differently,” Business week wrote in a story headlines “Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work.” The retail consultant David Goldstein declared, “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.” Gateway’s stores were averaging 250 visitors per week.

    On May 19, 2001 the first Apple Store opened in Tyson’s Corner Mall, one of the most expensive retail properties in the country. By 2004 Apple stores were averaging 5,400 visitors per week! That year they had $1.2 billion in revenue, setting a record in the retail industry. In July 2011, a decade after the first store was opened, there were 326 Apple stores. The average annual revenue was $34 million, and the net sales in 2010 were $9.8 billion. They were not only profitable, but they boosted the brand and reinforced everything else that Apple did.

    The development of Apple stores and Apple products demonstrated an aspect of lean thinking that is not understood by most lean practitioners. It is not simply about cutting costs. It is about creating value in the customer experience by optimizing flow.

    The Lost Opportunity of Bureaucracy

    Many lean writers and practitioners have not been willing to step up to the plate and address the issues of organizational structure and systems. But, if you don’t you are not likely to be lean. The story of Sony’s lost opportunity and the development of the iPod proves the point.

    Sony had a music division and contracts with a large number of the most popular bands and artists. They were a dominant force in the music business. They had another division that had created the Walkman, a personal device to carry and play music. They had a computer division producing personal computers. They even had software to sell music online. And, at the time, they realized that Napster and other free music download websites were destroying the profitability of their business. It was out of control. Within the Sony brand they had every piece required to solve the problem. However, the three big and powerful divisions fought among themselves and could not collaborate to develop a solution.

    At Apple Computer there was a leader who understood disruptive technology. It wouldn’t be unfair to call Steve Jobs the Crown Prince of disruptive technologies. At that time Apple was merely a personal computer company. They produced no personal or portable devices. But, Jobs loved music. He understood that the personal computer could be the music hub. He personally led the charge to develop the iPod and there were no warring divisions within Apple. Jobs personally met with music royalty including Bob Dylan, Bono, the head of Universal, Sony and other music studios. He went to Japan and found the disc drive at Toshiba that could hold a thousand tunes. He developed an end-to-end solution that met the needs of the artists, the music studios, his own company, and most important, the customers who loved music! He practically lived with Jony Ive, the chief designer, whose aesthetic sense of elegant simplicity for not only the device, but even the packaging, created a unique brand image and advantage. The combination of iTunes software for your computer, the iTunesstore, and the iPod, met the needs of all key stakeholders. It was a victory of seamless integration. It eliminated waste in every component of the music delivery process. It could only have been achieved by an organization devoid of silos and a leader who understood the advantage of a seamless experience by the end user.

    In every instance of product development and marketing, Steve Jobs understood and demonstrated how eliminating waste from the flow of work and the flow of the customer experience results in the creation of value. Perhaps more than any other executive in our lifetime he understood the interdependence of the human and technical factors in product development and in their use. This is the lean that needs more of our attention.

    This article was from Larry Miller’s website “Management Meditations


  2. Insights from an innovator of customer-focused excellence

    February 24, 2014 by nick.halley
    Originally posted by Christine Schaefer on Blogrige: The official Baldrige blog

    Dr. John Timmerman

    Dr. John Timmerman

    We could all learn a lot from Dr. John Timmerman, senior strategist of customer experience and innovation at Gallup. In his former work as corporate vice president of quality and operations at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Timmerman helped build ground-breaking practices that strengthened the customer focus of the luxury-brand service organization, which earned two Baldrige Awards in the 1990s.

    In a recent article in Gallup Business Journal, Timmerman points out that innovation, rather than merely incremental improvement, is a necessity for organizations facing rapid change in their strategic situations today. In a subsequent interview for this blog, Timmerman first distinguished “little i innovation” (of processes and products) from “big I innovation” (of the organization’s business model). “Business-model innovation leverages the entire workforce, with everyone in the organization having a role in innovating and moving the organization forward,” he pointed out. “For that kind of innovation, Baldrige [the Criteria for Performance Excellence] provides the best-known framework to help an organization.”

    Following are more excerpts from the interview.


    How do you see the role of the Baldrige framework (the Criteria for Performance Excellence) in supporting innovation?

    To transform an organizational structure there are two different ways of thinking that are interrelated. We can get everyone to be involved in innovating in all of their areas as an ongoing part of their role and responsibility. We can also innovate the business model. And then those two things can also be part of one and the same—in other words, if you’re incorporating innovation as part of your cultural fabric, you can do that while you’re using business-model innovation at the very highest level.

    If a senior leadership group wants to innovate their business model, Baldrige offers an already well-defined framework. [Baldrige] Award recipients provide the best practices for an organization to consider because they are already vetted through the Baldrige examination process.

    In the Gallup Business Journal interview, you make the case that quality is still relevant, stating, “I believe you can have quality—zero defects—without innovation, but you can’t have innovation without quality processes, the systematic and repeatable methods to foster speed and agility.” How might you recommend making the case to business executives to invest in resources related to improving quality and achieving excellence?   

    When people see the term quality, they think of controlling defects and risk mitigation. That’s one side of the definition, having a repeatable process to identify and eliminate defects like Six Sigma. But quality is also about having repeatable processes to foster transformation, innovation, and rapid improvement cycles in an organization. And I think it’s a problem that executives sometimes don’t see the other half of the coin or definition. So when the term quality comes up, I think they default to defect mitigation, which is a repeatable process, but not the repeatable processes in fostering performance excellence and improvement.

    When I look back at Ritz-Carlton, I see that one of the biggest benefits of going on a [Baldrige] journey is that we identified the gaps through the performance excellence framework and then we went out and studied other organizations and saw what their best practices were, which fed our improvement strategies, not just to close the gaps but to become much more competitive.

    I don’t see as many organizations doing that kind of structured benchmarking today as I have in the past. I think they’re trying to glean stuff as everything in the world is moving so fast. So they bring somebody in, a thought leader that already knows the answer, or get it through some knowledge resource. And that’s good, but it may not give you the deeper insights you need. It’s one thing to read the Toyota production process; it’s something very different to go to Toyota and see how it’s applied, because then you get the cultural context.

    And what the Baldrige process allows you to receive when you listen to the [award] recipients is the cultural context, so that you know how to fit in the best practice within the organization. The brilliance of Baldrige is that it puts organizations on a stage where they share not just best practices but also the organizational profile, the cultural context of how practices fit in—not just the good idea but how the good idea fits in within the organization. As a Gallup scientist, I believe that you need to guard against committing an FAE (fundamental attribution error) in trying to apply a good tool to the wrong context. I encourage organizations to complete the Baldrige profile assessment because it gives them the context to assess the appropriateness of best practices for their business model.

    At the Baldrige Program’s annual Quest for Excellence® conference years ago, you shared leading customer-focused practices at the Ritz-Carlton at the time. Tell us about the evolution in the concept of customer focus during your career.

    Personalization has always been out there, but The Ritz-Carlton was one of the first companies to build a platform to do it across multiple sites. The Ritz-Carlton approach was to first create a customer-centric culture, training employees to study what customers are using to understand their preferences. Second, we wanted to be able to delight customers by surprising them versus being merely being preference order-takers. Each facility has a guest relations manager that provides leadership and training to engage employees in identifying, collecting, and delivering guest preferences.

    What are some new developments in the area of customer focus (category 3 in the Baldrige Criteria) by high-performing organizations today?

    The good news is that we’re continuing to make improvements in big data and analytics. That gives us what I call these mega constructs of customer profiles, or psychographics. So I can tell you what all the Chinese 19-year-old males want when they come into a restaurant or when they go buy a car, because I’ve got all this data pulled together from disparate sources. The problem with that though is that it’s a construct so it’s kind of like in The Matrix. And when you really want to dial into customer personalization, you’ll start to see the cat walk by you two to three times like in The Matrix movie; the construct doesn’t always work [at the individual customer level]. The good thing that’s happening is that we’re starting to get a better big-data analytic understanding of what customers want by cohort, by geography, by buying patterns, and so forth. But that has to be balanced with an understanding of what customers want at an individual level. So the companies that are going to be really successful in the future will understand leading trends, those constructs, but they’re still going to be able to leverage big data—that is, leverage global information resources, R=G—and design it to [the level of] n=1.


    Baldrige provides the holistic framework to assess all the dimensions of an organization required for driving excellence.


  3. 5 ways to bring creativity back to your culture

    February 10, 2014 by nick.halley

    Original article by  and posted on INC.com

    All too often, entrepreneurs build companies that stifle the very creativity they need. Here’s how to get back that spark:


    Starting a business is the ultimate form of creativity. In exploring a new opportunity, you get to build every aspect of your business from scratch, from the product to the culture to the customer experience.

    I like to think of this process as solving a big Rubik’s cube: Your team is constantly re-working the same puzzle, trying to figure out how to align the color squares on each side. It’s about solving short-term problems while not losing sight of your longterm vision. The challenge of solving a constantly evolving problem is why most entrepreneur start companies.

    The trouble is, all too often, entrepreneurs end up building organizations that handicap the very creativity they need to be successful. It wasn’t until I stepped away from Contour Camera that I realized I was doing the same thing. I let my workaholic tendencies get in the way and built a culture that was constantly short on creative energy.

    Here are five changes you can make today to bring creativity back to your culture.

    Offer Unlimited Vacation

    Most managers think vacation policies sound great, on paper. It lets them keep track of how hard people are working and justify why a seat is empty.

    To employees, however, vacation policies do just the opposite. They seem to say you don’t don’t trust them to strike a balance, and like a blaring siren, it serves as a reminder of how little they get to travel. On top of that, most companies cap the number of vacation hours employees can accrue, which doesn’t work to their actual benefit.

    Offering unlimited vacation won’t make people skip work every Friday or leave people hanging at deadlines. Instead, it will give them control to choose when they decide to work and when they don’t. Although this may seem trivial, being able to choose means everything in a creative culture.

    Let Employees Work Remotely

    Let’s face it: Your office is not where everyone does their best work, not even you. And while offices are great for building comaradery, they can also be rather distracting.

    Working remotely doesn’t always have to mean being in different cities. As Inc. contributor Jason Fried points out, “Remote just means you’re not in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all day long.” His company, 37 Signals, has built an entire culture around people who work from anywhere. His latest book, Remote, will inspire you to think differently about how your own team does its best work.

    Ditch the Meetings

    The worst part about meetings is that they’re incredibly easy to add. Even if you make an agenda, the number will only go up as you grow in size. As a result, little creative thinking will get done during the day.

    You’ll start to notice people takings their evenings and weekends to do their best work, when they know they can dive in without distractions. The 30 or 60 minutes in between meetings won’t allow them to really get things done, so they’ll end up wasting time playing email ping-pong.

    Try to cut meetings down to one daily standup. Even if the entire organization has to dial in, it shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes, if it’s done right. This will keep everyone on track and then free them up to use their day as they want.

    Nix Department Goals

    Department goals often help managers more than employees. Generally, you’ll end up wasting valuable hours setting new goals and then even more time asking why you didn’t hit them.

    Worse still, each department relies on resources they don’t control and departments they’re not a part of to reach their goals. This can result in teams signing up for work they were unaware of, which can lead to arguments about whose goals are more important.

    Instead, try focusing the entire company around two or three mega goals and enable them to figure out how they accomplish them. This helps everyone be creative while making it clear what they’re in for.

    Give Plenty of Feedback

    At the end of the day, most people want to do amazing work. They want to surpass expectations, especially their own. Yet a lot of companies make feedback a formal process, waiting until the end of the month, quarter, or year to share how they actually feel.

    Creative cultures thrive on timely, spontaneous feedback. Whether it’s good or bad, feedback helps teams raise their own expectations. It’s the fuel you need to ignite a creative culture. And who doesn’t want one of those?


  4. Learning from Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

    January 23, 2014 by nick.halley

    lee-kuan-yew

    By Professor Calestous Juma

    When history is said to repeat itself, it is never for good reasons. George Bernard Shaw captured this when he said: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience

    The question of whether nations can learn from history nag policymakers around the world. Part of the problem is that history is handed down through a variety of interpretations that do not reflect reality. But contemporary history, if genuine presented, can offer policy makers with lessons they can learn from.

    This is the central message in the book, Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World, by Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill, with Ali Wyne. This is a contemporary account of Lee Kuan Yew’s thinking as told through a series of interviews.

    His central message is that history can repeat itself in a positive way if the world community pays attention to contemporary lessons. When Lee Kuan Yew took over as Prime Minister in 1959, Singapore’s annual per capital income was $400 and is now estimated at about $60,000.

    Singapore’s lessons for other developing countries have yet to be fully appreciated. This is partly because much of the discussion has tended to focus on rhetorical arguments about relationships between governance and economic growth.

    In fact, governance distinguished Singapore from its neighbors. As Lee Kuan Yew says: “They are not clean systems; we run clean systems. Their rule of law is wonky; we stick to it. We become reliable and credible to investors.”

    His key message on the driving force behind Singapore’s success is simple: “The quality of a nation’s manpower resources is the single most important factor determining national competitiveness. It is the people’s innovativeness, entrepreneurship, team work, and their work ethic that gives them that sharp keen edge in competitiveness.”

    He emphasizes the importance of knowledge in economic transformation but also rejects the classical separation between scholarship and entrepreneurship. “Those with good minds to be scholars should also be inventors, innovators, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs; they must bring new products and services to the market to enrich the lives of people everywhere.”

    This lesson from the evolution of Singapore’s educational system poses great challenges for most developing countries. They run outmoded educational systems that do not reflect the entrepreneurial demands of modern times.

    How to reform educational systems to keep pace with contemporary challenges is one the most important leadership lessons that developing countries can learn from Singapore. In stating that “demography, not democracy, will be the most critical factor for security in the 21st century,” Lee Kuan Yew emphasizes his belief in the supremacy of the quality of human capital.

    He connects this to three attributes that he considers vital for global competitiveness: entrepreneurship (seeking out opportunities and taking calculated risks); innovation (creating new products and processes that add value); and management (opening new markets and distribution channels).

    Probably the most enduring theme in Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership style and conviction is the role of learning. His vision of workers of the future reflects greater autonomy “to manage their own control systems, supervise themselves, and take upon themselves the responsibility to upgrade. They must be disciplined enough to think on their own and to seek to excel without someone breathing down their neck.”

    This lesson might appear to run counter to popular perceptions about Lee Kuan Yew’s own leadership style. But he expects the same kind of “creativity of the leadership, its willingness to learn from experience elsewhere, to implement good ideas quickly and decisively through an efficient public service.”

    In addition, he argues for a leadership style that can “convince the majority of people that tough reforms are worth taking, that decide a country’s development and progress.”

    One of the critical areas that require tough decisions include large infrastructure investments that lay the foundations for economic growth. Singapore built “world-class infrastructure…good communications by air, by sea, by cable, by satellite, and now over the Internet.”  But such long-term investments demand not only having long-term economic vision, but consistence and predictability in the rule of law.

    Lee Kuan Yew remains optimistic about the economic future of developing countries: “There is no reason why third world leaders cannot succeed…if they can maintain social order, educate their people, maintain peace with their neighbors, and gain the confidence of investors by upholding the rule of law.”

    To achieve success, these leaders must have Lee Kuan Yew’s determination, consistency, and persistence. They must set out to do something concrete and cannot just focus on the trappings of statesmanship. His advice is simple: “Anyone who thinks he is a statesman needs to see a psychiatrist.”

    For developing countries, history can repeat itself, but not necessarily in the caustically pessimistic way that Karl Marx describes when he said it repeats itself “first as tragedy, second as farce.” Lee Kuan Yew presents a more optimistic outlook. His insights are an important source of inspiration for present and future leaders.


  5. The Sponsor as the face of organisational change

    November 25, 2013 by nick.halley

    A large proportion of projects are not given enough executive level attention. Due to this, a large number of projects ultimately fail, as they move further and further away from the business’ core competencies, and strategic alignment between business and project breaks down. In order to overcome this, effective organizations recognize project sponsorship as a key part in any project. It is very important to have active sponsors who support change. Sponsors establish direction for the future, communicate through vision, and forge aligned, high performance teams.

    Dr. H. James Harrington, CEO and Douglas Nelson of Harrington Associates, have written a white paper explaining further how an effective sponsor, who sits at an executive level, can help eliminate the barriers to change and ensure the rapid and effective implementation of project outcomes. Commissioned by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the white paper, outlines characteristics and skills of a strong sponsor, including; power, sense of urgency, vision, public role, private role, and leverage. It includes a small but effective tool for assessing the suitability of a person for a sponsor role.

    The following statement from Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide (PMI, 2013b) provides the foundational concept for this whitepaper.

    “A sponsor provides resources required for change and has the ultimate responsibility for the program or project, building commitment for the change particularly at the senior management level across the organization. Direct responsibility and accountability for the change needs to be clearly defined and accepted at an appropriately high level within an organization. Consequently, the sponsor for a change effort should be someone who has sufficient authority, influence, power, enthusiasm, and time to ensure that any conflicts that could impede the change are resolved in a timely and appropriate fashion.”

    Read the white paper HERE hosted by PMI.