1. Mindful meetings

    May 5, 2014 by nick.halley

    Dr A. Pavlov and Dr J. Tobias have suggested that the way to handle work meetings is one where the members of the meeting have an ‘engaged areness’ or ‘mindfulness’ You can read their ten steps for encouraging a ‘mindful space’ below in the Management focus magazine of Cranfield University’s School of Management.



  2. The 26th Qimpro Convention – Call for projects

    April 2, 2014 by ahmed

    For the first time, with the assistance of BPIR.com, Qimpro is opening up its competition for cross-functional project teams to organisations outside of India. The deadline for applications is 31 May 15 June 2014 so get your applications together asap!

    · QualTech Prize for Process Improvement

    · QualTech Prize for Process Innovation

    · QualTech Prize for Sustainability

    Each of the three Prizes will be awarded in the Manufacturing and Services categories. Apart from traditional discrete and continuous process industries, Manufacturing also includes power generation, mining, and construction. Similarly, in the case of Services, apart from BFSI, hotels, airlines, IT/ITES, retail, and communication, it also includes power distribution, and hospitals.

    In 2013, the convention attracted 92 project entries.

    In 2014, the 26th competition cycle, aims to attract many more project entries from India and neighboring countries.

    Does your company have project teams in middle management that are breaking new ground in Improvement, Innovation, and Sustainability?

    Register your team projects for the 26th Qimpro Convention and vie for supremacy against our loyal participants such as: Titan, Aditya Birla Group, Godrej & Boyce, Vedanta Group, Reliance Industries, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, YES Bank, Max Life and ICICI Prudential.

    Come and showcase how your company is changing the game.


  3. 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


  4. 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.


  5. 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?