Monday, May 14, 2018

Can Lean & Agile Help to Fix Our Courts? Part 2

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

In my last blog, I described my daughters experience, and mine with Ontario's court system, which is similar to that used in the US, UK and many other countries.

I experienced many of the Eight Wastes including delay, defects, over-processing, and inventory in my fellow prospective jurors!

I spent much of the time is a thick fog and felt anxiety and frustration. Chats with friends & colleagues suggest my experience was not unusual.

Yet, our trial by jury process is precious & we need to support it.

So, how might we improve?

We might start by doing a SIPOC analysis: Supplier - Inputs - Process - Outputs - Customer.

Here's how our SIPOC might unfold. Let's start, as ever, with the customer.

Who is the customer? Why, the public.

What does the customer expect? Here are a few thoughts:
  • Justice for both the victim and the accused,
  • Reasonable speed -- we might set a lead time or throughput target
  • No bad guys should get off because of court delays,
  • No unreasonable hardship for jury members

What's the process? At the highest level, process seems to be:

1. Jury Panel Selection --> 2. Jury Selection --> 3. Court Case

What can muck up the process? Based on my experience, here are some possibilities:
  • Poor information flow at step 1 -- (as a result you show up when you're not needed, sit for days with nothing to do & no info etc.)
  • How many jury panel members and jurors do we need?
  • When, and for how long, do we need them?
  • How many do we currently have? Is this above or below our standard?
  • What do we need to do get back to standard?

Without this info, we're likely to call too many jury panel members, for too many days, thereby generating delay, over-processing, defects & other forms of waste.

So, information flow seems an important direct cause.

What are the root causes? I don't know enough about the process to say. But the countermeasure seems obvious:
  • Use information technology better so al to provide jury panel members with answers to questions posed above.
  • ◦ For example, can we not communicate with jury panel members by cell phone and e-mail?
  • "We won't need you tomorrow..."

Again, I don't want to be misunderstood. The problem, is in the jury selection process, not the people, who I found to be courteous, competent and cheerful.

(I'd welcome their comments & insights.)

More to come.



Monday, April 30, 2018

Can Lean & Agile Help to Fix Our Courts? Part 1

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Number 1 daughter, Eleanor, is a first year Law student at McGill University. She spends a lot of time in court, and is appalled at the hassle & confusion.

“It’s awful, Dad! I spend hours trying to find and make sense of things – and I’m a Law student! How do regular folks feel?” We've had some fine discussions, the gist of which I'd like to share today and over the next several blogs.

As it happens, I have some personal experience. A few years ago, I spent several days on a jury panel, waiting to see if I'd be picked to serve.

A handful of countries including U.K., America, and Canada have been lucky enough to inherit the British system of law & order.

Let me begin by saying I strongly believe it's our civic duty to support it.

The judge was a learned, humane and articulate man, who spoke eloquently of this same duty, and contrasted our system with those of other, less lucky countries.

Nonetheless, despite his eloquence, my commitment & that of my fellow jury panel members, our three days felt largely wasted...

Wasted in the Toyota Production System sense -- we experienced unnecessary delay, errors, over-processing, transportation and motion waste.

In the end very few of us were called as jury members. Many were frustrated by all the waste, and unlikely to want to serve again.

Our experience was no exception. Across America and Canada, court back-logs are reaching two & three years, and bad guys are getting off.

As ever, the problem is in the system, and not the people, who I found to be courteous & capable.

Here’s our challenge: How to preserve the integrity of a humane & splendid 19th century system -- while satisfying the needs of a 21st century society?

Can the principles of Lean and Agile, (both ‘children’ of the Toyota Production System) help?

If so, how?

More to come.

Best regards,


Monday, April 16, 2018

What's the Role of the Board of Directors in a business transformation?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

What is the Role of the Board in a business transformation?

I've worked with Boards for some time now. "What's our role?" is their most common question.

Board Policy documents use the word 'governance' – but what’s that mean?"

It's a big deal – role confusion between the Board and senior management can weaken focus & alignment.

Once Purpose becomes fuzzy, we're in a heap of trouble.

At the same time, a strong Board can make all the difference in a business transformation.

In my experience, good governance entails answering questions like:
  • Has the Leadership team defined Purpose (True North)?
  • Does Purpose align with the needs of the community & other stakeholders?
  • Has the Leadership team developed a planning & execution system to deliver Purpose?
  • Are there clear metrics with which we can assess progress & Leadership performance?
  • Is the organization on track to achieve Purpose?
  • Does the organization have a sound financial plan to support its activities?

Governance, the Board’s job, differs, therefore, from management which entails things like:
  • Defining Purpose
  • Aligning Purpose with the needs of stakeholders
  • Developing a planning & execution system, and a plan to deliver Purpose
  • Developing clear metrics and tracking progress towards Purpose
  • Developing a sound financial plan to support its activities
  • Developing a management system that sustains good results

Management must build a good management system and manage within it.

The Board must ensure that they are managing effectively. Go See walks with Board members, and one-on-one coaching are a good way of helping them grow into their essential role

Best regards,


Monday, April 2, 2018

"Too Much School Destroys the Mind..."

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Like many of my colleagues I went to a professional school (Engineering), then a business school.

I dutifully did all my assignments, got good marks and climbed up the ladder.

Nobody told me about the glasses I'd been given. Nobody told me that they would distort my image of the world.

Nobody told me it would take a decade or more to learn to see clearly again. And I was lucky...

People got to professional schools and business schools with the best of intentions.

They want a better job, more responsibility and higher pay -- all worthy & admirable goals.

But my professors never told me they were teaching dysfunctional mindsets.

(Getting the Right Things Done and The Remedy express my thoughts on mental models.)

Probably, they didn't even realize it themselves.

They too, were just trying to make their way in their careers, seeking the path of least resistance.

Perhaps the most dysfunctional was the idea that improvement depended on ‘smart’ people like me devising cunning plans – and everybody else doing as they were told.

(I’m reminded of a line from the old Blackadder series: "I’m going to devise a plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel!”)

In any event, ideas have legs. Dysfunctional mental models mutate, and debilitate their host.

The result?

Smart, well-educate, capable people who have forgotten the fundamentals.

As my dad used to say (about me), "Too much school destroys the mind..."