Monday, November 30, 2020

To Learn Corporate Strategy, Study the Military Masters

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Livy, Machiavelli, Clausewitz - magic names.

These Masters of War are still read centuries & millennia later.

Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War was the classical text of choice during the two Iraq wars.

And General Colin Powell, famously, had the following quote from the master framed on his State Department desk:

"Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most."


Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and Clausewitz are no less popular.

Why are these authors still relevant?

Because they wrote beautifully - clear, simple sentences that cut to the heart of the issue.

Because they lived what they wrote about. (All were practitioners, with all respect to many contemporary academics.)

Because human nature does not change.

In our consulting work, I see the same chess positions over and over.

Different board, different style of chess piece -- but the same positions.

The greats understand this, which I suppose is what makes them great.

I have image of these old boys shooting the breeze in a bar, regaling one another with stories, the ideas, opinions and insights coming fast & furious.

(I'd love to be the bartender!)

Best,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Why is laughter important in business?
Practical Problem Solving – Proving Cause & Effect
Lean Means Don’t Be a Dumb-Ass
Lean – So ‘Easy’, It’s Hard



Monday, November 16, 2020

Why is laughter important in business?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Because it makes things small and personal -- and thereby helps to dispel Big Company Disease.

Big companies take themselves seriously. Laughter punctures the balloon and drenches things in the light of sanity.

For organizations big & small, I'd say "embrace your inner smallness".

I give a talk called "Everything I Learned I Learned in a Greek Restaurant"

People seem to like it.


Greek restaurants are the epitome of small, fast and funny.

Small and fast always beats big and slow.

That's it.

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Practical Problem Solving – Proving Cause & Effect
Lean Means Don’t Be a Dumb-Ass
Lean – So ‘Easy’, It’s Hard
“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”



Monday, November 2, 2020

Practical Problem Solving – Proving Cause & Effect

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

"Improvement is endless and eternal" – Taiichi Ohno

At Toyota I learned the following problem solving drill:
  1. Do I have a problem?
  2. Do I know the cause?
  3. Have I proven cause & effect?
  4. Have I confirmed the countermeasure?
Question 3 is a common failure point. Humans are wired to jump to countermeasures. Testing cause and effect, by contrast, takes time. You have to develop a hypothesis, then run experiments to prove, or disprove it.


Recently, our family had the interesting opportunity to apply the drill.
  1. Do we have a Problem?

  2. Yes - an annoying rattle coming from the dashboard of our RX 350 Lexus truck. (Very surprising for a vehicle built by the splendid Toyota team in Cambridge Ontario.)

  3. Do we know the cause?
After looking under the hood, driving at different speeds, on different kinds of ground, we were unable to locate the source.

Lexus technicians also checked, but detected no evidence of a rattle in the cabin. But soon after, there it was again!

My wife, always alert, then made an interesting observation. “Hmmm, the truck never rattles when you’re wearing your sun glasses.”

And sure enough, when the truck was with Lexus maintenance, I’d taken my sun glasses with me.

You can imagine our next steps. We ran a number of variations on the following experiments:
  • Sun glasses in storage position
  • Sun glasses on Pascal’s head

The result?
  • Sun glasses in storage position – rattle
  • Sun glasses on Pascal’s head – no rattle

Thereby, we were able to turn the problem on and off, the ultimate test of cause and effect.

Countermeasures, for our family at least, are clear. But what’s the countermeasure for Lexus, whose marketing extols the world’s ‘quietest cabin’?

An unanticipated failure mode! So it goes. That’s why we say, improvement is endless and eternal!

I have great faith in Lexus. Vibration absorption in the sun glasses storage area comes to mind.

(As for a rattling head, no comment.)

Best,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Lean Means Don’t Be a Dumb-Ass
Lean – So ‘Easy’, It’s Hard
“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”
Building Quality into the Process



Monday, October 19, 2020

Lean Means Don’t Be a Dumb-Ass

By Pascal Dennis

I owe this gem to our friends & colleagues in the great state of Alabama.

Our partners there have a way with words, and a fine appreciation of Lean fundamentals.

Lean is ‘simple’, is it not?
  1. Define Purpose clearly
  2. Make problems visible at all levels
  3. Treat people with respect – team members, customers, suppliers and the community
  4. Involve everybody In problem solving
Lean methods like visual management, standardized work, Help Chains and the like are about making problems visible, so we can fix them.


Once the problem is visible, the countermeasure is often obvious, no?

To be sure, some problems (e.g. Strategic, Design, Supply Chain, machine, information flow etc.) are complex and have multiple causes.

Countermeasures reveal themselves only after much reflection and experimentation. Lean methods enable this process. (Without them we often jump to a dumb-ass ‘countermeasure’)

An old Henny Youngman joke goes like this:

Henny, flapping his arms like wings. “I went to my doctor and told him it hurts when I do this!” Henny makes a face. “The doctor told me, don’t do that!”

Lean methods help us understand what ‘that’ is, so we can fix it.

Our challenge is that we often learn dumb-ass things in college and in dysfunctional organizations. Things like, let’s hide our problems, let’s brutalize our team members, let’s try to hoodwink our customers, and the like.

The truth will out.

Don’t be a dumb-ass.

Best regards,

Pascal

PS Andy & Me and the Hospital, describes how not to be a dumb-ass in healthcare.




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Lean – So ‘Easy’, It’s Hard
“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”
Building Quality into the Process
Standardized Work for Knowledge Workers