This is the fourth and final installment of my collaboration with John Hunter and friends on the Year-End Management Improvement Carnival, where we review the best management improvement blogs and share which posts we found to be the most insightful or helpful. Today I have the privilege of bringing you a few gems from the iSixSigma blogosphere.
PART 4 of 4 – The iSixSigma blogs are written by a cast of columnists who share their experiences with the practice of quality improvement. The favorites I’ve picked out here are only the tip of the iceberg… there are many more on the site.
Innovation and Six Sigma (5/9/2008) – This article aims to answer the question “Does Six Sigma kill innovation?” In addition to being a thought-provoking article, the collection of comments is worth reading as well. I particularly liked this perspective: “I’m reminded of a story I was once told about an author who decided to write an entire novel without using the letter E. You’d think this would be incredibly limiting, but in fact the author ended up learning many, many new words and taking his writing in entirely new directions. The structure forced him to break old habits and think in new ways.”
The iPod Did Not Come From a Focus Group (3/3/2008) – Development of the iPod is an example of customer and market-driven innovation. The author of this article notes that “your company probably knows more about what is possible than most of your customers; but the lesson I take away from the Apple example is this: some of our customers know a lot more than we do, and we ignore them at our peril.” There’s also a pointer to an excellent 2002 article in the Harvard Business Review.
Six Sigma: The Laissez-Faire of Politics (1/28/2008) – In this article, the author explores how to solve a real public policy issue using Six Sigma: reducing the consumption of plastic bags (like the ones you get at the grocery store) on the national level. “If there is one area in society that definitely needs an injection of Six Sigma, it’s politics. Just like the working world of business, people want a silver bullet quick fix that sounds good and will make people feel good. Politicians often open their mouths without performing due diligence and as a result only partially address an issue.”
What You Measure is What You Get (12/22/2008) – This post reflected on the role and meaning of measurement (one of my favorite issues). “Perhaps what you measure is what you get. More likely, what you measure is all you’ll get. What you don’t (or can’t) measure is lost” – H. Thomas Johnson
This is the third installment of my collaboration with John Hunter and friends on the Year-End Management Improvement Carnival, where we review the best management improvement blogs and share which posts we found to be the most insightful or helpful.
PART 3 of 4 – Clarke Ching’s stream-of-consciousness blog covers random musings, cartoons, links to useful articles, recipes, mathematical puzzles and games, and thoughts about quality-related techniques including Theory of Constraints and software development.
Testers – the worst thing that happened to software development? (5/30/2008) – This story describes a first-person view of how software quality can be achieved more easily – by studying the successful approaches used by good maintenance teams. “There’s a huge amount that development managers (i.e. those that work on bigger projects) could learn from the way good maintenance teams work. The first would be to break down their work into smaller chunks.” (Again, this reminds me of “stackless thinking”which really appeals to me.)
Critical Chain Scheduling (8/22/2008)– Clarke wrote an article, published over at stickyminds.com, covering how to use the critical chain method to improve scheduling in agile development environments. “Critical Chain, as I’ve described, is a great way of rebuilding trust between managers and their staff. In fact, it is THE best way I’ve found. It’s also sorely needed, judging by some of the comments.”
Lord Kelvin (9/13/2008) – Why measure things? On a trip to Scotland, Clarke reflected on this question as he pondered the intro to Douglas Hubbard’s book, How to Measure Anything: “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of science.”
A Theory of Everything for Software Development (8/7/2008) – Physicists pursue the grand unified theory to explain space, time and everything in between… while noop.nl attempts to reconcile the myriad of approaches to software development by reminding us of context-dependent approaches. Here’s a sample: “Unix and Windows are both proper solutions, though each in its own limited cultural context. And they cannot both be the best solution at the same time and place. (And might I suggest that, in the case of operating systems, a Theory of Everything has already been found with the invention of virtual machines? Just a wild thought.)”
Simple vs. Complicated vs. Complex vs. Chaotic (8/20/2008) – You can have predictable, complex, and chaotic systems that are simple – or, you can have predictable, complex and chaotic systems that are complicated. This is the best description (and collection of online references) I’ve seen to explaining the differences between these concepts. “My computer is complicated. My software project is complex. My house is complicated. My household is complex. My blog is complicated. My thoughts are complex. Your dinner is complicated. Your dog is complex.”
Thank You, Stupid Americans (4/23/2008) – This is an interesting blend of software development insights and politics! Although I don’t personally equate simplicity with stupidity, and I realize there are plenty of smart Americans too, I found this to be a lighthearted and stimulating read.
How to Handle Many Simultaneous Projects (9/30/2008) is also an excellent commentary. I don’t know any manager who doesn’t have this issue – whether they are a quality manager, a technology manager, a construction manager, or a manager of software development.
I’m privileged to be partnering with John Hunter and friends to produce the Year-End Management Improvement Carnival. Our goal is to review the best management improvement blogs out there, and find out what gems were posted during 2008 – then take you on a guided tour of the past year’s most intriguing management insights.
PART 1 of 4 – The first three favorites on my list come from David Anderson’s http://www.agilemanagement.net, a blog that focuses on effective and productive implementation of agile methods in software development and management.
Providing Value with Lean (3/31/2008) – One of the most important considerations while implementing a quality program or process improvement initiative is that you focus on the right aspects of the problem at the right times. This is much easier said than done, especially since the problem solving environment is socio-technical – and as a result, complex. But David makes the excellent point that “doing lean” means more than just eliminating waste. You have to take a systems perspective, and first consider how value is to be added, then analyze the process for flow, and then work on eliminating waste. Sometimes, to get a better process, you have to add waste before the improvements can be realized in a sustainable fashion.
Personal Hedgehog (11/2/2008) – What are you uniquely good at? What are you passionate about? What motivates you economically? The most productive people are in roles that fit them well, and the Personal Hedgehog concept can help you find your niche. (Might also be good for managers who want to help their team members find a good fit.)