Markovitz Consulting

How Scientific Thinking Won the Women’s World Cup Title

Markovitz Consulting

In the glow of the US women’s national soccer team’s World Cup title—and the long record of success the team has had over the years—it’s easy to forget that victory didn’t always seem quite so inevitable.

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The road to hell is paved with metrics.

Markovitz Consulting

Michael Harris and Bill Tayler wrote a terrific article in the new Harvard Business Review on “metrics surrogation”—the tendency for people to mentally replace their business strategy with metrics. Although these metrics are supposed to reflect the company’s progress towards its goals, the focus on metrics can destroy an organization.

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How "scripting the plays" can help launch your lean initiative.

Markovitz Consulting

My friend Bob is struggling to get a lean transformation started at his new company. He’s knowledgeable and experienced, but he’s been unable to get traction at the main plant.

Start small. Move fast.

Markovitz Consulting

An improvement team at my client was struggling to get started on their experiment. They spent nearly a month interviewing people in multiple functions, trying to understand all the possible permutations of the current condition. They discovered that it’s really, really complicated.

The Surprising Effects of Business Vs. Leisure Travel

*Already submitted with the first entry, please contact me if you would like me to write up again.

Boeing Starliner Failure: Lessons for Your Lean Program

Markovitz Consulting

Boeing’s Starliner failed an important test flight two weeks ago. It was supposed to rendezvous with the International Space Station, but was unable to reach the correct orbit. The problem with this engineering marvel? Not the complex aerodynamics, not the critical separation from the Atlas V rocket, not the all-important re-entry heat shield. No, the problem was with the internal clock.

Speaking the Language of Your Team

Markovitz Consulting

I started using Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata approach at a new client in NYC recently. The mechanics are young (18-25 years) old, and the education level is low. No one has been to college, and not all of them have even completed high school.

It’s Not “Time Management.” It’s Lean.

Markovitz Consulting

In the space of two weeks, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both ran articles on the productivity benefits of reduced work hours. The WSJ introduced us to the workers at Rheingans Digital Enabler in Germany, who only put in five-hour days, for a workweek of 25 hours. The same is true of employees at Tower Paddle Boards (at least during the summer months) and Collins SBA , a financial advisory firm in Australia.

Better Managers Isn't Enough for Higher Engagement

Markovitz Consulting

(Note: this article first appeared in Industry Week.) A recent article by Sam Walker in the Wall Street Journal argues that better managers are the key to delivering better results. Walker cites research by Gallup showing that the quality of middle managers determines 70% of the variance between high-performing and low-performing companies.

Please, Not Another Argument for MBWA

Markovitz Consulting

Theodore Kinni argues in Strategy + Business that leaders must practice management by walking around (MBWA), a concept popularized by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman in their seminal book, In Search of Excellence. That’s the best way for them to stay connected to their businesses and understand what’s really happening with their customers. As Peters puts it, “The real meaning [of MBWA] was that you can’t lead from your office/cubicle.”

The Definitive Guide to Becoming a High-Growth Company

Why do some companies grow at a double-digit pace every year, while others experience nominal (or even flat) growth year over year? Discover the common attributes that your High-Growth Clients have in common as they outperform their competition in top-line growth!

Why I Was Wrong About 2 Second Lean

Markovitz Consulting

It’s time to admit that one of my consulting approaches has failed. I’m a huge fan of Paul Akers’ 2 Second Lean philosophy. It’s simple, easy to understand, and has an intrinsic appeal: “fix what bugs you.” Figure out how to do your job two seconds faster each day.” Who wouldn’t sign on to a lean program that promotes that mindset?

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We REALLY Need to Stop Talking About Lean

Markovitz Consulting

Lean advocates—and I consider myself one—might do better if they stop talking about lean. Let’s face it: When executives and workers hear “lean,” not a lot of good happens. They think it’s yet another short-term management fad. Or a cost-cutting program that will lead to layoffs. Or some Japanese thing that only works for car manufacturers. But when you look at many of the tools and concepts from the lean playbook, they’re really just good management that any leader would want to embrace.

Are We Sending the Right Message?

Markovitz Consulting

The latest issue of the Spring 2018 AME Target magazine excerpts some mind-boggling—and depressing—data from LNS Research about continuous improvement.

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Why Toyota Kata May Be the Right Approach for You

Markovitz Consulting

One of the great benefits of the 2 Second Lean approach to lean is the way that it gets everyone engaged in kaizen with simple improvements. The genius of Paul Akers’ approach is the low barrier to entry for workers. But as I’ve written about before , the problem with 2 Second Lean is the high barrier to entry for leadership. If leaders aren’t completely, continuously, and passionately involved as improvers and cheerleaders, it just doesn’t work.

Assessing the Five Styles of Enterprise Business Intelligence

The world of BI and analytics has evolved. Discover the five styles of reporting and analysis, and learn the pros and cons of each in an enterprise scenario.

Lessons from Detroit: Three Reasons Why Your employees Resists Lean

Markovitz Consulting

In 2014, The Greening of Detroit (TGD), an environmental non-profit, was pushing hard to reforest the city after years of neglect. To their surprise, the tree planters faced stiff resistance—about 25% of the 7,500 homeowners they approached rejected the opportunity to have a free tree planted in front of their houses.

If You Can't Save 1/10 of a Second, You Can't Save 1 Second

Markovitz Consulting

I’m back from joining Honsha on their semi-annual Executive Development Mission to Japan. It was a remarkable learning experience — although I’ve been on two other study trips to Japan, there’s always something new to see and understand when you visit a company that has adopted (and adapted) the Toyota Production System. The president of one company we visited said something that really resonated with me: “If you can’t save 1/10 of a second, you won’t be able to save 1 second.”

Lean is *Not* a Training and Development Activity

Markovitz Consulting

A prospect told me recently that he wanted to work with me to bring lean/continuous improvement to his company, but first he needed to “integrate it into his Training and Development” plans. I told him that he was making a mistake, and that he was likely to fail. If you frame lean/CI as a training and development activity, you won’t get the of buy-in and commitment from staff that you need.

An Unanticipated Benefit from Toyota Kata

Markovitz Consulting

I’m using Toyota Kata to help a client shorten its lead time for product design/delivery. This company sells primarily to department stores and mass merchants, a distribution channel that’s facing incredible pressure to shorten lead times—no one wants to guess six months out what’s going to sell, and inevitably be stuck with a bunch of closeout inventory. I have three teams working on experiments. As you’d expect with the kata approach, some of the experiments have yielded good results.

The Perils of Internal Disruption (Part 1)

Markovitz Consulting

“Disruption” has become another business buzzword that obviates the need for prudent, careful thought and consideration. If something is “disruptive,” then it must by definition be good. But when it comes to internal operations at least, disruption is often both bad for business and for employees, because it causes unevenness in work.

Of Course People Aren’t Going to Do What They’re Told

Markovitz Consulting

According to the Wall Street Journal , passengers on Southwest Airlines flight 1380, which suffered an engine failure and broken window, didn’t use their oxygen masks properly.

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The Perils of Internal Disruption (Part 3)

Markovitz Consulting

“Disruption” has become another business buzzword that obviates the need for prudent, careful thought and consideration. If something is “disruptive,” then it must by definition be good. But when it comes to internal operations at least, disruption is often both bad for business and for employees, because it causes unevenness in work. Last week , I wrote about how sales incentives cause salespeople to stuff the company’s distribution channels with inventory far in excess of consumer demand.

"Process Mining"? Sounds Like a Waste of Time.

Markovitz Consulting

You know what the problem is with your lean initiative? You’re not doing any process mining. Yup, that’s right. You’re missing the boat on “process mining,” the latest improvement breakthrough that will catapult your firm to the top of your industry. According to a new HBR article , process mining will “revitalize process management in firms where it has lain fallow for years.”

Book Review: Four Types of Problems

Markovitz Consulting

The title of Art Smalley’s new book, Four Types of Problems , is misleading. It doesn’t actually address four types of problems. Rather, it covers four types of problem solving. In that regards, it’s an excellent reference book that belongs on every bookshelf. Smalley starts with the hoariest example of root cause problem solving: the machine tool that stops working because of insufficient lubrication.

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Apollo 11: A Symphony of Work, a Ballet of Knowledge

Markovitz Consulting

I’m heading to Houston tomorrow for the LEI Summit —always an exceptionally inspiring and educational event. I’m particularly excited to visit Houston because I just saw the new documentary, Apollo 11. It’s amazing. Composed of video taken by NASA and the Apollo 11 astronauts, along with Walter Chronkite’s actual description of the events, the movie provides a kind of fly-on-the-wall perspective of the now 50-year-old mission. It’s riveting.

Adding Technology Isn't Always the Answer

Markovitz Consulting

It’s been a long time since I blogged about the inanity of multitasking in a cognitively demanding environment, but my friend Mark Graban sent me an article that reminded me of how important this topic is. According to a new study by Penn Medicine and Johns Hopkins , first year physicians spend 87% of their time on indirect patient care, half of which is consumed by the various electronic medical record systems.

The Perils of Internal Disruption (Part 4)

Markovitz Consulting

“Disruption” has become another business buzzword that obviates the need for prudent, careful thought and consideration. If something is “disruptive,” then it must by definition be good. But when it comes to internal operations at least, disruption is often both bad for business and for employees, because it causes unevenness in work.

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How to Lay Off the Cognitive Donuts

Markovitz Consulting

Maggie Jackson, a journalist focusing on the effects of technology on the nature of our humanity, and author of the book Distracted , recently highlighted research showing that the mere presence of a cell phone—even if it’s turned off—lowers “fluid intelligence.” That is, the phone essentially siphons our attention away from what’s in front of us, making it more difficult to solve unfamiliar problems.

The Perils of Internal Disruption (Part 2)

Markovitz Consulting

“Disruption” has become another business buzzword that obviates the need for prudent, careful thought and consideration. If something is “disruptive,” then it must by definition be good. But when it comes to internal operations at least, disruption is often both bad for business and for employees, because it causes unevenness in work.

Don’t Forget the Heart

Markovitz Consulting

Three days at the AME Conference in Boston showed me that there’s no shortage of skilled, knowledgeable, continuous improvement professionals who can teach their colleagues the intricacies of lean.

The Perils of Internal Disruption (Part 5)

Markovitz Consulting

“Disruption” has become another business buzzword that obviates the need for prudent, careful thought and consideration. If something is “disruptive,” then it must by definition be good. But when it comes to internal operations at least, disruption is often both bad for business and for employees, because it causes unevenness in work. Last week , I wrote about how kaizen events can disrupt daily operations and overburden employees.

Lessons from Detroit: Three (More) Reasons Why Your Lean Efforts Fail

Markovitz Consulting

In 2014, The Greening of Detroit (TGD), an environmental non-profit, was pushing hard to reforest the city after years of neglect. To their surprise, the tree planters faced stiff resistance—about 25% of the 7,500 homeowners they approached rejected the opportunity to have a free tree planted in front of their houses.

First, You’ve Got to Show That You Care

Markovitz Consulting

The overhead light in aisle two has been burned out for three months. It’s hard for the workers in that row to see the small parts they handle and repair. Workers sent a request to the facilities department when the light died, but for some reason nothing was done, and no one bothers to complain anymore. Fifteen percent of the stations are missing the adjustable stools workers sit on when they’re doing repairs. Workers at those stations either stand, or use folding chairs, or office chairs.

Technology Ain’t Going to Solve Your Problems

Markovitz Consulting

I was at a conference for internet retailers two weeks ago and was overwhelmed by the software and hardware solutions promising to solve all their operational problems and turn their ecommerce businesses into a highly profitable, eight figure monsters. They’re lying. Technology is not, by itself, the answer. If you have a broken process and you add technology, all you get is a faster (and more expensive) broken process. Let’s say, for example, that you invest in hand-held scanners in a warehouse.

Respect for Humanity Starts with Yourself

Markovitz Consulting

I recently gave a talk to the Bay Area chapter of the Lean Construction Institute. One of the most active discussions centered on how the lean concept of flow translates to individual work. This was a topic in my first book, A Factory of One.) The group concluded that enabling people to have flow in their work is a demonstration of respect for humanity.

Five Ways to Spur Lean in the Office

Markovitz Consulting