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Kanban

Kanban
Kanban
Kanban

Toyota is a powerhouse for developing ideas that you’ll find around the world. Take for example, Lean, Kaizen, Seven Wastes, Just in Time, Jidoka, Six Sigma and, indirectly, Scrum. And one more: I give you Kanban.

Pronounce Kanban as kaahnbaahn with long aah sounds. It started out as part of Toyota’s ‘Just in Time’ lean production system. The word refers to cards that visibly represented the flow of parts through the manufacturing process.

Now, we use Kanban tracking project work. It has risen in popularity over recent years with the rise of Agile project management. It is one of the more popular Agile methodologies. And it’s also often combined with the most popular approach: Scrum.

Continue reading Kanban

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Being Organised

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


No matter how good you are at your job, you will never be as good as you can be until you organise your work effectively.  This means making time for things like filing and time management.  Here are ten top tips:

  1. Keep a To Do list, but never let it be your primary time management tool.  At the end of each day, look at the things on your to do list and decide which ones will be on tomorrow’s To Day list.  Put any things that are substantial in terms of complexity, duration or importance into your diary.
  2. Follow President Eisenhower’s advice and always distinguish what is important from what is merely urgent.
  3. Keep a day-book – a notebook that lives on your desk and in which you record any conversations in person or over the phone.  As soon as the phone rings, or as soon as you decide to make a call, open your day book, write the date and note the person that you are speaking with and their affiliation.  You are now ready to record any comments or agreements.
  4. Use a multi-part folder to plan your work a week ahead.
    Weekly Work Planning folder
  5. Periodically make time to clear the clutter and do your filing.  Better still, embrace the principles of the 5S Methodology:
    – sorting – only what you need
    – set in order – a place for everything
    – shine-up – tidy and clean
    – standardise – uniformity
    – sustain – make tidying up a routine
  6. File papers in themed folders.  If your filing system isn’t working for you; start a new one.  But don’t waste time transferring all your old papers into the new system.  Instead, just transfer any papers you access in your day-to-day work.  Very soon, your old system will become an archive of the materials you don’t need.
  7. If you need to make a lot of calls, keep a call sheet, on which you record the person and purpose (and number if it isn’t in your organiser.  Fill gaps in your day with a call – or take the sheet with you when you travel.
  8. You probably keep a to do list.  Do you keep a list of things you have done?  Specifically, things you did that should result in something happening: a book you ordered should turn up, a message you left should be returned, a request you made should be fulfilled.  Keep a ‘waiting for…’ list so that you never drop the ball by forgetting something.
  9. Do one thing at a time.  Multi-tasking is not as effective nor as efficient as focus.
  10. Redundancy: if it’s important, have a back-up plan.  Have spares, have alternatives.  Stash a bit of spare cash in every bag you have – and spare pens.  Leave early and plan to have a coffee before a meeting.  Take reading or work wherever you go.

Further Reading

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Manage Stress at Work

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended correspondence course in management. You can dip into it as you go, or you can follow the course, right from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


As a manager, you have two stress management responsibilities:

  1. To manage your own stress levels
  2. To manage the environment to avoid subjecting your team members to inappropriate levels of stress

Let’s scamper through the basics.

Exercise 1: How to spot the signs of stress in your team?

In your notebook, make a list of all of the outward signs that suggest that a team member may be experiencing stress.  These are the things you could observe in their demeanour, appearance and behaviour.

Part of your responsibility is to monitor your team’s collective performance.  What if stress were an endemic problem?  What would be the indicators and behaviours that would signal this problem? Write these in your notebook.

For some examples, click here.

Reducing Stress

To understand stress, you need to focus on one thing: control.  We feel stressed when we do not feel we have enough control in our lives.  Therefore, to reduce stress, we must increase control.

Supporting your team

Look for places where stressed team members feel robbed of control.  Where you can, restore some of their control.  Where that is not possible, help them to find other areas where they can take control.

Points of Control

The five key points of control for all of us are:

  1. Our environment
    How can you or your team members make changes to the environment to feel a greater sense of control.  Often, very little things are enough.  Personalisation is an important driver.
  2. Our use of time
    Where can you use your time more effectively (you may want to look at the time management tips in an earlier blog)?  How can you give team members more control over the way they use their time to get their work done.  Autonomy is another important driver.
  3. Our physical response to stressors
    Simple choices like what to eat, getting enough exercise and prioritising rest and relaxation will make a big difference to stress levels.  Poor physical health will reduce our resilience to a stress response.
  4. Our mental response to stressors
    ’there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’
    Hamlet was spot on when he understood that it is the meaning we attach to events that determines our response to them: elation, contentment, boredom, or stress for example.  When feeling stressed, take control of your mental response and start focusing on what opportunities there are, what resources you have, and what there is to be grateful for.
  5. Our values – what is important to us
    A mismatch between what we are told is important at work and what we fundamentally believe is important to ourselves is a major cause of stress.  Examine your values – they may be out of date and you may want to shift, for example from: ‘it is important I work hard’ to ‘it is important I do great work’.  If your values are still out of sync with what your employer requires, you are in the wrong job.

Further Reading

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John Adair’s Four-D System

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended correspondence course in management. You can dip into it as you go, or you can follow the course, right from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Time management is a vital part of your personal effectiveness.  As a manager, you will face greater time challenges than you did as a team member; but you will also have additional resources and greater flexibility in how you use your time.

One of the simplest and most powerful time management approaches is John Adair’s Four-D System.  This is documented in his (now out of print) Handbook of Management and Leadership.

Adair starts with a standard Eisenhower Matrix putting urgency against importance.

Urgent&Important

Adair then identifies starting time management strategy for each class of activities:

  1. Do it now
  2. Delay it until you have some good quality time
  3. Do it quickly
  4. Drop it or Delegate it

Critique

As always, John has identified a powerful model with real practical application.  Yet I can’t help feeling we must modify it a little.  Here are three ways you can make it even more effective still:

Priorities

Although the urgency suggests that box 1 is top priority, this creates a high stress, low sustainability work style.  Prioritise box 2 and you will find yourself planning and preparing ahead of urgency and so find less work falls into box 1.

Drop or delegate… Really?

If it is not worth your time to do it, why is it worth someone else’s time?  Yes it may be important enough for someone else to do it, but don’t just Dump it on someone to avoid an assertive NO.  Indeed, get in the habit of delegating Box 1, 2, and 3 tasks too, to develop the people who work for you.

More Ds…

We’ve already added Dump, but I don’t propose to honour it with emphasis.  But Diminish is a powerful strategy.  Look at the task and ask: ‘do I need to do all of it?’  If you can reduce the work required and still deliver all or most of the value, you will save valuable time.  And there is another D: Decide.  You need to decide which strategy to adopt.  Unless, that is, you Defer your decision.  If you do that as an example of purposive procrastination* it is a sound approach.

Exercise

Make an Eisenhower grid on a whiteboard or on the four panels of a door, or in your notebook.  Use post-it type notes to jot down all the tasks facing you (big for the whiteboard/door or small for your notebook).  Allocate the notes to one of the four quadrants.  If everything is at the top left, re-calibrate your mental scales for importance and urgency.

Further Reading


*Purposive Procrastination: putting something off because there will be a better time to tackle it.  (see The Yes/No Book, p.133)

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Type A and Type B

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended correspondence course in management. You can dip into it as you go, or you can follow the course, right from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Are you a ‘rush-rush-got-to-get-things-done’ sort of a manager, or are you a ‘take my time; want to get things right’ type?  Or are you nicely balanced.  Doctors Mike Friedman and Ray Rosenman identified these two styles as, respectively, Type A and Type B personalities.  When I tell you they were cardiac specialists, you might start to worry.  There is no need.  Take the test and then I’ll explain.

Exercise

For each of these nine statements, score yourself 0 to 10 according to how close you lie to the first statement (a low score) or to the second statement (a high score).

Type A-B Thermometer

.

Casual and relaxed 0 … 10 Often feel on edge

Slow and deliberate 0 … 10 Always rushing

Dislike deadlines 0 … 10 Love working to deadlines

Patient 0 … 10 Impatient

Express your feelings 0 … 10 Suppress your feelings

One thing at a time 0 … 10 Lots of things at once

Ready in advance 0 … 10 Just in time

Plan and prepare 0 … 10 Just do it

Enjoy relaxing 0 … 10 Feel guilty when relaxing

.

Interpretation

Friedman and Rosenman predicted that strong Type A personalities would be prone to heart disease and die young.  They were wrong.  Many of their patients did have a cluster of personality traits that they characterised as Type A, but only a few of them were truly predictive of illness – and not the ones relating to rushing about.

However, both Type A and Type B personalities each have their own challenges in operating in an organisation.  Let’s look at some.

Dealing with other People

Inevitably, we deal best with people who are like us.  We find them easy to understand and their habits agreeable.  Type As readily get impatient with Type Bs.  They want the B to hurry up and despair that the B has no sense of urgency about things.  Type Bs find Type As’ hurry annoying; they would rather the A would slow down and do things properly and are concerned about quality standards.

Dealing with Admin

Type Bs will take on the organising and admin tasks as another thing to do carefully and well.  Type As – unless they really value it – will rush through it, wanting to move quickly onto ‘proper work’.  They will then get angry when they can’t find what they need or get what they want.

Dealing with Interruptions

Type Bs may not welcome an interruption – especially when they are engrossed in something – but when they accept it has happened, they will turn their whole attention to you.  This is great for the interrupter and can lead to positive outcomes.  But when the interrupter has a non-critical issue, Type Bs can lose valuable time on the work they were doing.  Not so Type A’s.  The interruption may be unwelcome or a welcome distraction when they are starting to feel bored, but the Type A will soon be tapping their foot, keen to get on.

Managing Time

Type A personalities get masses done; often just in time and at breakneck pace.  Quality can suffer, especially when they try to multi-task, but it is Type As who are at the heart of the (perfectly true) cliché: ‘if you want it done; ask a busy person.’  Type Bs focus on one thing at a time and do it well.  They plan well and execute effectively, as long as they don’t get held up by an interruption or by finding a problem and working deliberately to solve it.

Exercise: Balance is Everything

The most successful people inevitably balance both personality types.  Look at your weak points and note them in your notebook.  What strategies will you use to neutralise them?

Further Reading

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Theory X is dead: Long live Theory X

We don’t yet have a whole alphabet of management theories, but we are on our way.  It all started with Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y.  Then, towards the end of his life, McGregor added a Theory Z, which was revived some years later by William Ouchi, describing the adoption of Japanese ideas of management in the United States.

Here are simple caricatures of the three theories.

Theory X assumes …

‘I hate my work, I only do it for the money, i don’t want to think for myself, indeed, I’d rather just do as little as I can.’

So my boss will favour carrot and stick incentives, presuming I need to be compelled to do the job I’m paid for.

.

Theory Y assumes …

‘I like to work, it’s part of my life, i want to do well, and I will work hard if given the responsibility and recognition I deserve.’

So my boss will give me the responsibility I earn and reward me with the recognition I deserve.

.

.

Theory Z assumes …

‘I want a long term career, I want to believe in what I do, I need to be led with a clear sense of purpose.’

So my boss will work hard to convince me of the benefits of my endeavours and enrol me as a committed employee.

Ever since McGregor

Having got to the end of the alphabet, new theories have turned backwards.  There is a Theory W – in fact several versions.  There are also a Theory U and  Theory T (there is a rather nice paper on these ideas around Utopian and Tragic overlays to McGregor’s original work here.)

The point is that, ever since McGregor, once strong assumption has prevailed.  In our modern world, Theory X is dead.  Nobody wants to be managed by being told what to do.

This blog is not about Politics

I had the whole story clear in my mind, and then, as I started writing, I came to realise that some might recognise Theory X in present UK Government attitudes to welfare.  Let’s put that debate to one side.

This blog is about Management

Is there a role for Theory X in the modern workplace?  Of the hundreds of people I have discussed this with in seminars and training sessions, I have encountered nobody who professes to prefer Theory X management.  But my sample is biased.  I train leaders and managers, and mostly in white collar industries and services.

So how do people – perhaps literally ‘at the coal-face’ prefer to be managed?  The truthful answer is ’I don’t know.’ But what I do know is that all leadership theory is predicated on the simple assertion that leaders need followers.

The concept of ‘Situational Leadership’ presupposes that different people like to be led in different ways – at different times.  So how plausible is it that nobody prefers to be told what to do sometimes, and that we can never need a little bit of a push or pull to get us to really perform.

Theory X and Time Management

Time management is a favourite topic of mine.  I am fascinated by the different ways we can get things done.  When you have an important but un-pleasant and complex task, how do you ‘make yourself’ do it?  For many of us, the answer draws upon classic time management guidance:

  • set a deadline
  • promise yourself rewards
  • break the task into simple chunks
  • discipline yourself to do one at  time

Theory X, anyone?

So here’s the deal

Theory X is as useful a model of motivation as all of the others.  The secret is to apply it respectfully, and only when it suits the situation.

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Motivation PocketbookThe Motivation Pocketbook

The Time Management Pocketbook

The Influencing Pocketbook

The Working Relationships Pocketbook

The Workplace Politics Pocketbook

The Leadership Pocketbook

The People Manager’s Pocketbook

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Are you a Donkey or a Dog?

One of the biggest problems in time management is giving your time to somebody else.  And yet, we all do it.  The consequence is that other people become adept at stealing your time.

Complicity

However, unlike your possessions, I can only steal your time with an accomplice: you!  If you want more of your own time for yourself, one answer is to understand why you sometimes find yourself complicit in giving it away.

Donkey

Donkey

Photo credit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpockele/
/ CC BY 2.0

Some of us behave like donkeys.  We don’t enjoy carrying other people’s loads for them; but we do it.  We do it because it is a habit we have got ourselves into and we have come to see it as our lot in life to be a bearer of burden.  No wonder these people look a little sad for much of the time.

You are not a beast of burden.  It is your privilege in life to make choices for yourself and to reject a burden you do not wish to carry.

Dogcrop

Dog

Photo credit: Atanas Grozdanov, www.ImagesFromBulgaria.com

Some people behave like dogs.  They will do whatever somebody asks of them because they are eager to please.  They act as if the only way to succeed is to win the approval of others.  Often they feel that they are doing everybody else’s bidding because they want to, but the truth is that they are putting their own needs and desires beneath those of the people around them.

Habitual dogs may be liked, but they are rarely respected.  They don’t achieve fulfilment, just a vague sense of having been good to other people.

Your life

You have one life; get the most from the time you have.  Sometimes choose to help out because you feel a sense of duty and not to do so will leave you feeling bad.  Sometimes lend a hand because you want to please other people.  Sometimes say ’no’ and do your own thing, because you can.  It’s your life; your choice.

Manage your time

The Time Management Pocketbook reminds us that:

To manage your time better
you’ve got to start managing yourself

TimeManagement

It is filled with great tips on managing what you do, where you work, communications, working with others and general personal effectiveness.

So here’s the deal

Don’t be a donkey or a dog all of the time.  Make your own choices and be prepared to say ‘no’ sometimes.

Other Management Pocketbooks you may enjoy

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