We’ve been talking about System Archetypes. These are the types of systems that recur in a number of environments and are easily recognizable. The system archetype we’re going to talk about today is called Eroding Goals. Eroding goals are caused by a delay in the results of the actions we take to improve something. If you recall, systems operate on feedback — positive and negative feedback — and delays in the cause and effect cycles between elements of the system.

So in eroding goals you start with some condition and an ambition to improve it. There is some gap between your condition and the goal. This gap causes a dynamic tension. Senge represents it well in his book, The Fifth Discipline, by showing a hand stretching a rubber band. The tension of that rubber band pulls up on the condition, but with the same force it puts pressure to pull down the goal. You have two possible results. You can either take action that will move the condition towards the goal or you can soften the goal and pull it down closer to your condition.

What happens in eroding goals is you start by taking positive action, doing the right thing, but there is a time delay between the activity you take and seeing the positive results of the action you take. This time delay, this lack of positive reinforcement of your action, causes a loss of commitment to the work you’re doing. To relieve the pressure you lower your goals to reduce the dynamic tension that’s in play.

An example of this might be if your company releases three new products each year and there’s a goal to increase this number to six. This goal drives increased investment as the company moves towards increasing the capacity and capability to release six new products. But there is a delay in the positive results from the actions taken to increase capacity. This lack of results causes those making the investment to lose confidence and commitment to the initiative. So, to avoid making increased investments — in their minds eye perhaps throwing good money after bad — they lower their goals from six to four; an incremental increase instead of a dramatic increase.

The antidote to eroding goals is simply setting good goals. The setting of good goals comes from a process called learning first. Study your situation; study the distance between your condition and your goal. Then make goals that are achievable. This ties directly to learning first, learning cycles, and the EAC promoted LAMDA learning tool. If you’re not familiar with the LAMDA learning tool, I suggest you look into it. One way of doing so is to contact EAC.

Contact us to learn more about how Systems Thinking and the application of our Product Development Operating System can help your organization become more efficient, productive, innovative, and competitive. Follow Bill at http://www.twitter.com/systhinking

We were having fun the other day. We were talking about the LAMDA process. For those of you that maybe haven’t heard of it, the LAMDA process (Look, Ask, Model, Discuss, Act) is an action based instructive form of PDCA devised by Allen Ward, a University of Michigan researcher. Ward developed LAMDA while looking for an action-based way of describing the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process.

The closed loop feedback step in PDCA informs improvement ambitions and initiatives. It turns our product development into a closed loop system. Having fun we asked “what is the alternative in the current default Taylor based management system?”

First we looked at what happens when Taylorism is applied in product development. The first thing you get is a learning disability and a belief that “The problem is out there. Others impose their problems upon me.” This also leads to a blaming culture. The idea that “That organization is causing problems for me and my organization.” It also leads to positioning and assumptive leaps as well as a sense of helplessness in the face of problems.

When Taylorism is applied in product development it leads to a culture that embraces the idea that “The problem is out there.” A blaming culture that embodies the famous cross armed move that leads to assumptive leaps and helplessness.

So in counter point to LAMDA we came up with the LLAMA model. It stands for Look, Look, Assume, Maybe Act. And that’s the counterpoint between Deming and Taylor. Deming gives us an opportunity and methodology for solving our problems and continuously improving. The Taylor system puts us in a position where we blame others and find our selves helpless when facing the problems of our workplace.

Contact us to learn more about how Systems Thinking and the application of our Product Development Operating System can help your organization become more efficient, productive, innovative, and competitive.

Follow Bill at http://www.twitter.com/systhinking

As summer finally inches closer, I can’t help but daydream about the rolling greens on a sunny golf course. I typically see golf as a chance to take a break from everyday thinking and recharge my batteries. However, on my last trip to the sand trap I realized that the process of golf is really quite complex.

Consider the process of a golf swing. First, you look at where the ball lies and Look where it needs to go. Then you Ask yourself what club might be best for the shot. Since most people don’t golf alone, you often discuss challenging parts of the course with other players or ask for tips for the best swing. After you determine your club, you will then visualize or Model what type of swing to use. Then, you Discuss (internally or with others) what you’ve learned and take a few practice swings. Finally you take Action and swing.

Although this process is usually subconscious and happens in just moments, it still is quite complicated. And guess what folks? This is problem solving at its greatest. This is LAMDA.

L: Look
A: Ask
M: Model
D: Discuss
A: Act

Although I use golf as a way to stop thinking about process, it turns out that it is truly inherent in nearly every part of my life. With the exception an occasional water hazard on the 9th hole, I consider myself a decent player and the LAMDA process promotes my continuous improvement. I’ll bet that you can also identify with this process. So, other than golf, what are processes in your life that model the LAMDA problem solving process?

If you’ve seen the television ad for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups where the peanut butter and chocolate trucks collide to produce a novel tasty treat, then you’ll understand the basis for this blog entry.
In our case the peanut butter truck is a dialogue that has become a standard part of our engagements with consulting clients.  After seminars or during product development system discussions, we are often asked who are the major product development thought leaders who we most admire and who serve as strong influences on our own thinking. The chocolate truck counterpart is the parlor game in which people name the three people that they would like to invite to a dinner party. A group of my friends recently enjoyed this game, and yes, there was drinking involved, and yes, it is in my own career’s best interest not to go down the path of their interests!

But when I apply the question to my professional interest, and allow myself to expand the dinner group to four, I was able to come up with my own personal Fab Four of Product Development.  In no particular order here they are. They are all respected authors so you should be able to find lots of follow up material if your interest is piqued.

First invitation gets sent to Durward Sobek. Durward is a professor at Montana State University and a humble, focused thought leader in the world of Lean Product Development. Durward was the lead on-the-ground-in-Japan researcher for the first foreign team allowed behind the curtain that cloaked understanding of Toyota’s closely guarded product development system. Durward is co-author of the Shingo Prizing winning book, Understanding A3 Thinking, which gives a full and clear understanding of how Deming’s teaching have been applied and practiced with great success in Japan. On first meeting Durward and then reading his book, there was immediate recognition of how the tool in the book’s title was a potential game changer for Western product developers.

Second invitation goes to John Shook. Like Durward, Shook is a Shingo Prize winning author, who also focuses on the A3. Durward, I know personally, as well as through his various writings; John Shook I know just through his writings. Shook’s book, Managing to Learn, doubles down on the belief that product development is about the generation and application of new knowledge, innovation, but he also importantly charts out how the A3 process is used as a cornerstone of the ongoing professional development of engineers at Toyota. Shook’s writing is deeply insightful and resonates with authenticity, being based on his own experience as an early Western manager within the ranks of Toyota both in Japan and subsequently within the US. Toyota does a lot of things well; Shook helps us understand their important investment in people.

The third invitation goes to Don Reinertsen. I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting Don Reinertsen once, but it was after having followed his writings since the late 1990’s. When I met Don, I was in the middle of reading his latest book, The Principles of Product Development Flow. He told me it is a difficult read. It is. It is also worth the effort. Reinertsen uses communication theory and practice as a framework for considering product development, in that both systems are characterized by high variability and both have as a necessary goal, the flow of information. Reinertsen’s perspective on product development, his multi-decade promotion of Queuing Theory which challenges self-defeating behaviors in product development, and his emphasis on the economic consequences of our current “best” practices are all valuable contributions to efforts of improving how we operate.

The final invitation goes to Mike Kennedy; last, but in fact perhaps most significant and influential. I attended a seminar Mike gave in the early 2000s, and it was an epiphany. It began my conversion from corporate executive to a product development consultant focused on Lean Product Development. Mike has been the major voice articulating both his own and the late Allen Ward’s understanding of ‘a better way of doing product development’. EAC has an ongoing partnership with Mike. He is a champion of the LAMDA process (the PDCA process as practiced at Toyota, interpreted and recast by Allen Ward to suit Westerners), and the developer of Learning First Product Development. He is also the first author to elaborate the theoretical framework for Lean Product Development and then follow it up with a guide to its pragmatic implementation in Western environments. This latter contribution is captured in his book, Ready, Set, Dominate. Mike now travels the world as an evangelist, or perhaps better, as the Johnny Appleseed of Lean Product Development.

So that’s my dinner party.  For me it would be a slice of heaven.  I should probably start a bucket list and get this on line 1.