Piercing the Clouded Veil of Thinking Caused by the Status Quo

 

“A relentless barrage of “why’s” is the best way to prepare your mind to pierce the clouded veil of thinking caused by the status quo.”– Shigeo Shingo

Shigeo Shingo was a Toyota engineer and the progenitor/guru of “Lean,” or “Sigma Six” business improvement methodology. When my spouse was in the military, Total Quality Management™ was a thing. W. Edward Deming’s TQM had allegedly made Japan an auto tech powerhouse, was doing the same for the Ford Motor Company, and had now come to a USAF base near you! (Though her boss still had a Two-Minute Manager book in her office. So last decade.)

Eventually, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People became the new hotness, and was likely supplanted by several other pop-improvements by now. On the civilian side, where she currently works is so “Lean” that the buildings are in danger of falling over.

Improvement is good stuff, but management fads are huge time and resource sinks and rarely deliver on their promises. Or so I imagine, I’m not seeing it firsthand.

How about anyone else? What’s the best/worst system to invade your workplace?

Do you have stories about implementation failure or success?

Give us the scuttlebutt; this won’t get back to HR.

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  1. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    You’re not kidding about management fads! There was a post on Six Sigma a while ago, several good stories, both positive and negative results.

    I was involved with a work project once. I enjoyed that process – of continually ‘asking why’ and think the reason more organizations don’t utilize the method is they’re worried about what they’d find, how years of bad decisions and people went unchanged.

    The initiative we worked on kind of flamed out but I found the process very worthwhile and interesting.

    • #1
  2. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    TBA: What’s the best/worst system to invade your workplace? 

    Synergy. Couldn’t just produce a good product it had to be linked to and promote other projects.

    • #2
  3. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    TBA: Eventually, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People became the new hotness, and was likely supplanted by several other pop-improvements by now.

    Another book that had good ideas, but also became a fad was the early 1980’s book In Search of Excellence:

    1. A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
    2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
    3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
    4. Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
    5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
    6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
    7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
    8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.

    However,

    As early as 1984 it was apparent, to certain analysts, that the book’s choice of companies was poor to indifferent. NCR, Wang Labs, Xerox and others did not produce excellent results in their balance sheets in the 1980s.

    For many of us working in big companies, we liked these ideas to get things done. The ultimate tech company was Hewlett-Packard, until they decided to get into personal computers and printers.

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    My observation is that most new ideas are wrong.  Almost all new ideas are really, really bad ideas.  Most of them are probably not even new.  They’ve probably been thought of by a great many people, tried, and dismissed as bad ideas.

    It is true that there are occasionally new ideas that turn out to be good.  This is very rare, and I think that we make a big mistake by overemphasizing the importance of new ideas.

    The triumph of bad ideas ranges from kids trying to stack the dishwasher, to Britain deciding to try out “battlecruisers,” to a dolt trying to make his car run on gatorade or jello.

    • #4
  5. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    My observation is that most new ideas are wrong. Almost all new ideas are really, really bad ideas. Most of them are probably not even new. They’ve probably been thought of by a great many people, tried, and dismissed as bad ideas.

    It is true that there are occasionally new ideas that turn out to be good. This is very rare, and I think that we make a big mistake by overemphasizing the importance of new ideas.

    The triumph of bad ideas ranges from kids trying to stack the dishwasher, to Britain deciding to try out “battlecruisers,” to a dolt trying to make his car run on gatorade or jello.

    But Gatorade’s got what cars crave. It’s got electrolytes

    • #5
  6. Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq Contributor
    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq
    @HankRhody

    It seems to me that a lot of the time the new fad just means the people start using different buzzwords to describe the things they’re doing already. And then are surprised when nothing changes.

    • #6
  7. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Certifications of one sort or another. Lots of jobs posted on the internal HR website required a particular certification, meaning that one had to attend some meaningless classes and regurgitate what was said by the instructor. It took me a while to understand that this was the way HR to meet diversity goals for leadership positions. They could weed out the undesirables by saying that they hadn’t taken the necessary classes and gotten the stamp of approval. Then, as a real slap, they’d expect one to mentor those who were certified but who were otherwise clueless.

    • #7
  8. OldDanRhody Member
    OldDanRhody
    @OldDanRhody

    TBA: Give us the scuttlebutt, this won’t get back to HR.

    Don’t you believe it.

    • #8
  9. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq (View Comment):

    It seems to me that a lot of the time the new fad just means the people start using different buzzwords to describe the things they’re doing already. And then are surprised when nothing changes.

    This.

    I must have suffered through upwards of a dozen TQM-like endeavors over the course of 30 years.  

    Most useful advice I ever came across (and it certainly wasn’t in a formal TQM program) was to utilize MBWA–management by wandering around.  My first boss at a large Pittsburgh hospital was really good at it.  One day, just about the entire top management team at the place was let go, including my boss, and replaced with a bunch from Price Waterhouse’s Healthcare Consulting Division which was being RIF’d, or shut down, can’t remember which.  They were friends of the CEO, you see.  And they needed jobs.  Several years later, the hospital collapsed, becoming, at the time, the largest non-profit bankruptcy in the country. You know what they say about karma.  (Thankfully, I was gone by then.)

    MBWA is often thought to have originated at Federal Express, but the term actually came from Hewlett-Packard.  Of course, the practice itself isn’t exclusive to any industry or time.

    • #9
  10. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    She (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq (View Comment):

    It seems to me that a lot of the time the new fad just means the people start using different buzzwords to describe the things they’re doing already. And then are surprised when nothing changes.

    This.

    I must have suffered through upwards of a dozen TQM-like endeavors over the course of 30 years.

    Most useful advice I ever came across (and it certainly wasn’t in a formal TQM program) was to utilize MBWA–management by wandering around. My first boss at a large Pittsburgh hospital was really good at it. One day, just about the entire top management team at the place was let go, including my boss, and replaced with a bunch from Price Waterhouse’s Healthcare Consulting Division which was being RIF’d, or shut down, can’t remember which. They were friends of the CEO, you see. And they needed jobs. Several years later, the hospital collapsed, becoming, at the time, the largest non-profit bankruptcy in the country. You know what they say about karma. (Thankfully, I was gone by then.)

    MBWA is often thought to have originated at Federal Express, but the term actually came from Hewlett-Packard. Of course, the practice itself isn’t exclusive to any industry or time.

    I read a book where an Apple dude claimed to have invented it, but really, they claim to have invented everything. 

    • #10
  11. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    OldDanRhody (View Comment):

    TBA: Give us the scuttlebutt, this won’t get back to HR.

    Don’t you believe it.

    ~makes a ‘bad attitude’ notation in ODR’s file~ 

    • #11
  12. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    I believe that managers fall en masse for the perennial airport bookstore fads when a certain human frailty becomes epidemic.

    That weakness is the unhealthy desire of the adult to go back to being a child.  A child knows he does not need to think for himself and be accountable for the consequences. He lives in the certainty that simply believing what he is told by the trusted authorities, he will be safe and secure.

    Yes, it can be seen as a case of finding security by conforming to the herd’s behavior.  But the prior cause is fear of accountability, followed by the abandonment of the willingness to think independently, and the replacement of adult thinking by the childlike mindless acceptance of the thoughts of authority figures.

     

    • #12
  13. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    ” a relentless barrage of Why’s” is not a new idea. It was my graduate training  nearly 50 ( minus just a few)  years ago. 

    • #13
  14. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    EJHill (View Comment):

    TBA: What’s the best/worst system to invade your workplace?

    Synergy. Couldn’t just produce a good product it had to be linked to and promote other projects.

    Why does this make me think of Frankenstein’s monster? 

    • #14
  15. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Django (View Comment):

    Certifications of one sort or another. Lots of jobs posted on the internal HR website required a particular certification, meaning that one had to attend some meaningless classes and regurgitate what was said by the instructor. It took me a while to understand that this was the way HR to meet diversity goals for leadership positions. They could weed out the undesirables by saying that they hadn’t taken the necessary classes and gotten the stamp of approval. Then, as a real slap, they’d expect one to mentor those who were certified but who were otherwise clueless.

    I’ll second this one.

    • #15
  16. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    At one former place of employment, there was a staff meeting where everyone was ushered into a conference room to see the short film version of “Who Moved My Cheese.” I was stunned that such a ridiculous thing became the basis for an entire industry of management-guru ephemera. I didn’t know what to say except that I wished I was the latter-day P.T. Barnum who’d thought of it. Well played, Spencer Johnson, and rest in peace.

     

     

    • #16
  17. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    My observation is that most new ideas are wrong. Almost all new ideas are really, really bad ideas. Most of them are probably not even new. They’ve probably been thought of by a great many people, tried, and dismissed as bad ideas.

    It is true that there are occasionally new ideas that turn out to be good. This is very rare, and I think that we make a big mistake by overemphasizing the importance of new ideas.

    You’re only saying this because you’re a conservative. And because it’s true. 

    And pity the poor, defenseless old idea that has been working for so long that people have forgotten its essential qualities. 

    We replace a keystone with a pet rock – what’s the worst that could happen? 

    • #17
  18. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    Certifications of one sort or another. Lots of jobs posted on the internal HR website required a particular certification, meaning that one had to attend some meaningless classes and regurgitate what was said by the instructor. It took me a while to understand that this was the way HR to meet diversity goals for leadership positions. They could weed out the undesirables by saying that they hadn’t taken the necessary classes and gotten the stamp of approval. Then, as a real slap, they’d expect one to mentor those who were certified but who were otherwise clueless.

    I’ll second this one.

    It always confused me that an easily acquired certification meant more than a record of achievement … until I recognized the HR diversity scam. 

    • #18
  19. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    TBA (View Comment):
    We replace a keystone with a pet rock – what’s the worst that could happen? 

    I’m not an unreasonable man.  I can take an occasional quotable saying that is subtle enough to require one or two extra moments to get.

    By the same token, I will not tolerate you, or anyone else, cranking up the sophistication of their maxims, just because I overlooked it in this one case.

    • #19
  20. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Most business books could be two pages long.  They seem to be inflated with verbiage to justify a hardcover price.  All of them have a good idea or insight or two but trying to built a one-size-fits-all cult from that never works.

    The education industry is vastly worse in this regard.  Spectacularly bad ideas become programmatic and mandatory.

    I worked for a year for local government social service agency in effort to generate and implement standards and measures. It was an almost impossible task.  At least the private sector has a bottom line.    

     

    • #20
  21. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Most business books could be two pages long. They seem to be inflated with verbiage to justify a hardcover price. All of them have a good idea or insight or two but trying to built a one-size-fits-all cult from that never works.

    But . . . correct me if I’m wrong, it’s my sense that they’re rarely in hardcover, because they don’t have the sort of shelf-life a publisher would require. Quick and cheap and rapidly replaced by a new management book within six months.

    • #21
  22. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    But . . . correct me if I’m wrong, it’s my sense that they’re rarely in hardcover, because they don’t have the sort of shelf-life a publisher would require. Quick and cheap and rapidly replaced by a new management book within six months.

    • #22
  23. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Most business books could be two pages long. They seem to be inflated with verbiage to justify a hardcover price. All of them have a good idea or insight or two but trying to built a one-size-fits-all cult from that never works.

    But . . . correct me if I’m wrong, it’s my sense that they’re rarely in hardcover, because they don’t have the sort of shelf-life a publisher would require. Quick and cheap and rapidly replaced by a new management book within six months.

    In the future, publishers will cut costs by mailing out new covers for old management books as a subscription service.

    • #23
  24. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    TBA (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Most business books could be two pages long. They seem to be inflated with verbiage to justify a hardcover price. All of them have a good idea or insight or two but trying to built a one-size-fits-all cult from that never works.

    But . . . correct me if I’m wrong, it’s my sense that they’re rarely in hardcover, because they don’t have the sort of shelf-life a publisher would require. Quick and cheap and rapidly replaced by a new management book within six months.

    In the future, publishers will cut costs by mailing out new covers for old management books as a subscription service.

    Fantastic idea!

    • #24
  25. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    I don’t have any cheese to move. Not sure where the box is so I don’t know if I am thinking in or outside of it. Isn’t a scrum really just a meeting? If Six Sigma is good, would Seven Sigma be one better? If we use post it notes to prioritize tasks, is that really better than a spreadsheet? How Lean can you get without becoming anorexic? Is asking these types of questions part of why I am unemployed?

     

    • #25
  26. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Most business books could be two pages long. They seem to be inflated with verbiage to justify a hardcover price. All of them have a good idea or insight or two but trying to built a one-size-fits-all cult from that never works.

    But . . . correct me if I’m wrong, it’s my sense that they’re rarely in hardcover, because they don’t have the sort of shelf-life a publisher would require. Quick and cheap and rapidly replaced by a new management book within six months.

    Probably so.  I meant that it’s tough to get suckers buyers to shell out several dollars for a couple of paragraphs of wisdom that may sound a lot like something they already knew.  But if that wisdom is dissolved in a small pond of verbiage.  With a cover….and accolades.

    • #26
  27. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    I don’t have any cheese to move. Not sure where the box is so I don’t know if I am thinking in or outside of it. Isn’t a scrum really just a meeting? If Six Sigma is good, would Seven Sigma be one better? If we use post it notes to prioritize tasks, is that really better than a spreadsheet? How Lean can you get without becoming anorexic? Is asking these types of questions part of why I am unemployed?

     

    After four or five Chortles, lo! a Guffaw.  Thank you, VR.

    I just hope my new boss John (am I talking too much about my new job?  Please be honest.)  anyway, that John, my boss on my new job, doesn’t go for any of this mgt. fad stuff, on my new job, which I have a job now.

    • #27
  28. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    At Ethicon Endo-Surgery, HR decided that they’d start encouraging individual teams to promote themselves by creating motivational posters describing what the team did, and how they could help you.

    We in the programming department weren’t asked to participate, so of course we decided to take matters into our own hands. For our poster, we decided to use a bastardized spelling of “syzygy” and make an acronym out of it.

    So, for each letter in our made-up word of “zyzygy” we came up with a different slogan basically describing how annoying it was to be constantly given contradictory requirements, impossible testing regimes, and stupid programming languages.

    I really should have taken a picture of that poster, because it was awesome.

    The whole twenty minutes we had it up before it got taken down.

    Not so coincidentally, my current company doesn’t even have an HR department.

    • #28
  29. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    I was at my last “skip level” meeting on ethics and I asked why no one was ever asked the only question that mattered. We were being lectured on how to deal with pressure to cut corners when I asked where the pressure comes from. Then, I pointed out that on the org chart, there was not an infinite number of levels above me. That implied that at some level the pressure comes from one’s peers or from stockholders or … just from the Big Dog himself. 

    I guess that’s why it was my last skip level meeting. At least I wasn’t fired. 

    • #29
  30. TGR9898 Inactive
    TGR9898
    @TedRudolph

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    I believe that managers fall en masse for the perennial airport bookstore fads when a certain human frailty becomes epidemic.

    That weakness is the unhealthy desire of the adult to go back to being a child. A child knows he does not need to think for himself and be accountable for the consequences. He lives in the certainty that simply believing what he is told by the trusted authorities, he will be safe and secure.

    Yes, it can be seen as a case of finding security by conforming to the herd’s behavior. But the prior cause is fear of accountability, followed by the abandonment of the willingness to think independently, and the replacement of adult thinking by the childlike mindless acceptance of the thoughts of authority figures.

     

    I’ve always looked at it as an offshoot of the Peter Principle.  The individual moves upward until they reach their talent limit.

    Then they buy a bunch of books so they can blame someone else for their shortcomings.

    • #30

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