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.

There are 50 comments.

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  1. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    One may recognize TQM in Robert McNamara’s absurd mismanagement of our military in Vietnam. What a debacle. 

    • #31
  2. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    If you wanna look at what to avoid, just examine the principles that our state legislators follow.

    These principles include:

    As an elected official, understand that you are heads above any of your constituents. So if you and your colleagues are involved in setting up new and iron clad legal parameters for day cares, dairy cow farming or nursing staff ratios, never talk to anyone who runs a day care, who happens to be a dairy farmer or who works in a hospital setting.

    When some mandate you and your colleague have enacted as state law does not work out, do not consider going back to the old way of doing things. That would be so primitive. (Snort, snort.) Instead, continue to refuse to talk to any of those involved in the industry that you and your colleagues almost totally destroyed. And get busy thinking up some new policies that are every bit as hare brained as the last set of industry-destroying policies  you enacted.

    Last but not least, remember your constituents are not paying you the big bucks. That would be the  lobbyists and the big corporate donors. No matter how soul  crushing their demands might be, if you want the big campaign contributions, it is best to follow their demands.

    • #32
  3. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    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.

    Dear dnewlander:

    On behalf of the Ricochet Hall of Fame Committee, I’ve been authorized to ask you, which do you want first? The good news, or the bad news?

    Allrighty then.  The bad news is that per policy, without seeing the original poster or a facsimile thereof, we cannot approve you for the Hall.

    The good news is that just based on what you told us, and indeed just on “zyzygy”, we have decided that your former department has been inducted.  See you in Blue Ash, OH for the ceremony!

    • #33
  4. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Open-landscape office seating.

    There was a time when we had actual offices with doors we could close if we needed to focus. Then they took our doors away and moved us to cubicles, but at least we still had walls and a bit of privacy. Now the fad is the open seating plan, which is basically a throwback to the kind of office you see in old movies from the ’50s: a big, open floor with rows of desks. Yes, they’ll add “collaboration spaces” and “phone rooms” and various other places you can go hide, but the basic idea is the same.

    Why? The claim is that this is to foster collaboration and face-to-face interaction. That might make sense for a design team, with a bunch of people gathered around a whiteboard bouncing ideas off each other. But it doesn’t make sense for someone whose work mostly consists of writing code, and it definitely doesn’t make sense for someone whose team is remote. No, I think the real reasons are that it’s trendy (hey, Google and Amazon are doing it! we have to be cool too), and it’s cheaper than dedicated offices.

    What amazes me is that nobody bothered to do any research first to find out whether this approach to office seating would even have the effect they claimed they wanted (fostering face-to-face collaboration). When that research finally was done, big surprise: it has the opposite effect. With no personal space and no privacy, people compensate by keeping to themselves. It makes intuitive sense if you think about it; it’s like sitting on a crowded train. Everybody stares straight ahead and avoids interacting with anyone else.

    I’m waiting for the pendulum to start swinging back the other way. Seems like it has to. What can they do now, take away the ceiling and the floor?

    • #34
  5. inkathoots Inactive
    inkathoots
    @KathleenPetersen

    A younger extended family member of mine makes a living selling online synopses and extrapolations of popular management systems/books. Most of his clients seem to be individual entrepreneurs who apparently rely upon and benefit from his frequent booster messages in the form of website posts, emails and videos that go along with his courses.  I am retired and do not need his advice on how to recover “margin”, etc. but am fascinated by his marketing campaign emails.

    It seems his real service is reading, digesting and summarizing the most recent management books (and latest releases of a limited number of business/creative tools) so those who subscribe can be confident they are taking advantage of all the management advice necessary for business success. Entertaining indeed! 

    • #35
  6. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    inkathoots (View Comment):

    A younger extended family member of mine makes a living selling online synopses and extrapolations of popular management systems/books. Most of his clients seem to be individual entrepreneurs who apparently rely upon and benefit from his frequent booster messages in the form of website posts, emails and videos that go along with his courses. I am retired and do not need his advice on how to recover “margin”, etc. but am fascinated by his marketing campaign emails.

    It seems his real service is reading, digesting and summarizing the most recent management books (and latest releases of a limited number of business/creative tools) so those who subscribe can be confident they are taking advantage of all the management advice necessary for business success. Entertaining indeed!

    [Emphasis added]

    In the bolded text, you’ve made the implicit assumption that the continual waves of fads are beneficial.

    Perhaps the assertion is correct, and all of the above skeptics are wrong.

    But in that case, you should openly say that you believe that, and perhaps give your argument as to why we are wrong.

    • #36
  7. inkathoots Inactive
    inkathoots
    @KathleenPetersen

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    inkathoots (View Comment):

    A younger extended family member of mine makes a living selling online synopses and extrapolations of popular management systems/books. Most of his clients seem to be individual entrepreneurs who apparently rely upon and benefit from his frequent booster messages in the form of website posts, emails and videos that go along with his courses. I am retired and do not need his advice on how to recover “margin”, etc. but am fascinated by his marketing campaign emails.

    It seems his real service is reading, digesting and summarizing the most recent management books (and latest releases of a limited number of business/creative tools) so those who subscribe can be confident they are taking advantage of all the management advice necessary for business success. Entertaining indeed!

    [Emphasis added]

    In the bolded text, you’ve made the implicit assumption that the continual waves of fads are beneficial.

    Perhaps the assertion is correct, and all of the above skeptics are wrong.

    But in that case, you should openly say that you believe that, and perhaps give your argument as to why we are wrong.

    I don’t know why my younger relative’s reviewers are positive about his product. I assume they receive some perceived benefit. The part of my comment you have bolded is my assumption about what they perceive…therefore, entertaining to me. I agree that there are endless management systems as well as endless self-help systems. Each one may have a nugget of wisdom or two – or not.

    • #37
  8. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

     My immediate manager was in some sort of leadership program and I was asked to evaluate him. Odd perhaps, but I guess they wanted to get relevant feedback. The person who interviewed me was a twit with an MBA who looked like he was in his late 20s. He had sent me a paper to read so I “could understand the context of the questions he would ask.” He was not amused when I sent him a Powerpoint presentation from Colin Powell called A Leadership Primer so “he could understand the context of my answers”.

    Most relevant comment I had was related to “Lesson 2”. 

    • #38
  9. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    inkathoots (View Comment):

    A younger extended family member of mine makes a living selling online synopses and extrapolations of popular management systems/books. Most of his clients seem to be individual entrepreneurs who apparently rely upon and benefit from his frequent booster messages in the form of website posts, emails and videos that go along with his courses. I am retired and do not need his advice on how to recover “margin”, etc. but am fascinated by his marketing campaign emails.

    It seems his real service is reading, digesting and summarizing the most recent management books (and latest releases of a limited number of business/creative tools) so those who subscribe can be confident they are taking advantage of all the management advice necessary for business success. Entertaining indeed!

    [Emphasis added]

    In the bolded text, you’ve made the implicit assumption that the continual waves of fads are beneficial.

    Perhaps the assertion is correct, and all of the above skeptics are wrong.

    But in that case, you should openly say that you believe that, and perhaps give your argument as to why we are wrong.

    But they are beneficial; if you can model the new ideas and mouth the new words, management will smile upon you, while they will frown upon people who try to ‘bitterly cling’ to the way they’ve always done things. 

    • #39
  10. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    There was a time when we had actual offices with doors we could close if we needed to focus. Then they took our doors away and moved us to cubicles, but at least we still had walls and a bit of privacy.

    The problem with privacy in a business is the potential claim of a sexual or other inappropriate interest between two persons.

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    What amazes me is that nobody bothered to do any research first to find out whether this approach to office seating would even have the effect they claimed they wanted (fostering face-to-face collaboration). When that research finally was done, big surprise: it has the opposite effect.

    The Chesterton’s Fence effect

    • #40
  11. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    inkathoots (View Comment):
    I don’t know why my younger relative’s reviewers are positive about his product. I assume they receive some perceived benefit.

    I think you misread my comment.

    I didn’t say that you  implicitly asserted that they were “positive“, i.e., that they “perceived” a benefit.

    I said that you implied that they received a benefit.  This is what I was saying you should openly state, and defend if you wish to.

     

    • #41
  12. :thinking: no superfluity of n… Member
    :thinking: no superfluity of n…
    @TheRoyalFamily

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    What can they do now, take away the ceiling and the floor?

    Well, in some places they’ve taken away the ceiling. Still has walls and a roof (can’t let the XX-chromosomal people get too uncomfortable, after all), but the ducts and everything are all bare for the world to see. That’s trendy too, though I’m sure the bean counters are happier to not have the cost of ceiling tiles and whatnot.

    • #42
  13. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Actually, removing the ceiling can cost more money, especially in the long term. First off, the mechanical items such as duct work and wiring need to be neater, and their finish is either more costly or else painted. With a drop ceiling, the conditioned (heat / cooled) space is smaller, and extra insulation can be added if needed. Plus any future electrical / mechanical updates are easier.

    IMHO, it seldom makes sense in new construction, and might be used in retrofits to increase the effective ceiling height. If smaller rooms are consolidated into a bigger space (say bigger than 15′ x 15′), then it might be a practical solution, i.e., the “loft” effect.

    • #43
  14. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    I am positive I would hate working in an open office plan, but . . . if it looked like this, I’d give it a chance:

    Image result for Johnson Wax Building

    • #44
  15. inkathoots Inactive
    inkathoots
    @KathleenPetersen

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    inkathoots (View Comment):
    I don’t know why my younger relative’s reviewers are positive about his product. I assume they receive some perceived benefit.

    I think you misread my comment.

    I didn’t say that you implicitly asserted that they were “positive“, i.e., that they “perceived” a benefit.

    I said that you implied that they received a benefit. This is what I was saying you should openly state, and defend if you wish to.

     

    I was simply attempting to enter the discussion from a different perspective. It seemed most of the participants in the discussion when I entered were describing management systems/books as thoughtlessly and rigidly imposed in settings within large organizations.

    My relative has found a niche in digesting a satisfactory amount of the most popular management materials and reformulating them into short video and “thought of the day” formats for young solo entrepreneurs – especially those looking for ways to maintain family life alongside their business. The convenience of accessing that digested material at an individual pace seems to be attractive to his clients. I do not know any of my relative’s clients, but continued subscriptions to his services seem to indicate value.  

     

    • #45
  16. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    I am positive I would hate working in an open office plan, but . . . if it looked like this, I’d give it a chance:

    Image result for Johnson Wax Building

    Ah, the famous Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine WS, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright who needed Depends for his roof designs, because most of them leaked.

    • #46
  17. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    I am positive I would hate working in an open office plan, but . . . if it looked like this, I’d give it a chance:

    Image result for Johnson Wax Building

    Ah, the famous Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine WS, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright who needed Depends for his roof designs, because most of them leaked.

    I’ve only ever been to the gas station he designed:

    • #47
  18. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    inkathoots (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    inkathoots (View Comment):
    I don’t know why my younger relative’s reviewers are positive about his product. I assume they receive some perceived benefit.

    I think you misread my comment.

    I didn’t say that you implicitly asserted that they were “positive“, i.e., that they “perceived” a benefit.

    I said that you implied that they received a benefit. This is what I was saying you should openly state, and defend if you wish to.

     

    I was simply attempting to enter the discussion from a different perspective. It seemed most of the participants in the discussion when I entered were describing management systems/books as thoughtlessly and rigidly imposed in settings within large organizations.

    My relative has found a niche in digesting a satisfactory amount of the most popular management materials and reformulating them into short video and “thought of the day” formats for young solo entrepreneurs – especially those looking for ways to maintain family life alongside their business. The convenience of accessing that digested material at an individual pace seems to be attractive to his clients. I do not know any of my relative’s clients, but continued subscriptions to his services seem to indicate value.

     

    We will need to end this discussion before it has begun.

    You continue to argue against something I didn’t say, and not respond to what I did.  I think this misunderstanding is caused by my lack of communication skills, which is a problem I can’t fix at this stage of life.

     

    • #48
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    I am positive I would hate working in an open office plan, but . . . if it looked like this, I’d give it a chance:

    Image result for Johnson Wax Building

    Last place I worked they treated me like a mushroom; kept me in the dark and fed me bull[redact]. But now I work under the mushrooms so it’s more like…ok, I don’t want to think about it. 

    • #49
  20. inkathoots Inactive
    inkathoots
    @KathleenPetersen

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    inkathoots (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    inkathoots (View Comment):
    I don’t know why my younger relative’s reviewers are positive about his product. I assume they receive some perceived benefit.

    I think you misread my comment.

    I didn’t say that you implicitly asserted that they were “positive“, i.e., that they “perceived” a benefit.

    I said that you implied that they received a benefit. This is what I was saying you should openly state, and defend if you wish to.

     

    I was simply attempting to enter the discussion from a different perspective. It seemed most of the participants in the discussion when I entered were describing management systems/books as thoughtlessly and rigidly imposed in settings within large organizations.

    My relative has found a niche in digesting a satisfactory amount of the most popular management materials and reformulating them into short video and “thought of the day” formats for young solo entrepreneurs – especially those looking for ways to maintain family life alongside their business. The convenience of accessing that digested material at an individual pace seems to be attractive to his clients. I do not know any of my relative’s clients, but continued subscriptions to his services seem to indicate value.

     

    We will need to end this discussion before it has begun.

    You continue to argue against something I didn’t say, and not respond to what I did. I think this misunderstanding is caused by my lack of communication skills, which is a problem I can’t fix at this stage of life.

     

    Sounds like a good plan. It’s probably my lack of communication skills as well. There are lots of problems I can’t fix at my stage of life, either. 

    • #50
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