Deming

Teachers, Mentors, Guides: Who Changed Your Career?

Early in my career, I realized that I was not going to be one of those people who had "mentors" or "sponsors." I was too risky a proposition on a number of different levels, so mine was a corporate - and even consulting - career that had more than its fair share of people putting obstacles in my way.

That made those who represented turning points in my career - and particularly in my way of thinking - all the more important and valuable. They, knowingly and unknowingly, expanded my perspective - which led to a broader world view, career opportunities and life experiences I never thought would be mine.

Interestingly, it's been within the last two years - since starting Leadership Quantified - that a new person has been added to the list. The first woman.

For me, the four people are:
  1. Dr. W. Edwards Deming - who taught me that underlying management theory is a humanism that, when incorporated as part of everything from strategic thinking to operational execution, really can lead to joy and motivation and a goodness that workplaces are rarely - or never - known for.
  2. Takeo Minomiya - who taught me that strategy, at its best, turns the world on its head and that, only when you look at things from what would be considered impossible perspectives and proceed without fear can you - or your organization - succeed.
  3. Dr. Leon Lessinger - who taught me that accountability is the highest form of personal and professional respect you can pay yourself, your colleagues and society as a whole - and that, as such, it's both a choice and a measure of integrity.
  4. Sheryl Sandberg - who taught me that the ways women unknowingly undermine themselves - as well as the many ways women unforgivably undermine other women - are not only identifiable, but reversible and that the hope of the women who trailblazed my career can - and will - be achieved in the generations of women now and to come.
That's my crew of career- and life- changers - and I'm grateful to them all.

Now think about those who have played or are playing that role in your life and career - then ask yourself:
  • Which teacher, mentor or guide has helped me see more - and be more?
  • How has what they taught or showed me changed my life? My world view?
  • How have I acted upon what I learned?
  • How am I continuing their teaching by guiding others - whether in conversation, formal mentoring or, simply, in how I lead my life?
Then, if you get the chance, make sure you find a way to say, "Thank you." Not only will they appreciate it, they deserve it.

Disruptive Heroes: My Interview with Bill Jensen

Yesterday, I did an interview with Bill Jensen (aka, Mr. Simplicity) for his new series on Disruptive Heroes.

In it, I got the chance to talk about W. Edwards Deming, unleashing employee capability, Paris, Twitter, strobic thinking and my attitude toward life - which was a lot of ground to cover in six minutes!

Bill is always a joy and always asks challenging questions. After you take a look at this edited version of my interview, make sure you go visit his site on the 100 Great Disruptive Heroes.


Deming, Health Insurers and the Myth of Scarcity

There's an absolutely riveting article about the record-breaking profits health insurers are making - even as they increase premiums to their customers by double digits.

How are they achieving these incredible financial feats?  Not only is it because of the usurious fees (with ever-increasing deductibles) they charge, but they are also benefiting from the economic downturn.

People keep paying their premiums, but because of those ever-increasing deductibles - now ranging from $2-4K per year - patients are not going to the doctor.  Or having necessary tests.  Or treatment.

Like for cancer.

Because, in this economy, when so many are one paycheck (at most) away from destitution, going to a doctor is a choice.  After all, you may need that money to pay for an unjustifiably priced gallon of gas so that you can get to work.

Unjustified, that is, if you're anyone other than an oil company.

It's gotten to the point that even the shareholders don't feel as strongly as before about the levels of profits the companies they invest in are making.  Even if they receive dividends.

Because, just as the politicians are so disconnected from what's going on along Main Street - or in people's homes - CEOs have lost sight of the fact that their companies are there to serve a greater purpose than simply for the few who own shares.

Or to fill their own pockets.

No matter the product or price point, they're supposed to be contributing to the betterment of society by improving quality of life.  Of everyone's life.

I'm a capitalist to the core.  I want everyone to make money.  I want those who strive - whether minimally or maximally - to proportionately benefit from the work they do and be able to buy what they want.

But I don't believe in exclusivity.  Not when the exclusionary policies and actions on the parts of CEOs and their corporations lead to desperation, disease - and death.

When did corporations lose any semblance of having a clue?

It's more than a Gordon Gekko.  It's not just that "greed is good."

It's that greed - impossible levels of personal and corporate greed - have become standard operating procedure.

It's unconscionable.  Those CEOs, speculators and others pursuing that strategy should be ashamed.

And, frankly, while I applaud the actions of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others in the billionaires' club for giving their money to charity - they left it awfully late.

And it's still not enough.

Deming, the management theorist who is the father of what we now call "Lean" and "Six Sigma" (among others), always said that there was no scarcity.  That scarcity is a myth.

That we create scarcity by creating management and corporate systems that either don't access the capabilities of our employees or adequately and fairly share the benefits of what those employees have achieved on behalf of their employer.

Or both.

He was right.  And now it's worse.

Because the health insurers are only one of, literally, a world of corporations that are making, literally, incredible profits.  With war chests of money that analysts and investors are starting to worry are getting too big.

And with speculators who drive prices of commodities up so high that they have to drive their own correction because the public responds by not buying.

What's their justification?  They're afraid - yes, afraid - that things might get worse.  Later.  At some point in the future.  Possibly.

Cowards.

It's time for executives to wake up and smell the coffee.  (I'm being very, very polite here.)

It's time for them to think about the context within which they and their organizations exist.

Everything is not about you and how much you and your cronies make.  Nor is it about "satisfying the shareholders" as you so conveniently excuse your actions.

It's about whether you're willing to do more than do well.  It's whether you're also willing to do good.  On everyone's behalf.

It's time to start.  Now.

Resource:

Health Insurers Make Record Profits as Many Postpone Care (NYT)

Quality and Finance

I had a great time today talking with Jim Blasingame about quality and finance on his "Small Business Advocate" radio program.  Here, in three parts, is my interview. Happy listening!

On Quality and Strategizing Your Financial Plans




On Quality and the Rule of 97% Predictability




On Using Quality as a Competitive Discriminator


Seth Godin, Lean and the Two Percent Rule

In Seth Godin's blog (which I greatly enjoy and highly suggest you receive) he talks about the two percent of your customers who are going to be dissatisfied with what you do.

It won't matter what it is.  There will be a group - his estimated two percent - of unhappy campers.

The problem is, they are usually also very vocal campers.

People who are happy with what you're doing demonstrate it by coming back for more.  They like what you have to offer and how you offer it.  They don't make a big deal of it because there's nothing to make a big deal of.  They show their appreciation by their return to your site, doors, or where you show up on their shelves.

Godin raises the question of whether you should stymie the innovation in your organization because of a small bunch of loud-voiced complainers.

The answer, of course, is no.  His and mine.

But, allow me to add a couple of additional thoughts to his thinking.

First, no matter how loud those voices are, you can - and must - promote the perspective of the other 98% who are satisfied customers.  That comes from your social media strategy.

Whether it's a "Like" or increasing your number of fans or a star-rating system, you positively build your reputation by engaging the people who can easily speak for why they think what you have to offer is great in a way that they enjoy and, potentially, promotes them too.

That makes a viral positive response to any negativity far more likely.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, based on the statistical logic of Lean, 97% of what happens is predictable.  You may not like it, but you can predict that it will occur.

Godin's two percent, therefore, falls into the 97% predictable category.  You know it's going to happen - so you can prepare for it.

To keep those creative juices flowing in your organization, prepare for the complaints by ensuring that your innovators know that it won't stop them - or the company - from continuing to support a robust innovation strategy.

And, since you know it's coming, when you're doing your product analysis before launch, spend some time figuring out what the nay-sayers are going to come up with this time.

Who knows?

Maybe their complaints will lead to a next generation of innovation and improvement from which you can profit even further.

But be prepared.  Because that two percent will still find something to complain about.