Lean Workshop

I took part in a workshop today which was focused on the principle of Lean Process Improvement. For those of you who have never come across the term before the Lean ideology focuses on improving customer value in processes while minimizing waste. There were some interesting bits discussed in the workshop, particularly how lean, while developed for manufacturing sectors, has also been applied to other industries, particulaly the service industry.

The principles of lean center around a 5-step thought process outlined here:

  1. Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product family.
  2. Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating whenever possible those steps that do not create value.
  3. Make the value-creating steps occur in tight sequence so the product will flow smoothly toward the customer.
  4. As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.
  5. As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.

If you’re interested in learning more about “Lean”, here are some resources you might find interesting:


Graduation was great

The entrance to main reception at the Edinburg...

I had a great time at my MBA graduation yesterday. It was strange visiting Heriot-Watt, the university I’ve been studying with for the last few years and where I had never been before. I had seen photos and pictures so some images rang a bell, but it was great to actually walk through the corridors and see people in the flesh. The ceremony also brought home how truly international the EBS MBA is. There were graduands from all around the world and I was proud to be one of them.

The graduation was pretty inspirational with an honorary doctorate being presented to Douglas Anderson OBE for his outstanding contribution to engineering design and medical instrumentation.

I’ll be uploading some photos soon to show everything, I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts from the day.

(photo at the side is the front-entrance at the university)

I graduate in November!

Yesterday, I received a letter in the post; a letter I’ve been expecting for a few weeks now. It confirmed that I had all the requirements to get my MBA and that I graduate in November! I was over the moon! It’s nice to know that all the effort I poured into it has paid off and now I can relax properly.

It’s been quite a journey and I must say I’m pleased at how much I’ve picked up along the way. The topic I enjoyed most was probably either Marketing or Influence; but the topic that seems to have impacted me most was Economics. It made me realise how economies are really just big processing systems, with inputs and outputs and processes in the middle. It also made me realise how most politicians have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. It amazes me how people are elected to run a country based primarily on their charisma rather than their understanding how a country should be run. Having said that, I really wouldn’t like to be in a politicians shoes, especially when harsh realities of having to decide who gets what hit home. Still, if politics were as well-defined as IT Process Automation, than anyone could do it I suppose; still .. not my game though.

Anyway, glad my MBA is behind me .. did someone ask about a DBA?

Culture and Negotiation

Interesting chapter in my Negotiation text tonight about the emphasis some people place on recognising differences and similarities in particular cultures and the reality of how irrelevant it sometimes is. Here’s a poignant section from the text:

It is important, however, to recognise the existence of cultural diversity and it is advisable to acquire knowledge of the relevant cultural imperatives and how they interact for working in, or managing, a group of culturally diverse employees. Ignorance is never bliss, and it can be positively disastrous in certain circumstances. Cultural knowledge has the same significance as that of language fluency but fluency will not save you if your negotiating skills are primitive. It is more important, therefore, that negotiators understand the universality of the negotiating process if they are to make sense of the cultural conflicts sometimes evident in their negotiations. Cultural relativism misses the target.

Almost at the end of it now. Just in time to start revising for my exams in 5 weeks time.

The “sell cheap, get famous” ploy

Here’s a great paragraph from the chapter of my Negotiation text I was reading this evening:

We are all familiar, I hope, with how advertisements refer not to ‘low wages’ but always to ‘good prospects’, and how buyers speak not of ‘oneoff low priced orders’ but vaguely of ‘the possibilities of high volume purchases’. The ‘Chinese widget deal’ is an extreme example of the ‘sell cheap, get famous’ ploy. In this version the Chinese buyer places his demand for a low price in the context that there are a billion people in China. True, but the two facts of a low price and a large population are not necessarily connected. My advice is that if you sell yourself and your products cheap, you will get exactly what you demonstrate you think they are worth.

It’s quite interesting I came across this, as someone was talking to a friend of mine this weekend about wanting a special price for a product because he had 700 potential customers lined up. So, how do you deal with a potentially lucrative offer like this? Well, what we did was offer him a deal where he would have made a substantial profit if he really had 700 clients. Turns out he didn’t quite buy into it, which suggests that he didn’t really quite have 700 clients ready to take it on.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this ploy can help pull in customers in a way where they can try out your service. I can think of a couple of companies that do card printing who offer cheap or free introductory offers to get customers to try out their products. These are more than just ploys though, because they are quite transparent as to how their subsequent services are priced.

How to deal with strike action

Excellent snippet from my Negotiation text:

In the UK we constantly watch government spokespeople and employers fall into the trap of reinforcing the behaviour of difficult negotiators, though, no doubt, they feel they are undermining it. A strike takes place, for example, and government spokespeople queue up to tell the media just how ‘damaging’ the strike is to the country and to the strikers. They appear to think that the strikers – behaving in just about as difficult a way as they can – will heed these warnings and return to normal working. They have the opposite effect. The strikers interpret the warnings of the ‘damage’ they are doing as confirmation that their behaviour is having some effect: ‘If our strike is causing these important people to notice what we are doing and to inform us of the damaging effects of our actions, then we must be doing the right things to get our grievances addressed’. This usually prompts the pseudo game of passing the blame and responsibility for the alleged damage of the strike to the other side: ‘Increase our wages and we will stop striking and if you don’t do this then you are to blame for the damages caused by the strike’.

However, if the spokespeople were to shut up about the strike itself and were to concentrate instead on the disputed issues, they would weaken the commitment of the strikers to persisting with their actions. Keeping workers on strike is a difficult task for the union and it must continually reinforce the employees’ solidarity with assurances that their actions are having an effect, in order to stop erosion of support for strike action among the employees. Strikes can crumble quickly when their actions have no perceived effects.

I’m glad I took this course. It’s quite insightful and I’m really enjoying Gavin Kennedy (the author)’s writing style.

The paradox of bargaining

Here’s an excellent paragraph from my Negotation text:

If we negotiate because we value things differently, it is in the bargaining phase that we focus on the differing valuations. Nothing, absolutely nothing, should be given away, no matter how little it is worth to you. The paradox of bargaining is that those things that are worth little, or less, to you in themselves, could be worth a great deal to you in the bargaining phase if they are worth more to the other negotiators. The form of the bargain is the conditional offer, and the tradables available to the negotiators are the potential content of the conditional offers.

Great paragraph huh?