By Kevin Meyer
Once again I'm honored to be part of John Hunter's Curious Cat Annual Management Blog Review. Check out the link for a variety of other management blog reviews. The four blogs I selected to review provide a wide range of lean and leadership thinking that generally ranges a bit outside of the traditional – and regular readers know that's a sweet spot I love to play in.
First off we have Jamie Flinchbaugh who writes at a blog of the same name. I feel a connection to many of his posts as we have both started and run our own manufacturing and service companies. Yes you really do get a different perspective when you have to sign the checks – and those checks draw from your own funds. Waste truly becomes evil, if not outright deadly.
- In Four Myths About the Principle of "Respect for People" Jamie tackles a passion of mine, the oft-forgotten second pillar of lean. Conflict can be respectful, being nice may not be respectful, only giving positive feedback is not respectful, empowerment can be dangerous. A very good read.
- Most of us have always thought that effective lean transformations should be driven from the top – the very top. But in The CEO Can't Champion Everything Jamie provides a different perspective. In the right circumstances and environment, a lean effort may be best led from lower down the totem pole.
- Jamie confronts another common perception in The Fine Line Between Micro-Management and Surfacing Problems. Micro-management is evil, right? Well… not necessarily. The devil truly is in the details, and without diving into details you might not uncover problems. The difference between micro-management and an effective problem identification system is how management responds to the transparency.
David Kasprzak writes at My Flexible Pencil, and the name immediately tells you that he sometimes approaches leadership from a bit of a different perspective.
- In Management Excellence: The Joker he wonders if The Joker in the Dark Night might be the perfect manager. Really. From stating clear objectives to leading with action instead of just words…
- In October David wrote about The Management Lessons of Angry Birds. How did he know that only a few months prior I had spent an entire 13 hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco launching those damn birds at crazy structures? To preserve even a tiny amount of productivity I removed that app a couple days later. He comes up with such gems as "efficiency isn't always rewarded" and "not every resource can be applied the same way, to the same problem, every time." I get it. Scary.
- Finally last month I once again learned something new from this blog: a concept called ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. As David points out, there are several similarities between ROWE and lean – and as Mark Graban points out in the comments, process and matter as much as results.
I've come to know Dan Markovitz quite well over the past few years and really enjoy the human work improvement focus of his TimeBack Management blog. Actually his tips that helped me vastly improve my productivity, including achieving Inbox:0, let me enjoy life again. His new book on these concepts, A Factory of One, was just published.
- In Mise-en-place, 5S, and why tape outlines on the desk are stupid Dan gets at something that I find critical: understand the "why" before launching into a tool – even a tool as fundamental as 5S. What is the problem? Why? Then and only then find the right tool to improve the situation.
- Once again the oft-forgotten second pillar of lean, respect for people, is the subject of Dan's post on Go See, Ask Why, Show Respect. Managers typically have a problem leaving their offices to visit the gemba. Even if they go for a visit, they feel the need to solve problems and provide solutions – instead of ensuring the right questions are being asked. Challenging and teaching is one way to show respect.
- And one more time on respecting – and motivating – employees is a great analysis of responsibility and authority in Stop Demotivating Your Employees. What type of leader are you? What types of leaders are you creating in your organization? Do you delegate authority as well as responsibility?
Finally we have Matthew May at his blog of the same name. Several years ago, while juggling way too many projects and jobs and family challenges, I began exploring the connections between zen and lean – and how those concepts can be applied to both personal and professional leadership. I developed some great habits but they didn't fit together – until I read Matt's The Shibumi Strategy in late 2010. Incredible book, and one I've shared with many people – including my entire staff. Matt focuses on leveraging simplicity – in design, work, and leadership.
- In Innovation's Most Important Question Matt gives us a few real-world examples to support the point that there's always the potential for "better." That's the source of innovation, pure and simple. What can be better?
- Solving Healthcare Through Subtraction and Simplicity is exactly what the title suggests – a different angle on the healthcare issue. An intriguing question – why do sick people and healthy people go to the same place? Lessons for many organizations.
- The opportunity of 5S to simplify processes and work is the focus of 5 Ways to K.I.S.S., coincidentally with assistance from Dan Markovitz. Great minds think alike.
So there you have it – four of my favorite blogs in 2011. Take some time to poke around at them, and I bet you'll learn as much as I did.