Saturday, 08 May 2010

Johannesburg on a wet afternoon

Sunday, 02 May 2010

The deadly diseases of western management

W Edwards Demming elaborated a theory of management that helped to transform Japanese industry. The popular approaches of Total Quality Management, Continuous improvement and Just in Time are all variations of the same approach and derived from Demming's 14 points.

These terms have become very popular in the West, and every company now has  continous improvement and assorted programmes. But these have been implemented without paying the slightest attention to Demming's 14 points. 

Demming outlines 7 deadly diseases that mitigate against the successful implementation of these approaches. 

These are documented in his 1982 book 'Out of the Crisis'. Although much time has passed since the book was first published, little has changed. 
  • Lack of constancy of purpose
  • Emphasis on short-term profits - short-term thingking
  • Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review
  • Mobility of management (job hopping)
  • Management by use only of visible figures (no consideration of the unknown)
  • Excessive medical costs
  • Excessive costs of liability
The first of these is governed by the obsession with quarterly (of half yearly or even annual) results. A short term fall in profits (or a loss) can set the stage for panic and open the company to takeover bids. Japanese companies, by contract plan for the long-term - five to twenty years (sometimes more). Short term profit or divident falls are inevitable and could be built into the long term plan. Working towards improving the processes can result in a short-term loss but long term sustainability. Not possible in Western management thought. 

The emphasis on short-term profits means that all sort of essential expenditure is expendable. Training, research, education are all targets. 

Demming devotes much time and many pages to explain why performace evaluations are destructive. Rather than assisting a business in its quest for quality, performance management makes it all but impossible. One of the reasons is that it is almost impossible to find measures that will provide a useful reflection. It prevents people and departments from working together as that could negatively impact on the performance ratings. It works against team work - everything is about the individual. 

Then we have the mobility in management. One bad result and the CEO packs his bags and is replaced by another. In other scenarios, good managers are lured away to greener pastures on a regular basis. 

Doesn't do much for continuity, building relationships or leadership.

How many companies claim to have a continuous improvement management process in place? The name sounds good. Empowerment? Have you actually seen empowered workers? 

I have witnessed many annual review processes. 

What happened to the company? Everyone was frantically doing what they needed to get the required scores. So what is the problem with that? you may ask. At the time there were many critical issues that should have been dealt with. Much more important issues than the performance measures. These were ignored. 

Then they want to have both continuous improvement and performance management. Illustrated by Demming to be mutually unatainable. 

Saturday, 01 May 2010

Benefits of green living

The benefits of green living begin soon after embarking on the journey. The journey can be rewarding, providing both personal satisfaction and financial benefits.

The common perception of green living is that it is great for the environment, but requires a huge effort. But green living brings great benefits not only to the environment and future generations, but to your life in the here-and-now.

Energy consumption - solar water heating

If you live in an area that has abundant sunshine, then a good first step is to install solar water heating. While there is an initial cost, the savings achieved will be felt in a short space of time. In some regions or countries, subsidies are readily available to take this important step. Electrical water heating is expensive. Depending on where you live you could be cutting your power consumption by as much as fifty per cent. Calculate that over the course of a year and the initial costs diminish into insignificance.

The financial savings are just one of the benefits. If your power is fuelled by coal, you will be making a real difference to the environment.

Energy consumption - lighting

The traditional light bulbs each use between 60 and 150 watts of power per hour. The newer energy efficient light bulbs use mush less power to produce the equivalent amount of light. The wattage of these bulbs ranges from about 11 to 18 watts per hour. Although the initial cost is higher, these bulbs last longer and you will feel the benefit when it is time to pay for the electricity account.
Energy consumption - switch off!
Switching off the lights when you leave a room is a habit that is worth developing. Why burn the lights when there is no-one to benefit? Most appliances are left turned on and plugged into the power supply at all times. Most appliances go into a pilot mode when turned off - they are still consuming power. The main reason is to make it easier to use the remote. Instead of simply turning off the appliance, switch off the power source by using the switch at the wall or by unplugging the device. The savings are small but add up to a significant amount when you consider the amount of time these appliances are not in use.

Grow your own 

If you have a garden, there is ample opportunity to grow your own vegetables and herbs. Now you are in control of what chemicals you use to stimulate growth. A compost heap is easy to maintain and could provide all the fertilizer you need. Once again there is a financial benefit that must be weighed up against the effort required. But the real benefit is in the freshness and taste of home grown products.

The home-grown varieties almost always taste better. Growing your own requires consistent effort. During dry weather it is necessary to ensure that there is enough water and you will have to guard against pests. Some herbs and garlic are known to keep the insects away. Simply plant some garlic interspersed with your other plants.

Many people find gardening to be both relaxing and enriching.


The private motor car is one of the biggest energy consumers around. Before you rush out to by a hybrid model, there are other measures that can be put in place. There is some doubt as to whether the hybrid car actually saves on power consumption. Doesn't it merely replace oil with grid electricity?

Lift schemes are a good way to reduce overall energy use.

The most energy efficient means of transport is still the bicycle. It is not feasible for everyone, but if it works for you then why not? Apart from the fuel savings you will be getting all the exercise you need to keep fit!

Other green ideas

Replacing the grid electricity supply with renewable sources can be a challenge today. Photo-voltaic solar cells are still very expensive and will take many years to pay for themselves.

However, you can green your home in other ways. If you are building a new house you can build in all sorts of green features. These include maximizing the supply of natural light, installing solar water panels and maximizing natural heat and using appropriate insulation.

There are still a whole host of green activities that benefit the environment as well. Your personal benefit may not be tangible at first. One of these is the need to recycle the garbage. This requires effort with little visible benefit. But before you discard this option, take a ride to the nearest garbage dump. That may help you to change your mind.

Perhaps the secret to green living is not to do everything at once. Embarking on a greening initiative will help to foster an environmental awareness in the entire household. You will find yourself going greener and greener over time.

Perhaps your friends will catch the bug and we will have a healthier and more sustainable world for ourselves and our children.