Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Deming Cycle

Following the Second World War, Japan was struggling to regenerate its manufacturing base and a key feature in this struggle was the need to generate a culture of quality.

Their economic saviour in many ways was Dr W. Edwards Deming, an American statistician who was so influential in creating a culture of quality that Japan still has an annual quality award that bears his name. He is a venerable hero of the Quality movement.

A tool that Deming employed frequently for quality and process improvement was the Plan, Do, Check, Act process.

This later became known as the Deming Cycle.

The key principle of this cycle is iteration and feedback.

The key stages are:

PLAN – Design or change a business process with the aim of improving results

DO – Implement the change and measure the change in results

CHECK – Compare the measurements with the original performance to assess improvements

ACT – Decide on the changes that are needed to improve the process


Repeated time and again the PDCA drives any process towards a peak of improved performance. In many ways, this approach now underpins many of the process improvement approaches used in business today.

The Kaizen approach of the Lean process is an iterative improvement process

Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (DMAIC) of the Six Sigma school is also an iterative approach.

Rummler and Brache (1991) also suggested an approach that repeated a pattern of Identify, Analyse and Improve.

And there are many more.

There are 2 key things to remember about any such iterative approaches:

1. What you measure is critical. You must get your Key Performance Indicators (KPI) correct. Measure the wrong parameter and you improve the wrong thing.

2. If you your process isn’t the correct one in the first instance then you can improve but you are only moving towards a ‘suboptimal’ peak of performance.

The graph below shows what can happen if you focus on only improving the current process.

If you start on the left hand peak, you will optimise, but you will optimse  the wrong process.


You should take away from this the need to not only consider improvement as an approach but ensure you are improving the correct process. Suboptimal is exactly that!

Dare to Aspire


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Six Thinking Hats

When faced with a problem, it can be beneficial to consider a number of different perspectives on that problem.

Different perspectives can often reveal different factors and features and can potentially reveal a variety of innovative solutions.

Using a structured approach to selecting these different perspectives is a sign of disciplined and logical thinking and an approach typified in Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

The approach is extremely simple but can be very effective in problem solving.

Each thinker metaphorically adopts a ‘thinking hat’ and then constrains their thinking to just that perspective. Swapping hats allows you to focus on alternative viewpoints until options are exhausted.

Edward De Bono recommends these 6 different ‘hats’ to guide you into thinking from these 6 different perspectives.

Blue Hat: Wear this hat to define the problem and scope of the issue.

White Hat: Wear this hat and focus on the facts of the situation. Look at the features, factors, functions, gaps in process and knowledge. Look for trends, patterns and developments.

Red Hat: Wear this hat to explore the emotions surrounding the problem. Note what you feel instinctively, what your gut tells you.

Yellow Hat: Wear this hat to explore the positive aspects of the issue. What about this is constructive and what can you benefit or learn from? Look for value and benefit.

Green Hat: Wear this hat to develop creative and innovation options. Imaginative solutions that break the mental mould are developed with this hat.

Black Hat: Look for things that are broken or won’t work. What is weak about the issue or solution?

Although this approach can be used by an individual, it has equal if not more effect when it is used by a group. The blue hat would direct the group, and different members of the team would wear ‘hats’ that explored the various perspectives.

The results from this approach should be interesting and useful and may even be quite dramatic. At the very least you and your team will begin to break out of your normal thinking habits.

Dare to Aspire

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10 Tips for Successful of Entrepreneurship

Starting your own business can be an exciting and exhilarating challenge.  It can also be an overwhelming and somewhat daunting experience for anyone.  Here are 10 tips that will help you think about the more strategic level things you need to think about.  Don’t forget that you will also need to look after the more detailed part of the business too, delivery, marketing, accounting, cashflow management etc.

Have Goals

If you don’t know what you are going, how will you know if you are moving the right direction and how will you know when you get there?  Goals need to be clear and compelling; a vision so appealing that it pulls you out of bed in the morning and keeps you driving on into the small hours of the morning.

Work Hard

Building a business is hard work…Busy, busy, busy, hard work, hard work, hard work.  You will need your compelling vision to keep you motivated and ensuring that you persist even when you are struggling to find the energy to keep going.  Persistence is critical.  Make just one more call, write one more email, do just 10 more minutes work and you will be that much closer to your goal.

Know your Market

Whatever you are doing, you need to make sure that someone is interested in paying you for it.  You need to know what you target market wants and how they want it.  You will also need to know how to approach them and how to sell the benefits of your service or product to that market.

Be Innovative and Differentiate

If you don’t differentiate, then you are only doing the same as many others and you can only compete on price.  All you are offering your customers is another choice in a market of businesses saying ‘Me too!’

If you are doing something different, then you have another way to compete and can offer your customers something that stands out from the crowd.  Mercedes Benz cars don’t cry ‘me too!’ to their customers.  So should you?

Believe in What you are Doing

People only buy what they know will meet their needs.  They will also only buy when they have a level of confidence that a product of service will meet that need.  So the sales process is a way to ensure that your customer develops confidence in what you are offering and then commits to buying it.

How will you persuade them that what you are offering will meet their need if you don’t have at least the same level of confidence in what you are offering?  The sales process then becomes a conversation aimed at building and sharing your confidence level with your customer so that they are convinced and buy.

Stay Focused

You will achieve more if you are focused on doing one thing at a time. One task, one goal, one business idea.  I recommend reading Jurgen Wolff’s book ‘Focus’ to give you some ideas and techniques to help you focus more effectively.

Develop Relationships

All businesses are people businesses.  People take the actions, people make the sales, people buy the product, and people promote you business with endorsements and recommendations.  The more time you spend developing relationships, the more effectively you will be able to manage and build your business.

Surround Yourself with Great People

As an entrepreneur, you will very soon recognise that won’t be able to do everything yourself.  Indeed the very characteristics of being an entrepreneur means that you are better at building a business than achieving the individual delivery tasks within that business.

So ensure you hire or work with great people, especially people who are better at doing key tasks than you are.

If you hire people that are not as good as you, then you will build a company where you are continually checking on people and being disappointed with their output.

Hire great people and then set them free to achieve.

Lead Your Team

Part of being an entrepreneur is giving your team the guidance they need to fulfil the vision.  Sharing your vision is not enough.  You also need to ensure that the team is continually supported in the delivering that vision and are rewarded when they make significant progress towards achieving it. There are many models of leadership and leading, but the simplest form is to’ know the way, to show the way and to go the way!’

Cheesy perhaps, but it captures the sentiment of leadership in very simple terms.

Never Stop Selling

Never forget that you are running a business and that you need revenue to survive.  Let your mantra be ‘Customer and Cash’.

You must, at a bare minimum, satisfy your customers.  I would suggest that your best approach is to make them raving fans.  But you must always be thinking of how to make the sale.  Sometimes you can sell at the first opportunity.  Other times you will need to make a continual investment in the relationship in order to establish credibility and have your prospect believe enough to become a customer.  Always be building the relationship and the selling will take care of itself.

These are just 10 of many tips that you will read about and learn from myriad sources. Although not exhaustive, they are useful to have in mind when you are building your business.

Dare to Aspire


Filed under Business, Improvement, Leadership, Performance