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Site Migration

Braincram is now at:

http://www.braincram.co.uk

please update your bookmarks

 

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New Braincram site coming soon…

I’d like to thank you all for visiting the Braincram blog and website.  Your interest has convinced me that there is value in this blog and site and so I have decided to commit more time to the project.

And that means a new theme and site being crafted as I type.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.

Martin J Rhodes

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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

PDCA

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.

suboptimal

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!

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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.

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New Article: Developing Self Esteem

Catch this new article on Developing Self Esteem

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Seven Steps to Solving Problems

No matter the scale of the problem, a simple problem solving method can help you find a solution. The Seven Step Method shown below. Although simple, is both methodical and effective.

7-steps

Define the Problem – Sometimes the presenting symptom is not the real problem. Be vigilant to find the core problem.

Define Objectives and Performance Measures – You need an idea of the outcome you want. Knowing what a good job looks like helps you identify the performance measures you will need to decide when you have solved the problem.

Identify the Boundaries and Constraints – Bounding a problem ensures that you are not trying to solve too much. Constraints are those things that restrict your solutions.

Identify, Generate and Prioritise Options – Options are building blocks of solutions. Creating lots of options gives you more choice and more chance of creating a better solution.

Develop Options into a Plan – Develop the promising options further and discard options that offer little if any benefit.

Implement the Solution – Decide how to implement the solution to be most effective. Remember that some solutions can be quite simple but others can be comprehensive and require significant effort to deploy.

Evaluate the Outcome and Ensure the Problem is Solved – Evaluation a continuous process. As your solution takes effect, ensure the change is moving towards your desired outcome. Ask ‘What is working and what isn’t working?’

If the problem is well defined and a working solution well implemented, you should we well on the way to having solved the problem.

Remember that you don’t need a perfect solution first time. Indeed you will probably not create one. A more likely approach is to make consistently better decisions moving you towards a robust solution.

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New Website Launch

A period of house moving and career change meant that I haven’t been able to maintian the blog like I aimed to when I started.

That being said, I have now started with a new company in a new profession and finding time to write some more articles, blog posts and book summaries.

The BrainCram website has had a refresh and has a few more book summaries.

Take a look and please leave feedback or business book review requests.

Take action and Dare to Aspire

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