Articles, How-Tos, Quality

How-to: Project post-mortems

post-mortem tools

Have you ever noticed your group making the same mistake over and over? (Or perhaps your customers have noticed for you?)

Personally, I hate making mistakes. I think I’ve stunned a few vendors when we dug through a problem and found it was their fault. They were expecting to be yelled at, but I was too relieved at not having made the mistake myself.… Read the rest

Articles, How-Tos

How-to: owner validation for your web site

We are going to start by sounding techy, but will explain what it all means in human terms later.

Does your web site use the right secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate? Here’s how you can tell if it does: there will be a green lock and the name of your company in the address bar of pretty much any browser.

Which of these banks would you prefer to deal with?… Read the rest


After the founder leaves: how long are the shadows?

Steve Jobs

In some companies, the founder is a key player who can’t be replaced; in others, they can be replaced with surprising ease; and in still others, they cast a shadow long after they’re gone, for better or worse.

The usual case study is Apple. Steve Jobs first pushed his friends into marketing and building the first personal computers; then, when he became a liability to the business and was sidelined, he pushed a group of engineers, technicians, and designers into creating the first mass-produced computers with a graphic user interface.… Read the rest

Articles, Quality

Don’t just listen!


For decades, people have talked about listening to the customer. Yet, our systems seem as bad as ever. Are we listening?

I would argue that we’re listening… we’re just not taking the right actions.

Once, I helped to present the results of an employee survey; we mainly left it to them to develop action plans — the best way to instigate change.… Read the rest

How-Tos, Research/Surveys

Tips for building a valid survey


First, some warnings for employee surveys in particular:

  • Simply having the survey tells people that change is coming, and that something will happen. (Therefore, you must make sure something does happen and that people can see it happening).
  • Surveys subtly affect change is by telling people what is considered most important; “you get what you measure.” That’s one more reason to choose your questions carefully.
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Articles, How-Tos, Quality

Process mapping: a step by step guide

workflow or process mapping

Process (work-flow) mapping lowers errors, increases effectiveness, and enhances communication.  Process mapping sessions may result in sudden revelations such as:

  • “I didn’t know you did it that way, we do it this way!”
  • “But why don’t we do it that way instead?”
  • “No wonder it takes so long / goes wrong so often!”

There are several preconditions for effective process mapping:

  • The process(es) to be mapped must be specifically defined before the meetings start.
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Organizational development and change books


This list is by no means meant to be a “best of” or exhaustive work – it’s a few books we’ve noted along the way.

  • Process Consultation – Edgar Schein’s two-volume work on process consultation. We recommend this for internal and external consultants. Discounted to $31.88 per volume. Volume I | Volume II.
  • The Service Profit Chain – ties employee and supplier factors with long-term success.
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Pareto charts: a quality / diagnostic tool

pareto charts

Pareto analysis is a simple way to figure out the major causes for a problem. Though it’s mostly  used by quality assurance people, pareto analysis is also useful for organizational development, because it is common in manufacturing (so many people are used to it), and because it is a clever system.

Typically, Pareto analysis is used both to kick off problem solving by helping to identify root causes (the basic, underlying issue which is causing the problem, as opposed to the “apparent” issue which may, in itself, be caused by something else – for example, replacing a defective voltage regulator which is allowing batteries to be damaged, rather than simply replacing the batteries).… Read the rest


Turning on the SPIGOT for effective change

spigot leadership and change

Process re-engineering, quality circles, organizational development, team-building, job enrichment, balanced scorecards, … there must have been hundreds of management and leadership fads over the years. They come charging in with success stories, and fall out of favor as fashions change or failures mount; often, they came back with different names and slight changes.

Can we drill down to what they all have in common, and why they worked for some people but not others?… Read the rest

Issues, Research/Surveys

The problem with employee survey norms


In general, the bane of custom surveys is not being able to provide norms.

That might not be as bad as it sounds.

While clients almost invariably ask for, or sometimes demand, norms for employee surveys and even 360° feedback items, we have found significant cultural impact on responses — which is to say that there is variance based solely on the organizational/regional culture where the questions are asked.… Read the rest