Balloons

When I was a child at the ripe old age of seven, I had to go one day and get some new shoes. Probably for school. With the help of my mom, I found a great pair of shoes. Then as we checked out, the salesman insisted that I take a balloon. I did not want the balloon.

I did not want a balloon because balloons always broke. It made me sad when they broke. Even then, I knew that taking a balloon would equate to sadness at some soon, but future, point. However, I was encouraged to thank salesman and take the balloon.

I diligently protected the balloon under my overcoat as we walked to my grandparent’s row-house. I made sure the balloon, which came complete with cardboard feet, had a place on an end table where it would not be hurt. And as the night went on, after dinner I wanted to play with the balloon. I did so by pushing it into the air, and then every time it started to fall towards the floor I would tap it with my fingers. It would rise back up a few feet into the air and start the process again. Of course, everybody knows what’s coming up here. In about 15 minutes the balloon popped and with that, started the sadness.

This was not the balloon’s fault that it popped. And just because it popped did not mean I should not have accepted the balloon, because the balloon did bring me joy. Yet, there is a very important lesson between me and the balloon. One that I share today only because it is a good lesson for all of us.

What is the lesson of the balloon you may ask? When you love something, do not hold too tight or it may break. To enjoy a balloon is a great thing. Remember though, the balloon comes with its own needs and circumstances. And, to expect a balloon to be able to thrive outside of its operating parameters is to expect sadness, and sometimes breakage.

People are a lot like balloons. Maybe not quite as fragile, yet you would be surprised. People are also tricky because, in a world of seven billion people, there are actually 7 billion different human operating systems. For in a world of 7 billion, we are all individuals.

This means we have to take care when interacting with other people. We need to know that their parameters are not exactly like ours. They may need, want or desire different things. And, also remember if we hold them to close, care for them too much, or don’t let them breathe in what they need, they, like the balloon may break.

Learning

I find it amazing what people can do when they put their heads together. Singularly we are but one voice in the wilderness. Yet, put us together, and amazing things can happen. I am working in a multinational class learning to run my business better.  I do this so I can better serve my customers (That’s You.)

We are working to make our businesses better, not for greed, or money, or fame. We are working to make our businesses better so we can reach out and do better for those who need to learn and grow. We each have our own idea of how we can help others.  Working to help others helps make the world a better place. We have people from many countries and continents all working together to better learn our craft.

Our goal is to learn how to develop and maintain a workable business which allows us to keep a flow of both good and goods to others who need the items and education.

The people who are teaching us are smart, energetic and willing to give of themselves and their time to help us to learn these wonderful nuggets of knowledge.

They say that as you rise into space and look down on the earth, you do not recognize borders. You recognize land and sea, clouds and ocean, some rivers and of course the great barrier reef and the great wall of china. You know that there are people down there. It seems to me the more we work with people and the less that we let invisible borders impede the flow of education and knowledge, the better we all will be.

Be The Person You Want Helping You

Lately, I have read a lot from many entrepreneurs about which is more important, to make a lot of money or to help the client who needs that help?

This is a fair dilemma. If you don’t help people and do good for them or their companies you really can’t make very much money because you will not have many customers. If you spend all your time helping people giving away most of what you do and not making a sufficient income, you will not be able to continue due to a lack of funds.

This reminds me of a similar debate in manufacturing. To provide the customer what they are paying for, the winds need to build quality products. To earn sufficient funds to pay for the lines running, asserting quantity must be built and shipped to the customer.

Poor quantity means not enough product to satisfy the customer or keep the line running. On the other hand, poor quality means returns, reworks, and loss of reputation.

Let’s  look at this in action. You have a young line with new builders who have only the most minimum of training. The manufacturing manager steps on the line and tells everyone they will build and package 350 units by the end of the shift, or else she will find new people to build her computers.

The new people, needing the jobs to support their families and themselves are terrified and start doing whatever they can as fast as they can. Quality inspectors, who work for the manufacturing manager (poor choice in organizational structure) are letting all but the most serious of errors through inspection believing if the units are bad they will fail at the testing stations.

Although it’s a squeaker, the 350 units are built and shipped by the end of the shift. Everybody feels elated. Even the manufacturing manager has something on her face, although it’s not sure if what people saw was a smile, or sneer. Alas, this is just the start of the story and not the happy ending. The units shipped have a myriad of flaws, and the customer believes some units have major flaws which require repair before the units can be sold on the open market.

The 350 questionable units are shipped back to the United States from Europe and with 400 units that were built but not shipped underwent re-inspection and repair. When planning the economics of the line, a re-inspection and repair of units at this magnitude were never contemplated. The factory now has to pay for transportation of units, storage of units, a work crew to inspect and repair units, certification of the work by the customer’s inspectors, and re-shipment back to Europe. This is what we call a hidden factory. It’s not something you plan for your factory to do. Not something you’re going to get paid extra for. It is just a drain on the resources of the factory.

Let’s move this back to our question of the day and are we out to help people, or are we after the big bucks.

If you help someone, hopefully, they tell a friend. And if you help their friend, they’ll tell someone else, maybe two. If you build a quality product and put it in a quality program and charge a fair price, you may go far. Doing good things for people grows a following.   

If your product is filled with errors, grammatical problems, ideas that are irrelevant to the reader you may find items being returned and fees requested to be refunded. That is never a good start and is certainly a bad end.

So, what do you do? Do the best that you can make sure your work is relevant to your customer and you go from there.  And…

Be The Person You Want Helping You.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Start

Have you noticed how hard it is sometimes just to get something started?

Sometimes, it seems, we can sit and look at a problem for hours, days or weeks. Sometimes we can’t stand it, and we have to fix it right away.

I used to wait till everyone else went to bed. I used to wait to rearrange the room, paint the walls or clean the kitchen. I could get more done, I felt, by doing it was no one else around. Unfortunately, my body talks to me now an action such as that it no longer tolerates.

I often wonder why it is that it’s so hard to get started, and much easier to keep going when something is started. I look back to the physics of motion. It takes much more energy to start an object into motion than it takes to keep it in motion. You would not think that that would be true of the mind, and yet the mind is connected to a physical body. That connection makes it totally plausible.

This weekend I think I found, if not the answer, at least an answer that works for me. And of course, like Pavlov’s dog, it deals with action and reward. To answer your question no I did not salivate, and my reward was not dog food. Nor did I sit around waiting to hear a bell.

This weekend, I cleaned rooms, did laundry, straighten the place up, and other chores. As a reward, I worked on one of my many paintings that sat for years waiting for attention. The Canvas is an old under-painting of a part of the Grand Canyon with echoing  walls. I had always wanted to work on it and complete it, and time was never there. As a reward, I sat down for an hour and started painting on it. Changing the sky, starting thunderclouds and rain, and even dropping in part of the golden orange background as the sun is sets.

We know that we are social creatures, creatures of desire, and creatures who do like work and rewards. The painting, as a reward, did not cost me anything. I had all the resources. I know that within that hour of work I now have three new mistakes on the canvas I need to fix. And, I also know that I have five dollars in my pocket that say this thing will never hang in the Louvre. Nevertheless, it was the happiest hour I had in some time. Because after a decade, I started painting again.

What are your rewards? They do not have to require expenses, and quite often the simplest things mean more. What did you used to love to do that you don’t anymore? And, what would you do to have that experience again? If you figure that out, you now know your true motivators.

It is the motivators that get things done.

This is why

Thank you for joining us again. We are glad to have you here with us today.

This week we have been working on how to wrangle an overwhelming set of larger-than-life problems into a set of easily workable solutions.

As you seen over the last few weeks, this is absolutely possible. It starts when you admit there are problems, you do an affinity diagram to get an idea of the total landscape concerning the processes. Create a cause-and-effect chart so that you can see the causes that are happening right now and you see the effect you’re having right now. Knowing now the effect that you have and the effect that you want to have, which are probably two different things, you can now look at what causes you might be able to change to make the effect better.

Next thing you want is real data. If you remember, earlier we were working on the home front and as such using some anecdotal information. In business and home efforts, the more data you can gather, the better your efforts are going to be to correct and improve concerns.

In business, we find ways to place measurements on those things we are concerned about. It can be as simple as somebody doing a process and keeping a tic sheet of problems. The measurement could be as elaborate as automated or semi-automated shop floor data collection systems that gather information every time a unit is moved from one location to another, or as critical parts are added. Shop floor data collection system (SFDC) works great for business.

An example of how the SFDC system helped me to find and correct a problem on the assembly line when people from the line started coming to me one day and telling me that there were big problems. They said everything was the moving slow and there were many units that had to be reworked due to poor workmanship and scratched parts.

The first thing I did was pull up the data on the computer. The data showed me that there had only been two items that had to be reworked. One was a screw that was not properly seated, and the other was a cable that was not properly plugged-in. There was no mention of scratches.What worried me though was a line that was supposed to put out 50+ units in an hour, only about 17 units per hour were being completed and packed.

I had been on the line at shift change that morning, and everything looked fine then. That was just three hours ago. I went back out to the production line, and yes it was backed up. I started going station to station to and asking people how things were. In short time, I found out that the quality technician at the end of the assembly line was finding many build problems. The quality technician was trying to make the line look better, so rather than reporting the problems in the SFDC system, was repairing all the problems rather than sending them to rework.

I got with a line supervisor and had the line stop for a quick meeting. I explained everybody why it is important to everyone involved that we use the system correctly and that we actually record all problems and record all repairs. I also explained that the reason for the use of that system was so that I could actually see the problems that were happening on the line. I could quantify them, and then I could change the processes to eliminate the causes of those problems. I also had to explain everybody that when they log such problems they were not getting themselves or anyone else in trouble. They were actually doing what was required and what the engineering department needed to make the processes better and easier for them to use and make everyone’s job easier.

After that, I got better data and was able to design much better processes which allowed for higher quality and easier assembly.

I have also had times where people came in and complained that every other screw was not inserted properly. Going out and doing spot checks on the line, I found out that the shop floor data collection system was correct. Only two screws had been not fully seated, and everything else was fine. A couple people on the line were just having a bad day. I talked with them and was able to let them vent their frustration (which were personal, and not about the build), and then they were able to complete their shift without having the concerns, which really weren’t there to start with. In both cases, without eyes on the line and the shop floor data to show what was real and what was not, as the engineer I would not have been able to make the right calls and build the right processes.

In the first scenario that we looked at wrong data would have led to a poor status quo because the processes would not have changed. In the second scenario, having the correct information allowed us to keep processes that were working, and identify and fix the true concerns.

This is why we will also go back and look at the Pareto chart in other uses. I will give you ideas for how it can work at work and how it can work at home.

Before I leave you today, I need to ask a favor. This favor is to help me to better help you. The question is, are these posts on quality and process improvement something you want to learn? Or do you want to learn something else?

I ask you this because I’m taking two courses this week (yes, teachers take a lot of courses.) We are at the part of the course where we are ensuring that the classes we write are classes wanted by the folks who read us. If there’s something else, you would rather learn, please let me know. I would be more than glad to write on those topics also. If you have any thoughts or ideas, please let us know in the comments section on the blog. I will contact you and try to make other subjects happen.

Thank you for reading this today and thank you in advance for your thoughts, ideas, and comments.

 

Talk as Though You’re Saying Nice Things

It’s interesting that we can be the most knowledgeable on the subject. We can be the most caring on the subject. We have desiring compassion and understanding, and we want to act on something. Yet, without good communication and collaboration, we often fail.

Often, we failed because we get too eager and try to do things too fast and in that effort, we end up putting others off rather than bringing them into collaboration.

We are humans. Humans run on emotions. Yes, humans do run on facts, yet often those facts are clouded by emotional and often irrational fears. When dealing with others, a slow and steady approach is better than rushing the other person. The idea, you don’t want to scare them off.

There are ways to talk to people, and there are ways to talk to people. One the best things I learned in my 13 years as an instructor in the classroom is that it is not what you say to people, rather it is how you talk to them. I’m almost embarrassed to tell the way it works.

The trick to having a good tone in the classroom, in the boardroom, on the factory floor, or at the coffee shop, is to speak kindly. That is,  speak in such a way that your puppy dog would stop and listen to you if he or she heard the talk.  The dog would not understand the meaning, just the pleasant tone.

If you can talk in such a way that your dog will stop and listen to you, then people will also stop and listen to you. It is not what you are saying. It is the way you are sending the information. I often practiced my courses with my dog in attendance, and she paid very good attention. I am glad to hear it was not because of the tuna fish sandwich I held in my hand.

The trick is to talk soft, and whatever you’re saying, talk as though you’re saying nice things. If you do this and do not get pushy, people will listen to you.  They listen because they hear empathy.

Another thing to think of is not to make my favorite error. Rush to judgment. It turns out I’m a guy. And guys like to fix things. I’d like to blame it on John Wayne. Unfortunately, I think this goes all the way back to the beginning of mankind. The trick is to stand back and listen, and this is true for both men and women. Listen, have a good understanding, understand the main characters in any situation and what is going on, and then when asked, have a polite recommendation or to.

Now even though the guy thing (above) is something I’ve been able to practice for many years, I recommend listening and learning and then suggesting or helping to act. It is hard, it is frustrating, and it is very necessary. No one will see the situation the same way you will. Because they are using different eyes different knowledge different brains and a different position within any situation.

This is something to think of and something to consider.

I am proud to announce that we have redesigned the http://www.readingsticks.space website. We are putting the final touches on to the website now. You may see it on Wednesday as we perform live testing. And, depending on how the testing goes we will be live, and running either Wednesday or Thursday.

If you’re interested in what I work with and talk about, please come and take a look at the website there are many interesting things.I think you’d like it.

Have a great day.

 

 

In the Eye of the Beholder

Everybody looks for perfection in the world. Yet finding perfection is tough. Perfection is found in the eye of the beholder. And therefore, it would be very hard to find two ideas of perfection which are the same. It reminds me of the speech from John F. Kennedy who said,” We do these things not because they are easy, we do these and other things because they are hard.”

People like the idea of heading towards perfection, because they look at perfection as black and white. Yet we do not live in a world which lends itself to black-and-white. Rather, the world looks upon all things in unlimited hues, shades, dynamic colors, and variables. What is perfection? That depends, and it is up to each one of us to decide what that meaning is for us.

This week, we will talk about perfection, versus reliability, versus sustainability, versus the ultimate, versus the needed.

I promised to keep this short. And I will.

For today, think of your ideas perfection, and how often you truly achieve it.