Software Rules

“Turn off the radio, Hal.”  “I’m sorry, Mark, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

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A couple of months ago I got the news that my 1995 Toyota Truck with 280,000 miles on it would require an engine rebuild plus a bunch of other stuff I wanted it to continue to be a reliable daily driver and for trips to Portland, etc.

I’ll relate the reason I didn’t replace it in-kind with a Toyota Tacoma in another post.

So now, skipping over the rest of the story, I am the owner of a new Jeep JL Wrangler.

One of the things that has happened since my 1995 Toyota was built is the introduction of electronics into vehicles. My truck’s OEM radio had an on/off/volume knob and a station tuner, plus some presets. (And the optional cassette deck.)

Now I have a 7” touch screen with all kinds of features.

One of those features is a radio. But search as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to just turn it off. I could mute it after I started the vehicle. But no matter what settings I had, when I next started the vehicle, the radio dutifully came on. As a last resort, I went to the OEM “Help” page:

US Customer Service – Chrysler Brand Site

Brief Description: How do I turn off the radio?

Comments: Every time I start the vehicle, the radio comes on. How do I stop that from happening? I can’t see any setting to prevent this.

VIN: 1CHJXDG3Wxxxxxx

Mileage: 61

This is the response I got:

On Tue, Jul 10, 2018, 12:52 PM customerassist
<customerassist@chrysler.com> wrote:
Dear Mark,
Thank you for contacting the Jeep Customer Assistance Center.

Radio mode is the default when the radio is booted up. Sadly there is no option to adjust what mode the radio will start in when the vehicle is started.  This ensures the radio is in the correct mode to allow for updates each time the vehicle starts.

Thank you again for your email.  Should you require additional
assistance, or have any new information to provide, please reply to this email message or call 1-877-I-AM-JEEP (1-877-426-5337).
Sincerely,
James
Customer Service Representative
Jeep Customer Assistance Center
For any future communications related to this email, please refer to the following information:
REFERENCE NUMBER: 3xxxxxxx
EMAIL CASE NUMBER:  3xxxxxx

Well, that was interesting. To be crystal clear, James is doing a great job. It is obvious he read my original query, and he didn’t just send a cut-and-paste response that is all too common. Still… just to make sure I was understanding this correctly, I responded:

Perhaps I wasn’t clear about what problem I am seeking to solve.

I am looking for how to start the vehicle and not have sound automatically start coming out of the speakers. The system does not remember “mute” for example.

So far the only thing I have found is to tune the radio to an empty frequency.

I am certain there is not an intention to force the customer to hear the radio every time the radio is started.

And get a deeper, more personal, response back:

Dear Mark,
Thank you for contacting the Jeep Customer Assistance Center.

Honestly the radio tuned to dead air is the best solution for this
concern I have as yet heard.  I can confirm that this is in fact the way the radio was designed and it is most likely operating as intended.  The radio will start in radio mode and the volume will be set to mid range to ensure the kids do not leave it cranked up too high for you.

I also feel that they dropped the ball a bit on this one as the radio will default to radio mode even if you were using a connected device when you left the vehicle outside of radio mode.

I have recorded your comments on the file for further review and we thank you for the time and effort it took to bring this information to our attention.

Thank you again for your email.  Should you require additional assistance, or have any new information to provide, please reply to this email message or call 1-877-I-AM-JEEP (1-877-426-5337).
Sincerely,
James

James didn’t write design, spec, or write the software. It is clear from his response that if he did, it wouldn’t include this “feature.” And I think I can interpret his response to strongly hint that this isn’t the first time they have heard about this little issue.

So I am thinking now of the mission of Menlo Innovations and my friends there: “End human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.” Perhaps this doesn’t rise to the level of “human suffering” but – seriously?

Kudos, though to James at Jeep Customer Service for his empathetic response that shows he actually read my email.  So FCA – you got that part right. Now… let’s talk about the user experience with your software. Looking at the Jeep brand’s core values, “Freedom, Adventure, Authenticity and Passion” I’d say you came up a little short on the “Freedom” part – I just want to be free to turn of the radio.   😉

I promised I’d be writing about leadership and coaching at the end of last post. That is coming, I just wanted to get this one out of the “drafts” list first.

Notes From Day 2 of Kata-Con

Perfection is the enemy of progress.

  • The longer it takes, the higher the expectation.
  • The higher the expectation, the longer it takes.

My thoughts: I’ve seen this a lot. It is magnified when the leaders are detached from the process.

Process improvement is messy, and if the leaders aren’t comfortable with that messy process, they develop unrealistic expectations of what “progress” looks like.

The people getting the work done, meanwhile, end up working hard to manage those expectations. They actually conceal problems from the boss, for fear of him misinterpreting problems-that-must-be-solved with my-people-don’t-know-what-to-do.*

Trying to layer Toyota Kata over the wrong organizational structure will overwhelm people.

The organizational structure follows necessity. This lines up with Steven Spear’s research.

The organizational structure must match the needs of the process, and the target condition for learning.

If your supervisor has 20 direct reports, it is unlikely he will have the time to work on improvement in a productive way. Toyota’s team leader structure is specifically engineered for improvement, development, and getting a car off the line every 58 seconds.

 

Improvement takes time and people.

The End.

This isn’t free, nor can you calculate an ROI ahead of time. Get over it.

Start with what you MUST accomplish and look at what is required to get there. It doesn’t work the other way around.

If you don’t continually strive, you die.

If you aren’t striving to go forward, you are going backward.

My thoughts: I make the following analogy: Continuous improvement is like a freezer. There is never a time when you can say “OK, it’s cold enough, I can unplug it now.” You must keep striving to improve. Without the continuous addition of intellectual energy, entropy takes over, and you won’t like the equilibrium point.

All of our failures have come to good things.

My thoughts: By deliberately reflecting and deliberately asking “What did we learn?” you can extract value from any experience. The way I put it is “You have already paid the tuition. You might as well get the education.”

We had sponsorship challenges as the leaders caught up with the people.

My thoughts: Yet another instance of the leaders falling behind the capability of their people. When the people become clear about what must be done, and just start doing it, the only thing an uninformed leader can do is either get out of the way or destructively interfere.

People don’t like uncertainty. Kata deliberately creates uncertainty to drive learning. You have to be OK with that.

My thoughts: Another expression of the same point from yesterday.

“Learning only” has a short shelf life.

“Cool and Interesting” is not equal to Relevant.

Those are the words I wrote down, rather than the words I heard. The key point is that you can, for a very short time, select processes to improve based on the learning opportunities alone. But this is extra work for people. The sooner you can make the results important the quicker people get on board.

A business crisis should not stop improvement or coaching. Does it?

My thoughts: This is a good acid test of how well you have embedded. When a crisis comes up, do people use PDCA to solve the problem, or do they drop “this improvement stuff” because they “don’t have time for it.” ?

Inexperienced 2nd coaches coaching inexperienced coaches coaching inexperienced learners… doesn’t work.

A lot of companies try to do this in the interest of going faster. Don’t outrun your headlights. You can only go as fast as you can. Get help from someone experienced.

Just because you have gone a long way doesn’t mean you can’t slip back. You must continue to strive.

The “unplug the freezer” analogy applies here as well.

You don’t have to start doing this. But if you choose to start, you may not stop. You have to do it every day.

Don’t take this on as a casual commitment, and don’t think you can delegate getting your people “fixed.” (they aren’t broken)

Everybody gets it at the same level. Senior managers tend to lose it faster because there is no commitment to practice it every day at their level.

Awareness is a starting point, but not good enough. A 4 hour orientation, however, is not enough to make you an expert… any more than you can skim “Calculus and Analytic Geometry” and learn the subject.

Results do get attention.

“I’ll have what she’s having”

But don’t confuse results with method.

My challenges to the plant managers weren’t about P&L or service levels. They were about moving closer to 1:1 flow, immediate delivery, on demand.

Challenges must be in operational terms, not financial terms.

Move from “These are the measures, and oh by the way, here is the operational pattern” – to –> “This is the operational pattern I am striving for. and I predict it will deliver the performance we need.”

Gotta catch a plane. More later.

 

______________

*When I was in the Army, we got a new Battalion Commander who listened to the logistics radio net, where the staff officers discussed all of the issues and problems that had to be solved. He would jump to a conclusion, and issue orders that, if carried out, would interfere with getting those problems solved.

Although he spoke of initiative and taking action, his actions revealed he wasn’t willing to trust us to let him know if there was a problem we couldn’t handle, and expected perfection in execution in situations that were chaotic and ambiguous.

We ended up finding an unused frequency, and encrypting our traffic with a key that only we shared, so the commander couldn’t hear us. Yup… we were using crypto gear, designed to keep the Soviets from hearing us, to keep our boss from hearing us.

As the information channels to him slowly choked off, he was less and less informed about what was actually happening, and his orders became more and more counter-productive, which in turn drove people to hide even more from him.

This, I think, is a working example of “getting bucked off the horse.”

Latest Travel Tales

Greetings from Gate 29 at GSO.
I was supposed to be in Atlanta by now, but the plane had an earlier maintenance problem.

I actually got to the gate just before they closed the door on the previous flight.
I knew the outbound was running behind schedule, and I would likely miss the connection to Atlanta, so I asked the logical question:
“Are there any seats on this flight?”
“Yes, but it would be a $50 fee.”
“I’m likely to miss my connection, it is going to cost you at least $100 to put me up in Atlanta.”
(attention turned to someone else)

So… I am now rebooked in a first class ticket on a flight to Seattle in the morning.

Had a great kaizen week, I’ll share over the weekend.

Steve Spear on Creative Experimentation

On Monday MIT hosted a webinar with Steven Spear on the topic of “Creative Experimentation.”

A key theme woven throughout Spear’s work is the world today is orders of magnitude more complex than it was even 10 or 15 years ago. Where, in the past, it was feasible for a single person or small group to oversee every aspect of a system, today that simply isn’t possible except in trivial cases. Where, in 1965 it was possible for one person to understand every detail of how an automobile worked, today it is not.

My interpretation goes something like this:

Systems are composed of nodes, each acting on inputs and triggering outputs. In the past, most systems were largely linear. The output of upstream nodes was the input of those immediately downstream. You can see this in the Ford Mustang example that Spear discusses in the webinar.

Today nodes are far more interconnected. Cause and effect is not clear. There are feed-back and feed-forward connections and loop-backs. Interactions between processes impact the results as much as the processes themselves.

Traditional management still tries to manage what is inside the nodes. Performance, and problems, come from the interconnections between nodes more than from within them.

The other key point is that traditional management seeks to first define, then develop a system with the goal of eventually reaching a steady state. Today, though, the steady state simply does not exist.

Product development cycles are quickening. Before one product is stable, the next one is launched. There is no plateau anymore in most industries.

From my notes – “The right answer is not the answer for very long. It changes continuously.”

Therefore, it is vital that organizations be able to handle rapid shifts quickly.

With that, here is the recorded webinar.

(Edit: The original flies have been deleted from the MIT server.)

A couple of things struck me as I participated in this.

Acknowledging that Spear has a bias here (as do I), the fact that Toyota’s inherent structure and management system is set up to deal with the world this way is probably one of the greatest advantages ever created by happenstance.

I say that because I don’t believe Toyota ever set out to design a system to manage complexity. It just emerged from necessity.

We have an advantage of being able to study it and try to grasp how it works, but we won’t be able to replicate it by decomposing its pieces and putting it back together.

Like all complex systems, this one works because of the connections, and those connections are ever changing and adapting. You can’t take a snapshot and say “this is it” any more than you can create a static neural net and say you have a brain.

Local Capability

One thing that emerges as critical is developing a local capability for this creative experimentation.

I think, what Spear calls “creative experimentation” is not that different from what Rother calls the “improvement kata.” Rother brings more structure to the process, but they are describing essentially the same thing.

Why is local capability critical? Processes today are too complex to have a single point of influence. One small team cannot see the entire picture. Neither can that small team go from node to node and fix everything. (This is the model that is used in operations that have dedicated staff improvement specialists, and this is why improvements plateau.)

The only way to respond as quickly as change is happening is to have the response system embedded throughout the network.

How do you develop local capability? That is the crux of the problem in most organizations. I was in an online coaching session on Tuesday discussing a similar problem. But, in reality, you develop the capability the way you develop any skill: practice. And this brings us back to the key point in Kata.

Practice goes no good unless you are striving against an ideal standard. It is, therefore, crucial to have a standardized problem solving approach that people are trying to master.

To be clear, after they have mastered it, they earn a license to push the boundaries a bit. But I am referring to true mastery here, not simple proficiency. My advice is  to focus on establishing the standard. That is difficult enough.

An Example: Decoding Mary – Find the Bright Spots

Spear’s story of “Decoding Mary” where the re-admission rate of patients to a hospital directly correlated with the particular nurse handled their transfer reminded me of Heath & Heath’s stories from Switch. One of the nine levers for change that they cite is “find the bright spots.”

In this case the creative experimentation was the process of trying to figure out exactly what Mary did differently so it could be codified and replicated for a more consistent result independent of who did it.

The key, in both of these cases, is to find success and study it, trying to capture what is different – and capture it in a way that can be easily replicated. That is exactly what happened here.

A lot of organizations do this backwards. They study what (or who) is not performing to determine what is wrong.

Sometimes it is far easier to try to extract the essence what works. Where are your bright spots for superb quality? Does one shift, or one crew, perform better than the others? Do you even know? It took some real digging to reveal that “Mary” was even the correlating factor here.

Continuous Improvement Means Continuous Change

Since “continuous improvement” really means “continuously improving the capability of your people,” now perhaps we have “to do what.” I have said (and still say) that the “what” is problem solving.

What you get for that, though, is a deep capability to deal with accelerating change at an accelerating rate without losing your orientation or balance.

It is the means to allow the pieces of the organization to continue to operate in harmony while everything is changing. That brings us back to another dilemma: What is the ROI on learning to become very, very good? You don’t know what the future is going to throw at you, only that you need the capability to deal with it at an ever quicker pace.

But none of this works unless you make a concerted effort to get good at it.

Here is the original link to the MIT page with the video, and a download link for PDFs of the slides:

http://sdm.mit.edu/news/news_articles/webinar_010912/webinar-spear-complex-operating-systems.html

New Forum Area: Outside the Factory

Zoe owns Grassroots Books in Reno, NV and is exploring how to make these concepts work in a small retail operation. They are just getting started, but are finding lots of opportunities.

When talking to her last night, she mentioned she would like to network with other people who are trying to apply these concepts in non-traditional arenas.

In response, I created a new forum on The Lean Thinker’s Community. It is called “Outside the Factory” and is intended as a gathering place for practitioners and others who want to discuss how to apply TPS in non-manufacturing environments.

I would love to see some synergy develop there, and intend to fully participate as well. Stop in and say “Hello.”

3D Printing as a Kaizen Tool

One of the tenants of TPS is to learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, with as much future flexibility as possible. This is the whole point of JIT.

The more quickly something can be built or mocked up, the more quickly it can be tried and tested, and the more quickly we learn what improvements can be made.

We are seeing the beginning of a revolution in fabrication technology as 3D printing starts to move out of high-end prototyping shops and into the mainstream.

This (very entertaining) video tells about an open source(!) 3D printer design that can be had for about a little over a grand. (USD$1250)  (makerbot.com)

Open source means that you can grab the technology and scale it if you want to.

 

Why I Love My 3D Printer

The step from one-off prototyping to full mass-customization is a small one. It is just a matter of time. The ultimate die change is none at all.

So – rather than looking at the limitations of this technology, look at the possibilities.

Evidence of Success with MRP?

An old, very esoteric, post got a four word comment today that sent my mind thinking. And because the topic is esoteric, this post is as well – my apologies.

The post, Is the MRP Algorithm Fatally Flawed, gets a lot of search hits because of the title. The post discusses an obscure PhD dissertation that asserts that the underlying logic of MRP systems share defining characteristics with a debunked model for computational intelligence. The researcher makes a compelling case.

The comment, from Indonesia, said “please send for example”

Assuming I did not misinterpret the comment, I believe the writer was asking for examples of what does not work.

Here is what got me thinking.

In order to refute Dr. Johnston’s thesis, we have to find a non-trivial case where an unaltered application or the MRP algorithm works as intended. Just one. Then we would have to carefully understand that instance to determine if it was truly a case where MRP is working as intended, or something else.

Ironically, the working examples I have seen have gotten there by combining work centers into value streams with pull and systematically turning off the inventory netting and detailed scheduling functions of their MRP. In other words, they are migrating the system toward something that directly connects supplying and consuming processes with each other. These systems are far more able to respond to the small fluctuations that trip up the MRP logic. Those examples, however, confirm, rather than refute, what Dr. Johnston is saying.

Considering that the vast majority of factories are still trying to make the MRP algorithm work, does anyone have an example of where discrete manufacturing order scheduling of each operation actually gives a workable production plan that can be followed without hot lists and other forms of outside-the-system intervention? Just curious now.

 

Voice Interface Fail

I am in Germany, with a rental car, going places I have never been. To make this a little easier, I got a GPS unit.

One of the features of the GPS is that the voice turn-by-turn can be set in multiple languages. I (reasonably) set it to “American English.”

I have got to say that I have not heard such creative mangling of German street names since I was stationed over here in the Army.

Here is the irony: This little device, by the nature of its basic function knows exactly where it is. How about, people, programming it to speak the directions in English, but the street names in the local language.

Perhaps it would help if the designers actually tried to use the product in different countries.

This is a safety issue because I should not be having to suppress so much amusement when I am trying to navigate German traffic.  🙂