Kindle book 42. Systems Thinking in the Public Sector by John Seddon. 'Failure waste' has entered the GDS vocabulary from here. It was interesting to read so much about Ohno since I spent so much of my advertising life working with Japanese car clients and heard a lot about Kaizen and related ideas. I hadn't realised how important these ideas were beyond the car business.
It's also a great book to be reading when you're dealing with a failure in service - normally, for me with a delivery company. It makes you think through what's going on, consider how it might be improved. This is a useful philosphical exercise in that it distracts you from futile fury.
"The causes of failure demand can only lie in the way the service is designed, so the next step for the systems thinker is to study the flow of work: how everything works end-to-end from the claimant’s point of view."
"As Toyota’s Ohno taught, the more work is sorted, batched, handed over and queued, the more errors creep in. And there is rework: every time a file is opened it has to be read."
(I think this is true of 'creative work' too. The more a task is batched and sorted between user, briefer and maker the more diluted and error prone it gets.)
"Turning off the causes of failure demand is one of the most powerful economic levers available to managers; it has an immediate impact on capacity."
"In this new world managers begin to appreciate the fundamental truth that strategy lies in operations: designing against demand will lead to new and better services, in short a new and better strategy."
"A system must have an aim. Without an aim, there is no system. W. Edwards Deming."
"This prompts me to mention Ohno’s thoughts about ‘best practice’. He thought it a dangerous and misleading idea. ‘Best’ implies static, something ‘good’ that should be copied. He said that whenever you hear the word ‘best’, think ‘better’, because anything can be improved. Second, everything you need to know in order to make improvements will be found in your own system. If you go looking elsewhere, you will be looking in the wrong place."
(I used to get asked to do a lot of talks about best practise. The assumption being that I could just pass on the secrets learned at the great places I'd worked. There weren't any secrets to best practise though.)
"Instead of compliance we need innovation, and to foster innovation we need freedom. People need to feel free to act in the best interest of their stakeholders or, in Moore’s terms, to do what is best in terms of their particular circumstances. To achieve that, we have to make public-sector managers responsible. They have to be able to choose what to do, free from the obligation of compliance. The way to foster innovation is by changing the locus of control from the regime, which compels compliance, to the public-sector manager, who is the person who actually needs to change."
"Inspection of performance should be concerned with asking only one question of public-sector managers: ‘What measures are you using to help you understand and improve the work?’"
"Moreover, systems thinking is concerned with increasing capacity. It is as Deming taught: better quality leads to lower prices, a greater market share, growth and, thus, to more jobs. Those who seek cost reductions will fail, yet, paradoxically, cost reductions are a by-product of systems design."