February 14, 2009

Process thinking is rather addictive. – Argo`s case

As I said before since I began realising the whole process question I created the habit of always think about the processes around me. Again this happened today.

Went to Argos, they actually have a physical store in Coventry. They have a completely different selling process, where you choose on a catalogue in the store, pay on an ATM kind of thing and go and get your stuff on a balcony. Rather interesting for commoditized products. Could help appreciating the process, understanding where they saved money (Aykut was with me and we spent sometime discussing it) and them eventual problems, points of attention, how could I reproduce it somewhere else.

Very interesting process in which a whole business was created. Very good example of a connection between a process and a strategy.

February 09, 2009

Process Improvement Project – life

Again, quoting Deming, Life is Variation.

But if life is a set of processes (or perhaps one big process....) what if someone decided to use six sigma tools to improve that process? Of coursethe challenges would be enormous. First, defining what is improvement, what should be improved?   Is it getting a better salary? Having a longer/healthier life? Having the biggest amount of time for fun? But let`s supose you createa kind of balanced scorecard  (Hoshin Kanri would apply here by using the catch ball process with family or friends or you are the only stakeholder?) based on a personal mission and vision definitions (like the ones I created some posts ago) that would attribute points to several aspects of the life. The process improvement could be directed to improved that dimensions. Would that work?

We already do it on an unconscious way. Every decision we make is towards improving some dimension of our life (oh..I`m to lazy today, need to improve my comfort , forget about PMA`s, I`ll take a nap!).So we are always trying to improve that process. But if we did that on a conscious and structured way, would it work? I think so, because several of the things we do are  actually structured ways to do what we could have done by ourselves. For example taking  a  masters to learn something (not talking about the diploma or the status, just the learning experience). If we read enough books, reflected, discussed with a few people we could learn the same or even more. But having a structured place with people that have studied for many years, are able to recommend the best paths, can promote discussions, etc etc makes things much easier and fast. The same with the gym. You could buy a good book, do some studying, find out the best exercises go outside and do it! But the gym has a method, some machines that makes things easier, some guy giving you tips, etc etc.

So yes, a rational approach to life`s processes could improve it. Even though if you take it too seriously you might became the most boring person in the world!


Ps. I just remembered that there is a game I never actually played but my brother liked for a while, you probably know called "the Sim`s" and it is a life simulator (???!!!?!?!?!?). They do give dimensions that you must attend in order to your little avatar to have a happy healthy life. Is a bit like the scorecard idea I gave before...

February 06, 2009

About brothers, wars, humans…

I was thinking about the discussion in Abdul Blog, the one about the Gaza situation. I wrote on my comments that I believe Palestinians and Jews are brothers. It sounded very religious specially from someone who is not religious like myself. But I`d like to talk a bit more about why do I think we are all brothers and I have two kinds of justifications. First a set that I classify as the "scientific" set:

- We all came from the evolved from monkeys that used to walk around in Africa-Middle East somewhere. Same origin.

- The 3 major religions (Jews, Muslims and Christians) came from the same "father"  Abraham and were born in the same region of the world.

- It is genetically proven by DNA tests that Palestines and Jews came from a same common tribe thousands of years ago.

I could put some other scentific reasons but those are enough.

The second set of reasons is a bit more philosofical and if you wish poetical. It doesn`t matter if you are talking about Hitler, Gandhy, Churchill, Jesus, Plato, Pele, James Brown, Bush, Stalin, Mao, Penelope Cruz, Bobby Moore, Madre Teresa,  Sir Edmund Hilary, Fidel Castro, Onassis, Nietzsche, Beethoven, John Lennon, Gardel, Mandela, Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X. Simon Perez, Cristiano Ronaldo all those people just like any other one of us:

-Have fear

-Have been a baby someday

-Will (or have already) die

-Had a mother

-Fell pain

-Have hopes

-Have dreams

-Loved someone

-Need to eat, to sleep

-Are able to think and to create things

-Are able to feel

I know a feel people would argue some of those points for the most extreme names I listed (Jesus and Hitler, for instance) but I believe in that, I believe we are all made of the same material, we are only a little community living on a huge and mysterious universe and mysteriously being able to question ourselves therefore there's no sense in not considering someone my brother, my own for some minor differences such as the colour of the skin, languages or beliefs. What brings us together is much much much bigger then what keeps us apart. And I hope we all will understand that some day. Its hard and I`m just as guilty as the next man for not having achieved that. But I`ll always work out trying to do my bit.

So that`s why even though I do not like everything that comes from everyone I still think we are all brothers.

February 04, 2009

Variation and processes

Life is Variation, would say Deming. 

Since I started working with processes in a more structured (even though quite ignorant and naive way)  I always tended to think about everything in a processual way. Everything was a process that could be improved. Having a shower, going to work, the service on a restaurant etc (actually that is something that could be surprinsigly improved in many places I go in here). 

But now I`m going a bit deeper, I think about variation. I think how I would measure, how to improve, what possible special and common causes I could find, etc etc. A FANTASTIC way to do it is playing tennis. after many years I`m playing tennis again. And tennis is pretty much about consistency. Is about keeping the ball within limits and trying to make the process harder for your adversary so that you introduce a greater variation in his process. Conceptually speaking , hitting in a way that makes things difficult for the adversary so that he gets it wrong is introducing a special or common cause variation into his system?

Just thinking....

February 03, 2009

Showing appreciation for some people that deserve it…

A quick personal entry to show appreciation for 4 people that are really helping the class (or at least me) by using their blogs or feedbacks:


Our mysterious commentator. Sue you have not answered my question about who you are andhow we could find a way to make you able to write your own thoughts. If you rather discuss that by email, please write me: f.abreu@warwick.ac.uk . Anyway, thanks for your participation and comments.


The master of the software/technical tips. Besides being a very nice fellow (and not wanting to kill me when I keep asking questions about his culture/religion...I`m glad he understood I`m just someone trying not to be so ignorant and not to have opinions without knowledge!). Not just a nice chap...

Louis (Kang):

Best blog user I know. Sometimes I disagree with some of his comments and just out of poor laziness don`t answer them. Fantastic comments and posts on everyone`s blogs. And I learned to admire people who really put effort into things the way he does. And besides that he is a Kiwi, and I so thankful with what I have, what I learned from Kiwiland...

Paul (Roberts):

I`ve studied 90% of my life. I`ve not attended some kind of formal education about 4 years in my life (being 2 of them the first two). So I met quite a lot of so called "teachers" . But two things I really admire in Paul are very hard to find around. 1st, as I said before, he walks the talk. He does what he says and believes, he is someone in which the word you can trust. Not suited for politics I guess.....2nd the quality of his work, how serious he does it, the quality of his effort. I really enjoyed his comments on my CBE PMA, I`ve found them mostly very fair and helpful and it is clear he really treated it seriously even though he read thousands of similar reports before. Fantastic example.

So, to the four of you, thanks for helping me (and some other I think) to improve.

January 28, 2009

Miraculous solutions…or not.

PIUSS module is an interesting one. I still miss more specific discussions but it is obviously impossible to do it with 24 people around.

I liked the guest speaker but I have got to make a comment about the first one. He is the owner of a consultancy that helps in the implementation of process improvement solutions. His material is very good (and I`ve see material from other places, but I think his material is better). But he has he same problem most consultants have. Even though he consciously and rationally would not say that his solution is not complete, not perfect and is not able to solve everything (because it is OBVIOUS that there is no complete solution in the world) he still, quite often, criticises other approaches in a way that seems to insinuate his is the complete, the vest one. It is logical that he likes and thinks his approach is the best, but just as any other serious and structured approach it has gaps and flaws. I`ve seen quite a few presentations from consultants. I`ve worked enough time to know how they talk, what is the speech. And there is always this kind of "My solution is the best, and the others are incomplete because they don`t consider that and don`t think about that other thing."  His competitor would say the same about his...

I think six sigma, specially with that Deming approach that actually puts more attention on the system of profound knowledge then in the statistics or DMAIC, DFSS, is a very interesting and clever approach. It is capable of great things (with all the needed support in place) however just like any other method it has its flaws. Them it comes a big question. Is Deming complete? I really don`t think i know enough to answer that question but I will use one of Deming`s principles, the theory of knowledge, to give an idea based on my theoretical thinking. Based on that the answer would be NO, Deming is not complete because nothing is complete, the world changes ideas and science evolve. But from my EXTREMELLY small knowledge I must admit that as time passes I agree more and more with him. Some of the things I did not connect first are making more sense now. But I`m not sure if Deming had this consultant posture they all have and our friend on Monday also had.

Now, just to be and add a bit controversy. This whole idea of "my-model-is-amazing-and-complete-and-much-better-and-wiser-them-the-other-models-and-consultants-around"  reminds me a bit of religion. Don`t they all work a bit like that?

January 22, 2009

Charismatic leaders

As I wrote a few posts ago I always enjoyed leading (and I must say that I`m quite proud with the fact that I have been able to be a good follower several times lately, and I did it on a conscious way, a learning way, trying to understand what was the most productive behaviour, how other people behaved and led).  I also have always understood that my leadership skill was mainly based on my social skills, my charisma. But I always thought that leading by charisma was dangerous, not desirable, fragile and would not work in the long term. I was quite surprised reading the theory about it stating that ity was an useful ans perfectly understandable to be a charismatic leader and that it could be used just as much as any other leadership technique and that actually it was highly desirable in certain situations (specifically transformational ones). 

Well, I must say that I`m a rational person and I believe in science and experiment, but I`m still a bit unsure. And somehow I don`t want to be sure about that because I think that by not being sure I`ll force myself to learn new skills and leadership traits while keeping the charisma, i`ll not accommodate and still keep this ability. Certainty can be a poison to evolution in any aspect and leadership is no different. 

January 20, 2009

Deming, always holistic…

Working on the PIUSS project we decided to divide the questions among us. It is not the best way learning-wise however is the quickest way and for us now, the quicker the better.

Anyway, did a lot of reading on variation and it`s very easy to relate Deming`s understanding of variation with 6 Sigma. However is not so easy to relate it on an isolated way to Psychology. That is funny since Psy is related to pretty much everything. 

So I had a long discussion about it with Cristal and Gilbert on the computer lab. We reached two conclusions, first (and obvious) is that a holistic vision is always needed (and actually Deming says that himself, all parts must be applied together). Psychology must be understood alongside variation, theory of knowledge and appreciation of a system. Secondly is that exactly for being part of all psychology can be related to everything, after all organisations are made of people....But I`d think the best connection between psychology on the SoPK and 6 sigma would be the need of conduct change in which psychology can help but 6 Sigma can also help since it is a structured and tested way. Even the fact that the name "six sigma"is famous can be o f great help to conduct change.

Heroic leader

Writing about The Dark Knight and Leadership from Jingjing's blog

I read this entry by Jing Jing and something that I`ve longed thought of came to my mind. To explain it I`ll go through a small personal history.

I have always liked to be in front of things so many years ago I was an intern in a company (actually a British one in Brazil) an they decided to hire a large number of interns at the same time to build the team of a new department they were creating. They divided us in teams of about 3-4 people each to handle different activities and at first they did not specify anyone to be "responsible" for each team, we were generally managed by the same person. But naturally each team ended up having an informal leader that was naturally recognised as so by everyone else (later it became formal, but I was already working in another area).

I was the leader of my team. We had an activity that was not fun, was kind of boring and repetitive but was probably the most risky one because one mistake could represent real losses for both the company and the client. I`m glad to say that compared to tha amount of transactions we handled we rarely committed mistakes, even though we once committed a big one that really was our fault, but since I was the leader I assumed it as my mistake, but in the other hand I`m ashamed to say that looking backwards we were so naive and had so little control and no understanding at all about processes, systems, etc. Anyway, we managed to be a very close and united team and even though the work was boring an repetitive we were proud together.

But there was something that gave me pleasure. I loved problems. When we had a problem or a complaint/question from our internal clients, even though that was a potential mistake we committed (most of the time it wasn`t) I liked because I had to investigate, to figure it out. Basically I loved outing "fires" of. It is understandable but it is also stupid. I liked being the hero and fixing things up. I liked the heroic leader thing. In my defence I have to say that I soon realised that rationally that was stupid, that even though my boss liked it and it put in me in a good position I`ve already understood that the simple fact that we had problems meant we had bad processes and planning. A heroic leader on that sense, someone who puts fires off is a bad thing. But as the literature recognises he is frequently praised and rewarded. I realised that many years ago (even though I benefited from it) and I`m glad all authors agree on that.

Of course JingJing posts can also refer to the heroic leader in the sense of the guy who had nothing to do with the lack of planning before and steps in to fix it. Churchill on WW2, Obama now, etc etc etc.

But the real good leader is the one who is able to avoid problems, is the unsung hero who prevents problems. But people do not see it.... 

January 19, 2009


Do you know what is an Anarchist? It is somebody that does not believe in having organised systems governing societies, political organisations and that actually fights against it. He likes the idea that people should rule themselves instead of living under an organised political process.

Relating that to leadership. Are Anarchists actually advocating that each one should govern oneself, therefore stimulating people to be leaders or actually saying leaders, at least formal institutionalised ones, are not needed? Or they are doing both? Are they pro or against leaders? Formally thinking they are against because all leadership theory is built based on the idea that one to be a leader must have followers, that is exactly what the anarchists are against (again, at least on the political/institutional level, my very limited knowledge about it does not know if the say applies to other kinds of leadership...).

Anyway, I`ve became more curious about them...Will try to find sometime to read and learn about.


Ps. Sue, I really like your opinions even realising that you are kind of bored with all the posts about leadership, but believe me is an act of discipline because since I`m not crazy about the subject but it is part of my master degree to understand a bit more about it, therefore as an exercise of discipline I`m trying, with my limited knowledge, to reflect on the matter. By the way, being yourself such a mythical figure you should enlighten us with an address to your own blog or some informations about yourself, but I must say that I, for one, like very much your comments!

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