Edclick

Edclicking

By Dr. Harry Tennant

Edclicking

by Harry Tennant
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Entries from May 2012
Posts 1 - 11 of 11

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Continuous improvement is persistent improvement

I was working on a relatively technical task today. A process that seems as though it should be virtually automatic is taking about three hours per item.

When I'm in the thick of trying to get the job done, it's hard to keep focused on improvement. It is tempting to put off the improvements for another time. But it isn't a good idea. The task is going to come up again and I'd be no better off then than now. That's the way to get stuck in a rut of poor performance.

One of the things that helped for improvements is that each time that I finished doing one of the items, I stopped to make a list of the unexpected inefficiencies that appeared while doing the work. Making the list made solutions and improvements come to mind, which I then implemented. Those improvements made the next item go more smoothly.

Over the course of the day, I improved the process significantly. But I continued to find more issues. The key to success is persistence. Keep improving, even when you don't feel like it. Remember, the job isn't just to do the job, it's to do the job better.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

The process of education

When we're copying someone else, we can simply watch what they do and then do it ourselves. And, in many cases, that's exactly the right thing to do. The reason that McDonalds and other franchises are so successful and that there are so many of them is because they have described exactly how to cook a burger, exactly how to clean the fryer, exactly when to clean the restrooms and so on. They've found a process that works and if you adhere to it, you will also be successful.

Our schools could benefit from learning a few things from McDonalds and turn education into more of a science and less of an art. The reason is that lots of people can successfully follow a script, but not many are successful artists.

In the same way that we don't want every car to be made by an artist (it would be incredibly expensive and would take another artist to maintain it), we don't need every classroom run by artists.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Paring down motivations

Six opportunities for motivation and improvement.

  1. Internal improvement: Knowledge
    • What did I learn today?
    • What didn't I know and need to learn?
  2. Internal improvement: Skills, danger management, emotional regulation, perserverance 
    • To what areas should I devote deliberate practice to improve my skills?
    • Would I benefit from coaching or seeing myself in action?
    • Any threats or conflicts avoided, finessed or defused?
    • Was I able to control my emotions in order to attain peak performance or did emotions get in my way?
    • Am I taking on tasks at the edge of my current abilities to provide challenge yet successful outcomes?
  3. External improvements
    • What improvements in the form of processes, tools, components, products or ideas have I created?
  4. Competition and measurement
    • Am I measuring my performance?
    • How am I doing relative to past performance?
    • How am I doing relative to others?
    • What can I do to improve my performance?
    • Am I getting immediate feedback on my performance?
  5. Relationships and cooperation
    • Am I working with others for the pleasure of relationships and to mutually benefit from cooperation and collaboration?
    • Am I building or depleting social capital?
  6. Optimal Choices
    • Am I taking advantage of my opportunities?
    • In particular, what choices did I make in terms of my attitude, emotional responses and assumed motives of others that improved my day?
    • Am I properly balancing short-term urgent needs with important long-term needs (especially improvement)?

Posted at 8:29 PM (permalink) 0 Comments View/Leave Comment Share this post with email Share this post on Facebook Share this post on Twitter Share this post on LinkedIn
Keywords: Continuous improvement

 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Revisiting continuous improvement in knowledge work

What constitutes continuous improvement in knowledge work?

  1. Continually root out all waste
    • What wastes your time?
    • What wastes your talents and capabilities?
    • What is being redone that could be automated or templated?
    • Delve into why you do what you do. Is it all necessary and efficient?
    • Who else has solved this problem? Must you resolve it?
    • What do you do that creates no value (in the eyes of the customer)?
    • What processes are in place only because of inertia? What can be eliminated?
    • How can errors be eliminated (take them one at a time, error by error)? How can errors or defects be identified as early as possible?
    • What don't we know about what we are doing? How can we better understand it?
  2. Strive to make tacit knowledge explicit
    • Are you making dumb mistakes? Specify work as simple checklists.
    • What can be automated?
    • What can be streamlined with standard parts like templates, boilerplate and copy and paste?
    • Can you use the Pareto principle to make the easy 80% effortless while freeing time for the more challenging 20%
  3. Establish measurable goals
    • How can your process and goals become measureable?
    • How can your process become more visual?
    • How much measurement do you need to reduce uncertainty to make informed decisions?
  4. Specify how team members should communicate
    • What can be communicated through shared resources such as databases and knowledge bases?
    • How can you effectively communicate (i.e., share information) with others without interrupting them (answers on demand)?
    • Who needs to know what? Who does not need to know what (so don't bother her)?
    • What facts are needed to resolve common questions?
    • What are your most common errors or situations that arise? Can they be pre-solved once rather than re-solved every time they occur?
    • What is an error and what is a style preference? Who resolves style preferences?
  5. Use the scientific method to solve problems quickly
    • Have you defined the problem?
    • What evidence defines the problem?
    • What evidence would indicate that the problem has been solved?
    • What evidence shows that your changes are improvements?
    • Has your candidate solution solved the problem? If not, try another.
  6. Recognize that your processes are always a work in progress
    • Do you realize that your job is not to do your job, but to do your job better?
  7. Improve knowledge and skills
    • What have you learned?
    • What do you need to learn?
    • How can you learn it?
  8. Have leaders blaze the trail
    • Does management emphasize continuous improvement frequently and over a long time span?

 

Posted at 12:00 AM (permalink) 0 Comments View/Leave Comment Share this post with email Share this post on Facebook Share this post on Twitter Share this post on LinkedIn
Keywords: continuous improvement, knowedge work

 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lessons from games: Motivations and reflection

In my last post, I discussed video game motiviations. How can they be applied to the practice of daily reflection for improvement? Why not simply use the list of needs as a checklist of things to consider in the reflection? Not only is it likely to improve my performance, but is also a roadmap to making my days more personally rewarding.

  1. Knowledge
    • What did I learn today?
    • What didn't I know and need to learn?
    • Can I learn it right now?
  2. Skills
    • To what areas should I devote deliberate practice to improve my skills?
    • Would I benefit from coaching or seeing myself in action?
  3. Competence
    • What do I feel that I am coming to master?
  4. Perseverance
    • How was I challenged to persevere on a difficult but worthwhile project today?
    • Was there an example where perseverence paid benefits?
  5. Creation
    • What did I create today or help others to create?
    • What recent improvements did I work into my routines today?
  6. Danger Management
    • Any threats or conflicts avoided, finessed or defused?
  7. Competition
    • How am I doing relative to others?
    • What can I do to improve my ranking?
    • Am I getting immediate feedback on my performance?
  8. Cooperation
    • How did I help others today?
    • How did cooperation help each of us do better today?
    • Am I building or depleting social capital?
  9. Caring
    • Did I demonstrate caring for others today?
    • Did others care for me? Did I show gratitude?
    • How might others benefit if I showed more caring and gratitude and what opportunities should I watch for?
  10. Emotional Regulation
    • Was I able to control my emotions in order to attain peak performance?
    • What other emotional controls do I need to work on?
  11. Optimal Choice
    • What choices did I make today that were particularly pleasing?
    • How am I taking advantage of my opportunities?
    • In particular, what choices did I make in terms of my attitude, emotional responses and assumed motives of others that improved my day?
    • What choices did I make that should have been made differently?

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Keywords: continuous improvement, reflection

 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Creating habits for improvement

It's easy to say that you would like the folks in your organization to have a habit of continuous improvement. It's harder to make it happen.

The end result we are looking for is for everyone in the organization from the bottom to the top to have a habit of looking for opportunities for improvement and making those improvements. So, how do you build such a habit?

A habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. The cue triggers the habit, the routine is the process that a person executes and then the reward keeps him doing it.

Let's say you're going to encourage folks to reflect daily on their day to think of opportunities to improve. You create a cue. In this case, it's a time cue: 15 minutes before quitting is reflection time.

Now, create a routine. What is supposed to happen during reflection time? Perhaps it's to list the major activities of the day and consider improvements for each.

What's the reward? If reflection time is mere compliance to an administrative directive, that's not much of a reward. Or maybe the reward is to avoid the wrath of one's supervisor if the work is not done. Again, not much of a reward. Or perhaps the reward is the feeling of well-being one gets from seeing his performance get better and better. Possible. That's a long shot, but the odds can be enhanced through measurement and tracking so improving performance can be easily visualized. But it's still a long shot.

Video game makers want their games to become habitual (addictive, actually), so what rewards to they provide? An interesting article on The Theory of Gaming Motivation puts it this way:

There are 11 basic psychological needs that people can fulfill by playing video games. ... The 11 basic needs are gaining knowledge, gaining and improving skills, feeling competent, persevering through hard times, creating tools, managing danger, regulating emotions, competing for rewards, cooperating for rewards, caring for loved ones, and satisfying the senses with pleasant inputs (sights, smells, sounds, etc.). In the model they will each be referred to by their relevant nouns. Only “satisfying the senses with pleasant inputs” is called “Optimal Choice” because that is the purpose of satisfying our senses. They help us make the best choice by making us feel attracted to “good” things and repelled by “bad” things.

We do not always feel the 11 basic needs for what they are. Most often we simply crave the rewards that they offer and intuitively do the right things to fulfill neglected needs. The three types of reward we feel are achievement, recognition and satisfaction.

And here are the needs and their rewarding feelings in games:

  1. Knowledge
    •  Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  2. Skills
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  3. Competence
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  4. Perseverance
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  5. Creation
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement
  6. Danger Management
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement & Fulfillment
  7. Competition
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement & Recognition
  8. Cooperation
    • Rewarding feeling: Achievement, Recognition & Fulfillment
  9. Caring
    • Rewarding feeling: Recognition & Satisfaction
  10. Emotional Regulation
    • Rewarding feeling: Satisfaction
  11. Optimal Choice
    • Rewarding feeling: Satisfaction

In a work situation, there's one more need that's not relevant to gaming: meaningfulness. Games are enjoyable but playing them doesn't help our fellow man. But teaching, contributing to useful products or activities that benefit others can feel meaningful. We have to remember, however, not to rely too heavily on the long-term rewards of meaningfulness. It is much more effective to incorporate the 11 more immediate needs and rewards listed above.

Posted at 10:41 AM (permalink) 4 Comments View/Leave Comment Share this post with email Share this post on Facebook Share this post on Twitter Share this post on LinkedIn
Keywords: continuous improvement, rewards

 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Improvement logs

If you want to improve something, measure it. Obviously some things are easier to measure than others. One of the easiest things to track for continuous improvement is the improvement log.

The improvement log is a simple list of improvements that you've made. It's not a to-do list. It's not improvements you're going to get around to someday. Although those lists are valuable, they aren't improvement logs.

I set goals for the number of improvements I want to make in a month. When I make an improvement I simply add it to the list. It's encouraging to watch the list of improvements grow and it's motivating to see how close or far I am from my intended goal.

Improvement logs: simple but effective.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, improvement log

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Voice dictation: a near-universal improvement opportunity

I have used Dragon NaturallySpeaking for several years. I've used it to dictate two books, and a lot of the documentation for our products. It is really easy to compose text this way. (I am currently dictating through Dragon as I write this.)

It feels a little awkward to me to get started with dictation. I had the same feeling of awkwardness years ago when I would dictate letters and reports for transcription by humans. But with a little practice you get over that. The big advantage of getting over that awkwardness, is that you can generate text a lot faster than you can type thing.

One of the reasons that I have not used Dragon on a daily basis is the problem of the headset. Until now the headsets that I've used have always had a wire on them.  The wire gets in the way and it's awkward knocking around on the desk.

Recently I bought a wireless headset. It's easy. It just sits on my desk until I'm ready to put it on, and then I start dictating. No papers get knocked off my desk in the process, no wire gets tangled up in things when the headset is not in use.

Since everybody composes text, I recommend to all to give Dragon a try because I have found so useful over the years.

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Keywords: Continuous improvement, Dragon

 

Monday, May 7, 2012

You have a mission statement. Now what?

Having a mission statement does not necessarily have anything to do with what the organization actually does. Although a mission statement may be the result of management blood, sweat and tears, it means nothing until the folks in the organization start living by it. How do you get from here to there?

Exposure

Your crew needs to know that the mission is. It must be short enough to be memorable and it has to be repeated frequently. It would be nice if we learned things by being told once, but we don't. You know your times tables because of repetition, you know about McDonalds because of repetition and you'll need repetition for your crew to know what your mission statement is.

Understanding

Exposure can get your crew familiar with your mission. That doesn't mean they understand it. Understanding comes from using the idea. Edclick makes web-based data products for continuous improvement in education. That's our mission statement. Does the crew get it just because I say it? They get it better when we pay attention to the idea, when we work with it. When we challenge it and it has to defend itself. For example, when we discuss a possible new product idea, we have a perpetual question: how will this lead to continuous improvement in education?

Asking questions and discussing the answers gets us closer to understanding what the mission statement means. But we still aren't there.

Belief

Beyond understanding the mission, you want your crew to believe in it. You cannot create belief by decree or intimidation. It's going to take some convincing and may take some compromise. Convince your crew that you believe in the mission by making it a central feature in what you do. Have it be front-and-center and a touchpoint that you frequently return to to resolve questions of priorities and values.

Show that you're serious about your mission by making it central to discussions with the crew about how their value to the organization correlates to their contribution to the mission. Your mission should have real consequences on your organization's activities. Similarly, it should have real consequences to your crew.

Enthusiasm

Your organization is obviously at an advantage if everyone in it enthusiastically embraces the mission. How is that going to happen? First, by having a meaningful mission that all hands find worthwhile. Second, by making progress toward the serving the mission. That means not only doing the work but measuring your progress against the elements of your mission. Enthusiasm comes from making progress toward a worthy goal.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, mission

 

Friday, May 4, 2012

10 Things to know about the products you sell

One of the great things about providing software as an online service is that we can know how our products are being used in real time. That is great for identifying imperfections and addressing them as quickly as possible. It is quite different from supplying software as a product. Once a product is sold you may never know if it is being used or how it is being used.

Here are ten things companies very much want to know a about how customers use their products. Seven can be detected automatically with online products.

  1. Is the service reliable? Is it available when it should be?*
  2. Is it responsive?*
  3. Is it easy to use? This one is difficult to detect automatically.
  4. Are errors encountered?*
  5. Is the customer using the product?*
  6. Is the customer using the product properly? If not, is training needed? Does the product need to change?*
  7. Is the customer taking full advantage of the product? If not, why not?*
  8. What does the customer use most often?*
  9. What does the customer most value in the product?
  10. What additional capabilities would the customer most want added?

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Creativity and improvement

I was reading an interesting article today about how geniuses differ from the rest of us. It lists eight strategies for creativity that are common among geniuses. This one is particularly interesting to me:

GENIUSES PRODUCE. A distinguishing characteristic of genius is immense productivity. Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents, still the record. He guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. His own personal quota was one minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months. Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he was sick or exhausted. Mozart produced more than six hundred pieces of music. Einstein is best known for his paper on relativity, but he published 248 other papers. T. S. Elliot's numerous drafts of "The Waste Land" constitute a jumble of good and bad passages that eventually was turned into a masterpiece. In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Dean Kean Simonton of the University of California, Davis found that the most respected produced not only great works, but also more "bad" ones. Out of their massive quantity of work came quality. Geniuses produce. Period.

Why should we make such a conscious effort to continuously improve? Doesn't that get in the way of actually getting our real work done? Well, it probably does get in the way of our routine work to an extent. But I would suggest that our real work is to get better and better. And the more improvements we make, the higher our chances for really significant change.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, creativity

  Posts 1 - 11 of 11
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Flower Mound, Texas 75022