A Better Way To Work TimeBack Management

About Dan Markovitz

Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

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The basic unit of knowledge is a question.

Posted December 16, 2008 @ 9:15 AM

"The basic unit of knowledge is a question."  This is a common saying at Toyota, where hierarchical, authority-based leadership is eschewed in favor of responsibility-based leadership. Which is to say that people at the top of the corporate food-chain don't drive all the decisions just because they sit in an Aeron chair and have a big desk.

Rather, people throughout the organization, using the A3 process (excellent description and case study available here) are not only given the responsibility, but are EXPECTED -- to solve problems by asking questions, and developing and testing possible solutions. As John Shook explains,

the A3 process can facilitate the shift from a debate about who owns what (an authority-focused debate) to a dialogue around what is the right thing to do (a responsibility-focused conversation). This shift has a radical impact on the way decisions are made. Individuals earn the authority to take action through the manner in which they frame the issue.
This concept of making a question the basis of authority means that a premium is based on knowledge -- the knowledge gained by asking all those questions. The nurses who actually dispense drugs will probably know far more than the Director of Administration about why errors occur. The guy operating the stamping machine will know more than the VP of Manufacturing about why a machine breaks down so often. A sales clerk in a retailer will know more than the store manager about why the merchandise layout isn't working. It only makes sense to learn by asking questions of people that have the knowledge.

In January, I'll be engaging in an A3 problem solving process with a company to find out why their meetings suck so badly. They already know the elements of a good meeting -- they even have "Meeting Principles" posted on the walls of their conference rooms. But something isn't working right, because these principles are more often observed in the breach than in the adherence. I have some ideas, of course. But mostly we'll be asking questions to understand the root causes of their colossally sucky meetings. And with that knowledge, we'll gain the authority to make changes.

I'll keep you posted.

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