Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lean Tools for Managers

Lean Tools for IT Managers by David Schuchman
"Lean" is a practice that considers the effort & cost of resources for any task, other than those that create value for the customer, to be wasteful. Those tasks are targets for elimination. While Lean principles originated in the manufacturing industry, all industries have adopted Lean to make the effort needed to complete production goals more efficient.

Here are two Lean tools which can be useful to a manager for the prioritization of project tasks, and for root cause analysis when issues arise.
PICK Chart
When faced with multiple tasks, a PICK chart may be used to determine the most useful or important. Originally developed by Lockheed Martin, a PICK chart organizes tasks or ideas into 1 of 4 categories. The acronym PICK identifies those categories as  Possible, Implement, Challenge and Kill.

A PICK chart is set up as a grid, two squares high and two squares across. The PICK acronym comes from the labels for each quadrant of the grid:
  • Possible  - tasks that are easy to implement but have a low payoff.
  • Implement  - tasks that are easy to implement and a high payoff.
  • Challenge - tasks that are hard to implement and a high payoff.
  • Kill  - tasks that are hard to implement and have low payoff.

Low Payoff
High Payoff
Easy to do
Hard to do

Once each idea from a brainstorming session has been placed on the most appropriate square, it becomes easier to identify which ideas should be acted on first. In a group setting, PICK charts are useful for focusing a discussion and achieving consensus.

Fishbone Diagram
A fishbone diagram, also called a cause and effect diagram, is a tool for categorizing the potential causes of a problem in order to identify its root causes. The design of the diagram looks much like a skeleton of a fish. It has a head (which states the problem), a backbone (connects the head to the ribs), and it has ribs (which categorizes the causes). Hence, the name: Fishbone.

This is useful in brainstorming sessions to focus the conversation. Fishbone diagrams are typically worked right to left, with each large "bone" of the fish branching out to include smaller bones containing more detail.  After the group has brainstormed all the possible causes for a problem, the manager will lead the group to rate the potential causes according to their level of importance and likeliness.

Fishbone Diagram

Lean aims to make work processes simple enough to understand, do and manage. These tools are easy to document and apply in your workplace.

David Schuchman

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Use Blogging to Achieve Your Professional Goals

David Schuchman
This post is the first to start my 2nd year of blogging. As I look at the performance of TechTopics4U over the past year, I am impressed by how my following has grown, both organically and with my own self-promotion. For example, this site no longer has any zero-view days.

Here are my observations as to why you should use active blogging for achieving your professional goals:

Establish Yourself as an Expert in Your Field
As you write more posts and share more of your expertise, your blog site will change from "just another blog" into a strong demonstration of your knowledge in a field. When somebody visits your site and sees the insights you have shared on a subject, along with the comments of people who respect and seek that insight, it will be clear that you are genuinely an expert in the field. Being an expert is a good thing. You may get consideration for new business, career advancement, or consulting opportunities.

You Will Become a Better Communicator
Just the discipline of sitting down and writing will improve your writing and communication skills. The more you blog, the more you write. Therefore, you will become a more effective communicator of your ideas.

Take Control of Your Online Identity
Whether you are a person or business, there is probably a lot of information about you online. When somebody searches for you or your company online, you want to make sure that they get an accurate and complete picture of who you are and what you are passionate about. A blog is a great way for you to control your online identity and make sure that the top search engine results make the right first impression.

Build Your Professional Network
Starting a blog is a great way to expand your professional network. A blog is a good platform for reaching out to others, who in turn will look to contact you. Interesting and relevant blog posts attract readers who will then comment on your site, and can send you personal messages through your "contact us" widget or page. Some of your readers will ask for help, while others will look to help you.

Improve Your Visibility and SEO
People search for and discover information online more than ever. Search engines want to deliver results that are helpful and relevant to their users. When you write a series of in-depth and valuable posts around a topic, search engines such as Google takes notice. Each blog post that you publish is another opportunity to get traffic from search results. In addition, the comments you receive on your blog posts implies that your blog postings are relevant, which will also improve the SEO visibility of you and your blog site.

David Schuchman