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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Maui Youth Rugby

Twenty Eight U17 Maui rugby players will gather tomorrow in Lahaina (Maui) to play the California U17 Grizzlies. This is the first stop on the Grizzlies tour of Hawaii.

After Maui, the touring party will come to Oahu for a BBQ on Friday night followed by a game on Saturday (3:00 pm at Kapiolani Park).

Good luck to everyone, and Go Hawaii Youth!

Hard Times Offer Chance - Now How To Improve

There’s nothing more motivational for a blogger than to know that someone is reading your blog. And when they ask for more, or a follow up to a post, that will keep you going for a while. Sexy Lady (?) wants some follow up on the Hard Times Offer Chance to Improve post. Thanks for reading, and sorry for the delayed response.

Kaizen is the term for Continuous Improvement. This is a fundamental principle of the Lean Management system, and for good reason. Even in the best of times business is not easy. Conditions change constantly. Procuring materials and supplies, finding the right people to keep you moving forward, changing customer tastes, changing market and economic conditions are all part of the day-to-day. The ever more global marketplace of competition makes any business a wild ride. So even in the best of times it is important to continuously strive to improve your organization so that you can either remain in front of the pack or gain ground to move to the front.

Continuous improvement means looking at everything you do and making it better. The hard part for many organizations, though, is to see what you’re looking at. On the surface, many things you do, your processes, might look like they’re just fine and don’t need any improvement. Other processes might not even need a close view to know they need improvement. But how many times have you seen something that needs to be improved, but it just never gets done? Kaizen means seeing what you’re looking at, looking below the surface of some processes, and getting off your bum and fixing the things that you’ve been putting off.

Kaizen isn’t so much a technique, but a mindset. It’s a way of thinking where you never accept that the way you do things is good enough, they can always be done better. Your processes can always be more effective and more efficient. Efficient means using fewer resources to get the same result or using the same amount of resources to get more done. Resources include time, people, materials, equipment, space, whatever it is you use to get the job done. Effective means that you accomplish your goals. And each process has a goal.

Your organization as a whole has goals, or you should have clearly defined goals. Every process, a process simply being a series of tasks to do a job, should also have a clearly defined goal. Have you ever had a job where you performed some task and always wondered why you did it? You knew it wasn’t necessary or could have been done much better, but you had to do it anyway? That’s because no one ever defined, or questioned, the goal of that process and how it supported the larger process or the goals of the organization. I’ve experienced this first hand a number of times. It’s common with reports. At some time, for some reason, someone wanted a report, and it might even have been useful at the time. But over time the report had become unnecessary, but nobody wanted to stop generating it. On more than one occasion I’ve stopped generating and distributing reports that were unnecessary – and no one even noticed! That process was not only in need of improvement, it was in need of elimination. If you look, I’ll bet you can find many processes that fit this same criteria. And it’s not always something as innocuous as a report. Sometimes there are steps in a manufacturing process that can and should be eliminated.

More often, though, a step or series of steps must be performed, but they can be done much differently than they are now. They can be done in a different way that takes less time, fewer people, less materials or space, and less money. But you have to look, and you have to see. Look at everything you do. Do three people really need to approve that? Do you really have to write that down AND enter it into the computer? Do you really have to enter that manually, can’t it be done automatically? Do you really need to send a (signed) purchase order to your vendor, can’t you just send them an electronic signal (after you’ve set up an agreement on terms such as quantity for re-orders, price, etc.)?

The point is, examine everything you do, be sure you know why you’re doing it, and find a way to do it better. Every improvement doesn’t have to be a big breakthrough. Small, incremental improvements add up quickly. Better small improvement than none at all.

I’ll continue this thread in future posts.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hard Times Offer Chance To Improve

The headline reads "Hard times offer chance to improve through IT". The article is well written and I agree with most of it, but I have to disagree on a couple of key points. This article is in the Sunday (December 6, 2009) edition of the Honolulu Star Bulletin, written my John Agsalud.

The article starts off with a very important, and very true, point, "'s that this is a good time for organizations to innovate and improve their business processes,..." John is right, this is the best time for organizations to make improvements. It's not only the best time, it is absolutely vital for many organizations if they are going to continue to survive. In good times, waste inevitably creeps into every organization. You're doing well, things are moving fast, you don't have time to worry about the little things. But all those little things add up over time, and even in the best of times it is important for organizations to continuously improve their Operations and drive the waste out of the system. In these tough economic times you can't afford to wait to make the improvements, you have to do it now.

The end of the above quoted sentence is where I have my disagreement; "...improve their business processes, usually through the use of technology."

The proper use of technology is very important to the Operations of an organization, and Mr. Agsalud points out many of the benefits in his article. My disagreement is that you do not always need technology, and oftentimes shouldn't use it, to make improvements to your Operations and your business processes.

There are many improvements that can be made without investing in technology. Many times simply examining the flow or steps of a process can reveal surprising insights that lead to simple changes that result in great improvements. Too many organizations (and I've seen some of them personally) immediately jump to a technology "fix" to their problems without ever even analyzing the causes of the problems in the first place. Find out what is causing you to be less than excellent, or what is causing you to perform lower than you want or expect, then craft a solution. You can decide at this point whether the solution includes the use of technology or not.

Technology has a high cost, in time, money, and other resources. You have to make sure you approach a technology implementation as an investment, and you have to be very clear on what the return on that investment will be. You also have to be very clear on what the actual and total investment is before you begin.

Use technology when appropriate. Use it to improve your organization. Just don't use it as a crutch and expect technology to help you when it's not the lack of technology that is causing your problems now.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Clearwire - Clear - Whatever

Clearwire is now called Clear, and they have (supposedly) upgraded their system. I, however, am just a little bit less satisfied.

OK, they were very good at sending me my new, improved, upgraded, still looks the same, modem. But I think they're having some trouble with their new system.

I've used Clearwire for about a year and have had zero problems. No outages, no downtime, no problems. But now with the new system my coverage seems to be a bit spotty. Some downtime and a signal that's less strong. I'm hoping it's just a brief breaking in period. We'll see.

But the point is there shouldn't be any disruptions. They should have tested, and tested, and tested some more before rolling out a new, "improved" system. It should be seamless for the customer.

And supposedly my download speed should be double from the previous system, but darned if I can tell. Everything seems to work the same as it did before. I'm not much of an internet user, so maybe what I do doesn't show any difference. I don't know. I guess I should try to watch a streaming movie or something.

So, Clearwire, or Clear, are you going to continue to make me happy?

Hawaii Youth Rugby vs Pacific Coast Grizzly U17 All Stars

Here's what I can piece together from the Hawaii Youth Rugby website and some emails I've received:

The Pacific Coast Grizzly U17 All Star team will be touring Hawaii in a week or two (unsure of the start of the tour). They will start off on Maui, travel to Oahu, then finish up in Kona on the Big Island (officially Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaii if you're not familiar with the islands).

On Oahu, the Grizzly will play an Oahu All Star team on Saturday, December 19th, at Kapiolani Park (time?). On Friday the 18th at 4:30 pm there will be a barbecue at the park for the teams, and another barbecue following the Saturday match. We love to eat here in Hawaii. A 2-Barbecue Extravaganza according to one of the emails.

BBQ expertise (that leave me out), food, and cash donations are most welcome. Contact Hawaii Youth Rugby or David Ma'afu Wendt to donate or for more information. I know they're looking for help getting the team from the airport to the park & their hotel when they arrive in Honolulu (sometime on the 18th).

The tourists leave for the Big Island on December 21st, to play their match against the Big Island Select U17 on December 23rd.

That sounds like a great Christmas Present to the all the players and fans. Come out to your respective venue and support Hawaii Youth Rugby and the touring side players and coaches.

Also, Hawaii Youth Rugby needs your donations to help fund all the great programs they're running. Information regarding donations (tax deductible) are on the website (I'll be writing my check and sending it in, as I'm already past due in doing that).