Monday, 11 June 2018

Data paranoia

I received an invitation from one of our speakers at a past KIN Workshop to join Dock.
This technology offers to connect all our social media activity through the blockchain-enabled platform Etherium. The last thing I want is for all my digital presence, such as it is, to be more connected, despite the security that blockchain allegedly offers. 

The invitation cleverly/worryingly lets me know which of my contacts have already signed up for Dock. I had not given Dock permission to see my contacts, so I can only assume that it had done some clever stuff connecting me through the contacts of the person that had invited me. Blockchain may be 'secure', but the rest of it?

Paranoid, moi?

Steve Dale is running a KIN Masterclass 'Building Trust with Blockchain', hosted by PwC in London on 3rd July. KIN Members can get more information and register here.

Friday, 27 April 2018

'Fish where the fish are...' using engaging language to gain buy-in

I'm a big fan of David D'Souza of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development - his blog is always insightful. I'm also passionate about the use of relevant terminology and language when gaining buy-in for change. David's latest posting is right on the money....


I don’t care for your technical language. It has no interest to me. I care for your technical expertise that can help good things happen. I don’t pay you for an invitation to tour your world. I pay you to step into mine.
What do I see
A few weeks ago I spoke to someone who couldn’t get their senior team to back their wellbeing strategy. The senior team were, apparently, just not enlightened enough to recognise the importance of wellbeing. The senior team were, instead, too busy being worried about their teams being pushed to the brink and the danger of burnout and turnover.
I know…
As far as I was concerned the senior team knew what was going on and wanted a solution to a mutually identified problem. They just didn’t care for a conversation about an HR initiative or the dressing that they were being offered. A clear invitation to work with them on wellbeing was there – if they didn’t want to call it ‘wellbeing’ then quite understandably that was their right. It was also the least important thing going on.
They pay for help in their space. They get to choose the language. If you want to call it wellbeing behind the scenes then that’s your choice.
In L&D I’ve seen similar inclinations in the past
“The senior team want to mentor people on X”
Desirable response: Yay, how can we support that?
Actual response: Are you sure they don’t mean coach? We better explain the difference or the organisation is surely doomed
“The senior team want an away day”
Desirable response: I’m glad they want to invest time in their development, we can find a way to support that
Actual response: Didn’t they read our learning strategy where we talk about 70:20:10. Fools. I mock them from on high.
Any invitation to the party should be welcomed. If you want to work in partnership with people in an organisation – and not be somehow special and apart – then contact on their terms matters. If someone you want to get to know asks you to a party the correct response isn’t to say ‘In my expert opinion you are really talking about a get together’. It’s to ask ‘Sure, what can I bring?’
I’m writing this after seeing some exchanges from our Learning Development show yesterday where people were (healthily) challenging the language used within L&D. Making things accessible matters. Making a difference matters. The language probably only matters to practitioners, not beneficiaries. I’m not saying it is never useful, I am saying it should never get in the way.
Fish where the fish are. Don’t sit by the side of the lake shouting at the fish that they just don’t appreciate how much better it is where you have chosen to sit.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Take-aways from KIN Innovation site visit to BMW MINI production plant, Oxford

Eleven KIN members had a fascinating visit to the MINI production facility on 24th April.

We had planned to spend about 2 hours on a private tour of the MINI body shell assembly and assembly halls. It was so fascinating and we had so many questions we spent nearly 3 hours! Our guide Leonel was hugely knowledgeable, having worked in almost all areas of the factory. He gave us an insider's perspective about innovation and work practices. Everyone was invited to make a note during the tour of their lightbulb moments on a KIN 'ah-ha' sheet.

The bodyshell assembly hall is 90% automated. Hundreds of huge robots, clustered in protective 'cells' work completely autonomously, welding, pressing and riveting panels. Conveyors pass semi-completed assemblies between cells and overhead to upper floors. Interestingly the line is not linear, allowing flexibility in configuration. It was difficult to get a sense of the production flow by looking at the layout, but it only needs to make sense to the robots, not humans! The robots maintain themselves, with 'slaves' sharpening arc welders, switching tool assemblies and calling for parts refills. The few humans here were driving fork-lift trucks and feeding the robots' insatiable appetite for materials. 

One of the most impressive factors is that the line handles three entirely different model types simultaneously. As all MINIs are all built to order (6 week lead time), no single car is the same. There are hundreds of thousands of model variants. This means that the robot arms switch tools according to whichever model is coming through at that time. We asked Leonel about the ethics of the human jobs that could be created were it not for robotics. He pointed out that when BMW bought MINI, 2000 people were employed at the plant; there are now 5000. This is only possible due to the vast volume increase in production and speed that automation allows. The plant produces 700 vehicles a day, shipped out on 2 trains per day, mainly for export from Southampton. It takes just 36 hours to produce a single vehicle.

They are currently working on incorporating the electric MINI into the production line - a huge change that will require a 4 week downtime over the summer.

The final assembly hall had many more staff, as the fitting of parts is more intricate. Even so, robotics and human assistive automation is still present. For example, worker strain is alleviated by the vehicle being raised or lowered according to which part of the vehicle is being worked on and even the height of the individual. Whilst the workers were very fast, there didn't seem to be any apparent stress. Individuals are moved around the entire facility, working on different aspects of the vehicle assembly on different days. The reasons are:

  • Breaks monotony
  • Flexibility in resource assignment
  • Avoids repetitive strain injury
  • Most importantly, gives a sense of pride in the finished product (continuously working on a single part gives no sense of pride in the product as a whole). 

Interestingly the teams all take their breaks at the same time. As the entire production line comes to a halt, we queried why, as output is significantly affected? The answer is that it's difficult for the teams to talk when on the line, so the social aspects are important. Also keeping the line running during breaks would require another shift. Training takes place in dedicated stations alongside the production like. We saw lots of examples of problem root cause analysis, many using Ishikawa Fish Bone diagrams. One workstation had a process improvement board on which we spotted that the quality target improvement was 0.002%! It was noticeable that there were very few women on the production line. To be honest, the response that most women don't like the shift patterns or take back office roles, was rather unconvincing.

At the end of the tour over lunch, everyone was invited to share their top lightbulb moment from their KIN 'ah-ha' sheets.
Here is a summary:

  • Rotating jobs relieves monotony and improves productivity
  • Live data is displayed on big monitors for everyone to see
  • Every employee is empowered to place a yellow 'fault' sticker on any part of a vehicle at any time if they spot a cosmetic problem (significant or mechanical quality problems are addressed immediately on the line)
  • Standardisation is an evident obsession 
  • As is quality - there was not a speck of dirt anywhere
  • The production process has a distinct 'playlist', but allows significant flexibility
  • The customer comes first and foremost - for example the degree of customisation possible is huge (the antithesis of Henry Ford's 'any colour as long as it's black')
  • Process improvement whiteboards and flipcharts everywhere 
  • Training takes place right alongside the production line
  • Lots of know-how sharing with partners (whilst we were there we saw BMW engineers around and parts suppliers have staff actually in the production area)
  • Difficult for workers to share and communicate, except in breaks, especially in the body shell assembly facility ('where is the heartbeat of the place?')
  • Preventative maintenance, not fix!
  • Attention to detail (eg female ostrich feathers for cleaning, 0.002% targets)
  • A 7 second improvement on the line can mean an extra couple of vehicles per day
  • All assembly line staff take their breaks together - helps team communication and bonding
  • There can be 'too much tech' - the customer is a person not a robot! This came up when Leonel told us that they had experimented with paintwork quality control camera imagery that could spot imperfections that were impossible for the human eye to detect. They took the cameras out.
  • Use of image visualisation for fast identification of parts in bins (eg snowflake or flower)
  • Change and process improvement is not just about productivity, but worker satisfaction
  • Incremental innovation within an overall MINI design ethos. For example, the rear light reflector configuration of the latest MINI has the pattern of half of the Union flag. The brand is very powerful.

You can continue the conversation and feedback on the KIN LinkedIn group here.

For more on what really motivates workers, listen to this recent TED Radio Hour podcast. Highly recommended!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

'The next big thing always starts out looking like nothing at all'

One of my favourite authors and speakers on all things innovation is Greg Satell.
He is a regular contributor to Inc. magazine and always has interesting insights into the future of innovations that will affect how we work.
In 'Why the future will always surprise us' he takes a look back at how past innovations emerged that at first appeared to be inconsequential.
Fleming's 'discovery' and failure to develop penicillin is well known, but this article gives several other examples of emergent technologies that turned out to be game changers.
Quantum computing looks like it may be one of those - nobody is certain how it will change everything, but we're absolutely certain it will.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Do you have a 'rider' to prepare interviewees?

Post-Oscars, 'riders' seem to be all over the news.

I've always taken great care in ensuring all participants about to be involved in a knowledge transfer interview, understand the process and my role.

This is for a few of reasons. 

  • As a facilitator, I want the trust of everyone involved 
  • That they know they will have control over any written outputs*.
  • I need them to put aside plenty of time to have a meaningful, in-depth conversation and not worry about missing a meeting
  • They may think about others that they would like to be involved, in addition to those who may have an obvious need to be involved.
  • I always audio record discussions, with permission. After explaining this is purely to ensure that I create an accurate representation of what was discussed (I can't take verbatim notes of a 3 hour discussion).

I was prompted to mention this, as Josh Berhoff has written an interesting blog post about how to prepare an interviewee. Before he asks a question, he always says

'This interview is on the record. However, as we conduct the interview, if there is something you would like to share off the record, let me know at the time. Before I publish anything, I’ll share with you the passage that’s about you, so you can check that the facts are accurate and the quotes accurately reflect what you wanted to say. OK?'

This 'rider' is good journalistic advice and very necessary for anything that will be published in a public forum. * With his opening statement, Bernhoff retains control over what is written. Only the facts and direct quotes can be challenged by the interviewee before publication. This is very different for a knowledge transfer output, where the sentiment and nuance, as well as facts, can make a big difference to how the know-how is conveyed. 

The very best knowledge transfer 'interviews' are where there is a free-flowing dialogue between those that have deep expertise and those who have a need to know. In practice, the facilitator's role is critical in ensuring a deep-dive and all key topics are fully explored, but in a light-touch way.

Bernhoff's post contains a lot of sound advice for interviewers, but remember that his purpose is journalistic, not as a knowledge transfer facilitator.