The Mercer Family Adventures

The adventures of Craig, Kana, Grace Yuki and Wyatt Haku Mercer in Canada and Japan.

The Red Bead Experiment – It’s a system thing…DOH!

The Red Bead Experiment to show total fault in the system was made famous by W Edwards Deming (Deming attributes the original demonstration to Mr. William (Bill) A. Boller of the Hewlett-Packard Company).

The purpose of the red bead experiment, and the reason I cite it here, is to prove scientifically that the majority of problems in business are actually attributable to the system and not the employees. Furthermore the people charged with acting on and improving the system are the managers and leaders and not the employees. The red bead experiment is myriad in its lessons and takes awhile to unpack and folks much wiser than me have taken the time to try and unpack it for you…I defer to their brilliant efforts in explaining what Dr. Deming loved to present.

For more information from the source please read Out of the Crisis by W Edwards Deming. See page 347 for a written account of a 1983 demonstration in Pretoria, Oregon.

For a summary of the red bead experiment please see James R. Martin’s site here: http://maaw.info/DemingsRedbeads.htm.

To watch a YouTUBE video of the red bead experiment please see the Fluor Hanford videos here: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=8E522DD542C4CA69

Finally for a nifty red bead simulator please visit Symphony Tech’s site here: http://www.symphonytech.com/redbeads.htm

Scope or Die!

scope or die“Skate or die”(1) in its original usage advocated the skate boarding lifestyle as being synonymous with life itself. Here I co-opt it to zero in on the importance of scoping your project properly…put simply…scope or die!

Anyone who has spent time in projects whether they are technology, process improvement, quality control etc. should know that most failures can be attributed to a few usual suspects. These suspects include: inadequate executive support, lack of budget, lack of resources, time constraints but the most common culprit (IMO) is the lack of a proper scope. I’ve always asked project managers under my leadership to be able to provide an “elevator pitch” of their project (the ability to give a brief synopsis of the project in 2 minutes or less). After all, if you can’t explain your project in 2 minutes or less, you probably do not know what your project is.

If we are unable to articulate what it is we are trying to accomplish then we are unlikely to be be able to successfully deliver it. Furthermore we need to understand what scope truly is. Some fall into the trap of thinking that the scope is to turn on technology “x” or to achieve a certain number of widgets produced per hour or a reduction of adverse events by such and such an amount. Scope must be defined by the value, the benefit that it will bring to the organization/company. Scope, when defined by benefits, will be the guide by which the endeavour moves.

When a fork in the road appears the scope will help to determine whether the team goes right or left. Scope from a benefits perspective will ultimately determine the success or failure of the project.

Scenario

The Widget Company produces and sells widgets to business clients. They have been fortunate enough to be able to purchase and amalgamate two other companies with similar services into their own. The growth has come with some issues though. The other companies brought with them different invoicing systems and workflows. This is causing some customer service issues because invoices are in some cases not being created properly and in others they are not being created in a timely manner which is causing constraints on cashflow.

The company leadership wants to address the growing pains by introducing a new standard invoice computer system in all locations. They hire a project manager. The project manager schedules a meeting with the leadership team and asks them what the purpose of the project is. The leadership tells them that the purpose of the project is to implement technology “x”. So the project manager says: “So if I am able to turn on technology “x” in all locations you will consider this project a success?” To which the leadership team of The Widget Company answers in the affirmative.

  • What if the system causes new delays in an unforeseen part of the process and actually delays the creation of invoices and compounds the cashflow issues?
  • What if the increase in computer costs and technical support are greater than the efficiency in invoice creation?

Perhaps the scope (or purpose) of the project should have been to create the right invoice for the right customer at the right time. But is that enough?

  • What does the company achieve if it is producing the right invoices for the right customer at the right time?
  • Maybe it will decrease the amount of complaints that the company is receiving from unhappy customers?
  • Maybe it will increase the amount of cashflow because they can reduce the backlog of account receivable?
  • So perhaps the purpose of the project is to achieve an improved cash flow?

Hopefully as you are reading this you are beginning to see that the scope is the MOST IMPORTANT factor in the success of a project. There are any number of ways that the project purpose could be framed, being able to articulate the one closest to what the project is needed to achieve will go a long way increasing the chances of success.

Last but not least, once the scope (purpose) of the project has been identified the project manager needs to ensure that the scope is agreed to and authorized by the leadership (usually in the form of a formal document like a project charter that leadership physically signs off on). This will act as a kind of contract that the effort will be measured against.

(1) http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=skate%20or%20die

Fred Mercer has finished well.

fred-mercer-UN-peace-keeperFrederick Joseph Mercer
March 12th, 1940 – March 24th, 2013

In loving memory of Frederick Joseph Mercer who, after a gallant battle with  cancer, passed away with his loving family by his side.

Fred was born in the country of Newfoundland in the city of St. John’s.  In 1957 at the age of 17, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces to serve his country. He then spent the next 21 years primarily with the 1st Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, then the 3rd Battalion PPCLI.  Most of his career was spent as a member of the band, touring the world and captivating audiences with their performances.  As a ”Band Rat” one of the highlights was performing in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 1962. Ultimately, Fred achieved his career goal of becoming the Drum Major for the band. When he wasn’t performing he served in the Anti-Tank platoon. After his departure from the army he took a position with Loomis Armored Car, safely transporting all of your money in and around Victoria for 15 years.  Upon his retirement, Fred took up golf.  Not one to take things lightly he became very good and in short order, recorded the first ever hole in one at Cordova Bay “The Ridge” Golf Course on July 9th, 1999.

Although serving his country was very important to him, what Fred held dearest to his heart was his family. Together with his wife Janice, they devoted their lives to raising four very responsible and loving children.  The family bond instilled in their kids will be his ultimate legacy never to be forgotten.

When Fred was first diagnosed with this disease he chose to fight it on his own terms, with dignity and honour.  This courageous position allowed him and his family to live with this illness and support him every step of the way.  Fred definitely set the bar very high on how to leave this world.

Predeceased  by  his sister Lorraine, Fred is survived by his wife  Janice, children Kirk (Sherri), Craig (Kana), Tony (Nicole) and Janet;  his grandchildren Karsen, Rielyn, Grace, Wyatt, Kaila and Jordan; siblings Rita (Robert), Paul (Jenny), Ken (Diane), Deb (Michael); cousin Jeanette and many nieces and nephews.

The family wishes to express their gratitude to the nursing staff and volunteers of the Palliative Care Unit (PCU) at Saanich Peninsula Hospital along with Dr’s Winsby, Kennedy, Jovic and Marsh. In lieu of flowers, please give generously to the Palliative Care Unit at http://sphf.ca/donate. Please specify ‘other’ and enter ‘Palliative Care Unit’.

A celebration of life will be held on Friday, April 5th, 2013 from 1:30 – 4:00 pm at the Royal Canadian Legion, Trafalgar/Pro Patricia, 411 Gorge Road, Victoria BC

Home School Log 02-07-2013

今日は、これまでに結晶のスクーリングに使用した本を数冊ご紹介したいと思います。

私達が英語、社会科の主教材として使っているテキストには、各学習項目に合わせて提案書籍が記載されています。この、英語と社会科のテキストの著者は、実際にホームスクールで自身の子供を育てた女性なので、自宅での学習に適応しているのはもちろんのこと、コミュニティ内にある図書館でたやすく手に入る書籍ばかりを集めていて、非常に使いやすいです。

ホームスクールを始めてから、ほぼ毎週図書館へ通い、結晶のスクーリング用の書籍(オンホールドシステム=予め借りたい書籍を予約しておけるシステム、があるので大変便利です)、その他珀空の年齢向けの絵本などを借りています。テキスト内で提案されている書籍以外にも、学習予定内容を取り扱っているもので目に留まった本を借りてきてスクーリングに使用することも間々あり、今回はその中からもご紹介できればと思います。

 

 

まずは、Franklinシリーズ。カナダはマニトバ州出身のPaulette Bourgeoisという方の作品で、TVアニメにもなっている人気シリーズです。主人公の亀、Franklinが学校や家、コミュニティで起こる日常的な問題を通して様々なことを学んでいくといった内容で、わかりやすくやわらかい文章で綴られた物語の中に、きちんとした教えが含まれていて、私も大好きなシリーズです。

ちなみにこれまでに

Hurry_Up_Franklin.jpgHurry Up, Franklin
Franklin Is Messy
Franklin Rides a Bike
Franklin Fibs
Franklin’s New Friend

を教材として使用しました。

 

 

 

 

次に、社会科の学習で使用した書籍では、Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully (Audrey Penn著、Barbara L. Gibson画)をご紹介します。

Chester_Raccoon_and_the_Big_Bad_Bully.jpg

クラスにいる少し乱暴な友達を恐れて、学校に行くのを嫌がるアライグマの子供達。子供達から相談を受けたアライグマの母親は、ある出来事を語り、ただ怖がって逃げるのではなく、思考を変えたり、あるいは優しく接することで、少し乱暴ないじめっ子の心も変えてやることができる、という内容になっています。
もちろん、現実は絵本のようにうまくいかないかもしれないけれど、こういった考え方を結晶に紹介し、心に留めてもらうことで、今後何か問題が起きたときに何らかの手助けになればいいなと。

 

 

最後に、”A Drop of Water” by Walter Wick。

Walter Wickはアメリカ出身の写真家で、”I Spy”シリーズで特に有名です。
これは提案書籍の中にはなかったのですが、図書館で色々と物色している際に、その美しい表紙が目に留まり手に取ったものです。”水”の様々な表情がクローズアップ写真によって非常に美しく撮影されており、まず目で存分に楽しめる本でした。自宅でも簡単にできる実験もいくつか含まれていて、結晶のスクーリング(Grade2では、固体、液体、気体について学習します)にとても役立ちました。

これまでに本当にたくさんの本と出会いました。子供も私も好きな作家、子供がなぜが喜ぶ作品、様々です。当然ですが、同じような内容でも作家によって全く違う表現の仕方になり、個人的にしっくりくるものとそうでないものがあります。カナダに住んでいるので、手にする大半は英語で書かれた本になってしまいますが、結晶にも既に好みの作家がいて、その方の著書はほぼ読破しています。

本との出会いはまさしく運命。これからもホームスクーリングを通して色々な素晴らしい作品と出会っていきたいと願います。

Home School Log 01-30-2013

はぁーっ、やってしまった・・・。

 

ホームスクールを始めて何より一番思い知らされたのは、自分がいかに短気な人間であるかということ。他の子供にならもーっと優しく、忍耐強く接してあげられるのに、我が子に対すると遠慮がなくなるというか、感情をむき出しにしてしまうことも多々。このところ、割とうまくコントロールできていたのに、遂にやってしまいました・・・泣。

例えば少し疲れていたり、集中力が欠けていたり、そういうことは大人にでもよくあること。でも、職場やコミュニティの中での自分の立場や人目もあって、大人であれば多少行動のコントロールはできます。でも相手は子供。良くも悪くも色んな感情がそのままぶつかってきます。そこで私がどう対処し、子供のネガティブなエネルギーを良い方向に向かわせてやれるのか。本当に難しい。だって、大人だけれど私も人間、私にだって疲れている日、落ち込む日があるのです。結晶と私、どちらもが落ちている日はもう最悪、試練です。だけどやっぱり、2人で一緒に新しいことを学び、達成感を分かち合える瞬間の喜びは何にも変えがたいもの。それを知っているから、ここまでやってこれているのだと思います。

 

ただやっぱり、今日のこと(必要以上に叱ってしまったと思うから)は反省しないと。明日からまた前を向いて頑張ろう。