4th Annual Management Blog Roundup: Brad Power in Harvard Business Review blog

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on December 29, 2011 · 1 comment

In continuation of my participation in the 4th Annual Management Blog Roundup, where we have previously reviewed  John Hunter’s and Bruce Hamilton’s blog, we will look now into Brad Power posts in Harvard Business Review blog.  Brad Power is a consultant and researcher in process innovation. His current research is on sustaining attention to process management. He is currently conducting research with the Lean Enterprise Institute.

I became aware of Brad when he contacted me for this blog post about Technicolor and front-line improvements. Through his research and writing, I grew to respect and follow Brad’s work and therefore wanted to share it with the rest of you. That first article was How to Sustain Front Line Process Improvement Activities, where he points out that the front-line process improvement is hard to sustain. He shares the story of Technicolor. Read about the critical ingredient to keep the front-line process improvement going.

In Uniting the Religions of Process Improvement, Brad stated that for a company to be truly successful, efficient and effective, they need not to rely to only one of the four “religions,” namely Lean, Six Sigma, Business Reengineering or Business Process Management.   He said that if organizations want to keep their processes up to date continually, they need to be able to use many approaches to embedding improvement in their management systems. They need to consider every possible approach, not just those offered by one religion, for them to arrive at a tailored program that works best. I am personally against those that treat lean like a dogmatic religion, and therefore am very much in support of the premise of this article. However, I don’t think they are parallel concepts, as Six Sigma is an effective problem solving tool, but lean is more of a comprehensive management system.

Brad also give some pointers about Avoiding Catastrophic Failures in Process Improvement, where he stated 4 points that might help companies that currently have process improvement program ongoing.

Talking about lean accounting, Brad gave some advice on how to turn leaders of the finance function from business policeman — focused on oversight, surveillance and compliance — to coach and adviser on improvement activities in Shifting Finance from Controlling to Improving. He emphasizes that CFOs need to unlearn command-and-control thinking before they can learn how to help lead improvement.

Many of you know that I’ve helped to lead the way for HR to become engaged in lean in productive ways, so I’m always happy to see other people help with this effort. In Why Doesn’t HR Lead Change?, Brad stated some of the causes of the difficulty of HR leading change. Most view HR as bureaucratic and a brake on innovation. Others say that HR is under-utilized. In most organizations talent management is left to direct supervisors. Brad emphasized that HR leaders should be active in helping their organization improve the way it works, but only a few hits the spot.

Building on this theme, Brad stated in Put HR Skills on Your Performance Improvement Team that any performance improvement dream team must have members conversant in organizational and individual behavioral — people who really understand what matters to employees. HR shouldn’t just defend the status quo, worrying about compliance, and panicking about the risks and secondary effects of big process changes. They should get involved in the process improvement by supplying the needs of both the system and the employees and thus must define he new skills and training required for people to thrive in their new jobs, as well as to coach people who may need to change jobs.

I look forward to seeing where Brad takes things in 2012.


1 James Lawther January 8, 2012 at 4:24 am

Interesting thoughts Jamie

On the subject of the four “religions” it strikes me that as with the real religions people spend far to much time looking at the differences and not nearly enough looking at what they have in common.

If there is one thing that is really really wasteful it is arguing about what is the best way to remove waste.


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