Management By Means

Management By Means

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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There are several reasons why some organizations have had difficulty obtaining the kind of results with Lean that  Toyota has. One of the main reasons could be that they confuse the use of Lean "tools" with the incorporation of  the complete Lean philosophy and mindset deep into their DNA.

Take, for example, the difference between Management By Means (MBM) and Management By Results (MBR), also known as Management By Objective (MBO).

With MBR/MBO, management sets the goals (usually financial) for the metrics. The objective of the organization is to reach the goal, without much attention to the processes or methods involved. Leaders might say things like, "I don't care how you get the results, just get it done, no matter what." Pay incentives or threats of dismissal often can, at different times, be part of the conversations and scenarios. 

This is typical top-down management, which is common in the West. Workers do whatever they feel necessary in order to arrive at the goal by the deadline set by the forces that be. The method or means of getting there is a distant second concern. The focus is the end result.
One of the problem with this approach, as seen below, is that the systems and processes, if they were exposed, may be riddled with errors, defects and/or fraud (ala Wells Fargo). There is a lot of variation which implies the systems and processes are not as tight as they could be. MBR is similar to trying drive by looking in the rearview mirror. 

Workers have no control over systems. They are at the mercy of systems, good or bad. It is management/leadership that is responsible for the system in place. As such, if results are not predicted to be good, then the only pragmatic way they can affect the result,  and not be disciplined, is "fudge" the system somehow. In a bad system, no amount of motivational rhetoric, monetary prizes or threats is going to change the system. The system gets changed by the " uppity ups" changing the system. An object in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction, unless some external force is applied to the system. That isn't part of the job description (or domain)of workers.

MBR is managing the results

MBR is similar flying an airplane visual. You can see where you want to land, so you just go there.  

By contrast, MBM is focused on the processes ("the means") that lead to the results ("the ends"). The metrics of MBM monitor the systems involved. The idea is that if all of the processes are stable and positive, then the results are a foregone conclusion. It is much more of a bottom-up style of management since the staff is much more involved in choosing the metrics and monitoring the day to day functioning of the organization. The journey is as important as the destination.


In the graphic above, we really don't need to see the final result (below) to have a reliable expectation that it will be where it needs to be. In addition, we know that our systems and processes are probably functioning properly and free of waste. While there is some variation, they appear to be under control.


MBM is managing the processes; the operations

MBM is simular to flying an airplane via instruments only; you can't see your destination, but if all of the instruments (compass, altimeter,  air speed, navigational radios,etc.) are showing expected results, you can be (more) confident you'll end up safely where you want to be.

This is the management style of Toyota and promoted by Lean. People often say, "The right process brings the right results." We care about results... but you manage a process, not the results.

Lean is all about objective systems thinking!

I will continue with the next idea in this theme in my next blog "The Practice Scoreboard."

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Posted: August 29, 2018, 5:34 pm

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