Meeting Notes with Head of Business Analysis

Would be helpful for me to look at project lifecycle vs product lifecycle / agile approach.

He asks himself the question: ‘how can I prove to myself that this solution is right for the business’. Then develop a fast, dirty test to prove it to yourself. Uses something called something like VAIP to test.

In a Junior Analyst role, looking basically for intelligence and having a clear understanding of the different stages of analysis – gathering info, analysis and reaching conclusions. Not- just skipping to conclusions. An organised approach.

Like’s to see them challenging  – asking questions until they understand things.

The impression I got from this guy is that being a good business analyst is about taking a structured approach to getting to the root causes of issues, being able to really listen and talk with people really well to get to this. Then, once the problem and needs of the customer are clearly defined, an abstract form of a solution can be developed. You then facilitate the process of reaching more solid solutions, which you then test and recommend to the business as solutions.

 

Financial Software Fundamentals Webinar Notes

Cash flow is money that flows in and out of your business over a specified time. Cash is king, it is the lifeblood of business.

Freecash flow is the money which is left over after operational expense – it’s the money left that can be distributed to shareholders.

Cash flow is just the inflow and outflow of cash in a company. It’s sometimes used to refer just to inflow but that’s not technically correct, since you could have high cash flow and an income of £0.

Three key things that impact your cash flow are your:

  • Accounts Receivable (cash from customers that have received the produce but not yet paid)
  • Inventory (shit you can sell)
  • Accounts Payable (money you owe but haven’t yet paid for)

A lot of companies don’t pay you until they decide to and it’s not open for negotiation when you get paid. It could be 6 months time. 72 days is average for small business owner’s. You can avoid this by using the best practices for billing – cloud-based online invoicing software is a good start. The more you can reduce average days recievable and average days inventory the better – you want to extend the average days payable.

You don’t want too much cash locked up in inventory, but equally you don’t want too little.

Cash flow conversion cycle – the time it takes for you to turn cash into inventory and then back into cash again. You want a short cycle.

How to calculate average days inventory:

Number of days in year x average inventory/cost of good sold

Create a simple spreadsheet in Excel. List who owes what, when they made the purchase and the amount owed. Indicate how long you’ve been waiting for payments.

Software automates, is more accurate, can save money through less mistakes  – it’s just better than manually doing accounts (ah but this doesn’t take into account the psychological benefits of understanding what’s really going on)

 

 

Product Management in 20 mins YT Vid Notes

  • Listen to your customers – sounds easy but people don’t do it
  • Don’t listen to their solutions! That’s your job!
  • Don’t be afraid to be a thief, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel
  • Don’t spend attention on competitors, don’t worry about them either
  • Don’t just ask ‘do you like this feature’ that way they get it for free. Ask ‘do you like this feature if you don’t get X’.
  • Be careful when you’re really trying to solve YOUR problem rather than your customer’s problem. Sometimes the solution to YOUR problem comes at the cost of the customer’s solution, which prevents you from pleasing customers which is the no.1 priority!
  • Stop worrying so much about getting paid. We’re so time/cost-constrained that we’re spending time on business cases, which creates a culture of risk aversion which creates only small incremental gains rather than big ones.
  • The customers emotional  and social needs are more important even than their functional needs
  • Speed up. The cost of inaction, the cost of delay, I wish I had known this earlier in my career. Every time you put off making a decision you are destroying value. The product has a limited shelf life. We put things off because we have limited info, someone is on holiday, one that really gets me ‘is we haven’t made the decision yet because we haven’t managed to book a meeting room yet’.
  • Say no. As product managers we don’t say no enough. Say no for the right reasons.
  • Don’t be a visionary. When I was young I thought I had to know the future etc. Elon Musk is a visionary. Product managers don’t need to be visionaries they need to be focused on the customer and what they want, do that instead.
  • Be dumb. You have a precious gift when you start, you don’t know anything. You aren;t encumbered by knowledge or inertia. The best PM’s can focus on customers’ problems with a fresh perspective, without injecting your own problems into it.

Toyota Kata Chapter 3-4

Chapter 3: Philosophy & Direction

Improvement and adaptation are at the core of their philosophy.

Do you see improvement as an ‘add-on’ to your job, or is it a central type of work? Periodic kaizen workshops are ok, but not enough. At Toyota, improving and managing are the same thing. Improvement is seen as something ‘extra’ in most companies.

If you get the processes right, other things take care of themselves.

Operating efficiently is not the same as being lean, because it doesn’t allow you to keep improving.

Improving efficiency in one area can lead to more waste in another area. You need to consider the whole system.

You need to think about big things while doing small things so that the small things are aligned with a longer-term vision.

One-piece flows mean that products go from one value adding step to the next until the customer with no waiting.

How do we get peeps in a massive organisation to stay on a path towards a vision? Target conditions. Steps that are beyond but not too far away.

Toyota does not aim to make improvements that aren’t financially justified.

Don’t use other companies as a bench mark, improve from where you are.

CHAPTER 4

Systems theory tells us you can’t effectively optimise a system by optimising its constituent parts individually.

There are many ways of improving KPI’s, but many of them do not improve the underlying process they are intended to measure. Managers want to look good, this means the data senior management get is likely to be deceptive.

Parts flowing from one process to the next with little waste between – synchronisation.

PART 3 Improv Carter – How Toyota Continuously Improves

The question Toyota asks is ‘what do we need to do’. There is this focus on the long term vision, the current condition and the next-stage target condition to move you towards it.

The process level is a good place to focus our attention, since this, along with product development, is where value is added in a manufacturing company.

Having a target condition is so important for CI, Toyota don’t start to make improvements often until they have a target condition. It’s a desired future state. ‘How should this process operate? What should ‘normal’ look like? Where do we want to be next?’.

I will review these techniques and its relationship to target condition thinking:

  • Tac time: rate of customer demand for the group or family of products produced by one process. Used most often at assembly type processes. E.g. dad sells one duck every 4 hours. Tac time represents an ideal rate: sell one, make one. We can use it as something to strive for as part of a target condition. Try to move the planned cycle time to be closer to the tac time. This creates a stable process.  This is just one tool, it’s not a priority improv for every situation. Toyota use it as a metric to strive for.
  • One by one production: …..
  • Continuous flow
  • Hyjucer
  • Leveling production
  • Kanban
  • Pull systems

Toyota Kata Chapter 2 Notes

How are we approaching process improvement?

Improvement tends to take place at the process level.

I have observed the use of work shops, value stream mapping and above all, action item lists.

Toyota utilizes workshops, but this is not the primary medium for change. When the workshop is over, the process will begin to slip again.

Process level is one level deeper than value streaming. VS is not for process improvement, but to reveal the overall flow of value across the entire end to end system. They are not in depth enough for process improvement, and can reveal so many opportunities for change that they lack focus.

The action list is by far the most widespread. It’s a listing of ideas for improvements to be implemented. This doesn’t work very well. The underlying logic seems to be that the longer the list, the more something positive is happening. Lots of motion, little progress. The list is an unscientific and ineffective method for improvement. It is a scattered approach and often creates more instability in processes rather than less.

The more focused question is ‘what do we need to do to improve this process?’ 1-3 ideas for improvements is better than 30, look for the really big priority things, this is harder. People are rewarded for firefighting not analysing.

Lists make the focus ‘carrying out the tasks on my to-do list’ rather than actually fixing the problem. Plus, people feel smarter when they have lots of ideas. Toyota tries to get people to change one thing at a time in a given process and to review if it worked. Once you’ve fixed one thing, others may become irrelevant. Sometimes you need to make many changes at once, but few people can do that and in order for everyone to be able to do it a single-factor approach is best.

Toyota Kata: Chapter One Notes

Toyota has outperformed comp so well that it has attracted lots of attention. They are doing something differently.

The visible elements, tools, techniques of Toyota have been documented, but trying to copy these has not worked. We have tried to copy the wrong things. Reverse engineering what they do has failed. This is because critical aspects of Toyota are invisible. Toyota’s techniques will not work if there is no underlying logic behind it. Even those in Toyota don’t typically know what this underlying logic is, because it’s like water to a fish for them.

The solutions they develop, such as lean techniques, are not significant, the abstract method used to arrive at that approach is. Specific solutions, such as how parts are organised in the factory, are also not significant. It’s not just about production techniques. The key thing is that they don’t stop improving. The superior results come from CI routines and experimentation.

Trying to reverse engineer gives us an implementation orientation. We need a DIY problem-solving mode, not an implementation orientation.  You only need to know with certainty: where we are, where we want to be and by what means we should maneuver the unclear territory between here and there. There is a lot of uncertainty, the inbetween stage is a grey zone. You do not know what the steps should be, you can’t at this point. People want certainty, but there often isn’t certainty. The way ahead is not set and clear and you shouldn’t try to make it so. True confidence and certainty do not come from preconceived implementation steps and solutions which may or may not work but by understanding the logic for how to proceed through unclear territory.

Small incremental steps. Improvement and adaptation come from the accumulation of small steps. Opportunities to leap forward are already being done by the competition, so that isn’t where the advantage lies. You don’t get ahead with short cuts like that. Cost and quality improvements come from lots of small steps. This makes it hard to imitate and therefore a strong competitive advantage. Periodic improvements are what static organisations do, you need to be continuously improving to get this advantage.

If each process in the company gets improved once a year – that’s ok – but this is not CI. CI means all processes are improved every day at every level of the company, even once target numbers have been met.

Any organised process naturally becomes chaotic over time. Every day small things go wrong. A process is either slipping back or moving forwards. Sustaining still equals slipping if the competition are progressing.

Most orgs do improve, but only periodically and with specialists.

Although many people think certain techniques have made Toyota successful, it is the utilization of the collective skill of the people in the organisation that gives them their advantage. Their ability to identify problems and find solutions. Many people, systematically, methodically making many small improvements every day. That’s the secret. This works partly because Toyota have stabilised processes which can be refined. (SIDE: how significant a factor is this? Outside manufacturing, there are limited processes which are stable enough for small improvements to accumulate)

Improvement must become systematic. Everyone at Toyota is taught to operate in this way and it is applied in every situation. Creating this culture is the task of management.

Toyota’s way is characterised by procedural sequences, thinking and behaviour patterns that when repeated over and over in daily work lead to the desired outcome. The tools they use are developed in this context and should not be thought of in isolation from this backdrop.

‘Kata’ is a word from martial arts, meaning ‘a standard form of movement, a way of doing things, a customary procedure’.

Although things are always changing, an organisation can have a standard way of dealing with that, which helps it to stay in synch – harmony – with changing circumstances.

Kata in this book are not limited to manufacturing. Kata are not principles. Principles don’t tell you how to do something. Kata do.

Improvement takes place at the process level. We need to use big picture thinking to do things like create a car or feed hungry people, but ultimately getting there will require process improvement.

The kata must be embedded in daily procedures. We can’t see what’s coming. The method is prescribed but the content can’t be. Since people are partial, the method must rely on facts rather than opinions where possible – it must be depersonalised.

In this book we will look into two of Toyota’s carter:

  1. The improvement carter
  2. The coaching carter 

People often respond to kata by saying it will prevent creativity. The opposite is true, because there is no content, the only standardised thing is the approach.

 

 

The Challenge of Developing Lean Management – Author of Toyota Kata

Personal Take Away’s / Summary: 

Lean is an approach that aims to make an entire organisation streamlined to deliver maximum value to the customer as cheaply as possible. Lean aims to achieve this by empowering the workforce – the people directly involved in processes – to share their insights into process problems and to help generate solutions. The approach combines rigorous, scientific thinking with deliberate practice throughout the organisation. This means forming and testing hypothesis using experiments to continuously find ways of maximizing value to the customer.

What do I like about this?

The author states that the approach of lean is part of a broader theme of human scientific advancement and entrepreneurialism. I can see that this is true. The abstract idea this links to is that of investigative and creative enterprise itself.

You have a clear sense of direction, add to this a grasp of where you are now and establish a practical next step. Then, you form a model in your head about how this will work. You develop an awareness of your assumptions and find low-cost ways to test them. Now you have more information, you repeat this until eventually the model you have in your head WORKS.

This is not how people naturally operate. Instead, we encounter a problem, have a vague undefined direction, analyse the problem sloppily and without clearly identifying ‘knowns’ and ‘unknowns’, then delight in generating solutions to this problem. We implement these solutions fully, assuming that they are the correct one and will work, and if it doesn’t we scrap it entirely and repeat the process until we get the desired outcome OR more likely, we give up and say it’s impossible. The real cost of this approach is that it’s very costly, unlikely to succeed because it doesn’t take into account your limited understanding.

What I really like is this idea:

  • Define the problem and the direction in crystal clear terms (and define what your understanding prevents you from defining as best you can)
  • Have an ongoing process whereby you identify opportunities to improve in accordance with this overarching direction and systematically make incremental (or not so) improvements to how you do things
  • Over time if you do this you will have dramatically transformed your chances of moving in the direction you want, and will be a formidable competitor.
  • The big idea is this: continuously making small improvements in ONE DIRECTION, with continuous, focused and high quality reflections on these attempts combined with an openness to new ideas from whereever they come from will lead to extreme results.

Notes from a YT lecture:

You can’t explain or persuade people to change their behaviour, because behaviour is determined by habit etc not by reason.

What makes Toyota different? It’s the combination of two things: scientific thinking and deliberate practice through the organisation.

Toyota’s CI Process

  1. Toyota always has a sense of direction and challenge throughout the company
  2. They grasp their current situation
  3. Establish the next target condition
  4. Conduct experiments to get there (PDCA cycle)

The map is not the territory, but can be useful. LEAN is a only a simplistic model but is damn useful.

The lean approach mirrors in some respects the human approach to science and entrepreneurship – the PDCA cycle is how people move forward in all investigative and creative domains.

‘Eliminate waste’ is too unscientific, it’s an outcome of a process not the process itself. You don’t start by eliminating waste, that’s what you get in the end with LEAN.

If you ask people you get too many answers, you need a target condition & to recognize your limited resource.

Toyota does not ask ‘what can we improve’ but ‘what do we need to improve’.

Recognise uncertainty, don’t fill in the gaps. People assume they understand things they don’t understand which prevents them from understanding problems well enough to find smart solutions. There’s always a knowledge threshold, they’re hard to see & you need experiments when you identify them. The issue is that people love theorizing rather than experimenting, because it’s fun to talk about things and create your own coherent narrative rather than test things to find out whats really true. The knowledge threshold is the learning edge.

Small, rapid experiments with direction, in order to reduce what you don’t know so you can make superior improvements is the way to go.