Can Arguments Help in Collaboration?

Joe:   Can argument mapping help in collaboration?

Timo:   Yes, a lot of us are working — as teacher’s we are working with groups of students, and they built together some argument around an issue. Argument mapping does when you present it with a beamer on a screen or something like that, it makes it possible to have a discussion on issues that can be very precise, and that generates something from a shared thinking process. For instance when you’re working with people who have to defend a PhD and they present their Ph.D. or parts of their Ph.D. to the head of dissertation on a map on a screen and people can be very precise in asking questions connected to some claims people make. The fault is it enables having an argument that before all the people involved, it allows to focus on specific issues and you can be very clear about what you are talking and what not because everybody sees the issue involved before their eyes; so it facilitates a process of shared thinking.

Joe:   One of the things you talk about in Rationale is Essay Planning and being able to build an essay, and that’s like somewhat of a step-off than an argument. What’s the connection there?

Timo:   In an essay, you try to give a contention, a position to defend the position by giving reasons and objections, etcetera and you write it in a form that you hope that the readers of your essay will comprehend what you are saying or what your logical structure is in your argument and have fun reading. Every teacher of writing will explain to you that you should think first before you start writing. What you’re doing in an argument map is making visual your thinking in an argument map, and when you’ve done that, you can export your arguments map into prose by using the essay function within Rationale. And then you have the hardcore of your essay is available within Word or whatever editor you use, and you can build your essay around the argument map you have been exporting. So what you’re doing is, first you think about a subject and you come to a position, you build an argument around it and you think, well this is okay, this is really a good argument for a position you want to defend or to do research in and only then you export it as a text file to your editor, and then you have to edit, the bone structure of your essay is ready, and then you can fill it in, flash it out with all kind of details, background information, things that are fun to read. But the hardcore of your essay, you’ll be making first.

These comments were from a podcast that I had with Timo ter Berg is the CEO of Critical Thinking. They help people visualize and organize their thoughts combining innovative graphic display tools with the latest research on how to make complex thinking more organized and accessible. They host several products called Rationale and bCisive which can be found at

Related Podcast and Transcription: Organizing Complexity

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30% Time Wasted Looking for Data, 50% Success Rate Finding It

A fact that Kim Robertson , the author of over 100 discipline specific training packages, 3 fiction books and articles for CM Trends and various other trade publications from industrial arts to Configuration Management, stated in a recent podcast.

His latest collaboration Configuration Management: Theory, Practice, and Application is

Excerpt from the Podcast:

Joe:   One of the parts that jumped out of me was some of the statements right away that you made in the heading of the poor handling of data. I think you mentioned that 30% of the knowledge worker’s times are used for looking for data and even at that, there’s only a 50% success rate.

Kim:   Yes, that’s a problem across industry. That one actually came from another book that I got that information from. Basically, we don’t have the data linked. So for example, if you have a subcontract; with the subcontract you have a purchase order, you have a statement of work, you may have some specifications. After that, you have data that they’re going to send it to you which is usually supply chain data lists. Nobody is hooking those together within their product data management or product life cycle management systems. They can tell you every piece part and who the vendor was that goes into the buildup of the final item, but they can’t tell you where the data was, what the receiving’s factual report actually said about the information or much else. That’s very bad when you’re trying to do any type of quality assessment on why things aren’t working the way you thought they would within test before you field something. Or in the case of things like the switch the GM had, where did you go wrong with that piece of it and basically that gets back to one of the premises that if two things don’t look the same, aren’t of the same quality, don’t look alike, don’t keep the same number and we find that that goes on quite a bit. There have been cases of airlines where it’s time to replace an engine and they order a new engine for the jet aircraft, the engine shows up and it doesn’t fit on the wing because they made a change, but they didn’t change the top assembly number.

We have all of those types of activities that we need to take a look at and integrate them together somehow. We have this problem with the Lean-type activities as well. Lean Six Sigma is something that is very popular right now. Lean Six Sigma I believe says you’re going to have two bad parts after every million or so. A couple of years ago, there was a company that ordered a couple million resistors all of the same value from another company and they had a Lean Six Sigma requirement and the company they’d ordered from, the supplier kept saying, we’re going to have to hold off a couple weeks, giving you this last supply data management report. I said well okay, and so then eventually the report came in and there was a shipment of resistors and there were two resistors typed to this note on top of it saying, we didn’t know why you wanted two bad resistors, but it took us eight weeks to find them, since they were working at an Eight Sigma level. So a lot of that, you have to know what your suppliers are capable of before you let your requirements on them because otherwise you may be forcing them to do work and costing you money that you don’t have to spend.

Joe:  I think about the data, I think that the inaccuracies that you point out in the data and the lack of cross-references and coordination between all these data, and from a layman’s standpoint it sounds like here we are back to this old file cabinet thing that 80 to 90% of whatever we put in the file cabinet, we never retrieve again. What we did retrieve, a lot of it was inaccurate and though that was in the paper world, is data much better?

Kim:   One advantage you had with the paper world was at least you could retrieve it. What we see a lot with the information technology, these activities are that some people make uninformed decisions that the data isn’t required, and so they may dispose of it. We’ve had some cases where I was involved in a program where the decision was made, we’re just paying too much for backing up servers and so we’re not going to back anything after three months. We’ll backup nightly, we’ll back up weekly; we’ll backup monthly. We’ll save three monthlies and then when we save the fourth; we’ll throw the first one away. Lo and behold an entire program’s worth of data went missing and it happened four months or more before it was discovered and the customer was asking questions because the units were still on the field, and nobody could find any of the information. As far as data retention itself goes, I don’t think that we’re much better because the IT organizations and the programmatic aren’t really communicating or understanding if they are talking what the actual requirements are and often its retention for 10 years after disposal of the last unit which with an automobile maybe 40 years from now. On a space asset, some of them would have been up there 35 years. Voyagers have been up there almost 30 years I believe, and it is still going. All of that data is still being retained some place.

Which brings us to a secondary problem is what happens, because the computers are going and involving so quickly. You’re talking about possibly having quantum computers now which would give us something besides buying a recode because you’d end up with 16 possible states for an answer making things not black and white or ones and zeros but shades of gray or Technicolor if you would. So we have some of the missions where we actually archive the computers, the operating systems, the software and everything else because 15 years from now, all of that evolve and there will be no way to actually communicate with a spacecraft that was in orbit. The same thing is going on, on the ground. The last launch of the space transportation system, they were sourcing all 86 boards off of eBay to keep the systems running in order to make that last launch because the hardware was so old, and we have the same thing going on with the data. How do you keep it current and we’ve been struggling with that for a long time. The portable data format or PDF has been a great help with that because PowerPoint and those types of things, when you move them from one server to a lesser cost, storage type of retention sometimes get corrupted and you can’t ever retrieve them again, but PDF’s still seem to be good.

Joe: Configuration management is supposed to help us with all these problems and to me, it sounds good but how does configuration management or what are the keys there to make all these things right as we just talked about?…….

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What is the 7 Kata?

The book, The 7 Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training, was published in 2012 and authored by Pat Boutier and Conrad Soltero. Pat BoutierIt received the Shingo Award for Research and Professional Publications from the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence. It discusses the blend of Training within Industry (TWI) with Kata in a very unique way. The book does not require you to be an expert in both fields, but I would suggest a little background in one of the mentioned areas.

Pat, originally a Design Engineer, moved into Manufacture Engineering and eventually, an Engineering Manager and Production Manager. He was also a Group General Manager for Tandy Electronics in the Fort Worth area running three different plants making computers and owned his own company for 12 years designing manufacturing vision systems. For the past 10 years, he has worked with TMAC, helping companies get better.

This is part 1 of 2 podcasts with Pat Boutier on the 7 Kata.

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Using the Coaching Kata in Sales?

We over complicate most things, and when I think about Sales and Marketing, they certainly have their share of complications. I was reminded of how tough we seem to make things while reviewing Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata Website. It really can be rather simple.

Kata seems to be the hot topic in Lean right now, and I will have my share of Kata information this spring on the Business901 website. The reason is that the Kata and as Rother describes resembles nowaday sales cycles pretty well. When you think of Rother’s Four Key tools for the improvement and the Coaching Kata they resemble the tools I use in practicing sales and marketing. The four key tools are

  1. Learner’s Storyboard Format
  2. 5-Question Card (for the coach)
  3. Obstacle Parking Lot (for the Learner)
  4. PDCA Cycles Record (for the Learner)

They are part of the download at the above site and contained within the Improvement Kata Handbook on that site. The two simplest tools are the Storyboard and the Obstacle Parking lot, and I think you will see how they could be used with little effort. The PDCA Cycles Record also needs little explanation as it is just a log of what you learn from the five questions. The five questions are where the gold is to be found.

The Coach is instructed to ask:

  1. What is the Target Condition?
  2. What is the Actual Condition?

The Learner reflects and replies:

  1. What did you plan as your last step?
  2. What did you expect?
  3. What actually happened?
  4. What did you learn?

The Coach replies with the remaining three questions:

  1. What obstacles are preventing you from reaching the target condition?
  2. What is your next step?
  3. How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

This is repeated and documented in the PDCA Cycle Record or as we might call it in our sales call report. How much better would our sales be if we treated each sales call as an experiment? If we simply completed the steps above and documented in our learning cycle based on our prediction before the sales call, evidence of actually what took place and evaluated what we learned.

The difference in treating sales this way is that we are not looking for a derived outcome, we are really looking for a learning experience. Would this be a better way to create sales opportunity? Would this be an easier way to work with your salespeople?

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Can HR find a use for TWI’s Job Relations?

I have extended my interest more deeply into Training within Industry (TWI) which was presented in a very unique way in the book, The 7 Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training. The book was published in 2012 and authored by Pat Boutier and Conrad Soltero. It received the Shingo Award for Research and Professional Publications from the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

Pat is my podcast guest next week and I asked him one of favorite questions at the end of the podcast last week, “What would like to mention that I did not ask?”

An excerpt from the podcast: 

Pat:  I guess the only thing that I can add is that I have been trying to understand why companies don’t grab the Job Relations Kata out of TWI and run with it. That to me is a glaring issue in most companies today. Because if you know anybody that works anywhere, probably 50 to 60 to 80 percent of those 7 Katapeople are unhappy. They’re unhappy with someone in the management chain. Those things seem pervasive everywhere and they’re so easy to take care of if they were following Job Relations systematically within a company, and it seems very difficult to get companies to buy into this or managers to buy into this.

That’s one of the things that I’m looking at and trying to expand. I came across just recently that we hadn’t touched in the book was a lot of people in Human Resources are talking about they should become strategic partners with their management peers. I think the 7 Kata is one way they can do that. If they become knowledgeable on all this and start to coach their CEO, called the “C sweep of leaders”. I use that term to mean any size company, because a company that’s only a hundred people, might call himself a CEO, he/she might call themselves just the owner, it doesn’t matter. They need a coach; they need a mentor to help them. Not tell them what to do, but to help them understand their strategic directions and how are they respecting people. And more to it, how are their people respecting people. That’s what I think many leaders miss, is they think they’re respecting people but how it gets transmitted through the layers doesn’t always get done right. Obviously with all the literature that goes on about how many people are unhappy at work, there’s something there that needs to change. Job Relations could help it but don’t know yet how to grab the attention.

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Making Complex Thinking More Organized

Timo ter Berg is the CEO of Critical Thinking, a leader in the development of software. They help people visualize and organize their thoughts combining innovative graphic display tools with the latest research on how to make complex thinking more organized and accessible. They host several products called Rationale and bCisive which can be found at

Argument Mapping

Are discussion centered on Argument Mapping, a unique mapping process that is very useful for structured, critical thinking & writing and debate preparation.

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