Newsletter – October, 2017

On My Mind
My recent trip to Nepal can best be described as mind-expanding. Although I didn’t make it to the top of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest), I was able to see quite a bit of Kathmandu and the surrounding areas. Kathmandu is rich in history and culture and the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism are quite visible. I especially enjoyed visiting the stupas, temples, and shrines. The city is still recovering from an earthquake in 2015 and so there is quite a bit of construction—and dust—which means the air quality has been adversely affected. The people I met were friendly and kind and the views from some of the Kathmandu area mountaintops were spectacular. There clearly are improvements in the Kathmandu infrastructure that need to be made, but this bustling city is vibrant and there is much knowledge that can be gained by the inquiring mind.

Interesting Stories
You’ll know it when you see it! Kathmandu has thousands of small stores that are “open to the street” selling everything from vegetables to clothing to motorcycle helmets. There was some good news and bad news related to the Kathmandu traffic congestion. The bad news was that I spent a lot of time as a passenger in a van during my recent trip. The good news was that I had a lot of time to just “peer into” these small stores. I started to wonder how you could differentiate yourself if you were a store owner since many of the stores seemed to sell similar items. How might you gain a competitive advantage? I was thinking you could differentiate yourself by location, brands sold, and/or customer service. And then I saw “it”! I noticed a store that was impeccably clean and organized and there was an employee sweeping the front sidewalk. There were two small waste bins neatly arranged outside the store next to a nice potted plant. I think it was a drugstore. The store seemed so welcoming and it “shouted” cleanliness and orderliness—so “far ahead” compared to many of the other stores in Kathmandu. The exemplary “curb-side appearance” clearly differentiated this store from all the other stores I observed. It truly appeared to be a Lean store.

Company News
I presented my research paper on “Big Data in Hoshin Kanri” at the 15th Asian Network for Quality Congress in Kathmandu, Nepal in September. The paper is available on the RESEARCH page of this website. The 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference is scheduled for October 19. The one day Advances in Strategic Planning course is scheduled for November 9. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course is scheduled to start November 16. The next public Strategic Improvement Black Belt course is scheduled to start January 9, 2018. The brochures for these events are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
I study the book Writers on Strategy and Strategic Management (2nd Edition) by J. I. Moore at least once a year. You learn about the most valuable players in the field of Strategic Management in this book. Studying the book every year re-solidifies my understanding of some of the most important “strategy” concepts and frameworks. The book is organized in six sections: The Shapers and Movers, The Consultants, The Scholars and Researchers, The Developers and Teachers, The Incrementalists, and Strategies for Decline: Endgames and Turnaround. If you want an excellent foundational book on Strategy and Strategic Management, then give this book a try.

Newsletter – September, 2017

On My Mind
My thoughts have been with the people in the Houston area, Florida, and the Caribbean as they struggle to clean-up and repair their homes after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Thousands of organizations are now in disaster recovery mode and I suspect that many will not re-open. One-time busy streets in business districts are now passageways for boats. I was reminded of the importance of securing business data and records, having duplicate copies of key business documents off-site (or in the cloud), and having a business continuity plan. It is easy to ignore these practices in good times, but that would be a mistake.

Interesting Stories
There is nothing like a long trip to generate a number of “good, bad, and ugly” product and service experiences. My last trip to California provided me with several of each. My hotel experience on Avila Beach was actually “great” rather than “good.” It was surreal to watch the news reporting of Hurricane Irma on TV while looking out at the ocean. It was a different ocean, but it seemed strange nonetheless. An “ugly” service experience was with a restaurant with outdoor seating. I sat down outside at a table and no server was in sight . . . and finally, after about twenty-five minutes a server arrived. In the meantime, several customers “came and went” without being served. The restaurant wasn’t even busy. They lost some revenue that day.

Company News
I will present my research paper on “Big Data in Hoshin Kanri” at the Asian Network for Quality Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal in September. The next public Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt course is scheduled to start October 10. The 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference is scheduled for October 19. The one day Advances in Strategic Planning course is scheduled for November 9. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course is scheduled to start November 16. The next public Strategic Improvement Black Belt course is scheduled to start January 9, 2018. The brochures for most of these events are available on this website.

Intriguing Reads
The updated book by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris titled, “Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning” was recently published. The revised edition contains a new Introduction and a Foreword by David Abney, CEO of UPS. This is a valuable book for anyone interested in the emerging field of analytics and how analytics can be used to create a competitive advantage.

Newsletter – August, 2017

On My Mind
Some of my clients have just completed their mid-year strategic planning review and the fourth quarter is in sight. I always enjoy these reviews because of the knowledge that is created. Which of our assumptions were correct and which assumptions weren’t correct? Which of our milestone targets were unrealistic and which milestone targets were too easy? Which of our strategies were effective and which strategies weren’t effective? What did we miss? These are some of the typical questions that are asked during such reviews. You can learn more about how to conduct an effective strategic planning review by attending the Advances in Strategic Planning course on November 9, 2017. Best wishes as you strive to accomplish your strategic objectives.

Interesting Stories
When is it time to retire? For some, the answer is clear because of a mandatory retirement age. Some professional athletes are simply “cut from the team” or their contract is not renewed and no other team is interested. Usain Bolt, the famous sprinter from Jamaica, apparently has made the decision to retire. He won the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic Games. He recently competed in the IAAF World Track and Field Championships 2017 in London – hoping to end his career with one final epic victory in the 100 meter. Justin Gaitlin and Christian Coleman of the United States had other plans. Gaitlin finished first in 9.92 seconds, Coleman finished second in 9.94 seconds, and Bolt finished a very close third in 9.95 seconds. It was a photo finish. We’ll see if Usain Bolt follows-through on his promise to retire from competitive racing. This might be a difficult decision for the greatest human sprinter ever.

Company News
I finished writing my research paper on “Big Data in Hoshin Kanri” which will be presented at the Asian Network for Quality Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal in September. A one day Creating Successful Standards course is scheduled for August 31. The next public Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt course is scheduled to start October 10. The 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference is scheduled for October 19. The one day Advances in Strategic Planning course is scheduled for November 9. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course is scheduled to start November 16. The next public Strategic Improvement Black Belt course is scheduled to start January 9, 2018. The brochures for most of these events are available on this website.

Intriguing Reads
My current research project is on “why employees are reluctant to express their improvement and innovation ideas” and so the book “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull is turning out to be a useful reference. Catmull is the President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He worked closely with Steve Jobs when Jobs was the CEO of Pixar (and CEO Apple at the same time). I especially liked Chapter 13 titled, “Notes Day” where it was described how employees were involved in the ideation process for determining the strategic direction of the company.

Newsletter – July, 2017

On My Mind
The 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 19, 2017 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The purpose of the conference is to assemble experts from various types of organizations in a beautiful setting to learn with each other how to improve organizations from a strategic perspectives. Twelve presentations will be delivered related to four major themes: Strategy, Analytics, Innovation, and Lean Six Sigma. There is another all-star presenter line-up again this year: Marshall Smith, MN DHS Direct Care and Treatment; Wayne Fortun, Hutchinson Technology (retired); Dr. John Olson and Dr. Ashley Stadler Blank, University of St. Thomas; Dr. Andy Van de Ven, Carlson School of Management; Justin Gilbert, IBM; Matthew Moore, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation; Vern Campbell, Process Management International and the University of Manitoba; Kirk Burcar, New Flyer Industries; Michael Smith, Be The Match; Anthony Alongi, Judy Grew, and Laura Grunloh, MN DNR; Mike Kewley, Loram Maintenance of Way; and myself. I’ll be presenting on “Big Data in Hoshin Kanri” which will be on how to integrate big data into strategic planning-type processes.

Interesting Stories
Perform or else . . . continued! Last month I mentioned that Mark Fields was replaced as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ford Motor Company. This past month Jeff Immelt, Chief Executive Officer of GE, announced that he will retire. The performance of the GE stock price during Immelt’s tenure largely mirrored that of the S&P 500 except for the past few years when the performance gap widened. Immelt replaced the legendary CEO Jack Welch in 2001. Immelt’s successor effective August 1, 2017 will be John Flannery, President and CEO of GE Healthcare.

Company News
The public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course kicked-off June 28. A one day Creating Successful Standards is scheduled for August 31. The next public Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt course is scheduled to start October 10. The 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference is scheduled for October 19. The one day Advances in Strategic Planning course is scheduled for November 9. The next public Strategic Improvement Black Belt course is scheduled to start January 9, 2018.

Intriguing Reads
I went back to the book “Hoshin Kanri: Policy Deployment for Successful TQM” when I was writing my research paper on “Big Data in Hoshin Kanri.” The book was edited and partly written by Dr. Yoji Akao. I still consider the book to be the definitive source on hoshin kanri. If you want to learn more about hoshin kanri, then I would start with that book.

Newsletter – June, 2017

On My Mind
Analytics and big data applications sometimes involve the use of an algorithm. They are often referred to as “black box algorithms” because they are controlled in a secretive manner and because they can be considered an organization’s “secret sauce.” Some algorithm archetypes include preference learning, search completion, matching, geographic spread, network connections, topic trending, and missing puzzle piece. For example, a preference learning algorithm recommends an item like a song, book, or movie based on what you’ve selected in the past. An algorithm is basically a model that produces outcomes and so it is important to remember the wise words of Dr. George E. P. Box and Dr. Norman R. Draper: “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” A recent relevant and interesting book on algorithms is titled, “What Algorithms Want: Imagination in the Age of Computing” by Ed Finn. You can learn more about analytics, big data, and algorithms by reading the research report on “Quality, Analytics, and Big Data” at www.strategicimprovementsystems.com/research.

Interesting Stories
You better perform or else in the corporate world! Mark Fields was recently replaced as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ford Motor Company in part because of the company’s poor financial performance and slower-than-desired pace of technology development related to autonomous and electric vehicles (see the July 23 article by Bill Vlasic of The New York Times). Jim Hackett of Ford succeeds Mark Fields as CEO. Time will tell if he can turn the Ford ship around, but he probably doesn’t have much time to do it.

Company News
The one day public Continuous Improvement for Leaders course was held June 6 at the Crowne Plaza. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course starts June 28. The course brochure is available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. There are some other public events coming, but the brochures are not yet available. A one day Leading Successful Standardization Activities is tentatively scheduled for July 26. The next public Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt course is scheduled to start October 10. The 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference is scheduled for October 19. The one day Advances in Strategic Planning course is scheduled for November 9.

Intriguing Reads
If you want a good contemporary textbook on information systems, then I recommend the book Introduction to Information Systems: Supporting and Transforming Business (6th Ed.) by Rainer and Prince. This introductory college-level book can help you develop a foundation to better understand some of the emergent technologies in the world today. I especially appreciated the chapters on Business Intelligence and Cloud Computing and the detailed glossaries of key terms at the end of each chapter.

Newsletter – May, 2017

On My Mind
Once in a while I discover that a product or service that I LOVE is no longer available. This can be very disappointing and might even involve some minor mourning. Cisco Systems decided to stop manufacturing the Flip Video camera a couple of years ago. I still use my Flip Video camera because of the great HD video quality plus it’s so easy to transfer videos to my laptop. You can still purchase one, just search the internet. A local restaurant called the Excelsior Grill closed over a year ago which disappointed several of us in my family. It was not a chain restaurant and was not fancy, but they served good food at reasonable prices and the staff was always friendly. Now my latest disappointment – the annual Who’s Who in Baseball book was not published this year for the first time in 101 years. I looked forward every year to studying the career statistics of the current players on the thirty Major League Baseball clubs. There is a silver lining in the story in that I discovered a 2015 book titled, 100 YEARS OF who’s who in BASEBALL written by the Staff of Who’s Who in Baseball with Douglas B. Lyons. What a beautiful book! One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that I should strive to support and promote the products and services that I LOVE – or they might disappear forever.

Interesting Stories
I’ll be visiting Kathmandu, Nepal in September and so the news of the first mountain climbing death of the spring season in the Mount Everest area was quite sad. The mountain climber was Ueli Steck who was nicknamed “the Swiss Machine.” He was considered one of the best mountain climbers in the world at the time of his death. It is sobering to know that someone so knowledgeable, experienced, skilled, and respected could slip and fall into a crevasse. My thoughts have been with his loved ones.

Company News
There are several public events on the horizon . . . The one day Statistical Methods for Continuous Improvement course will be held May 9, 2017 at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. A one day public Continuous Improvement for Leaders course will be held June 6 also at the Crowne Plaza. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course starts June 28. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. There are some other public events coming, but the brochures are not yet available. A one day Leading Successful Standardization Activities is tentatively scheduled for July 26. The next public Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt course is scheduled to start October 10. The 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference is scheduled for October 19. The one day Advances in Strategic Planning course is scheduled for November 9.

Intriguing Reads
I won’t be able to attend the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting on May 6 in Omaha, Nebraska due to a scheduling conflict. I attended the last two annual meetings to learn from Warren Buffet—known as the Oracle of Omaha—and his long-time business partner Charlie Munger. Buffet is known as one of the greatest investors of all time, but it is important to remember that he is the CEO of a publicly traded company with 2016 revenues of $223+ billion. The event will be livestreamed on Yahoo Finance. I just finished studying the Berkshire Hathaway 2016 Annual Report. It is one of the most widely-read annual reports in the world. You can download it from the Berkshire Hathaway website at www.berkshirehathaway.com.

Newsletter – April, 2017

On My Mind
Multivariate Data Analysis (MDA) consists of a set of analytical techniques used to gain unique insights and extract as much knowledge as possible from medium and big-sized “row by column” datasets. Some of the MDA techniques include Discriminant Analysis, Factor Analysis, Multiple Regression Analysis, MANOVA, and Cluster Analysis. I use a seven step process when analyzing a row-by-column dataset using MDA techniques: (1) Discuss Zero Data (Mission, Vision, Values, Strategic Objectives, etc.), (2) Characterize the Dataset (using a Shichi Box), (3) Select the MDA Technique (e.g., Factor Analysis), (4) Apply the Technique, (5) Capture the Insights (decide to apply another MDA technique or not), (6) Summarize the Findings (when done), and (7) Communicate the Findings. You can contact me if you would like a list of MDA reference books.

Interesting Stories
Superior service can stand out in the crowd. I had a client meeting the other day in the area of Target Field which is the home of the Minnesota Twins Major League Baseball Club. There is a Twins store connected to the stadium and I wanted to buy a Twins media guide, but the store doors to the outside were locked – you had to enter the stadium to visit the store. A woman working for the Twins was standing outside the stadium and she noticed my situation. She asked me if I worked for the media or for the Twins. I told her that I’m a baseball fan and that I just wanted to buy a media guide, but that I couldn’t enter the Twins store. She said “follow me” and she speedily took me through the ticket gates to a vendor stand where I bought the media guide. She then led me out of the stadium. I regret that I didn’t get her name because I would have written a letter to the Twins Front Office detailing her act of kindness. It was first class, superior service in my book.

Company News
A one day Customer Analysis workshop will be held April 12 at the Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center in Chaska, MN and a two day Introduction to Multivariate Data Analysis course will be held May 8-9 at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. A one day public Continuous Improvement for Leaders course will be held June 6 at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course starts July 17. All brochures will be available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website by April 18.

Intriguing Reads
I typically use Minitab (software package) to conduct a Multivariate Data Analysis (MDA), but an alternative is R. R is a free software package that can be used to apply MDA techniques (http://cran.r-project.org/). There is a great book on MDA using R titled, “Using R With Multivariate Statistics” by Randall E. Schumacker. This book features some of the common MDA techniques; some of the relevant history of the MDA techniques; and how to use R to apply the MDA techniques. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a statistical software package to apply MDA techniques, then you might consider using R.

Newsletter – March, 2017

On My Mind
It has become common to conduct both formal Lean and Six Sigma activities in organizations, but sometimes they are led by different people and not integrated. How can you start to integrate Lean and Six Sigma activities to create a Lean Six Sigma improvement system? Here are three things that can be done to start to integrate Lean and Six Sigma activities: (1) combine the project portfolios to create a single Lean Six Sigma project portfolio; (2) conduct joint base-level training on the common concepts, tools, and techniques such as measuring baseline performance, mapping processes and work flows, and conducting a root cause analysis; and (3) use the same improvement method for both Lean and Six Sigma activities such as the QC Story, the PDCA/PDSA cycle, or DMAIC. You won’t have a fully-integrated Lean Six Sigma improvement system by doing these three things, but you should be off to a great start.

Interesting Stories
You might not know how useful something is until it isn’t there anymore! The clock on our kitchen wall started to “act up” and so we took it off the wall. I now catch myself looking at where the clock used to be hanging at least 20 times a day and each time I resolve to STOP looking. However, the behavior is so ingrained in me at a subconscious level that I keeping looking – again and again. It makes me wonder what useful things are typically taken for granted in organizations that would be dearly missed if they disappeared. We probably wouldn’t know until they were gone. I’m now trying to be more aware of these taken for granted things in my life and business.

Company News
I made a presentation to the DECA classes at Chanhassen High School and Chaska High School on “Thoughts on International Business.” The students were very attentive and asked great questions. It brought back memories of when I took DECA as a senior in high school. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course starts March 14. A one day Customer Analysis workshop will be held April 12 at the Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center in Chaska, MN and a two day Introduction to Multivariate Data Analysis course will be held May 8-9 at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. The brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
Multivariate Data Analysis consists of a set of analytical techniques used to gain unique insights and extract as much knowledge as possible from medium and big-sized “row by column” datasets. These techniques are useful for improving organizational performance and helping an organization gain an analytics advantage and/or develop a new organizational competence. One of the better classroom texts on the subjective is Multivariate Data Analysis (7th Ed.) by Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson. I especially liked the detailed “how to” process maps and the practical nature of the book.

Newsletter – February, 2017

On My Mind
You might be receiving a compliment if someone refers to you as The GOAT! I only recently heard that expression for the first time in reference to the New England Patriots – the winners of the 51st Super Bowl. GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time and a strong argument can be made that the New England Patriot organization is the Greatest Pro Football Franchise of All Time with five Super Bowl victories. I’ve grown to like the use of Mount Rushmore to identify the four best of something. For example, my Mount Rushmore of professional baseball players would probably include Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan, and Ichiro Suzuki. I don’t think we necessarily need to strive to be The GOAT, but we can all strive to be better. Who knows, maybe someday you will appear on a Mount Rushmore.

Interesting Stories
How long is a British yard? Back in the day you could travel to a district of London called Greenwich and see for yourself. A sign located near the Public Standards of Length in the picture states: “These British Imperial Standards were first mounted outside the Observatory main gates some time before 1866, to enable the public to check measures of length. The stated length is the distance between the inner faces of the two D-shaped studs.” Nearby you can also stand on the Prime Meridian which is the official “standard dividing line” between “East” and “West” in terms of longitude. You can learn more about standards and standardization by reading the paper “Applying the Four Student Model to the SDCA Cycle.” The paper is available for free on the RESEARCH page of the www.strategicimprovementsystems.com website.

Company News
The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course starts March 14. A one day Customer Analysis workshop will be held April 12 and a two day Applied Multivariate Data Analysis course will be held May 8-9. You can contact me at charles@sisliedtke.com for details.

Intriguing Reads
The book “Lean Lexicon: A Graphical Glossary for Lean Thinkers” by the Lean Enterprise Institute is still my favorite introductory book on Lean. The book contains clear descriptions, diagrams, and illustrations of the major Lean concepts, tools, and techniques. It is a great resource for anyone starting to learn about Lean and for those who want a thorough refresher.

Newsletter – January, 2017

On My Mind
There is nothing like a trip to another country to stimulate the mind and to gain an appreciation for a different culture. I was reminded again of the value of travel during my recent trip with my family to the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy. In addition to spending quality time with my family, here are a few highlights: (1) having my picture taken with MI6 in the background in London, (2) talking chess with one of the bouquinistes (booksellers) along the Seine River in Paris, (3) imagining some of my ancestral roots during a visit to the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, and (4) enjoying the Gallery of Maps room in The Vatican Museums in Rome. The trip led me to add some additional 2017 resolutions such as learn another language, study more history, spend more time in art museums, spend more time studying other cultures, and take more family vacations outside the U.S. I truly believe the benefits of international travel far outweigh the costs.

Interesting Stories
I recently had only 50 minutes between flights while connecting through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and I knew there would be multiple security checks to go through because of a previous trip through the Schiphol Airport two months ago. Needless to say, I wasn’t optimistic about my chances of making my connecting flight. A KLM Flight Attendant came to my rescue without my even asking for help. She talked to me several times during the flight—without prompting—about our arrival gate, my new departure gate, the checkpoints I could expect, and some tips for locating and accessing “Express Lanes” at the checkpoints. She was simply fantastic and out of the ordinary. It got me thinking about why I was surprised. Shouldn’t this be a routine service Flight Attendants provide? Has airline service deteriorated so much that “basic good service” now stands out like a sore thumb? I fly again soon and so now my expectations are higher because of Flight Attendant X from KLM.

Company News
The next public courses offered by Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC include a ten day Strategic Improvement Black Belt course starting January 17 and an eight day Continuous Improvement Green Belt course starting March 14. In the works are a new one day Basic Analytics course (using Excel) and a new two day Multivariate Analysis course (using Minitab). The dates and brochures for those two new courses will be available the end of January.

Intriguing Reads
Every year for the past few years I have re-read the slim book Understanding Digital Technology by F. A. Wilson. Wilson explains in a relatively non-technical way the basic “blocking and tackling” of digital technology. Although it was first published in 1995, the book is still relevant because the foundational technologies have not changed. I especially liked the chapters on Digital Arithmetic and Electronic Logic. If you want to quickly learn some of the basic technical aspects of digital technology, then give this book a try.