Newsletter – January, 2014

On My Mind

Humans faced a formidable challenge since the beginning—reach the summit of Mount Everest. Finally, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to accomplish the feat as they reached the peak of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. It is important to remember that the equipment they used is considered primitive by the standards of today and they had no highway to the summit like that which exists today. They created their own path. Their story is expertly told—with text and amazing pictures–in the book by Alexa Johnston titled, Reaching the Summit: Edmund Hillary’s Life of Adventure. Many leaders of organizations are starting 2014 facing one or more formidable challenges. These challenges are related to performance categories such as quality, safety, talent acquisition, growth, profitability, and productivity. I have seen the phrase existential crisis used several times in newspaper and magazine articles this past year to describe some of these challenges. An existential crisis in this context means an issue or event that threatens the existence of the organization and requires its leaders to re-evaluate why the organization exists; how it will contribute to society; and what actions must be taken for survival. Like the situation in 1953 facing the Mount Everest expedition, there may be no clear path. Thankfully, formidable challenges can be successfully addressed. Good luck reaching the summit in 2014.

Interesting Stories

One of the advantages of the digital economy is the ease with which we can pay for products and services using credit and debit cards. In fact, many of us probably don’t pay much attention anymore when we use our cards. Target Corporation just experienced a digital economy nightmare affecting millions of its customers. In a broadcast e-mail message, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel stated, “As you have likely heard by now, Target experienced unauthorized access to payment card data from U.S. Target stores. We take this crime seriously. It was a crime against Target, our team members and most importantly you – our valued guest.” The timing could not have been worse—right at the beginning of the holiday season. Target’s response was multi-pronged: two awareness e-mail messages; a CEO e-mail message; and automatic discounts on purchases among other things. Time will tell the full extent of the damages to Target’s financial performance and the relationships it has with its customers.

Company News

The 2014 Public Seminar schedule for Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC will be available on this website around mid-January. There will be at least ten offerings ranging from Analytics to Service Design to Hoshin Kanri. I will be giving an evening presentation on February 11 at a Minnesota American Society for Quality event. It is titled, “Dr. W. Edwards Deming: The World of Quality Twenty Years After His Death.”

Intriguing Reads

Lawrence Freedman, Professor at King’s College London, has written a comprehensive book on Strategy titled, Strategy: A History. The book is lengthy at 700+ pages, but I found it hard to put down and I finished it in less than a week. There are five parts: Origins, Strategies of Force, Strategy from Below, Strategy from Above, and Theories of Strategy. This book will no doubt become a classic and an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the history and development of the field of Strategic Management.