Newsletter – April, 2018

On My Mind
Some of the content in my 2016 paper on Quality, Analytics, and Big Data recently became even more relevant with the emergent data issues confronting Facebook and other news reports of data breaches in other organizations. The paper is available on the RESEARCH page of the Strategic Improvement Systems website (www.strategicimprovementsystems.com). Here is an excerpt from Page 42: “10. Manage Customer Data with Great Care. With data and information comes responsibility. . . Here are some sample guiding principles that would demonstrate a “Manage Customer Data with Great Care” intent:
• We will respect a customer’s data privacy preferences
• We will safeguard and protect customer data
• We will only share customer data when it is authorized and appropriate
• We will work aggressively to prevent errors associated with customer data
• We will correct any customer data error that we discover as quickly as possible
Customers might be more likely to establish a long-term relationship with a company if those principles are evident in the operations of the company. Customers whose data is managed with great care might be more likely to be open and honest with an organization—this could lead to the identification of new sources of customer value and a potential source of competitive advantage.”

Interesting Stories
I’ve made several trips to Japan—and now again on my recent trip—the service provided by retail store, restaurant, and hotel workers was exceptional. They were generally polite, respectful, attentive, thorough, and ready to serve. I didn’t notice any of them buried in their smartphones!

Company News
My son Simon and I visited Japan in early March where I gave a presentation on Big Data. We toured the Toyota Takaoka Plant and Toyota museums plus visited numerous Shinto and Buddhist temples and shrines in the Nagoya and Kyoto areas. I’m one of the sponsors for the PENworks 2018 event May 3-4 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Minneapolis hosted by the Performance Excellent Network. The event is a great learning opportunity! The next public Strategic Improvement Green Belt course kicks-off April 17, 2018. The public Advances in Strategic Planning course will be held May 30, 2018. The venue for both courses will be the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Other planned public courses in 2018 include Basic Analytics for Strategic Improvement, Advanced Analytics for Strategic Improvement, Strategic Improvement for Senior Executives, plus Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt courses.

Intriguing Reads
Two colleagues and I each individually identified our “Mount Rushmore” of the four books that most influenced our careers. This turned out to be a profound exercise because it forced me to reflect deeply on my career and then identify only four books (out of so many). Here are my four books: Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming; Introduction to Quality Control by Kaoru Ishikawa; Hoshin Kanri by Yoji Akao (editor); and The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning by Henry Mintzberg. You might consider reading these books – it just might influence your career!

Newsletter – March, 2018

On My Mind
I recently enjoyed watching some of the Winter Olympics held in PyeongChang, South Korea. One of the things I paid attention to was the reactions by the athletes once they knew the final outcome of their event. The reactions were all over the map and it was fun to “guess” each athlete’s pre-event performance expectations. For example, one athlete was extremely disappointed to win a silver medal (second place) whereas other athletes were elated to win a bronze medal (third place). There were also reports in the newspaper that “so and so athlete” was happy with their 8th place, 13th place, etc. What is the lesson? Not every athlete expects to win a gold medal and “success” can sometimes be an outcome quite different than first place. Perhaps leaders should pay more attention to how they set and communicate performance expectations – and then be prepared to manage the emotional aftermath.

Interesting Stories
I have two memories from the Winter Olympics that I won’t forget for a long time. First, when Jessie Diggins of the U.S.A. came from behind to win the Women’s Team Sprint Cross-Country Skiing Event. It was almost as if she willed herself to win. The second was when one of the German two man bobsled teams became aware that one of the Canadian teams had just tied them for the gold medal. The two Germans—without hesitation—rushed off to celebrate with the two Canadians. The four athletes later stood arm-in-arm for pictures and more celebration. It was one of the most remarkable displays of sportsmanship that I have ever seen.

Company News
I’ve been preparing for my trip to Japan in early March where I’ll be presenting on Big Data and touring some factories. The next public Strategic Improvement Green Belt course kicks-off April 17, 2018. The public Advances in Strategic Planning course will be held May 30, 2018. The venue for both courses will be the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Other planned public courses in 2018 include Basic Analytics for Strategic Improvement plus Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt courses.

Intriguing Reads
The Japanese Society for Quality Control (JSQC) recently published the English translation (from Japanese) of the “Guidelines for Policy Management.” Policy Management is also known as Hoshin Kanri. I served as an editor for the document which contains leading-edge content on the subject. You can view details on the document by visiting www.jsqc.org/en and then using the search function for “Guidelines for Policy Management.” I’ll be covering Hoshin Kanri content in the public Advances in Strategic Planning course which will be held May 30, 2018 at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. The course brochure is available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Newsletter – February, 2018

On My Mind
Japanese-Style Hoshin Kanri (a.k.a. Policy Management) is a global best practice strategic planning system. The Japanese Society for Quality Control published the English translation (from Japanese) of the “Guidelines for Policy Management” late last year. I served as an editor for the document which contains the most leading-edge content on the subject. You can access details on the document by visiting www.jsqc.org/en and then using the search function on “Guidelines for Policy Management.” I’ll be covering Hoshin Kanri content during the public Advances in Strategic Planning course on May 30.

Interesting Stories
Once in a while an organization does something so profound that I’m a bit stunned and left speechless. This was the case recently when Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX)—which was founded and currently led by Elon Musk—successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket on February 6 only to have the two rocket boosters return to earth and land side-by-side. The main rocket carried a red Tesla sports car. Elon Musk is the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. You can watch details of the event on YouTube. SpaceX continues to push the envelope on rocket performance while dramatically reducing mission costs. This will continue to be an exciting company to watch for years to come.

Company News
I attended the SportCon conference on February 2 at Optum in Eden Prairie which was sponsored by MinneAnalytics. The timing was perfect given the Super Bowl was in Minneapolis on February 4. MinneAnalytics is a professional network that promotes analytics. Membership and conferences are free and there are several analytics user groups that meet. I’ve been preparing for my trip to Japan in early March where I’ll be presenting on Big Data. The next public Strategic Improvement Green Belt course kicks-off April 17, 2018. The public Advances in Strategic Planning course will be held May 30, 2018. The venue for both courses will be the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Other planned public courses in 2018 include Basic Analytics for Strategic Improvement and Strategic Improvement Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt courses.

Intriguing Reads
I try to read as many annual reports as I can from “world class” organizations. Three that I always read each year are Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, and Toyota. The “Letter to Shareholders” by Warren Buffet has become a “don’t miss” annual article for CEOs and analysts. The annual reports I’ve been most interested in the past year were the three mentioned earlier plus Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Tesla. I’m also looking at the last three annual reports from General Electric to see if there were any predictive signals for the current major problems the company is experiencing. The best thing about annual reports is that they are free. Happy reading!

Newsletter – January, 2018

On My Mind
This is a good time of year to remind others in your organization about Zero Data. I define Zero Data as an organization’s mission, vision, values, philosophy, priorities, and objectives. Zero Data does not mean that “no data” was used to develop these items, but rather it is meant to represent the set of important strategic direction items for an organization. Zero Data should guide the collection and analysis of small data, medium data, and big data. It gives purpose to data collection and analysis and provides a valuable perspective when deciding what actions to take based upon the data. Best wishes as you collect and analyze your data – guided by Zero Data.

Interesting Stories
“Never mind the ballistic missile message that was sent earlier.” The “imminent threat” ballistic missile message sent by mistake in Hawaii is a good reminder that some mistakes have severe consequences. Many people apparently thought their life was about to end and they started to panic. The officials responsible for the threat message seemed genuinely sorry for their mistake and pledged that it would never happen again. I have already started to hear the three predictable questions associated with such tragic incidents: What happened? Why did it happen? What can we do so that it never happens in the future? Fortunately, other government entities can learn from this mistake.

Company News
The public Statistical Methods for Strategic Improvement course will be held February 5-6, 2018. The next public Strategic Improvement Green Belt course kicks-off April 17, 2018. The public Advances in Strategic Planning course will be held May 30, 2018. The venue for all three courses will be the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
Game Theory seems to be increasing in popularity in part because of the analytics revolution. I recently went back through the classic book by von Neumann and Morgenstern titled, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. This book should be on the bookshelf of anyone who is seriously interested in Game Theory. An easier, more approachable literary introduction to the topic is the book by Binmore titled, Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction. This is an extremely useful book for those who want to learn how to perform better at “games” related to business and life.

 

Newsletter – December, 2017

On My Mind
There always seems to be one company that stands apart from the crowd each decade in terms of performance and reputation. Here would be my (subjective) selections: Motorola in the 1980s; GE in the 1990s; Toyota in the 2000s; and Apple in the 2010s. Which company would be your best guess for the 2020s? My shortlist of candidates would include (in alphabetical order) Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and Tesla. Alphabet will continue to rapidly innovate; Amazon will continue to be the everything store (and more); Facebook will continue to connect the world; IBM’s Watson will continue to get faster and smarter; Microsoft will transform under Satya Nadella’s leadership; and Tesla’s electric cars and trucks will be everywhere. However, I wouldn’t count out Apple as a repeat winner. Some “tech experts” have commented that the new Apple Headquarters is Steve Job’s most insanely amazing product yet.

Interesting Stories
I think I have a case of “bad news fatigue” given the amount of media attention on political divisiveness, nuclear tensions, sexual harassment allegations, Russian interference, mass shootings, hurricanes, wild fires, layoffs, etc. It is hard to find a positive, heartwarming, and/or inspiring news story. Maybe that represents an opportunity for some enlightened media company. For some reason I recently recalled an old phrase by George H. W. Bush that still resonates with me – he called for a kinder, gentler nation. He spoke those words on August 18, 1988 when he received the Republic Party’s nomination for President of the United States. I think those words are relevant today.

Company News
I was a guest lecturer on Big Data in Hoshin Kanri at the Carlson School of Management’s graduate-level course on Big Data Analytics in Supply Chains instructed by Dr. Kingshuk (KK) Sinha. Hoshin Kanri is a Japanese strategic planning system. The next public Strategic Improvement Black Belt course kicks-off January 9, 2018. The brochures for this course is available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. The Statistical Methods for Strategic Improvement course will be held February 5-6, 2018. The next public Strategic Improvement Green Belt course kicks-off April 17, 2018. The brochure for those two courses will be available on this website in late December.

Intriguing Reads
Satya Nadella is the third CEO in the history of Microsoft (after Bill Gates and his successor Steve Ballmer). Nadella’s new book titled, Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone is part autobiography and part how Microsoft is transforming (under Nadella’s leadership) to a mobile/cloud company. I especially enjoyed Nadella’s first person descriptions of the Microsoft strategic planning sessions. This is a great book to read if you are tasked with transforming your organization – it will inspire you.

 

Newsletter – November, 2017

On My Mind
The 2017 Deming Prize Winners were recently announced by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE). Congratulations to SCG Logistics Management Company Limited (Thailand) for winning The Deming Grand Prize. Congratulations to Ashok Leyland Limited, Hosur Unit II (India) and CEAT Limited (India) for winning The Deming Prize. You can learn more about The Deming Grand Prize and The Deming Prize at http://www.juse.or.jp/english/. There is a research paper on The Application of Policy Deployment (Hoshin Kanri) in Indian Companies available on the RESEARCH page at https://strategicimprovementsystems.com/. The research paper features four Deming Prize winning entities from India.

Interesting Stories
Go small to go big? A local company recently cut 15% of its workforce as part of its new long-term growth strategy. I don’t know why, but this sounded strange to me – and unfortunate for the employees who lost their job. “We are laying you off as part of our long-term growth strategy.” Under what conditions should a company shrink its labor force in order to grow long-term? One answer might be related to dramatic improvements in productivity – “We will need fewer people in the future because we will be much more efficient.” Another answer might be related to increased automation. This will be an interesting company to watch.

Company News
I’m grateful to the following people who presented at the 9th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference on October 19 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: Marshall Smith, MN DHS Direct Care & 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 & University of Manitoba; Marilena Laterza, New Flyer Industries; Michael Smith, Be The Match; Anthony Alongi, Judy Grew, and Laura Grunloh, MN DNR; and Mike Kewley, Loram Maintenance of Way. The next public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course kicks-off November 16. The next public Strategic Improvement Black Belt course kicks-off January 9, 2018. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. The Statistical Methods for Strategic Improvement course will be held February 5-6, 2018. The brochure for this event will be available in December.

Intriguing Reads
I thoroughly enjoyed the new book by Scott Galloway titled, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. This is a captivating book that describes how the Four Horsemen gained their dominant positions in the global marketplace, their unique competitive advantages, what it takes to be like them (product differentiation, visionary capital, global reach, likability, vertical integration, AI, accelerant, and geography), and who is likely to become the Fifth Horsemen. This is a clever and profound book, but be forewarned, it is a bit vulgar at times. If you want a glimpse into what is happening in the world and where the future is headed, then give this book a try.

 

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.