Newsletter – October, 2018

On My Mind
Automobile recalls are quite common these days and even the highly-respected Toyota Motor Corporation occasionally experiences such events. Toyota recently recalled 2.4 million Prius hybrids because they can stall while driving (see the October 5, 2018 issue of USA TODAY). I’m reminded of an article I wrote with Schroeder, Linderman, and Rickard (2010) on Preserving Quality Superiority which appeared in Quality Progress. Once you become #1 in Quality in your industry – How do you stay #1? Based on our research, we identified six factors important for preserving quality superiority: (1) Quality superiority is a strategic intent; (2) Go beyond customer focus to customer intimacy; (3) Leaders at all levels are engaged in quality activities; (4) You have a strong Quality Management System in place; (5) Quality is embedded in the culture; and (6) The organization adapts to—and shapes—the environment. We know so much about how to become #1 in Quality, but we still don’t know a lot about how to stay #1. Toyota is an excellent current case study on how difficult it is to stay on top.

Interesting Stories
Companies have so much to worry about today in terms of data/information security and privacy. Data breaches, hacking, cyberattacks, and now accusations that people in China might have planted surveillance microchips in servers used by leading U.S. technology companies (see the October 4, 2018 issue of the Washington Post). The lesson continues to be invest time and money into security, be vigilant, and back-up, back-up, back-up!

Company News
I’d like to thank the following presenters for helping make the 10th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference on October 2, 2018 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum a great success: Cathy Moeger (retired) of the MN Pollution Control Agency; Bruce King of Seagate; Sara Rose of the MN Department of Human Services Office of Continuous Improvement; Dr. Ralph Bovard of the HealthPartners Institute; Kristine Enno, Cathy Robinson, and Dr. Carrie Oswald of Be The Match; Dr. Tanya Rodriguez of Hormel Foods; Dr. Johanna Rian and Gene Dankbar of the Mayo Clinic; Terra Carey of the MN Department of Human Services Direct Care and Treatment; David Peter of IBM; Randy Guse of the United Health Group; Crystal Selchow of Loram Maintenance of Way; and Vern Campbell of Process Management and the University of Manitoba. Everyone in attendance benefitted greatly from the knowledge the presenters shared.The schedule for the next public SIS events has been set: Statistics & Analytics for Strategic Improvement will be held November 6-7, 2018; Leading Rapid Action Projects will be held November 14-15, 2018; Strategy Tools for Strategic Improvement will be held November 29, 2018; Implementing Process Management will be held December 12-13, 2018; Strategic Improvement Green Belt will start January 8, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt will start January 15, 2019; and Customer Experience Deep Dive will be held January 23, 2019. The brochures for these events are available on this website.

Intriguing Reads
The book Data Mining: Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques by Witten, Frank, Hall, and Pal is an excellent starter book on the subject. I especially enjoyed Chapter 4 on algorithms and Chapter 13 on applications. If you want to get going on learning about analytics and big data, then this should be one of your first technical books.

Newsletter – September, 2018

On My Mind
Nike decided to dive head first into divisive politics by using Colin Kaepernick, a former National Football League (NFL) quarterback, in an advertisement with the phrase: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” There is a current controversy in the NFL regarding players taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem prior to each game. Kaepernick gained notoriety by taking a knee and then speaking his mind to the media. His playing career spiraled downward from that point. A decision like Nike made shouldn’t be taken lightly by organizations because immediately some people will love your organization more, some people won’t care, and some people will hate your organization. It will be interesting to see how this plays out (pardon the pun). We haven’t seen the same phenomenon in Major League Baseball and I’m not sure why.

Interesting Stories
I was at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California on August 7 when Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, tweeted that he planned to take the company private. This triggered immediate passionate responses from analysts and investors—some positive and some negative. The tweet also attracted the interest of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It was surreal. Musk has apparently borrowed the “business by tweeting” playbook which has worked well for getting attention, but has not helped Tesla overcome its production issues.

Company News
I presented on Integrating Quality, Analytics, and Big Data at the American Society for Quality – Madison Section meeting in Madison, WI on September 11, 2018. The schedule for the next public SIS events has been set: the Leading Rapid Action Projects Workshop on October 16-17, 2018 is full; Statistics & Analytics for Strategic Improvement will be held on November 6-7, 2018; Leading Rapid Action Projects will be held (again) on November 14-15, 2018; Strategy Tools for Strategic Improvement will be held on November 29, 2018; Strategic Improvement Green Belt will start January 8, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt will start January 15, 2019; and the Customer Experience Deep Dive Workshop will be held January 23, 2019. The brochures for these events will be available on this website on September 20, 2018. The 10th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 2, 2018 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The brochure is available on this website.

Intriguing Reads
The book Big Data: A Very Short Introduction by Dawn Holmes is an excellent “starter book” for anyone interested in learning about Big Data at a basic level. Oxford University Press has published a number of these “Very Short Introductions” or VSIs and they are generally excellent and easy to travel with because they are small books. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Big data analytics and Big data security and the Snowden case.

Newsletter – August, 2018

On My Mind
Qualitative approaches—such as grounded theory, ethnography, and the case study method—seem to be gaining more corporate attention as the limitations of quantitative approaches are becoming more well-known. This is in part why I define analytics as “the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data for decision making.” Both “Q” approaches can be used to capture tacit and explicit knowledge which were so masterfully described in the landmark book “The Knowledge-Creating Company” by Nonaka and Takeuchi. It is especially important in analytics work to understand the four knowledge conversion modes: Socialization, Externalization, Combination, and Internalization. Organizations are hiring a multitude of “Quants” these days, but not a lot of “Quals.” A holistic view of analytics values both qualitative and quantitative data. A company can ignore qualitative data, but at its own risk.

Interesting Stories
Some stories do have a happy ending! The nearly unbelievable rescue of the twelve soccer players and their coach from the cave network in Thailand revealed so many positive traits of humans. I was moved by the courage, hope, ingenuity, and cooperation displayed during the rescue operation. The thirteen people were fortunate to be found in the first place and then the international rescue plan to extract them from the cave network was far from a sure thing – especially with the potential for more rain and cave flooding. One heroic rescuer tragically died during the rescue operation. If you missed the news coverage of the event, don’t worry, there will be numerous magazine articles, books, and movies that attempt to tell the epic tale.

Company News
I’ll be presenting on Information-Based New Value Creation at the Global Quality Futures Workshop in Monterey, California on August 10, 2018. The schedule for the next public Strategic Improvement Systems (SIS), LLC events has been set: Strategic Improvement Green Belt Course – Starts August 15, 2018; and the Strategic Improvement Black Belt Course – Starts August 21, 2018. Also, the 10th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 2, 2018 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The brochures for these events are available on this website. The Fall Schedule for SIS public events will be available on this website in late August.

Intriguing Reads
The new book by Douglas B. Laney titled, “Infonomics: How to Monetize, Manage, and Measure Information as an Asset for Competitive Advantage” is an exceptional resource if you are interested in learning how to benefit from the analytics revolution. This book provides deep insights on how to develop organizational analytics capabilities. I especially liked the Gartner Information Management Maturity Model. Laney was the creator of the “3V” definition of big data (Volume, Variety, and Velocity) which has become an important component of the unofficial global standard definition.

Newsletter – July, 2018

On My Mind
Congratulations to IBM for its Summit supercomputer which was recently named the world’s fastest computer according to a July 1, 2018 article on Page B5 in the Star Tribune. Some of the IBM employees who contributed to the Summit project are based in Rochester, Minnesota. This article had more significance to me because I recently read the book “The Superman” discussed below. The IBM employees are already working on how to go faster. Very inspiring!

Interesting Stories
Mastering the fundamentals matters! The University of Arkansas was one out away from winning the NCAA Division I College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Nebraska recently against Oregon State University (OSU) when an unfortunate “mistake” occurred. An OSU player hit a high foul ball and three Arkansas players converged on the expected landing site – and then the ball innocently dropped on the ground in-between the three Arkansas players. It looked like any of the three Arkansas players could have caught the ball if not for the heat of the moment confusion and poor communication. I’ve been in that situation before on the baseball field where each of the players involved thinks one of the other players will catch the ball only to have no one catch the ball. One convention I learned is that the outfielder running forward towards the ball takes the lead and yells loudly several times “I’ve got it!” and then catches the ball. This situation is common in baseball and success depends upon mastering one of the fundamentals of baseball. Long story short – OSU went on to win that game and the next game to become the Division I Champion. Mastering the fundamentals does indeed matter.

Company News
I presented on Big Data Strategy on June 5, 2018 at the Big Data Tech 2018 Conference conducted by MinneAnalytics. The schedule for the next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC events has been set: Introduction to Analytics & Big Data Course – July 11-12, 2018; Strategic Improvement Green Belt Course – Starts August 15, 2018; and the Strategic Improvement Black Belt Course – Starts August 21, 2018. Also, the 10th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 2, 2018 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The brochures are available on this website.

Intriguing Reads
I just read a riveting book by Charles J. Murray titled, “The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards behind the Supercomputer.” The author did an excellent job chronicling the early evolution of supercomputers while weaving in-and-out passages about Seymour Cray, Control Data Corporation, IBM, and others. I especially enjoyed learning about the new product (supercomputer) development process – the enormous investment of time and money and the intense pressure to rapidly invent new technology. If you want to gain insights into new product development and the genius of Seymour Cray, then this is the book for you.

Newsletter – June, 2018

On My Mind
Five months of the calendar year have passed and many Leadership Teams are starting to prepare for their mid-year strategic planning review. Here is one important question that is typically on the review agenda: “Are we making adequate progress in accomplishing our strategic objectives?” Leadership Teams who are on track will probably celebrate. Leadership Teams who missed their milestone targets will most likely scramble to learn “What went wrong?” and “What can we do to salvage the situation?” In either case, the senior executives who are involved in the review should strive to learn as much as they can and reach consensus on a positive way forward. The review—if done well—will provide a great opportunity for leaders to understand organizational performance and make the necessary course corrections.

Interesting Stories
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has had an interesting two months. He abandoned his hoodie and donned a suit and tie for his appearances in front of the United States Congress and European Union lawmakers to provide testimony and answer questions. Zuckerberg and his “Team” face a number of strategic issues related to their business model, data privacy, data protection, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and potential changes to U.S. data-related regulations. He mentioned “AI” numerous times during his appearances which seemed strange because Facebook is hiring thousands of content reviewers (humans) to judge user (“customer“) content for appropriateness. The lesson is that AI is not yet perfect and there are still some tasks that must be performed by humans even in the leading technology companies.

Company News
I’ll be presenting on Big Data Strategy on June 5 at the Big Data Tech 2018 Conference conducted by MinneAnalytics to be held at the Normandale Partnership Center. The schedule for the next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC events has been set: Customer Experience Deep Dive Workshop – June 12, 2018; Leading Strategic Improvement Course – June 20, 2018; Introduction to Analytics & Big Data Course – July 11-12, 2018; Strategic Improvement Green Belt Course – Starts August 15, 2018; Strategic Improvement Black Belt Course – Starts August 21, 2018; Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt Course – Starts August 27, 2018. The brochures are available on this website. Also, the 10th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 2, 2018 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The brochure will be available on this website on June 15, 2018.

Intriguing Reads
John Doerr, Chairman of Kleiner Perkins, details some of the strategic planning practices of Intel (formerly led by Andy Grove) and Google (founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin) in his new book titled, Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. “OKR” is a simple framework composed of an “Objective” and the corresponding “Key Results.” The book is filled with numerous real examples and practical suggestions. While the OKR approach is very basic and not as advanced as Hoshin Kanri, it does provide senior executives with a simple framework for determining what should be accomplished in the form of objectives and what is necessary to accomplish those objectives (key results).

Newsletter – May, 2018

On My Mind
The Berkshire Hathaway 2018 Annual Shareholders Meeting will be held May 5, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. This is one of the best-attended annual meetings in the world because of the opportunity to learn from the dynamic duo of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet and his long-time partner-in-profit Charlie Munger. The Q&A session begins at 9:15 a.m. CST and it will last several hours. The event will be live-streamed on Yahoo! Finance at http://finance.yahoo.com/.

Interesting Stories
According to news reports, one of 24 metal jet engine fan blades broke during a flight causing a catastrophic engine failure which led to the death of a Southwest Airlines passenger. I believe it was the first domestic commercial airline fatality since 2009. What a sad event. The flight crew and some of the passengers have been recognized for their heroic efforts during the emergency landing. The commercial airline system has been performing above the six sigma level of performance in terms of air fatalities. Unfortunately, tragedy can strike at any time and so leaders of systems must remain vigilant even at extremely high levels of performance.

Company News
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 schedule for the next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC events has been set: Advances in Strategic Planning Course – May 30, 2018; Customer Experience Deep Dive Workshop – June 12, 2018; Leading Strategic Improvement Course – June 20, 2018; Introduction to Analytics & Big Data Course – July 11-12, 2018; Strategic Improvement Green Belt Course – Starts August 15, 2018; Strategic Improvement Black Belt Course – Starts August 21, 2018; Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt Course – Starts August 27, 2018; 10th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference – October 2, 2018. The brochures are available on this website.

Intriguing Reads
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the book “The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos” by Christian Davenport. People tend to associate Elon Musk with Tesla and Jeff Bezos with Amazon, but they both also control space companies. You should read this book if you want to learn more about the personal backgrounds of these two fascinating people and how they think far beyond the confines of earth.

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.