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.

 

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.