On My Mind: The coronavirus (COVID-19) has rapidly spread and is now disrupting many lives, businesses, markets, and economies throughout the world. This emergent issue is causing many organizations to conduct rapid response (crisis) planning which is an important organizational capability along with annual strategic planning. One silver lining in this dark cloud story is that we will learn more about viruses, how they spread, and the most effective and efficient strategies for minimizing their effect. COVID-19 is a good reminder that we must always be prepared for Black Swan events and pay close attention to what is happening elsewhere in the world. Interesting Stories: Some of the most exciting work in my career as a management consultant occurred during the four years I worked with General Electric (GE). GE was led by Jack Welch at the time and although I didn’t agree with all of his business practices, he was a charismatic leader who had extremely high expectations and aspirations. One couple I worked with named their son after Jack. Sadly, Jack Welch passed away recently at the age of 84. On a different topic, numbers matter—at least if you are an avid Major League Baseball (MLB) fan like me. Statistics play an important role in determining who is inducted in the MLB Hall of Fame. I follow MLB for two reasons: I love the game and MLB is one of the most mature industries for big data analytics. Numerous instances of cheating have occurred over the years which have damaged the integrity of the game and the statistics. For example, players betting on games, spitballs, pine tar on bats, corks in bats, steroids, and now the illegal use of video cameras and the banging of garbage cans. The Houston Astros organization is the latest culprit in damaging the integrity of the game. Astros players were granted immunity in return for their testimonies on the cheating scheme which occurred during multiple seasons including the 2017 season when the Astros won the World Series. The General Manager and Manager were fired. The Astros players have been deservedly booed and jeered in Spring Training games. I might pull back from MLB this year and watch more college baseball games. Company News: I will be presenting on Big Data Analytics for Mobile Products at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) meeting at the Edina Library on March 10, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. The next Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC public courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts April 7, 2020; Small Business Strategic Planning will be held April 15, 2020; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts May 4, 2020; and Introduction to Multivariate Data Analysis will be held May 21, 2020. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Strategy Techniques & Tools in conjunction with the Performance Excellence Network (PEN) will be held June 3, 2020. The brochure will be available in late March. Intriguing Reads: Most organizations now have plenty of data. What does it mean? The relatively new book by Lorien Pratt titled, Link: How Decision Intelligence Connects Data, Actions, and Outcomes for a Better World helps answer this question. The author deftly makes complex decision intelligence ideas simple and provides practical suggestions for how we can frame and make better decisions using data. I especially liked Chapter 4 on How to Build Decision Models and the 58 Key Insights.
On My Mind: There is a new interesting root cause analysis case study – the recent Iowa presidential caucus. It was unfortunate for everyone involved that the final caucus results weren’t available until a few days after the event. Some of the leading root cause candidates at this point seem to be the use of a new and unproven technology in the form of an application (“app”); inadequate testing of the application; inadequate training of users on the application; Plan B was a phone hotline with not enough people to answer all the calls from the precinct workers in a reasonable amount of time; the phone hotline number was published on social media; and numerous opposition party members called the phone hotline number which clogged the system. This was a sad few days for Iowa because the world was watching. The state’s reputation was tarnished and we’ll see if Iowa loses the first event spot in the next presidential election. There are many lessons that can be drawn from this case study: (1) Thoroughly test new technology, (2) Conduct the testing of the new technology well in advance of the actual use of the technology, (3) Train the users of the new technology and assure they reach the necessary level of competency, and (4) Have a well-thought out Plan B in the event the new technology doesn’t work. Interesting Stories: My heart goes out to the people of China and others around the world who are directly affected by the coronavirus. Sadly, one of the doctors who discovered the virus—Dr. Li Wenliang—died of complications from the virus. He was one of the first health care professionals to warn officials of the virus. On a lighter note – I attended the Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby on February 9. Around 40 teams competed in the 40 mile race. It was my first sled dog race and I plan to attend next year. Company News: I will be presenting on Big Data Analytics at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) event at the Edina Library on March 10, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. The next Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC public courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts April 7, 2020; Small Business Strategic Planning will be held April 15, 2020; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts May 4, 2020; and Introduction to Multivariate Data Analysis will be held May 21, 2020. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: “It is important to think clearly and precisely.” I remember Dr. David Harville saying this several times during my graduate course in Linear Models at Iowa State University. He practiced what he preached in that his course notes and lectures were always precisely to the point. I feel fortunate to have studied under him. If you are interested in advanced statistical methods and big data analytics, then I suggest you study Dr. Harville’s two excellent textbooks: “Matrix Algebra From a Statistician’s Perspective (1997)” and “Linear Models and the Relevant Distributions and Matrix Algebra (2018).” Both help provide the necessary foundation for doing advanced analytical work.
On My Mind: I’ve experienced six “decade transitions” during my life and it seems like I’m attaching more significance to them. My first was the transition from the 1960s to the 1970s which I remember from the mind of a child. The most memorable was the transition from the 1990s to the 2000s which was when the world was going to end because of the Y2K computer phenomenon. I noticed that I was doing more self-reflection during this last transition as my thoughts were on two general questions: (1) What did I learn from the 2010s? and (2) What must I do differently in the 2020s to move towards my vision? Sometimes it is easier to come up with the questions than the answers and I’m still processing my thoughts. Best wishes to you and your loved ones in the 2020s! May you experience happiness and achieve success. Interesting Stories: Where is Carlos Ghosn? He is supposed to be in Japan under the watchful control of Japanese authorities, but he allegedly escaped Japan in a large musical instrument box to Lebanon via Turkey. Lebanon—where Ghosn has a history and home—has no extradition agreement with Japan. Ghosn was at one time one of the most revered and respected CEOs in the automobile industry (Renault & Nissan). He is now a fugitive from the Japanese justice system who continues to vehemently proclaim his innocence. The rise and fall of Carlos Ghosn is stranger than fiction. Company News: I will be presenting on Quality, Analytics, and Big Data at the Minnesota American Society for Quality (MN ASQ) January 2020 Program meeting on the evening of January 14, 2020 at the Sheraton Minneapolis West in Minnetonka, MN. The details for the event can be found on the MN ASQ website. The next Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC public courses are the following: Innovation Techniques & Tools will be held February 4-5, 2020; Strategic Improvement Black Belt tentatively starts April 7, 2020; and Strategic Improvement Green Belt tentatively starts May 4, 2020. The brochures for all the courses will be available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website by January 15, 2020. Intriguing Reads: I read several biographical books over the holidays which ranged from poor to excellent. The most impressive was the book What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence by Stephen A. Schwarzman, the Chairman, CEO, and Co-founder of Blackstone. I’m now re-reading the book focusing on particular sections. I especially enjoyed Schwarzman’s thoughts on hiring new employees; the Monday meeting process, risk management, and his 25 rules for work and life. Strangely, I also enjoyed reading the extensive Acknowledgment Section. If you want an inspiring book filled with valuable business lessons, then this is the book for you.
On My Mind: Behaviors of corporate executives are interesting to observe this time of year. I visited several companies recently, but two stand out from the crowd. I’ll name them “Frantic” and “Chill.” The executives at Frantic were panicking because their year-to-date numbers were well below target levels and they only have four weeks before the year-end close. Stress levels were high and nerves were on edge. There wasn’t a lot of discussion about 2020 because their attention was on achieving target levels that were set a long time ago. Chill executives were relaxed, jovial, and spending considerable time fine-tuning the company’s five year plan. They were already at-or-above their target levels for the year – and the targets were aggressive. Needless to say, Chill has an excellent strategic planning system and executes effectively. The mood and behaviors were clearly different in the two companies. Time will tell how these two companies perform in 2020, but organizational performance does affect a leader’s emotions and the ability to effectively plan for the future. Best wishes as you finalize your strategic plan for 2020. Interesting Stories: I read two books recently by Niall Ferguson on The House of Rothschild (Money’s Prophets: 1798 – 1848 and The World’s Banker: 1849 – 1999) which describe in detail the origin (in Frankfurt, Germany) and development of the Rothschild business empire. Mayer Amschel Rothschild began his business career with modest means and eventually created a vast multi-national business empire bearing his last name. The “Rothschild Group” eventually consisted of several houses managed by five sons: Amschel in Frankfurt; Nathan in London; James in Paris; Carl in Naples; and Salomon in Vienna. Rothschild business entities still exist today with family and non-family executives. Company News: I presented on Managing Big Data Analytics Risks at the Minnesota American Society for Quality (MN ASQ) Quality Conference on November 13, 2019. This was an outstanding conference and next year it will be a two-day event in early November. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts January 7, 2020; Innovation Techniques & Tools will be held February 4-5, 2020; and Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts in April of 2020 (dates TBD). The brochures for the first two courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: Many companies are moving fast in developing big data analytics capabilities, but these efforts are not without significant risks including stricter government regulations, customer privacy complaints, cyberattacks, and data breaches. Digital and big data analytics strategies are now routinely discussed by senior executives during strategic planning sessions. The book by Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne titled Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age describes in great detail the current state of the global information economy. Every section is excellent, but I especially liked the Introduction on the Cloud and the chapters on Surveillance; Cybersecurity; The Talent Gap; and AI and Facial Recognition. If you want to understand a phenomenon that is changing our lives forever, then give this book a try. This book is a must read for any CEO who plans to move aggressively on big data analytics.
On My Mind: You never know what will emerge at the end when you start writing a paper and my latest paper on Advances in Strategic Planning was no exception. It was published on October 29, 2019 in conjunction with the 11th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference. The paper attempts to answer the question: What is new in the world of strategic planning? Many of the findings confirmed what I already suspected, but there were some interesting surprises related to strategic planning as a social process, the importance of mindset, and the role ideation can play in strategic planning. If you want to know what has been happening in the world of strategic planning, then give this paper a read. It is located on the RESEARCH page of this website. Interesting Stories: “You can’t say that.” That is what the powers that be at the University of Wisconsin-Madison once told Dr. George E. P. Box (10/18/1919 to 3/28/2013) in reference to his “Monday Night Beer & Statistics” course which was listed in the UW-Madison’s course catalog. The word “Beer” in a course title became objectionable and so Dr. Box had to rename the course. I recently attended a conference in Madison, Wisconsin where his 100th birthday was celebrated. I’m so grateful to have had Dr. Box as a mentor and friend. He was not only a world class statistician, but was also one of the leading thinker’s in the Quality Management field and a wonderful human being. Company News: I attended the 100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. George E. P. Box (deceased) in Madison, Wisconsin on October 18, 2019. I also attended the Strategic Management Society 39th Annual Conference in Minneapolis, MN on October 19-22, 2019. The 11th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference on October 29, 2019 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was a great success: I’m grateful to the following people who presented: Marilena Laterza, Dr. KyleeAnn Stevens, Wayne Fortun, Dr. Peter Miller, Steve Holmstrom, Dr. Ralph Bovard, Josh Flatla, Thierry Yamegam, Niyousha Esmaeili, Dina Yushkevich, and Vern Campbell. There was a record turnout in spite of the cold weather. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses are the following: Strategy Techniques & Tools will be held November 25, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts January 7, 2020; and Innovation Techniques & Tools will be held February 4-5, 2020. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: People interested in continuous improvement are often searching for a good introductory best practices book – look no further. The book titled, Kaizen Advantage: Best Practices for Competitive Companies by Dr. Hiroshi Osada (lead author) introduces and describes twelve case studies involving Quality Control Circles (seven problem-solving case studies and five task-achieving case studies). In each of the twelve chapters, you almost feel like a part of the team as the case unfolds in incredible step-by-step detail. The schematic diagrams and descriptions of how the improvement tools were applied are excellent. This is a book I will re-read at least once a year.
On My Mind: How strongly do we believe in our values? This is a question the National Basketball Association (NBA) is attempting to answer after the Chinese Government took offense to a comment made by an executive of one of the NBA teams in regards to the Hong Kong protesters. China is a large market for the NBA for merchandise and game broadcasts. One source mentioned that there are several hundred million NBA fans in China. The NBA has a history of welcoming the freedom of expression and so it will be interesting how this plays out. Interesting Stories: “No human is limited. You can do it.” This was said by Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya after running a 26.2 mile marathon in Vienna in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 40 seconds – becoming the first person ever to break the 2-hour barrier. Unfortunately, his achievement won’t count as an official record because it wasn’t an open event (see the full article in The Washington Post by Derek Hawkins on 10/12/19). Company News: I facilitated the 2nd Annual SouthWest Metro Chamber of Commerce Manufacturing Forum panel discussion on October 4, 2019. The turnout was great in spite of the cold weather. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts November 5, 2019; Strategy Techniques & Tools will be held November 25, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts January 7, 2020; and Innovation Techniques & Tools will be held February 4-5, 2020. The 11th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 29, 2019 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. There will be eleven presentations on topics related to Organizational Culture & Philosophy, Strategic Planning, Innovation, Performance Measurement, Risk Management, Safety Huddles, Lean Six Sigma, System Thinking, & Problem-Solving. The brochure is available on the ANNUAL CONFERENCE page of this website. Intriguing Reads: Over 50 member countries of the African Union are developing Kaizen capabilities to assist in industrial development. They are being guided by Japanese experts. This is described in great detail in the book, Applying the Kaizen in Africa: A new Avenue for Industrial Development by Otsuka, Jin, and Sonobe (editors). I especially liked Chapter 3: Kaizen in Practice and Chapter 4: Kaizen and Standardization. If you want a refresher on the basic Kaizen principles, concepts, and techniques, then give this book a try.
On My Mind: I’ve been to Japan several times now and my last visit two weeks ago was one of my favorites. There is excitement in the air as Tokyo—and the country at large—prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Japan last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964 when it was also held in Tokyo. Japan is a wonderful country to visit because of its beautiful scenery; interesting history; use of leading-edge technology; safe, clean, and efficient transportation infrastructure; and second-to-none customer service. If you’ve never been to Japan, then you should consider visiting – it is a wonderful destination. Interesting Stories: I recently checked out of Hotel Century 21 in Hiroshima, Japan and I tried to get a taxi. After about ten minutes of no luck, I went inside the hotel and enlisted the help of one of the hotel employees working behind the front desk. She went outside and promptly got me a taxi. My destination was a hotel located in an obscure rural area near the airport and the taxi driver clearly didn’t understand the destination area and his vehicle navigation system wasn’t working. The hotel employee and I agreed that I needed a different taxi which she quickly secured. The new taxi driver didn’t seem to understand the destination address either, but at least his vehicle navigation system was working. The hotel employee took several minutes to make sure my new taxi driver knew exactly where to go. About an hour later I arrived safely at my destination. I was grateful for the hotel employee’s help. She helped me far beyond my expectations with no expectation of a tip. It was a treat to experience world class service. Company News: I attended the Global Quality Futures Workshop in Hiroshima, Japan last week where I presented on Advances in Strategic Planning. There were attendees from Japan, India, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. We visited Mazda Motor Corporation where we learned about various aspects of the company from senior executives and also toured the engine assembly plant and a vehicle assembly area. Mazda was VERY impressive. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts September 11, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts November 5, 2019; and Strategy Techniques & Tools will be held November 25, 2019. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. The 11th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 29, 2019 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. There will be eleven presentations on topics related to Organizational Culture & Philosophy, Strategic Planning, Innovation, Performance Measurement, Risk Management, Safety Huddles, Lean Six Sigma, System Thinking, & Problem-Solving. The brochure is available on the ANNUAL CONFERENCE page of this website. Intriguing Reads: I read the new book by Ezra F. Vogel titled, China and Japan: Facing History prior to my recent trip to Japan. The book details the historical relationship between China and Japan plus the other countries/political entities in the region (e.g., North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.). The deep historical perspective really helps you understand the current dynamics and tensions in the region. Sometimes you need to thoroughly understand the past in order to understand the present and prepare for the future. My favorite chapter was Chapter 12: Facing the New Era.
On My Mind: Some of the commonly used organizational performance categories are Safety, Quality, Financial, Growth, Quantity/Volume, Customer Satisfaction, Employee Satisfaction, Productivity, and Innovation. There are other emergent categories that are becoming popular: (1) Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) and (2) Diversity & Inclusion. Many organizations are developing metrics, scorecards, and dashboards in these two categories. Socially conscious investors are using ESG metrics to evaluate potential investments which means companies are now paying more attention to these areas. It will be interesting to watch these performance categories evolve. Interesting Stories: Paul Allen—who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975—passed away in October of 2018. He contributed greatly to society and yet was not as well-known as other business magnates. There is a nice tribute to Paul Allen written by Bill Gates which appears in the August 31, 2019 issue of Forbes magazine (Pages 15-16). Included in the tribute are six pictures of Paul Allen which provide some interesting glimpses into his life. Company News: I’ll be presenting on Advances in Strategic Planning at the Global Quality Futures Workshop in Hiroshima, Japan in late August. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt starts August 14, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts September 11, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts November 5, 2019; and Strategy Techniques & Tools will be held November 25, 2019. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. The 11th Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference will be held October 29, 2019 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. There will be eleven presentations on topics related to Organizational Culture & Philosophy, Strategic Planning, Innovation, Performance Measurement, Risk Management, Safety Huddles, Lean Six Sigma, System Thinking, & Problem-Solving. The brochure is available on the ANNUAL CONFERENCE page of this website. Intriguing Reads: Chess is considered by many to be one of the ultimate games of strategy. It is often used to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The new book titled The Science of Strategy by Alexander Kotov provides a detailed examination of the role strategy plays during a chess match. I especially liked Chapter 5 on Manoeuvring and Chapter 8 on Positional Evaluation – Planning. If you want to develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills by studying and playing chess, then this is the book for you.
On My Mind: I’ve been enjoying the media coverage of the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Space Mission. Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 shortly followed by Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins was the third astronaut on the mission. I was a young boy at the time, but I vividly remember watching the coverage of the mission on TV. The Apollo 11 mission brought to reality the bold early 1960s vision of President John F. Kennedy. Do we have any such bold visions today? Interesting Stories: Three people passed away recently who were quite well-known years ago in part because they were one-of-a-kind and unconventional. Lee Iacocca (1924-2019) was an auto industry legend who was involved in the development of the Mustang and Pinto cars at Ford and then he later served as the CEO of Chrysler for many years. He was one of the most well-known CEOs of his day and he had a knack for finding the spotlight. Ross Perot (1930-2019) was also a high-profile CEO and a two-time Presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996 as an independent. I remember him as being practical, folksy, funny, and wise. Jim Bouton (1939-2019) was a Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher who became famous for his controversial 1970 book titled Ball Four. I’ve re-read the book many times because of its humor and (then) controversial behind-the-scenes look at MLB. Company News: I conducted the public Advances in Strategic Planning course on June 20, 2019 where I shared my preliminary research findings on the state of strategic planning. The full paper will be available on October 29, 2019. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses for the Summer/Fall time frame are the following: Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt starts August 14, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts September 11, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts November 5, 2019; and Strategy Techniques & Tools will be held November 25, 2019. The brochures for these courses will be available soon on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: The new book by Bernard Marr titled Artificial Intelligence in Practice: How 50 Successful Companies Used AI and Machine Learning to Solve Problems is an excellent reference if you want to learn how leading companies are applying AI. The author has five categories of companies: (1) Trailblazers, (2) Retail, Consumer Goods, and Food and Beverage Companies, (3) Media, Entertainment, and Telecom Companies, (4) Services, Financial, and Healthcare Companies, (5) Manufacturing, Automotive, Aerospace, and Industry 4.0 Companies. A similar format is used for each chapter (company) which makes it easy to make comparisons across the 50 companies. I especially liked the chapters on the Trailblazers: Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Baidu, Facebook, IBM, JD.com, Microsoft, and Tencent. If you want to better understand how companies are applying AI, then this is the book for you.
On My Mind: Business isn’t what it used to be. I was taught early in my business career that making a profit was essential to running a successful business. The thought that a money losing business was acceptable would have been laughable unless it was an early-stage business. My how times have changed. Two tech companies recently published their quarterly financial figures and both companies lost an unbelievable amount of money. Some investors and executives seem more interested in accelerating revenue growth and rapidly building-to-scale instead of profit. Under what conditions would running the business in the red be sustainable over the long-term? I’ll be watching those companies closely in the next few quarters to see if they go from red to black. Interesting Stories: “I never thought of that!” Art on the Lake is an annual event in Excelsior, Minnesota where artists showcase and sell their work. I inevitably see something innovative every year and this year was no exception. I once heard a definition of art as “common objects arranged in an uncommon way.” Three items caught my eye this year – they were simple and yet they were new and profound to me. In retrospect I thought: “It was so obvious – Why didn’t I think of that?” But I didn’t. Whenever you are stuck or need some fresh thinking, then visit an art museum or an art fair and be prepared to be surprised. Company News: I attended DATA TECH 2019 sponsored by MinneAnalytics on May 30, 2019 at the Normandale Partnership Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. It was another great MinneAnalytics event. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses for the Spring/Summer time frame are the following: Advances in Strategic Planning will be held June 20, 2019. Strategic Improvement Master Black Belt starts August 14, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts in September (dates TBD); and Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts in November (dates TBD). The brochures for these courses will be available the end of June on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: The Business of Platforms: Strategy in the Age of Digital Competition, Innovation, and Power by Cusumano, Gawer, and Yoffie is an excellent book on the relatively new business phenomenon: platform companies. The authors provide numerous examples of platform companies (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Salesforce, Tencent, etc.) and they describe in good detail both transaction and innovation platforms. I especially liked Chapter 3 on Strategy and Business Models and Chapter 4 on Common Mistakes. If you want to learn more about platforms, then this book is where I would start.