Newsletter – June, 2020

On My Mind
My heart goes out to the family and friends of George Floyd. His senseless death is a grim reminder that much work still needs to be done in our society. Recent discussions in the media reminded me of a passage in the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig: “But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

Interesting Stories
Two of my dear friends recently passed away: Kent Hodgson and Bishwambhar “Bish” Mishra. Kent passed away on May 27 at the age of 86 after having lived a full life. Kent and I made a pilgrimage to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY in 2011. It was an epic trip for both of us. Kent was a scholar, teacher, author, photographer, and African safari adventurer. I’ll miss taking him to Minnesota Twins baseball games. Bish Mishra was the consummate Quality Management professional. Bish passed away unexpectedly in early June. He was the former Director of the Mahindra Institute of Quality (MIQ) and leader of the annual Mahindra & Mahindra The Mahindra Way (TMW)” evaluation and assessment process. I worked closely with Bish on three annual TMW cycles. According to Wikipedia, a “Brahmin” is “a varna [one of the four castes] in Hinduism specializing as priests, teachers and protectors of sacred learning across generations.” Bish was a Quality Management brahmin who made numerous contributions to society.

Company News
I conducted two Zoom webinars in May: Managing a Project Portfolio on May 22 and Scenario Planning & Analysis on May 29. The next three webinars will be Customer Segmentation on June 12, Timeless Quality Concepts on June 19, and Time Series Performance Analysis on June 25. The next Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC public courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts August 4, 2020 and Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts August 10, 2020. The webinar and course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
I’ve been doing a lot of scenario planning and analysis work because of COVID-19 and so I re-immersed myself in that literature stream. I discovered a great book titled, Strategic Reframing: The Oxford Scenario Planning Approach by Dr. Rafael Ramirez, Director of the Oxford Scenarios Programme, and Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Strategic Foresight Counsellor for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They both were involved at one time in scenario planning at Royal Dutch Shell—considered one of the best companies at scenario planning. The authors clearly explain in detail the very practical Oxford Scenario Planning Approach (OSPA). I especially enjoyed Chapter 5 on How Scenario Planning is Done: The OSPA in Action.

Newsletter – May, 2020

On My Mind
I’ve studied many of the COVID-19 models lately . . . and I vividly recall Dr. George E. P. Box say many times – “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” His words of wisdom are still relevant today. On another note . . . one challenge for many organizational leaders on the backside of the current crisis will be to create a growth-oriented/optimistic mindset amongst employees. This will be difficult because of the trauma experienced by many employees and remnant feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety. There will also be modified or new business models to consider. The world will be different. Change will be required . . . and I hope your organization is adaptable.

Interesting Stories
Warren Buffett (89 years old), the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BH), conducted the BH Annual Meeting on May 2, 2020. It was broadcast live on Yahoo! Finance. Buffett—who is known as The “Oracle” or “Sage” of Omaha—usually conducts the meeting with Charlie Munger (the Vice Chairman of BH; 96 years old) in front of thousands of people in a packed Omaha arena, but I think there were less than 100 people allowed in the arena this year due to the COVID-19 situation. Charlie did not attend this year because he lives on the West Coast and so Warren was joined on stage by Greg Abel who is the Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Vice Chairman of Non-Insurance Operations of Berkshire Hathaway. The entire 5+ hour meeting (including pre- and post-meeting coverage) is available on YouTube. My favorite part was Warren’s opening tour de force lecture on the history of the U.S. from an economic perspective from 1789 to the present. His compelling conclusion: “Never bet against America.”

Company News
I attended video conferencing sessions sponsored by the Strategic Management Society, MinneAnalytics, and the SouthWest Metro Chamber of Conference. The next Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC public courses are the following: Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts August 4, 2020 and Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts August 10, 2020. In addition, there will be a webinar (Zoom) series which will begin May 22, 2020. The course and webinar brochures will be available mid-May on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.

Intriguing Reads
I re-read Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (2nd Ed.) by Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow. Many organizations are in crisis mode now and this is one of the classic texts on crisis analytical tools. I especially like the book because the authors show how perspective-based models and scenario analysis can be used to interpret and explain historic events. I’ve also re-read Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (2nd Ed.) by Geert Hofstede and Gert Jan Hofstede – one of the classic books on organizational culture. Surprisingly, my favorite chapter is Chapter One: Introduction: The Rules of the Social Game because the authors skillfully define organizational culture and present various useful culture models and frameworks.

Newsletter – April, 2020

On My Mind: What is on my mind is probably on your mind . . . COVID-19. How quickly our world can change forcing us to totally re-think nearly every aspect of our personal life and the lives of organizations. Leadership Teams are rapidly responding to the emergent COVID-19 issue: stress testing, contingency planning, scenario planning, statistical analysis, financial modeling, etc. Some dreams have been dashed, some lives ruined, and sadly, some lives have been lost. The strange and cruel aspect of COVID-19 is how quickly it became an invisible global threat. I wrote about Flexible Policy Deployment (Hoshin Kanri) in my 2012 paper on The Application of Policy Deployment in Indian Companies (see Pages 6-7). The paper is available on the RESEARCH page of this website. That content is especially relevant now. There were seven organizational capabilities that I mentioned: (1) Be prepared for imaginable and unimaginable events, (2) Be aware of what is happening in the world, (3) Be able to detect emergent events, (4) Be able to diagnose the situation quickly and take immediate action (Check-Act), (5) Be able to communicate quickly, (6) Be able to make Policy Deployment changes quickly, and (7) Be able to rapidly conduct PDCA cycles throughout the company. Best wishes as you and the organizations you are associated with battle COVID-19. Interesting Stories: I’ve heard so many touching and inspiring stories this past month and also some stories of descipable human behavior. Here are some broad themes: heroic acts, sad goodbyes, fortunes lost, rays of hope, strengthening of family bonds, and profiteering. We each can author our own life story throughout this crisis and on the backside. I hope that yours has a happy ending. Company News: I presented on Big Data Analytics for Mobile Products at the joint Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) meeting at the Edina Library on March 10, 2020. The next Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC public courses are tentatively the following: Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts April 7, 2020 (distance learning); Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts May 4, 2020 (this course might shift into June or later); and Introduction to Multivariate Data Analysis which will be held May 21, 2020. The course brochures are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: I recently re-read several classic books because of their relevancy given COVID-19. The novel The Plague by Albert Camus provides a glimpse into the stages of an epidemic from the twin perspectives of human emotions and philosophy. The novel The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton is a spellbinding novel with a heavy science perspective. The story is about how a team of scientists battle an extraterrestrial organism. The book Implanting Strategic Management by H. Igor Ansoff discusses many valuable topics including surpriseful changes, weak signals, strategic issue management, and how the use of filters can affect our decision making. Lastly, the book The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is essential reading during the current crisis. The author explains rare events, how to interpret them, how to respond to them, and how to prepare for future ones. I especially enjoyed the Glossary and Notes sections in the back of the book.

Newsletter – March, 2020

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.

Newsletter – February, 2020

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.

Newsletter – January, 2020

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.

Newsletter – December, 2019

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.

Newsletter – November, 2019

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.

Newsletter – October, 2019

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.

Newsletter – September, 2019

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.