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.
On My Mind: Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman, fielded questions for roughly five hours on May 4, 2019 at The 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. The questions related to such diverse topics as stock buybacks, human nature, alternative energy, railroads, insurance industry, global economy, index funds, business ethics, and many more. Buffet—known as The Oracle of Omaha—and Munger did not know the questions in advance. This annual meeting has become a must see event for anyone interested in business and investing. Yahoo Finance broadcasted the event live on the internet and the video is now available on YouTube. If you want to learn more about business and investing, then check out this valuable and entertaining video. Interesting Stories: He was the first athlete in UCLA history to earn a varsity letter in four sports (basketball, baseball, football, and track). He broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB) on April 15, 1947 when the Los Angeles Dodgers started him at First Base. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 and the Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. Who was he? #42 Jackie Robinson. Every MLB player wore #42 on his uniform on April 15 and April 16 in honor of Jackie Robinson. It’s fun to watch those games . . . and a nightmare if you are scoring the game. “Now pitching is #42 . . . now batting is #42 . . . #42 made an amazing catch in the outfield . . .” The number “42” has now been retired by every MBL team. Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees was the last MLB player to wear the number on a regular basis. Some numbers have a special meaning for me . . . and I instantly think of Jackie Robinson when I encounter #42. Company News: I was an exhibitor at the PENworks Conference held May 2-3, 2019 at the Mystic Lake Center south of the Twin Cities. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses for the Spring/Summer time frame are the following: Basic Statistics & Analytics will be held May 16-17, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts May 20, 2019; and Advances in Strategic Planning will be held June 20, 2019. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. New offerings are in the works including a three day Introduction to Multivariate Data Analysis course to be held in late summer (dates TBD). Intriguing Reads: One of the most interesting books about the future that I’ve read in a long time is the book titled, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark. The book is hard to describe, but it really stretched my thinking. I especially liked the Prelude on The Tale of the Omega Team and the descriptions of Life 1.0, Life 2.0, and Life 3.0. Topics in the book ranged from intelligence, AI, technology, evolution, memory, computation, and learning. If you want to stretch your thinking about the future, then give this book a try.
On My Mind: My recent benchmarking trip to Boston was very productive. I arrived home with over fifty ideas that I can apply in my business. My tours included the Boston Public Library, Fenway Park, Freedom Trail, Harvard Business School, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the USS Constitution Ship & Museum. Sometimes I encounter people who have a narrow view of benchmarking – that it has to involve an organization in the same industry. Unfortunately, they are missing out on learning opportunities. We can learn from every organization and some of my best benchmarking ideas came from non-management consulting companies. There is so much to learn! Interesting Stories: Carlos Gohsn – the embattled ex-auto industry superstar – has been detained once again in Tokyo. His freedom was short-lived as he faces new charges. Gohsn is mounting a vigorous defense with the help of one of the top lawyers in Japan and he is going on the offensive by accusing Nissan executives of a conspiracy against him. The mighty can fall fast. Gohsn was once one of the most highly respected corporate executives in the world and now he is back in a Tokyo detention center. I hope the legal process eventually reveals the truth about what happened. Stay tuned . . . Company News: I attended the HALICON Conference sponsored by MinneAnalytics on March 29, 2019 at Optum in Eden Prairie, MN. It was another great learning and networking event by MinneAnalytics. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses for the Spring/Summer time frame are the following: Strategy Tools for Strategic Improvement will be held April 30, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts May 6, 2019; Basic Statistics & Analytics will be held May 16-17, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts May 20, 2019; and Advances in Strategic Planning will be held June 20, 2019. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. New offerings are in the works including a three day Introduction to Multivariate Data Analysis course. Intriguing Reads: The Harvard Business Review’s book “On AI, Analytics, and the New Machine Age” was recently published. The book contains eleven articles on such topics as AI, algorithms, blockchain, 3-D printing, drones, and augmented reality. My favorite is the article by Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann on “Why Every Organization Needs an Augmented Reality Strategy.” If you want a quick read on some of the new technology developments in the business world and society, then this book is an excellent choice for you.
On My Mind: My thoughts about risk shifted dramatically after watching the documentary Free Solo on the mountain climber Alex Honnold. Honnold became the first person to free solo climb the famous 3,000+ foot high rock face El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Free solo means he had no safety equipment or ropes. How can someone take such a risk? Some of the keys to his success were (1) his extensive planning and preparation, (2) he was in incredible shape –physically and mentally, and (3) he knew his route on the rock face like the back off his hand because of his numerous “roped” practice runs. His El Capitan story is told in his book Alone on the Wall and the new book by Mark Synnott titled The Impossible Climb. I hope you make it safely to the top of the mountains you choose to climb. Interesting Stories: The superstar automobile executive who is suspected of financial improprieties left the Tokyo detention center disguised as a construction worker . . . Such is the latest development in the evolving saga involving Carlos Gohsn who at one time was the simultaneous CEO of Renault (France) and the Chairman of the Board of Nissan (Japan). The Tokyo courts finally relented to his request to be let out on bail after nearly four months in the detention center. His family plead his case to the United Nations. His legal outlook improved dramatically when he retained a leading Japanese lawyer nicknamed “The Razor.” It doesn’t take long for the mighty to fall . . . his fate is now in the hands of the Tokyo judicial system. Company News: The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses for the Spring/Summer time frame are the following: Implementing Process Management will be held March 20-21, 2019; Leading Rapid Action Projects will be held April 11-12, 2019; Strategy Tools for Strategic Improvement will be held April 30, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts May 6, 2019; Basic Statistics & Analytics will be held May 16-17, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts May 20, 2019; and Advances in Strategic Planning will be held June 20, 2019. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: It is the time of year to study the Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. 2018 Annual Report which contains the most widely-read Letter to Shareholders by CEO Warren Buffet. One of the highlights of this year’s letter was Buffet’s advice to “Focus on the Forest – Forget the Trees.” Berkshire Hathaway consists of numberous companies (trees), but the business can best be understood by analyzing the “groves.” The analogy is helpful and draws attention away from poor performing individual entities. The underlying tone of the letter seemed more focused this year on succession planning – which is important because the historic brain trust of Berkshire Hathaway is CEO Warren Buffet (88 years old) and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger (95 years old). Two outstanding executives are waiting in the wings: Ajit Jain (67 years old) leads Insurance Operations and Greg Abel (56 years old) leads Non-Insurance Operations. The world famous Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting will be webcast by Yahoo on May 4, 2019 starting at 8:45 a.m. Central Standard Time.
On My Mind: The stock markets have been quite volatile the past few months making for an emotional roller coaster ride for investors. The value of an investor’s nest egg can increase significantly one day resulting in feelings of security and confidence only to have the value of the nest egg decrease significantly the next day resulting in feelings of fear and despair. Variation can affect feelings. Fortunately, there are several statistical techniques that can help people learn from—and in some instances rationally predict—variation. Moving Average Charts, Statistical Control Charts, and Auto-Regressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) Models can be used to generate insights into the variation associated with performance metrics. These techniques are not easy for novices to apply, but once mastered through diligent study and the use of a statistical software package like Minitab, they can enlighten the user and reduce anxiety through improved decision making. Happy investing! Interesting Stories: It doesn’t take long for a reputation to be destroyed . . . just ask Carlos Ghosn who was the super star head of the Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi automobile alliance. He remains detained in a Tokyo jail cell while investigations in France and Japan continue into his pay and business practices. The evolving story is complex because it spans multiple countries (France, Japan, Brazil, Lebanon, and Holland) and involves arcane accounting laws. The latest rumor is that Renault paid for Ghosn’s lavish wedding which he is now offering to pay back. One of the most intriguing aspects of the case has been the revealed differences between the French and Japanese business and legal cultures. It will be interesting how this plays out, but it looks like the Renault/Nissan relationship is on shaky ground. Company News: The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses for the Winter/Spring time frame are the following: Basic Statistics & Analytics will be held February 12-13, 2019; Creating High-Performing Work Teams will be held February 26, 2019; Implementing Process Management will be held March 20-21, 2019; Leading Rapid Action Projects will be held April 11-12, 2019; Strategy Tools for Strategic Improvement will be held April 30, 2019; Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts May 6, 2019; and Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts May 20, 2019. The brochures for these courses are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website. Intriguing Reads: I thoroughly enjoyed The Deep Learning Revolution book by Terrence J. Sejnowski. We hear so much about AI these days and yet a good operational definition seems to be missing. What is AI? This book details the historical evolution of AI using amazing pictures and easy-to-understand language. I especially enjoyed the two chapters on The Age of Algorithms and Inside Information. If you were to read only one book on AI, then you might consider this book being the one.
On My Mind
Another year has flown by and now many organizations and individuals have new goals they would like to achieve in 2019. I tend to begin each year with high hopes and optimism . . . and then soon thereafter reality appears when unanticipated events occur and unexpected barriers emerge forcing me to re-evaluate my priorities and resource allocations. The easy route would be to set easily attainable goals which would result in apparent success, but not personal satisfaction. Alternatively, I could set unrealistic goals and not achieve anything leading to frustration. Finding the appropriate balance is my aim these days. Best wishes as you strive to achieve your 2019 goals.
Colin O’Brady from Portland, Oregon “. . . became the first person to traverse Antarctica alone without any assistance on Wednesday [12/26/2018], trekking across the polar continent in an epic 54-day journey that was previously deemed impossible” according to Amanda Lee Myers of the Associated Press (AP). Journeys like his are inspiring, but loaded with risks. The great British explorer Henry Worsley died in his solo Antarctic attempt in 2016. From the same AP article, O’Brady reflected: “I’m no longer the same person I was when I left on the journey . . . I’ve suffered, been deathly afraid, cold and alone. I’ve laughed and danced, cried tears of joy and been awestruck with love and inspiration.” British Army Captain Louis Rudd became the second person to make a successful solo unassisted crossing of Antarctica two days later. Maybe I’ll now re-think my 2019 goals!
I’m excited to announce the next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC courses for the Winter/Spring time frame: Strategic Improvement Green Belt starts January 8, 2019; Strategic Improvement Black Belt starts January 15, 2019; Customer Experience Deep Dive will be held January 23, 2019; Basic Statistics & Analytics will be held February 12-13, 2019; Creating High-Performing Work Teams will be held February 26, 2019; Implementing Process Management will be held March 20-21, 2019; Leading Rapid Action Projects will be held April 11-12, 2019; and Strategy Tools for Strategic Improvement will be held April 30, 2019. The brochures for these events are available on the PUBLIC SEMINARS page of this website.
Every year at this time I re-read the book Sioux Winter Count: A 131-Year Calendar of Events by Roberta Carkeek Cheney. It helps me reflect on my personal life and business. From the Introduction of the book: “Winter counts were the historical calendars of the Sioux. One part of this great Indian nation lived along the big muddy river, the Missouri [River], that cut its way across Dakota Territory. Their historians kept records of these people on animal skins. The Big Missouri Winter Count is one of the most extensive and best preserved of all these Indian calendars.” Continuing from the Introduction – each year, “. . . an appointed historian [member of the tribe] drew one pictograph with colored dyes on the buffalo or deer skin at the end of each winter season.” If you could draw one pictograph to commemorate the most important event for you in 2018, what would it be?
On My Mind
Here we go again . . . Another high-profile organization experienced a data breach – it was Marriott this time. Unfortunately, it is reasonable to assume that at least one organization each person deals with has experienced a data breach. I now just assume some of my personal information has been compromised and all I can do is cross my fingers. It will be interesting to see if U.S. lawmakers pass legislation similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed by the European Union. There seems to be some momentum on the part of (1) technology companies to welcome some regulations and (2) citizens to demand more data privacy and safeguards. On another note, the funeral for former President George H. W. Bush was quite moving. I’ll always remember his call for a “kinder and gentler nation.” That request is still appropriate today.
Magnus Carlsen successfully defended his World Chess Champion title recently in London against Fabiano Caruana. The match consisted of twelve games and they all resulted in a draw forcing the players into a tie-breaker round of speed play. Carlsen—who has excelled at speed play in the past—easily defeated Caruana in the tie-breaker round to retain the title. Those not experienced at chess probably thought the match was uneventful and boring because there were twelve consecutive draws. However, there were numerous exciting moves during the initial twelve games including missed opportunities and minor blunders. Carlsen will defend his title again in 2020. Will Caruana get another chance? Only time will tell.
I attended the MinneFRAMA (Financial, Retail, and Marketing Analytics) Conference at the Science Museum of Minnesota on December 3, 2018. It was sponsored by MinneAnalytics. There were dozens of presentations and over 850 conference attendees. Anyone in the Twin Cities interested in analytics and big data should become a member of MinneAnalytics. Membership is free as are the outstanding conferences sponsored by MinneAnalytics. The next public Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC events are the following: 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. The Winter/Spring schedule of public events will be available on January 2, 2019.
There are two annual reports that I study in depth each year: The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report which contains the famous Letter to Shareholders by CEO Warren Buffet and the Toyota Annual Report. I particularly enjoyed the 2018 Toyota Annual Report because it describes the Toyota long-term strategy in great detail. If you want a glimpse into the future—according to Toyota—then check out the annual report. The next Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report should be available in April of 2019 just prior to the Annual Meeting held in Omaha, Nebraska.
On My Mind
There are some recent events that should impact how big data analytics is used in companies. First, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has affected those U.S. companies who have European Union customers and now U.S. lawmakers are considering similar laws. Second, some algorithms have recently been found to have discriminated against certain groups calling into question the unbiasedness of algorithms. Lastly, some executives are warning people on how their data is being used by companies – here is a passage from the article Apple CEO Urges Action on Data Misuse which appeared in The Wall Street Journal on 10/25/2018 (Pages B1 & B4, by Sam Schechner and Emre Peker): “Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook issued the technology giant’s strongest call yet for U.S.-wide data-protection regulation, saying individuals’ personal information has been weaponized.” . . . “’Our own information—from the everyday to the deeply personal—is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,’ Mr. Cook said. ‘Today, that trade has exploded into a data-industrial complex.’” While big data analytics holds great promise, there are obviously still many challenges that must be addressed.
Chess is considered one of the ultimate games of strategy and it can be instructive to watch elite Grandmasters play. Magnus Carlsen will be challenged by Fabiano Caruana for the World Chess Champion title starting November 9, 2018 in London. Carlsen has held the title since 2013 and is considered the favorite in this match. However, Caruana is a strong challenger. He became the youngest Grandmaster in U.S. history while still fourteen years old and he is one of the highest ranked chess players in history. Caruana is the first American to challenge for the World Chess Champion title since Bobby Fischer. If you want an alternative to watching traditional sports this month, then follow the match starting November 9 – you just might get captured.
I presented on Information-Based Customer Value Creation at the 1st Annual Colloquium on Analytics, Data Science & Computing. This was an outstanding event and it will be held next year on October 25-26, 2019. The Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC schedule of public events is now set: Leading Rapid Action Projects will be held November 14-15, 2018; Strategy Tools for Strategic Improvement will be held November 29, 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.
There are two relatively new books that are worth reading in preparation for the World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. The book titled, Endgame Virtuoso Magnus Carlsen: His Extraordinary Skills Uncovered and Explained by Tibor Karolyi obviously focuses on Magnus Carlsen and his endgame skills. The book titled, Fabiano Caruana: His Amazing Story and His Most Instructive Chess Games by Alexander Kalinin contains some of Caruana’s “best and most instructive” games. If you want some deep insight into two of the best chess players in the world, then these books are a good place to start.