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.
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.