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  • Good Project Management Practices

    This post is in the style of my Good Process Improvement Practices and Practical Ways to Respect People posts.

    Good project management practices include

    • Deliver a working solution quickly; add value as you have time. Don’t aim to deliver a final product by the deadline and risk missing the deadline. Deliver a good solution early, adjust based on feedback and add more as you have time.
    • Prioritize – do fewer things, and do them well.
    • Limit work in process (WIP) – finish tasks, avoid the problems created by splitting attention across numerous tasks.
    • ...

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  • Stone Forest, Yunnan, China

    I enjoyed my visit to the Stone Forest (South China Karst) area.  It was a shallow sea some 270 million years ago (the Permian period) when the sandstone and limestone deposits were formed. The entire Shilin National Scenic Area covers an area of 400 square km.

    Related: Floating Down River in Yangshuo, China on a Bamboo Raft, Jianshui Wet Market in Yunnan, China and Grand Mosque of Shadian, Yunnan, China

     

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  • Historical Global Economic Data and Current Issues for Globalization

    China and India/Pakistan accounted for 73% of the world manufacturing output in 1750. They continued to account for over half of global output even as later as 1830. By 1913, however, their share had dropped to 7.5%.

    That shows how quickly things changed. The industrialization of Europe and the USA was an incredibly powerful global economic force. The rapid economic gains of Japan, Korea, Singapore, China and India in the last 50 years should be understood in the context of the last 200 years not just the last 100 years.

    ...

    I believe he is onto something. I have for years been seeing the strains of “comparative advantage” in our current world economy. That doesn’t mean I am not mainly a fan of freer trade. I am. I don’t think complex trade deals such as TPP are the right move. And I do think more care needs to be taken to consider current economic conditions and factor that into our trade policies.

    ...

    The complexity of the economic consequences of international trade require knowledge, skill, patience and practical thinking to create economic gains going forward. I am worried about the foolish leaders we are electing in many of the rich countries recently. They do not appear to understand complexity or value the importance of expertise, uncertainty and implementation of economic policy. The complexity today requires more understanding, study, learning and care than was required last century but instead we are electing people with less wisdom than ever (and we were not electing incredibly wise people very often in the past).

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  • USA Household Debt Jumps to Record $13.15 Trillion

    The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today issued its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, which reported that total household debt increased by $193 billion (1.5%) to $13.15 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017. This report marks the fifth consecutive year of positive annual household debt growth. There were increases in mortgage, student, auto, and credit card debt (increasing by 1.6%, 1.5%, 0.7% and 3.2% respectively) and another modest decline in home equity line of credit (HELOC) balances (decreasing by 0.9%).

    Outstanding consumer debt balances by type: $8.88 trillion (mortgage), $1.38 trillion (student loans), $1.22 trillion (auto), $834 billion (credit card), $444 (HELOC).

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  • “Explaining” Random Variation

    When I was a reporter covering Cisco Systems Inc. in the late 1990s, it was my job to talk to several analysts a day to find out the latest bit of news that might move the networking company’s share price.

    If the stock moved more than 2% on any uptick in volume, I had to write a story explaining why. After dealing with that every day for about three years, I realized the overwhelming majority of analysts had no better clue than I did about what was moving Cisco’s stock.

    The “explanations” you hear from media often are just as useless as horoscopes. A bunch of meaningless words presented in the hopes you don’t realize they are empty words.

    The talking heads (and writers) need to say something. It would be much more useful if they took the time to do some research and put in some thought but they seem to be driven by the need to fill space instead of the need to inform.

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  • Stock Market Capitalization by Country from 2000 to 2016

    One way to view the dominance of mega-companies is that the market cap for the top 4 stocks exceeds the market cap of all of Canada’s stocks (Apple $807 billion + Alphabet $687 billion + Microsoft $588 billion + Facebook $507 billion = $2.589 trillion). The next, Amazon $477 billion, bring the total for the top 5 to over $3 trillion (and surpasses the UK market cap, leaving only USA, China and Japan as larger markets).

    The USA market capitalization was at 46.9% of the global market cap in 2000 and fell to 31.6% in 2000 before rising to 42% in 2016. China grew from 1.8% of world stock market capitalization in 2000 to 6.9% in 2012 and 11.2% in 2016. Adding Hong Kong to China’s totals shows 3.7% in 2000 with growth to to 12.2% in 2012 and 16.2% in 2016.

    You may be surprised to learn that 26% of USA equities are owned by investors outside the USA.

     

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  • Looking in the Mirror at Customer Focus

    Most organizations say they are focused on meeting and exceeding customer needs. But, as a customer, this often isn’t what I experience.

    Delighting customers is critical to long term business success. Satisfied customers will remain your customers until they see the opportunity for something that might be better or is cheaper. Delighted customers are loyal and much more likely to remain customers.

    Delighting customers is often about paying attention to the small details. Paying close attention to customer’s jobs to be done is a powerful tool. Then apply creative thinking and a knowledge of your industry, technical possibilities and business realities to provide solutions that delight customers.

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  • Health Savings Accounts in the USA

    Health Savings Accounts (HSA) allow you to save money in order to pay health expenses in a tax free account. They are similar to an IRA but are for health expenses.  Eligibility is limited to those with high deductible health care plans.

    HSA funds can be saved over the years. Flexible spending accounts are somewhat similar but that money can not be rolled from one year to the next. The idea with HSA is you can save money in good years so you have money to pay health care expenses in years when you have them.
     
    HSA are a great tool to buffer yourself against the very costly USA healthcare system.  It is far from a solution to the huge personal financial risks the USA system imposes on people, but it is a wise small step to help cope with the system until we finally get around to catching up to the rest of the rich countries on earth by adopting a much less bad health care system.

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  • Don’t Expect Short Quotes to Tell the Whole Story

    Quotes can help crystallize a concept and drive home a point. They are very rarely a decent way to pass on the whole of what the author meant, this is why context is so important. But, most often quotes are shared without context and that of course, leads to misunderstandings.

    ...

    When you understand that concept well it is pretty easy to see how it all fits together. If you try and take 1 or 2 quotes and understand how they fit together, without understanding the system, it can easily be less obvious how they fit together.

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  • The Importance of Critical Thinking and Challenging Assumptions

    Critical thinking is important to applying management improvement methods effectively. It is important to know when decisions are based on evidence and when decisions are not based on evidence. It can be fine to base some decisions on principles that are not subject to rational criticism. But it is important to understand the thought process that is taken to make each decision. If we are not clear on the basis (evidence or opinion regardless of evidence) we cannot be as effective in targeting our efforts to evaluate the results and continually improve the processes in our organizations.

    ...

    Changing the culture to one that values understanding and learning takes time. That process must be done with an understanding of psychology and the challenges of getting people to evaluate decisions. Creating a culture where it is expected that people think about the evidence and are comfortable explaining and defending the reasoning behind decisions is extremely important.

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  • Follow me on Twitter @aJohnHunter

    Follow me on Twitter @aJohnHunter

    Also I provide a resource showing how find links to me elsewhere online for those that are interested. 

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  • Tiny Homes – A Great Alternative (for some people)

    Homes don’t have to be huge as they are now. The ever expanding USA single family home: average square footage of single-family homes in the USA: 1950 – 983; 1970 – 1,500; 1990 – 2,080; 2004 – 2,349.

    Tiny houses are looking at going back even earlier than 1950, and that is a good idea. I would also like to see experiments with small houses along the lines of 1950s (or even a bit smaller). By reducing the high cost of housing we can drastically change personal finances for the non-rich in the USA (and elsewhere).

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  • Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park

    Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century.

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  • Elephants Learn to Cooperate to Reach Their Objective
    This clip shows elephants learning to work together to achieve what they can’t achieve alone (from BBC’s Super Smart Animals). It is interesting to see what animals are capable of.

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  • Technological Innovation and Management

    Organizations need to be designed to be robust and to cope well with the increasingly rapid pace of transformative innovation. This again reinforces the importance of management improvement practices that I have been writing about here (on the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog) for more than 10 years. Organizations that do not delight customers, know the jobs to be done that their customers have, focus on the future (long term thinking), understand how to use data, have well designed processes that allow those at the gemba to know what to do and know how to rapidly adjust based on new realities and possibilities are at great risk.

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