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  • Advice for Managers Who are Just Starting Out

    Read the Leader’s Handbook by Peter Scholtes and use it as a reference to guide your actions on a weekly basis.

    Learn to experiment and iterate quickly. Your main aim should be to manage the management system (which may mean the management practices used within your scope of authority or influence). As you start it will involve a significant amount of managing projects, to demonstrate your ability to deliver results, but that should be used to transition to building a strong management system.

    In conjunction with quick iteration and adoption of improvements your focus should be on coaching people to help them be more effective (among other things on helping them learn how to effectively practice evidenced based decision making and continual improvement).

    continue reading: Advice for Managers Who are Just Starting Out

  • Applying Quality as a Business Strategy at Hallmark Building Supplies

    Hallmark Building Supplies has profit sharing for all and doesn’t do annual performance appraisal. They attempt to let the market dictate pay and take pay out of the performance discussions. To manage performance they seek to “coach while the game is going on” (and mentioned the importance of people being receptive to coaching). Cooperation between sales people has increased since they eliminated commissions.

    Everyone is trained on the purpose statement, it is not just something that hangs on the wall. We use it to make decisions on a regular basis.

    continue reading: Applying Quality as a Business Strategy at Hallmark Building Supplies

  • Toyota’s Newest Humanoid Partner Robot

    T-HR3 reflects Toyota’s broad-based exploration of how advanced technologies can help to meet people’s unique mobility needs. T-HR3 represents an evolution from previous generation instrument-playing humanoid robots, which were created to test the precise positioning of joints and pre-programmed movements, to a platform with capabilities that can safely assist humans in a variety of settings, such as the home, medical facilities, construction sites, disaster-stricken areas and even outer space.

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  • Standardization With a Systems View Allows Creativity to Flourish

    We all benefit from standardization every day. We can plug our devices into a wall outlet and power them. We can get a replacement battery and have it work as expected. We can type on the keyboard without thinking because the keys are the same on each keyboard. We can connect to a new wifi network with our phone or laptop. We can buy a replacement pipe for our sink and install it.


    One of the objections I hear to adopting standardization is that doing so takes away our ability to be creative. This is not the case. Dr. Deming’s quote does a good job of explaining this. Standardization allows us to create systems that are reliable and effective. Within that system there should be a great deal of flexibility to apply creative ideas.

    It is true organizations often impose rigid rules that restrict creativity. If standardization is responsible for part of this result then the process by which standards are created and continually improved needs to be examined. A management system needs to continually improve and part of that is continually evaluating how management concepts (such as standardization) are being applied.

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  • Using Annuities as Part of a Retirement Plan

    Annuities have a bad reputation, with a history that makes that bad reputation sensible. The main problem is the high costs (and often hidden costs) of many annuity products. Combine with large sales incentives this has led to annuities being abused by sales people and financial companies while providing poor returns to investors.

    However the attributes of annuities fit a specific part of a retirement plan very well.


    The best roll for an annuity in retirement planning in my opinion is to serve as a protection against longevity. The longer you live the more risk you have of outliving your investment savings. Life annuities have the benefit of continuing for as long as you live.

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  • RSS feed for Management Improvement Blog Posts

    I have created a RSS feed for select blog posts from the start of the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog in 2004 (as well as other posts I have made on management improvement on other blogs). Subscribe to the John Hunter management improvement RSS feed. Doing so will add a post each day to your RSS feed reader from my past blog posts. Of course, the normal RSS feed for this blog will continue to provide access to the new blog posts that I publish.

    I also have a RSS feed on my posts on all topics (management improvement and also investing, travel, software development, engineering…) for those of you who are interested.

    continue reading: RSS feed for Management Improvement Blog Posts

  • 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.


    continue reading: Stock Market Capitalization by Country from 2000 to 2016

  • People and Robots Together

    For several decades it was pretty easy to predict wholesale adoption of the robots will save us mantra would be followed by failure. I still strongly believe Toyota's method (thoughtful use of robotics to enhance people is the best strategy). But the ease of using robots to succeed in the long term is much enhanced these days.

    Robot first strategies are going to be succeeding quite a bit going forward. Yes those efforts might not be good enough when competing only with companies using the best strategy well (but that will be rare).


    continue reading: People and Robots Together

  • Personal Finance Considerations for Going into Debt for Education

    I think taking on debt for education is a sensible financial decision. But the level of the debt that is sensible must be considered.

    When I went to college (too long ago) it was expensive, but not nearly as expensive as it is now (in the USA at least – I am not as familiar with the costs outside the USA other than knowing in many places that university education costs are very reasonable).

    I don’t have any hard cutoff where I think taking on debt no longer makes sense. But I do think I would include cost as a major factor when deciding what college to attend if I were facing that decision today.


    As I have said before the reason to chose a career is because that is the work you love, but in choosing between several possible careers it may be sensible to consider the likely economic results. And in choosing how much to spend on your education considering your future earnings is wise.

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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.

    continue reading: Looking in the Mirror at Customer Focus

  • Enjoying the Beach in Hoi An, Vietnam

    As I look at these photos and remember my time there I am reminded that I planned to be back on the road again by now (by last month was my original plan). I am a bit delayed getting ready to sell my house before I resume the nomad lifestyle. I can’t recall a time I have felt more eager to resume than I do now. Maybe this feeling will lead me to hurry up and get done what I need to do (but I suspect it may be next year before I am back to my nomad ways again)...

    continue reading: Enjoying the Beach in Hoi An, Vietnam

  • Transforming Jet-Hot by Viewing the Organization as a System

    Jet-Hot integrates Deming’s system view with their own management or operating system. They have made this diagram the central way they operate as a system with common aim and purpose. They use this innovation in their Jet-Hot system and organize all their work with profound knowledge around their business operating system. Jet-Hot has also developed and implemented an application of technology – an operations support system to support their practice and their enterprise throughout their system. They have made this view and diagram actionable and practicable.


    continue reading: Transforming Jet-Hot by Viewing the Organization as a System

  • 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.

    continue reading: Don’t Expect Short Quotes to Tell the Whole Story

  • The Continued Failure of the USA Health Care System and Our Politicians

    Providing a health care is extremely costly everywhere. Rich countries nearly universally provide a health care system that allows all citizens to get needed health care. Nowhere is it perfect and nowhere is it cheap. And nowhere is it more of a mess than in the USA.

    Sadly those we elect in the USA have continued for the last few decades to keep the USA healthcare system the mess we have now. The Affordable Care Act took a relatively small step in addressing several of the most flawed aspects of the USA system. It left unaddressed many of the major flaws. Instead of taking where we are now and making improvements to address the problems left from decades of Democrat and Republican created and maintained USA health care policy all we have had are demands to “repeal Obamacare.”

    This is exactly the type on avoiding improvements to maintain the existing (for the last few decades) broken healthcare system those in the USA must live with. 


    We need to elect people dedicated to improving results not those interested in repeating slogans and avoiding any actual work on actually making things better.

    continue reading: The Continued Failure of the USA Health Care System and Our Politicians