Posts selected fromManagement Blog - Engineering Blog - Investing Blog and other blogs
- The New Age of Robots and What it Means for Jobs
Industrial robots are the most advanced application of robots in business today but they are still far from plug and play solutions. They require skilled experts to have them work effectively; but the capabilities and usability have greatly increased over the last 20 years. Respect for people (and all that entails about the management system) is an important part of creating a management system to have the most success integrating robots.
The ability of us to create technological solutions to accomplish tasks that required people has exploded in the last 20 years and will continue to. Lawyers are finding much of what they do can be done by a computer. Much, doesn’t mean all, obviously. Search and rescue in disaster areas is another task that robots are playing an increasing role in; and the use of robots will likely continue to grow quickly. Technology is taking over many aspects of medical care that were not long ago seen as requiring highly trained and experience medical professionals (reading scans, diagnosing illness…).
I think many of these advances are moving so quickly that we are not properly thinking about the long term future of our organizations. The disruption these changes will take will be difficult to predict and plan for.
continue reading: The New Age of Robots and What it Means for Jobs
- 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
- Bad Ux by Google and the Value of RSS Feeds to Avoid Bad UX Practices
- Factfulness – An Extremely Valuable Book
Data is extremely valuable in helping us make decisions and evaluating the effectiveness of policy. However it is critical to be careful. It is very easy to focus on meeting targets that seem sensible – increasing the number of hospital beds – but that lead to less effective policy.
The book relentlessly points out the great progress that has been made globally over the last 50 years and how that progress continues today and looks to be set to continue in the future. We have plenty of areas to work on improving but we should be aware of how much progress we have been making. As he points out frequently he has continually seen huge underestimation of the economic conditions in the world today. This book does a great job of presenting the real success we have achieved and the progress we can look forward to in the future.
continue reading: Factfulness – An Extremely Valuable Book
- 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.
continue reading: Good Project Management Practices
- Stone Forest, Yunnan, China
- 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).
continue reading: Historical Global Economic Data and Current Issues for Globalization
- Critical Thinking is Needed to Counter Propaganda
That Russians used propaganda and misinformation to attempt to get voters to vote for Trump is important. But the main thing that should have prevented those attempts is sensible critical thinking. The best defense against propaganda is critical thinking and transparency. If the population is trained and accepts being lead to conclusions with obvious propaganda it doesn't matter if you shut off one path for propaganda, others will emerge.
What you need to do is create an expectation of reasoned debate. Sadly the USA has done a very poor job of this. We have allowed politicians get away with obviously false claims. We have promoted not critical thinking but the unthinking following of propaganda.
Until we greatly increase the respect for critical thought and debate we are in trouble. It doesn't matter much what form those seeking to use propaganda use to manipulate people what matters is how susceptible a large number of people are to propaganda.
continue reading: Critical Thinking is Needed to Counter Propaganda
- 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).
continue reading: USA Household Debt Jumps to Record $13.15 Trillion
- Avoiding Difficult Problems
One of the things that happens in many organizations is that working on things that are going to make lots of people mad are often avoided. This rotating shift work seems like something that is likely to make people upset.
Even if you worked on improving it, likely during those PDSA cycles many people would be annoyed. And if you were working on it, you could get blamed, you could be tarnished as someone people didn't like it and didn't appreciate "you doing this to them." If, on the other hand, no one is making significant efforts to improve, even if people are annoyed it is at some amorphous policy and usually doesn't stick to 1 person.
If the dis-satisfaction does accumulate toward 1 person (say the plant manager) that person then often will push through and deal with it - or assign someone to deal with it and stay on them to make sure they do the difficult work (even if doing so will make that person's life much more difficult)...
continue reading: Avoiding Difficult Problems
- “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.
continue reading: “Explaining” Random Variation