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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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  • 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)...

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  • 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.

    ...

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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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