Posts selected fromManagement Blog - Engineering Blog - Investing Blog and other blogs
- Improvements to Credit Collection Requirements Have Had a Positive Impact
Abuse of the credit system by 3rd party collection agencies (and credit reporting agencies) in the USA has been a long term problem.
An attempt to partially address some of the abuses was a change in the required reporting practices that impacted collections accounts specifically, known as the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP), which rolled into effect during the second half of 2017.
This was a small good step in protecting consumers from the bad behavior of credit reporting companies and their customers. But much more must be done to protect us from having our financial lives negatively impacted by bad practices of the credit reporting companies.
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- The Best Form of Fire Fighting is None at All
The best form of problem solving is to avoid problems altogether.
At the point you have a “fire” in your organizaiton you have to fight it. But it is better to create systems that avoid fires taking hold in the first place.*
This is a simple idea. Still many organizations would perform better if they took this simple idea to heart. Many organizations suffer from problems, not that they should solve better, but problems they should have avoided altogether.
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- What Loss Will a Business Suffer Due to a Dissatisfied Customer?
You can’t know how much a dissatisfied customer will cost your business in the long run. You can make statistical judgements about how costly dissatisfied customers are to a business but those are loaded with many guesses. They can give a general indication of the magnitude of the costs but they are largely guesses, not something you can measure.
Sometimes a business largely gets away poor quality for a long time. The customer doesn’t change behavior, doesn’t complain to others and doesn’t punish the company in the long term. But you never know when one small failure will cause the luck to run out and turn a customer against the business and costing it dearly.
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- Surviving Modern Conveniences
Today my car wouldn't start. I guessed the battery died.
I try to use Lyft. Their app says it is a bad connection and so it won't work (using iPhone on Sprint in Charlotte, NC - the 17th largest city in the USA). Sad but ok, whatever, deal with it. Ok try my iPad mini with ATT. Lyft connects and doesn't let me use it requires putting in a phone number before it will do anything so that I can get pin and give it to them. Ok, give them the number. Nothing ever comes from them.
Ok try Uber on iPhone. Uber asked for permission to spy all the time (not just when you are using Uber). Decline that intrusion. Now it can't find my current location. So I type it in. It finds it. Uber says it isn't available where I am and only offers their "luxury" options.
The modern convinces really did help in many ways (I am still hoping the trickle charger will help, though as I write this it is still questionable). The battery is about 10 months old. But while it is great to have cell phones and apps to help us when we are stuck it is very annoying to have such bad connectivity in the 19th largest city in the USA and such lame usability failure in the Uber and Lyft apps. And it is frustrating to have to deal with your own lameness that likely caused the battery to die (I left the lights on in the car - the garage had lights on so I didn't register the car lights were not going off...) and putting in the wrong address...
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- 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.
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- Stone Forest, Yunnan, China
- The Management System is the Key
I think too often people (in relation to management ideas) demand that things be made more simple than is possible to adequately understand the systems involved. This of course leads to problems. A huge value provided by people like Russell Ackoff is their ability to help explain what is needed in fairly simple terms. Still understanding how these ideas are being expressed in our management systems and how to apply the concepts to our management systems is still a challenge.
I think one of the big differences between the best lean efforts and the others is the increased value placed on deeper understanding and thinking systemically.
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- The Quality of the Entire Customer Experience
Product quality, in many ways, has been raised in the last few decades and this naturally results in raised expectations. This pattern was well known in the 1960s (and before). Kano’s theory of customer satisfactionexpressed how new features moved from being “delighters” for customers initially and eventually became minimum expectations (you gain no credit for delivering them but will upset customers if you fail).
It is also true that raising the overall customer experience is more difficult than raising product quality (due to the nature of the systems that deliver the results in each case).
I do think there is truth to the idea that customers have raised expectations for businesses to improve the entire experience. Customers are less willing to accept excuses about how the provider is not responsible for various aspects of the experience...
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- 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.
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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
Coping with this issue (of avoiding unpleasant, systemic and long term rather than acute problems) is one of the things that separates great corporate culture from decent or bad corporate culture.
If there are fairly obvious or fairly easy improvements those would likely be acted on. There are, rarely, but still sometimes, instances where those vocal or politically powerful individuals who would lose out in a fairly obvious improvement will prevent action.
I am not convinced there are not ways to improve the situation. And I am pretty confident it is important enough to try. And I believe (though I might be wrong) with a concerted effort of knowledgable people improvements that would make a big difference in the quality of life could be achieved. I am not so certain those people involved in leading the effort would be seen in great lights though even if they "succeed." People are much more likely to remember negative consequences to them personally, even if they gain much more than they lost overall.
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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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