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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 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.

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  • Large Scale Redox Flow Battery (700 megawatt hours)

    Scientists and engineers in Germany have created the largest battery in the world with redox flow technology.

    Redox flow batteries are liquid batteries. The Friedrich Schiller University of Jena has developed a new and forward-looking salt-free (brine) based metal-free redox flow battery. This new development will use salt caverns as energy storage.

    ...

    Both charged electrolytes can be stored for several months. The maximum storage capacity of this redox-flow battery is limited only by the size of the storage containers for the electrolyte liquids.

    The project is being ramped up now, going through a test phase before bringing the full system online; they are aiming to achieve this in 6 years. The electrical capacity of 700 megawatt hours will be enough to supply over 75,000 households with electricity for one day.

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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.

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    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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  • Applying W. Edwards Deming’s Ideas in Software Development

    In her presentation at the Deming Research conference, Poorani Jeyaseker explains how the management system drives behavior that is not useful to the organization. The business team asks for estimates for software development. Those estimates are treated as promises. The management system creates a punishment mechanism for missing estimates by over 10%. Of course this creates fear and pressure to make sure work can be completed within the 110% * estimate. So logically the estimates are padded (both to account for the natural variation in how close estimates are to final results and for the existing culture that means changes will be made to requirements without the estimate being adjusted)...

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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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  • Drone Deliveries to Hospitals in Rwanda

    Partnering with the Government of Rwanda, Zipline serves 21 hospitals nation-wide. They provide instant deliveries of lifesaving blood products for 8 million Rwandans.

    Their drones are tiny airplanes (instead of the more common tiny helicopter model). Supplies are delivered using parachute drops from the drone. Landings are similar to landings on aircraft carriers (they grab a line to help slow down the drone) and, in a difference from aircraft carrier landings, the drone line drops them onto a large air cushion.

    ...

    The drones can deliver up to 50-75 km (which I believe means they must have a range for 150 km because they must return to their home base). The cost is about equivalent to the current (much slower) delivery methods (car or motor bike).

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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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  • Systems Thinking and Management Improvement

    A big part of what makes Deming's framework so useful is he was continually learning and adopting new ideas (Senge does a lot of this compared to most people but I can't think of anyone in the Management area that is close to as good as Deming was at this). I do think most Deming folks today would benefit greatly from much more thinking a about the organization as a system. It is often very superficial in my experience (repeating phrases like "we need to break down barriers between departments" or "it is a mistake to optimize the part because it sub-optimizes the whole"). Those ideas are great but you need to manage based on that concept not just say it and move on.

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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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  • Small Farm Robots

    Using robots in farming is limited today but the future could see a huge growth in that use. Benefits of introducing more robots to farming include reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals to control weeds.

    Reducing labor costs is also a potential benefit but at current market prices (due to high costs of robotics and available cheap labor) that is more something for the future than today. However that can change fairly quickly – as for example the collapse in solar panel costs have made solar energy economically very attractive...

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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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  • Lessons on Competition from Mother Nature

    Too often I see simplistic thinking used to accept that the results were good so what we did was wise or the results were bad so what we did was unwise. Sometimes those conclusions have merit. Sometimes they don’t. The results matter but understanding the nature of those results is important. Was it due to luck (did our company due well because the overall market boomed and we were taken along for the ride). Was it due to taking risks that happened to work out well now but is likely to result in bad results in the future? Is it just random variation that we attribute to good luck?

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