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  • Is Innovation Needed to Keep Manufacturing in the USA?

    There is no ace in the hole. If countries want to keep manufacturing jobs they are going to have to do lots of things right. No country has such an advantage they can expect to rely on their country being more innovative (or offering cheaper labor, or their citizens working harder or…) than all the other countries in the world.

    Innovation has been an advatage for the USA. It should continue to be an advantage for the USA but many other countries will innovate very well (Japan, Germany, China, Korea, Singapore, England…). The USA has many assets: transportation infrastructure, banking, rule of law, educated and skilled workforce, huge market, decent tax laws, engineering education… The key will be to keep focusing on the whole system (and fix things like huge budget deficient, huge current account deficit, excessive health care costs, excessive executive pay…).

    I also believe a key competitive advantage will be in applying management improvement concepts such as lean manufacturing

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  • Our Policy is to Stick Our Heads in the Sand

    The failure to adapt to a changing world (the internet is here to stay folks) is amazing. Most companies would benefit from just adapting to the changing world without elaborate innovation plans. Innovation is great, but challenging. Don’t ignore the possible improvements short of innovation.

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  • Innovation Example: Farecast (2006)

    Farecast provides data and analysis to those looking to purchase airplane tickets. The graph above shows ticket prices for tickets between Boston and Washington DC over the last 60 days. I have thought for quite some time I need better data to make the best purchase decisions. Farecast seems like a great fit.

    The airlines attempt to maximize their profit by changing ticket prices. This pricing model is different than most pricing options I face, normally the price is pretty much set: with the possibility of sale prices. 

    continue reading: Innovation Example: Farecast (2006)

  • Employee Ownership

    I have always liked the idea of employee ownership. To me this can be a great help in creating a system where employees, owners, customers, suppliers work together. Alone an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) does little. But as part of a system of management it is something I think can be beneficial.

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  • New Look American Manufacturing

    Many factors determine whether the USA will continue to lead the world in manufacturing. The USA has to continue to support a dynamic economic system, maintain a transportation system, improve the health care system, improve the educational system, maintain the rule of law, reduce excessive legal costs, improve the management of manufacturers etc.. Each country has to work on these and other systems to stay competitive globally.

    ...

    Excessive regulation compared to what countries – China, India, Germany, Japan? If you are talking about environmental regulation, the USA has more than China less than Germany or Japan. If you are talking about permits to get things done I think the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) needs to go try to do business in Japan, China, India, Thailand, Mexico… and see how easy it is to navigate the undocumented processes.

    And does NAM think the USA is good at nothing? Don’t manufacturers here benefit from being the USA? What cost advantages does that give them? I think being a manufacturer in the USA offers huge advantages as well as some challenges. The prospects are good.

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  • Toyota IT for Kaizen

    IT often does the opposite of lean management and makes things more complex, more prone to error, less effective, etc.. Often all in search of only one thing – cutting costs. For that people should not be faulted for being skeptical of IT solutions. However, that does not mean that IT cannot play a part in improvements. It can, just be careful.

    I find it a good sign when the CIO office is helping people find solutions at the request of the users rather than dictating solutions from on high. Some of the dictating might be necessary to optimize the system of IT (some local sub optimization may be required for the overall good) but in my opinion this is used as an excuse far too often.

    Related: The Edge-case Excuse (a post I wrote more recently on the topic of error prone IT solutions)

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  • More on Obscene CEO Pay

    Unfortunately this reverse robin hood (steal from the workers, stock holder, customers…) and give to the CEO tale continues. Hopefully someday soon we can at least turn the momentum in the right direction (stopping these incredibly excessive “pay” packages). Even then it will take quite a deal of reducing these ridiculous “pay” packages to reach some sense of decency.

    continue reading: More on Obscene CEO Pay

  • Edward Tufte’s new book: Beautiful Evidence (2006)

    Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte is now available. Beautiful is the right word. Tufte’s books are an example of what can be created when someone truly loves what they do and takes pride in every detail of their work. His books are excellent.

    In Beautiful Evidence, Tufte explores how to best display evidence looking at: mapped pictures; sparklines; links and causal arrows; words, numbers and pictures together; the fundamental principles of analytical design; corruption of evidence; and more.

    continue reading: Edward Tufte’s new book: Beautiful Evidence (2006)

  • Health Care Crisis (2006)

    The USA health care system is broken and has been for a long time. Symptoms like the huge cost of health care, medical errors, ER problems etc. are all related.

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  • Lean National Health System

    This is an example of focusing on improving the system which will then result in improved measures (cost savings for example). This systems approach contrasts with cutting costs by cutting every budget by 5% across the board which often fails. Without improvements in the system reducing budgets just reduces capability.

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  • Brainstorming Under Attack

    Brainstorming is about creating an opportunity to bring new ideas the forefront.

    There are other useful tools such as the affinity diagram which can serve as another option (or can serve as a tool to work with the results of brainstorming).

    And Edward DeBono has excellent creativity tools, like his 6 thinking hats. Brainstorming is a useful tool when applied properly but it is only one tool and other tools should be used also.

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  • Dell Falls Short

    Don’t give management a free pass just because they cave in to short term thinking. Management should know better and has a responsibility to do better. It is predictable that if management fails to setup an effective management system that they will fall victim to short term thinking. Still that doesn’t mean they are not responsible for making decisions. They are the managers of the company not some analyst on Wall Street.

    continue reading: Dell Falls Short

  • Brainstorming Under Attack

    Brainstorming is about creating an opportunity to bring new ideas the forefront.

    There are other useful tools such as the affinity diagram which can serve as another option (or can serve as a tool to work with the results of brainstorming).

    And Edward DeBono has excellent creativity tools, like his 6 thinking hats. Brainstorming is a useful tool when applied properly but it is only one tool and other tools should be used also.

    continue reading: Brainstorming Under Attack

  • The Cat and a Black Bear

    A black bear picked the wrong yard for a jaunt, running into a territorial tabby who ran the furry beast up a tree - twice.  Jack, a 15-pound orange and white cat, keeps a close vigil on his property, often chasing small animals, but his owners and neighbors say his latest escapade was surprising.

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  • Management Advice Failures

    I share this frustration with declaring old ideas new: Management ImprovementBetter and DifferentQuality, SPC and Your CareerDeming and Six SigmaManagement Lessons from Terry RyanEverybody Wants It, Toyota’s Got ItFashion-Incubator on Deming’s Ideas and on and on.

    Why does this matter? Two reasons, most importantly to me is that when we fail to value the best ideas, instead valuing the new ideas, we are not as effective as we could be. We often accept pale copies of good old ideas instead of going to the good old ideas – which will often lead to a much richer source of knowledge. When I compare copyrighted versions of management thinking to ideas from people like Ackoff, Deming, Ohno, Scholtes, McGreggor the depth and richness of those I admire is much greater than the packaged solutions as I see it (and they are often more concerned with furthering the practice of management than further their brand). Second, it is often dishonest, or at least sloppy thinkers, that don’t acknowledge the history of management ideas.

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