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- Traffic Congestion and a Non-Solution
For decades traffic congestion has been a problem in American cities and one that has continued to get worse. The typical proposed solution is to increase the number of roads. The theory behind this solution is not normally stated but, I believe, it amounts to: “if we build more roads then the system will have more capacity which has to decrease congestion.” Unfortunately this theory fails to take into account the past data on the increasing capacity of roads “solution.”
Ackoff’s solution does require actually changing the system. That is not easy to accomplish. However, if the desire is to reduce congestion the solution is not likely to be to just keep doing what we have been doing (given that it isn’t working). Building more and more capacity doesn’t seem to achieve the desired results.
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- 10 stocks for 10 years
The 10 stocks I came up with are (closing price on 22 April 2005 – % of portofilo invested):
- Templeton Dragon Fund (TDF – 16.40 – 16%) – a closed end mutual fund investing in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore… This one doesn’t fit the criteria but does a great job of filling out the portfolio in my opinion.
- Dell (DELL – 36.43 – 12%)
- Toyota (TM – 72.42 – 12%)
- Google (GOOG – 215.81 – 12%)
- Pfizer (PFE – 27.22 – 8%)
- Amazon (AMZN – 33.04 – 8%) They are only just starting to generate cash but I like their prospects.
["I should have picked Apple instead of Dell but even with that mistake the fund did very well - I did add Apple in 2010" John, Oct 2017]
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- Performance without Appraisal
In the short article Performance Without Appraisal: What to do Instead of Performance Appraisals, Peter wrote:
Dr. Deming said of Performance Appraisals, “Stop doing them and things will get better.” He was correct. Many organizations, however, wonder what to do instead.
For those that do require “some alternative” Peter included some good ideas in The Leader’s Handbook(see chapter 9 “Performance without Appraisal pages 293 to 368). This chapter has excellent material for any manager.
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- Who Influences My Management Improvement Thinking?
- Statistics for Experimenters – Second Edition
Complete with applications covering the physical, engineering, biological, and social sciences, Statistics for Experimenters is designed for individuals who must use statistical approaches to conduct an experiment, but do not necessarily have formal training in statistics. Experimenters need only a basic understanding of mathematics to master all the statistical methods presented. This text is an essential reference for all researchers and is a highly recommended course book for undergraduate and graduate students.
This updates the classic text by George Box, William Hunter (my father) and Stu Hunter.
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- Control Charts in Health Care
The point of using a control chart, and many of the management improvement tools, are to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of resources spent improving. The trick is not really to improve (that is pretty easy) the trick is to improve quickly and effectively (and in a competitive marketplace to improve more quickly than competitors). Where improvement resources are targeted is critical. In deciding which improvement options to explore it is important to understand the impact on the outcome (in this case the health of the patient).
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- Theory of Knowledge
When managing many fail to predict when attempting to test improvement ideas through what should be experiments (often they are just changes without verification the change produced a desired effect, any learning or study of the results of the change). Without prediction learning is much less (if there is any at all) than it would be with such prediction.
With, even a fairly simple understanding of the theory of knowledge the effectiveness of management improvement efforts are greatly increased. This topic is difficult for most to understand, I recommend reading chapter four of the New Economics.
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- Designing a New Organization
Ackoff has done a huge amount of work in idealized design and thinking about the big ideas that can drive dramatic change. His ideas are exceptional. He even offers a plan for modeling the idealized organization and then a plan for how to transform the organization based on practical ideas that are feasible in the real world.
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- Price Discrimination in the Internet Age
The argument that you need to cripple products by geographic area to cope with currency fluctuations is false. It might be that a company wants to practice Price Discrimination to charge more where they can get more and less where they can get less. In the view of such a company, the internet, and other factors, have made it increasingly easy for people to buy in the low cost region and resell the items in the region where the company wants to charge higher prices. If you want to keep practicing price descrimination as a company you have to erect barriers to the free trade of your products by your customers.
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- Operational Excellence
Saying the organization is focuses on new principles (partnering, lean, etc.) is not the same as applying those principles with the great success that Toyota does. That difference is huge and is driving many companies to outsource and try to dramatically cut costs. Reducing costs should be the outcome of improving efficiency.
Toyota is successful manufacturing in the USA.
I would agree that many companies don’t understand the critical importance of management excellence. Rather than take the difficult path to lead real change in their organization they focus on simple cost cutting measures (though usually not cutting executive salaries which have grown dramatically and are excessive in the USA compared to the rest of the world). That won’t work.
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- Drug Prices in the USA
There is the contention that without the ability to overcharge American’s the drug companies won’t invest in Research and Development. This is such a poor argument I can’t believe people can make it without suffering a big blow to any credibility they had. Obviously drug development has a very high cost (creating a high fixed cost) and often drug manufacture has a small marginal cost (though at times the marginal cost is also high). Right now the companies count on the American market to provide funds for much of the research, development, marketing and profits. Then they sell the drugs in other markets only looking to maximize profits looking at marginal costs. Obviously, if they no longer could count on excessive prices in the United States they would have to spread the fixed cost over the rest of the world. The argument that they won’t invest in research and development without excessive costs in America is false. They would adjust their pricing structures around the world based on losing the cash cow of the American consumer. That should be obvious to anyone who even took one economics course.
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- Taguchi Loss Function
In practice, I have seen the concept of the Taguchi Loss Function used quite a bit. I have never actually seen any losses quantified and totaled and shown on a graph. I think focusing specifically on who suffers a loss and what that loss could be, can help. I think actually quantifying the losses to society can be daunting. So, while I see the value in framing the concept that way I think to actually get the losses quantified you are best served by starting with those closest to the process and then adding additional loses to those results.
Second, if you attempt to use the concept to help you manage (as a guide in decision making) the impacts to society are a factor, but, I think the loss to your company, the customer and perhaps the end user are most important. A negative impact to society at large is not going to have the same impact to a decision maker as the same negative impact to the customer. The decision maker will likely be willing to invest more to reduce the loss to a customer than to society at large (and that seems logical and sensible to me).
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- Management Improvement History
I do believe we need to improve our practice of Quality (and to do that we need to understand what happened in the past and why it was not more successful). The idea that Design of Experiments (DoE) was at the core of some Quality Movement to me is not at all accurate.
In my experience only a few Quality professionals today understand what it means and how it should be applied. The idea that it was common place in the 40’s I seriously doubt (though I don’t have first hand knowledge of this). I find it difficult to believe we would have decided to stop using DoE if it was commonly done previously. The understanding I have from those that should know (like George Box and previously my father – Bill Hunter) is that it was not at all common practice and still is not outside of a few industries and even there it is isolated in the domain of a few experts.I do have first hand knowledge of the 80’s and the idea that we did “employee training in problem solving, team activities and just-in-time inventory” well is not even close to accurate. We sent people to training on these things but other than JIT inventory the effectiveness of these efforts were poor (with a few exceptions that really did well).
“Quality” is not being practiced anywhere close to the level with which I am satisfied with in more than a few organizations. We have huge improvements to make in the practice of DoE, SPC, process improvement, having decisions made by the appropriate level (as close to the issue as possible), leadership, teamwork, data based decision making, the use of basically all the Quality tools, systems thinking, transformation…
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- Dangers of Forgetting the Proxy Nature of Data
We use data to act as a proxy for some results of the system. Often people forget that the desired end result is not for the number to be improved but for the situation to be improved. We hope, if the measure improves the situation will have improved. But there are many reasons this may not be the case (one number improving at the expense of other parts of the system, the failure of the number to accurately serve as a proxy, distorting numbers, etc.).
I find something I learned from Brian Joiner an excellent summary – which I remember as:
Data (measuring a system) can be improved by
- distorting the system
- distorting the data or
- improving the system (which tends to be more difficult though likely what is desired)
Brian Joiner’s book, 4th Generation Management is a great book for managers.
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