Archive for the ‘Work related’ Category

As humans, we have always known we produce waste.  Every time we eat food, there are two visible types of waste (immediate trash and longer term liquid and solid outputs). We also talk about wasted time, wasted effort, wasted energy, wasted money., wasted opportunity….In industrial terms, we found crafting and tradesmanship (artisanry) to be too scattered for rapid production so we turned to assemblage and mass manufacturing governed by scientific management techniques (Frederick Taylor).  Now artisanry commands a price premium but that is another topic all together.  Once we had standardized processes, we had data to see that there was a lot of variation in quality.  Eliminating this variation became paramount to remaining competitive (W Edwards Deming). Combining quality and efficiency at a mass production level is an art that was mastered by Toyota.  Lean production (aka just-in-time production) focuses on maximizing the amount of resources directed towards value creation and eliminating non value related activities. (additional information on Lean Thinking)  While Lean has transcended manufacturing (see below), it is only part of the Toyota Philosophy.

The Lean philosophy can be summarized as focusing on the people doing the work and finding ways to improve the processes and level of performance of the work itself.  Continuous Improvement and Continuous Learning are inherent in this approach.

Lean is happening at the government level. The state of Wisconsin adopted a statewide lean initiative both for efficiency and continuous improvement reasons http://walker.wi.gov/wisconsin-reform/lean-government

Other cities and states are doing the same

Non-profits are showing the same benefits industry has

Lean can also be applied to the Service Sector

This article provides a theoretical framework for societal process areas that lend themselves to Lean interventions

The methodology for eliminating waste is known as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).

LSSI DMAIC methodology2

It often helps to have a tangible example beyond savings in dollars or time.

Toyota has helped the Food Bank get donations packaged 80% faster (when you’re hungry, faster food is a good thing!)

However, the Toyota Philosophy goes deeper than just Lean.  Toyota’s founder, Sakichi Toyoda, put forth 5 tenants:

  1. Always be faithful to your duties, thereby contributing to the company and to the overall good.
  2. Always be studious and creative, striving to stay ahead of the times.
  3. Always be practical and avoid frivolousness.
  4. Always strive to build a homelike atmosphere at work that is warm and friendly.
  5. Always have respect for spiritual matters, and remember to be grateful at all times.

The company has expanded these into 7 guiding principles (i have added alternative words to principle 7):

  1. Honor the language and spirit of the law of every nation and undertake open and fair business activities to be a good corporate citizen of the world.
  2. Respect the culture and customs of every nation and contribute to economic and social development through corporate activities in their respective communities.
  3. Dedicate our business to providing clean and safe products and to enhancing the quality of life everywhere through all of our activities.
  4. Create and develop advanced technologies and provide outstanding products and services that fulfill the needs of customers worldwide.
  5. Foster a corporate culture that enhances both individual creativity and the value of teamwork, while honoring mutual trust and respect between labor and management.
  6. Pursue growth through harmony with the global community via innovative management.
  7. Work with business partners in research [learning] and manufacture [production] to achieve stable, long-term growth and mutual benefits, while keeping ourselves open to new partnerships.

Using these principles as a basis, what DMAIC steps can we take to eliminate the waste in how we educate children, how we create jobs, how we practice work/life balance, how we establish romantic relationships (yes, there is lean dating)?

Feel free to post comments and/or links!

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In today’s global markets, one gets immune to seeing “Made in….” labels on retail goods.

Yes, there are domestic employment arguments to be made in favor of buying goods that are produced in-country. There are also numerous environmental arguments (esp. lower transportation emissions). On the flip side, a lot of countries that export manufactured goods do not have the in-country consumer demand to sustain global production levels.

However, a Taiwanese friend of mine gave me a wake up call this weekend. We were doing the chic thing – browsing through stores (both clothing and home furnishings) and I noticed she kept checking the labels on everything.  I finally had to ask why she was so interested in the labels. She said, because I’m frustrated that they all say “Made in China.”  I traveled all this way because I wanted to go back home with some authentic American products not Chinese products. I can’t find any!!

Needless to say she was not at all amused when I joked she might need to go to China to find Made in the USA….

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Some of us never get enough punishment which is why I decided to start a PhD Leadership degree at the age of 40.   Needless to say it is an adjustment.  One of the things I vowed to myself before starting was that I would not loose touch with the outside world while in the program.  Hence, this weekend I decided to try and catch up on current events only to discover that all universes end up colliding with each other.

Here is a link to a fascinating Charlie Rose interview of Siddhartha Mukherjee regarding his new book The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Interview: http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/7009

Book: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Emperor-of-All-Maladies/Siddhartha-Mukherjee/9781439181713

In Statistics class, we are reading book Dirty Rotten Strategies: How We Trick Ourselves and Others Into Solving the Wrong Problems Precisely.  The book goes beyond Type I and Type II errors into what the authors describe as Type 3 and 4 errors.
Here’s how the authors explain types of errors:
Type I: wrongly conclude that new drug is better than old one (aka reject a true null hypothesis)
Type II: wrongly conclude that old drug is better than new one (aka accept a wrong null hypothesis)
Type III: we unintentionally fool and trick ourselves into solving the wrong problem precisely, but we don’t necessarily force our definitions onto others
Type IV: we intentionally force others into solving the wrong problems precisely, to their detriment and for our gain and benefit.
The definitions do not imply malice, just things to be careful about (although authors would probably disagree with me on this hence book title).
While listening to the Mukerjee interview, he describes the evolution of thought with respect to radical mastectomies and I saw it as a clear example of a Type IV error.  According to Mukherjee, proponents of the radical mastectomy procedure  inflicted damage on thousands of womens bodies until patients started demanding empirical evidence which showed there was no difference in benefit (i.e. nothing gained) between regular mastectomy, radical mastectomy and lumpectomy plus radiation.  Hence, those who underwent the procedure had been intentionally convinced to solve the wrong problem precisely (i.e. instead of focusing on curing cancer the focus became the removal of the breast and surrounding tissue in a very precise manner).
In addition, Mukherjee points out that the term “radical” in and of itself caused group think (i.e. what patient when trying to fight for his/her life would refuse “radical” treatment?). This group think enabled the solving of the wrong problem to continue until a select few asked for what the other book we are reading The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable refers to as silent evidence (i.e. data proving there was no benefit) to be revealed.
It would be hard to say that doctors practicing the radical mastectomy approach were maliciously trying to mutilate women.  What they failed to do was verify their assumptions were correct before inflicting permanent damage.  To put the group think into philosophical terms, they were blinded by their own semiotics (cultural signs, in this case medical culture, such as nomenclature and conventions, aka biases, that reinforced their belief the radical mastectomy approach was correct, i.e. caused detection errors).
For details on semiotics you can view:
51:31min Yale University lecture on Semiotics and Structuralism http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsMfaIOsT3M&feature=related
All this begs the question: how do we avoid such egregious errors, especially as we practice personal leadership (leading through our own behavior and beliefs)….????
I’m still letting this sink in; old noodles & new material take a while to blend together…
Meanwhile, any thoughts or comments on the subject of how to avoid such errors are most welcome!

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Scientists: Gulf spill now far bigger than Valdez (Associated Press)

  • Exxon Valdez 11million gallons
  • Gulf Spill 19million to 39million gallons (and counting)

Exxon Valdez impact


Dead animals: 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs

Slow system recovery: Almost 20 years after the spill, a team of scientists at the University of North Carolina found that the effects are lasting far longer than expected.[20] The team estimates some shoreline Arctic habitats may take up to 30 years to recover.

21 years later: Incomplete oil removal & devastation of herring fish stock (previously an economic staple for the area)

Total Impact of Gulf Spill (both short term and long term) = TBD.

The little we do know can be seen in this underwater video from ABC’s Good Morning America

Quote from Repower America: ABC News went underwater in the Gulf with Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of famous explorer Jacques Cousteau, and he described what he saw as “one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen underwater.”

We are resisting alternative energy sources and fuel efficiency mandates because….?????

Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!

Here is a resource if you want to be pro-active about preventing such problems in the future: http://www.climateprotect.org/

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There is nothing like listening to Futurists. Established conventions of what must be are shattered, obliterated, forgotten.  This doesn’t mean that everything Futurists propose is immediately practical.  I’m still waiting for Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons (not to mention a car that folds up into my briefcase).

Despite all the talk about sustainability, one has seen very little Futurist proposals.  You can imagine my delight when I came across this concept of a future city in Busan Korea.

The concept: what would happen if we applied Moore’s Law to sustainable technology?  They started with existing materials and concepts.  One of the materials (still cutting edge) is ETFE foil.

I don’t know much about the material.  First learned about it in a vertical farming presentation. Prof. Despommier (Columbia Univ. microbiologist). Most of what he told us is contained here http://www.verticalfarm.com/presentations.html

I wrote down that it is as refractive as water, self cleaning, clear enough for astronomy observations without causing distortion, and insulating.

Here are applications

The Eden Project (southern England)

Eurofresh Farms (Wilcox, AZ)

ETFE specs http://www.k-mac-plastics.net/etfe-sheets-film.htm

The concept of movable buildings is not new. Tents are movable buildings. In a very different manner so are cruise ships. So why am I so excited? This concept proposal suggests we create buildings that move around in order to maximize solar energy during the day and conserve energy at night.

Yes there are practical reasons we don’t want our buildings moving about – mostly because we don’t want the pounds of stuff we keep in them moving about. However, what if the building could move without any internal vibration?

Also, we are currently obsessed with the equipment we use. We search for energy efficient light bulbs, low energy appliances, etc. What about thinking of a building like a mini-cell eco-system? An eco-system in which everything including the exterior membrane modulates and adjusts to conserve resources. Right now we use building exteriors as insulation but what if they could be generators as well?

As for The Jetsons, well, take a look at the video and perhaps your faith will be restored…

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This 18min video is a must see TED talk!



Bad News:

  • 27 million people (in 2010) facing same conditions as during height of the slave trade (i.e. forced to work under constant violence/threat of violence and with no pay).
  • This is double the number of slaves that came out of Africa during the entire transatlantic slave trade.
  • Problem is found everywhere except for Greenland and Iceland.
  • People are not usually kidnapped but rather living in very poor conditions and recruited with the promise of a paying job.
  • Locations with high concentrations of slaves are also locations with extreme environmental destruction.

Good News:

  • This only occurs in places where the rule of law is absent.
  • Slavery is illegal in every country and has been pushed to the edges of our global society.
  • 27 million people = smallest fraction of the global population to ever be in slavery.
  • The $40 billion that they generate into the global economy every year also equals the smallest proportion of the total global economy (smallest proportion also in historical terms).
  • We have the resource capability to completely eradicate slavery from human history within our lifetime.
    • Cost = $400/slave = total of $10.8 billion = what people in the US spend in 1 year on blue jeans or tech gadgets or what a City like Seattle will spend on its light rail system or Intel’s 4th quarter earnings
  • This money would not be spent to buy people out of slavery because this would reward the enslavers.  Money would be spent on the process and technical assistance providers who help slaves achieve liberation and rebuild their lives.  The process usually takes between 2 to 5 years.
  • ROI (Return on Investment)
    • Those who are liberated become empowered over their economic futures and local economies begin to flourish because they are now working for their own benefit.
    • Moral rectitude and peace of mind/human dignity.
    • (Not mentioned in the Talk but, arguably, if the worst environmental degradation is being accomplished through slave labor then by ending slavery we are also ending the environmental degradation).

Lots more interesting facts and issues raised in the video….

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There is a lot of talk about global warming, environmental sustainability, climate change, etc.  It can get confusing and hard to understand.  As always, a picture tells 1,000 words:

Ecological Debt http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/a-planet-in-ecological-debt

Who gets the trash? http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/who-gets-the-trash

50 million climate refugees by 2010 http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/fifty-million-climate-refugees-by-2010

Graph of national savings adjusted for environmental depletion (selected countries) http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/net-national-savings-in-2001-adjusted-for-investments-in-human-capital-natural-resource-depletion-an

Be sure to check out PDF posters in lower left corner

Hazardous waste 2001 http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=305

Greenhouse gases 2000 http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=299

Carbon Emissions Increases 1980 – 2000 http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=297

Biocapacity 2002 http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=321

Ecological Footprint 2002 http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=322

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