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Getting the Point

The Macedonian Phalanx was a battlefield formation developed by King Philip, father of Alexander the Great. It was the most effective military ground weapon to meet enemy forces head on, enabling attack by cavalry and other forces along the flanks. It utilized collapsible long spears and was virtually undefeatable for over 300 years. It combined the interlocking and cohesion of shields and the long reach of the spear. The units were well trained. It was a marvelous combination of strategy, technology, resources, process and, execution. Sounds like a phrase of a business book.
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Going Nuclear

Over that last couple of years, we’ve highlighted the evidence and perspectives that our business world is increasingly more dynamic, interdependent, highly networked, dangerously complex, and managed by tools and traditions built on much more stable process experience. Business models and algorithms, control systems, enterprise tools and performance improvement technologies derived significant power from the likelihood that behavior repeat sufficiently to enable the power of statistics to improve decision making. I many cases, that stability and value remains and I expect that that will go on beyond any horizon I can conjure. In fact, Dr. Deming encouraged us to look at the world through the lens of Plan, Do, Check, and Act, and his truism remains eternal.
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Class Struggles

Best in Class! How often do we run into the term? I don’t believe it’s a term that has lost much meaning. I suspect that overuse, or selective playing around with what “class” we pick, or the unreliability of rating organizations render it useless too often. In the world or process improvement it is applied to a goal setting step for evaluating how large a gap there is to close and subsequently chartering projects and resources to close that gap. There are some pitfalls to the approach
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Swan Lake and Nutcrackers

2010 was a year where much of our attention and anxiety were held captive by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a sobering reminder of our dependence on fuels that support our lifestyle, commerce, defense, and essentials to life today. Moratoriums on deep water drilling ensued followed by hearings and probes into why it happened and who we need to blame and subsequently seek a means of exacting some comforting justice. It’s been months since the topic has had front page coverage, almost forgotten much like the devastation and impacts of Katrina, the earthquakes in Haiti, China, and Chile.

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Going to Pieces

It’s hard to miss the changes in the media world, specifically, the demise of the Blockbuster empire. Netflix has a business model that is a game changer, a Blockbuster buster, as iTunes changed the way we access music and other entertainment, a CD and DVD killer. The world of content will soon be without the burdens of physical media. I’m fascinated by the Blockbuster busting by a competitor, one implementing the very strategy that made Blockbuster king of the block. Blockbuster was the brainchild of Wayne Huizenga, an entrepreneur recognized for this value creation strategies. Huizenga’s strategy was to take businesses that were very fragmented in the marketplace and integrate them, creating customer value. He did the same in the world of waste management. Interestingly, Netflix saw the Blockbuster blindness to its current fragmentation and jumped in.

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Roads, Forks, and Prongs

The term robber baron is said to have originated as a medieval name attributed to those that controlled passage on the Rhine River and charged exorbitant tolls. They recognized the power they held, as constrainers or enablers of commerce. The term lived on and thereafter was attached in 19th century America to the magnates that built and operated the railroads. Their power, the same as their predecessors, came as they became the harvesters of the power that came to gatekeepers to commercial traffic. The big and exciting commercial wars in the mid to late 1800’s were about control of the rails. The magnates who built the rails, steamship lines, and the routes of commerce did much to shape the course of history and how we operate today. We may not recognize names like Gould, Crocker, Flagler (outside of Florida), Harriman or Vanderbilt, but their tribe of visionaries and shapers continues on.
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The Winter of Our Discontent

The yearly onset of winter has been a critical milestone in our history, life for that matter, on this planet. It triggered severe constraints in access to food, travel, safety and the quality of life overall. Travellers who needed to get across mountain ranges had to make tough choices, and often make winter quarters and postpone travel until the thaws. Even in war, some armies huddled in winter and fought from early spring to late fall. Today, winter continues to constrain and often reminds us that our advancement and technology can be humbled by severe weather. Those in the tropics see a different face of nature, the tropical cyclones and monsoons.

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My Way or the Highway

American Airlines war with the web is a fascinating series of events. Nobody can argue that the web is the neural and circulatory network for the preponderance of businesses. Unavailability and inaccessibility are likely to be two deathly symptoms of a commercial entity headed for life challenging times. Now, when I hear about accessibility issues, I tend to associate them with technical or network failures. Something broke, or glitches or evildoers are driving the calamity. Not so in this case. This war has to do with how accessibility is managed. American has made a decision that they will set the rules of how customers can access them.

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The 2010 Newsletter from Dr. Noriaki Kano

I got on the train from Taoyuan City in one evening to attend a meeting to be held in Taipei. Although the train was not packed because it was going reverse to the general flow of traffic, there was no vacant seat and I held onto the strap, when a high school girl got up abruptly and offered her seat to me. It was my first experience, and her pure attitude and consideration impressed me. At the same time, feeling that I was not so old as to be offered a seat, my pride was shattered completely and flattened me. Nevertheless, I accepted her warmth and took the seat while lamenting over my age, 70, which is probably an age at which there is a gap between how one thinks of onself and how one is regarded by others.

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Into the Light

We’re at the winter solstice, the beginning or middle of winter. It’s hard to fathom a day in the year that has had more impact on human behaviors over millennia. We, in the Northern Hemisphere, will experience it for an instant around 11:38 PM tonight and those in the Southern will have to wait 6 months. Today brings the yearly tipping point for day length, that is, tomorrow’s day will begin to be longer and nights will become shorter. Day length was the metric for our earliest forms of calendaring. If early man did not have enough food stored by now, famine was a likely threat in the months of March-April. Although time is continuous, we are anthropologically moved by seasons and milestones. (It even shows up in some of end-of-budget yearly behaviors.)

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