Happy Birthday, Colonel’s Lady

BertChetMomHappy 96th birthday to my mom.  Here she is with me (on her right) and my brother.

Let’s go back many years. My dad was the commander of the 1st Recon Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, in Bindlach, West Germany. They went to a lot of parties — I guess it was an official duty — but I also know that both of them enjoyed the experience greatly.

This picture is, I think, from Fasching, probably around March 1960.Version 2

The years do pass.

A call for revolution

No, not Trump. As Fabius points out, the Donald is more accurately described as a populist reactionary than a revolutionary or even a fascist (“Fascists,” as Hitler himself noted, are revolutionaries.)

Weirdly, perhaps, today’s strident calls to storm the barricades comes from that bastion of conservative economics, The Economist. In “Too much of a good thing: Profits are too high. America needs a giant dose of competition” (paywall) the magazine lays out how America’s dysfunctional economy evolved and what it costs the vast majority of US citizens who don’t own large chunks of major corporations or occupy their C-level offices.

The article also makes a case for why the current situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.  In the  past, there have been periods of oligopoly (e.g., TR’s trust busting in the early 20th century) and abnormally high profits, but new entrants into the marketplace or severe recessions or technological change have broken them open. Today, however, there are at least two reasons why this process may be delayed. One is that a small group of super investors, mainly funds, owns significant percentages of all the major firms in a variety of industries. Thus it is in their interests to keep things as they are and even to force more mergers (the article lists several in the works). Continue reading

If it can happen to Target

It can happen to you.

Joe Castaldo tells the tale of Target’s expansion to Canada. Less than two years after opening its first store, Target Canada filed for bankruptcy and closed. The episode cost the parent company some $2 billion, not counting the damage it did to its reputation.

Why?  Read the article and you’ll have no problem finding the reasons. Lots of them.  But what struck me is that the most critical problems were clear not just in retrospect but to many of the participants at the time. Continue reading

More physiology of “operating inside the OODA loop”

On page 132 of Patterns of Conflict, Boyd hails “operating inside the OODA loop” as the foundation of victory. Near the end of a long list of indignities one can inflict on one’s opponents via this device, he included “Generate uncertainty, confusion, disorder, panic, chaos … to shatter cohesion, produce paralysis and bring about collapse.” He was so attached to this outcome that he drew a box around it in the original typewritten version.

As he explains earlier in the presentation, the specific device for producing paralysis, disorder, panic, confusion, etc. is surprise and in particular, the mechanism of cheng / chi.  The Sun Tzu text discusses this phenomenon in Chapter 5 as one of the elements of shih, the general pattern of operations, and we can assume the idea itself predates this text, possibly by many centuries. Continue reading

Cheng / chi sighting

When you’re in a situation where things periodically don’t work as we wish, then “not working” becomes the expected, the cheng. You might recall, although you’ll be dating yourself if you admit it, that a day when you didn’t have to reboot your Windows 3.1 machine was often circled in red on your calendar.

So in this perverse but all too common environment, consistently working as expected becomes the unexpected, the chi.  You might recall the first time you upgraded to Windows 2000: It didn’t crash!  Ditto for Mac OS X. And you were delighted.

I mentioned this effect 11 years ago in Certain to Win:

I can illustrate this by using the personal computer industry, where working as advertised would be absolutely shocking. p. 149

So it’s nice to see this phenomenon mentioned in the mainstream press, in this case The Atlantic’s Quartz.com site:

Apple has thrived above all in the last two decades by offering the particular beauty that lies in order, organization, and simplicity, and in the predictable delight that results when something technical, unexpectedly, just works. (“Apple and Star Wars together explain why much of the world around you looks the way it does” by Nicholas de Monchaux)

[As an aside, as I’m writing this, my wife’s computer is trying to upgrade to Windows 10. The first little app proudly proclaimed my wife’s vintage Dell Inspiron as suitable for Windows 10. I have great hopes for being delighted.]

Systems thinking—still in short supply

By Hans Norden
Special to Slightly East of New

I’m observing how there is, at least within management education, a dichotomy between two paradigms; one that builds decisions on the belief that money is the highest value (see Small is Beautiful by Fritz Schumacher) and another that builds decisions on systems thinking, or quality; improving the capability of a system. It’s interesting how Boyd described Orientation as the Schwerpunkt of his thinking; the paradigm through which to observe one’s environment, including new and unforeseen circumstances as they unfold.

It seems to me that people have a hard time even opening their minds to beliefs that are in conflict with their mental programming; they even reject the idea of just trying it on for size, so to speak. It was an intelligent investment banker who explained to me why Deming was not widely used, not because his ideas were too complicated but because people simply do not believe that they are true!!!??? They experience a ‘short-between-the-ears’ when their Orientation fails to make sense out of their Observation of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge. Subsequently, their lack of Fingerspitzengefühl suppresses their curiosity. (After Chet’s presentation, why was there neither a single question nor any opposition? In other words, a dialogue in which they engage the messenger.) Continue reading

On traveling to Europe


The fjord in front of Bergen. The old town is around to the right.


Here are some thoughts from my recent trip to Munich, Bergen, and Amsterdam. If you’re going to Europe, you might find something interesting. Click any image for a larger view.

  1. Take an American Express card.  We now have the new chip cards, but as you probably know, ours are chip-and-signature, while Europe is on chip-and-pin.  You probably don’t have a pin (there are a few exceptions). This means that there are places that won’t accept your credit card, like some fare machines.  I didn’t find any, however, that accepted Amex that wouldn’t take my card. I guess it must waive the need for a pin when necessary.
  2. Take two credit cards.  I still remember the call from my Visa issuer one evening several years back, also in Munich. “Hi. There’s been suspicious activity on your card, so we’ve cancelled it.”  “Great. You do know I’m in Germany.”  The response was, essentially, that it wasn’t their problem. Fortunately, I had the Amex.
  3. NightWatch

    “The Night Watch” at the Rijksmuseum

    Cash is rapidly disappearing from Europe. Various forms of card / electronic payment are replacing it. So if the Euro zone does break up, at least we won’t have to go back to changing cash at every border we cross.  I brought $200 in cash with me and took $200 in cash home — the Visa did work at the one ATM I tried. Gave the remaining Euros — practically all of them — to the hotel on the last night.

Continue reading

Presentation slides from LKCE15

The slides from my keynote at LeanKanban Central Europe 2015 are now available from the Articles page.

ABOCoverThe originals were done in Apple Keynote and had quite a lot of animation. It is possible to export as a PDF with each stage of a build saved as a separate slide.  This only works, however, for simple builds, like “Appear,” and it makes for a very large file.

Instead, I’ve reformatted a few of the charts and exported as a regular PDF.  Even with all that, it still comes in at 6.5 MB.

You can watch the keynote address itself from Munich at https://vimeo.com/146524156.