The Internet of Things – Rose Isn’t the Only Color the Glasses Come In

By Guy Higgins

Recently, my reading has included Chaos, Making a New Science, a book by James Gleick, a Forbes article, A Smart Home is Where the Bot Is, and an Aviation Week article, Why Are Airlines Slow to Enter the Digital Age? At the same time, I “enjoyed” a couple of encounters with the digital world. In the oft-quoted words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” Continue reading

Change, Learning and Leadership

By Guy Higgins,

I was reading an article recently, Principles for an Age of Acceleration. The basic premise of the article was that everything is changing so fast that we can’t keep up with it. That change is driven by the pace of advances in technology – all kinds of technology, not just information technology. Driven by, but not isolated to, technological change. Technological change is enabling or forcing changes in society, health, governance, and ethics (and, maybe, everything else). I was disturbed by the article. Will artificial intelligence create massive unemployment? Will we find ourselves in an ethical swamp as we use genetic manipulation to grow replacement organs in pigs (and yes, that’s something being pursued today)? What will society look like when humans are no longer a necessary part of the economy? Continue reading

Employee Turnover

By Guy Higgins

I watched the American and National Football Conference Championship games this year. After one game, the announcers observed that both the losing and winning teams would make some changes before next season. Every year NFL teams draft around a dozen players from outside the NFL and may pick up one or two free agents. The teams are prepared to deal with the new arrivals. Interestingly, some teams “hire” players cut from other teams and turn them into good or even excellent players. Continue reading

Leadership “At the Front”

By Guy Higgins

Let me start with a short story about a trip I recently took. On my return, I was booked on a 1055 departure from an airport from which I had not previously flown, connecting to another flight in Houston, TX. I had no idea how slowly (or quickly) the security line would move, so I showed up with plenty of time (and, of course, went through security in about two minutes). There was no airplane at the gate when I got there because the airplane was coming from another airport, and making a stop at Houston. The weather was very foggy and did not improve. The flight that was supposed to arrive at my airport at 0925 couldn’t get into Houston and had to divert. This was known at about 0820. By 0900, with no airplane, we were told that the flight was being cancelled because there was no airplane. I was rebooked on a 1915 departure that evening. You can imagine all the fun that I and my fellow passengers had waiting around the (very small) airport all day. At about 1840, we were told that the inbound flight was delayed, but that it would arrive at about 1930. By 1930, with no airplane at the gate, we were told it was scheduled to leave Houston at 1950 and we would depart at 2040. When the flight arrived, we boarded and pushed back from the gate only to be held because of weather at Houston (my connecting destination). After waiting on the airplane for an hour with two status updates from the pilots, we taxied back to the gate, and we all lined up to get rebooked. I tried to rebook via telephone while waiting for the other passengers to work with the gate agents. After explaining to the phone agent that I would not connect through Houston to Los Angeles in order to connect to Denver – all the next day, I finally gave up and, working with the gate agents, was rebooked for a 0830 departure to Houston to connect to a Denver flight. Over a period of more than twelve hours, we were informed of the situation no more than four times. I know I was extremely frustrated, and I think my fellow passengers were too. This was not the worst experience that any traveler ever had, but neither was it a good experience. Continue reading

Measure – Matter – Measure

By Guy Higgins

Last week, I came across an aviation article that urged airlines to adopt AoA (Angle of Attack)* as one of the “metrics” monitored by pilots to ensure proper airplane performance. AoA is very useful because it is self-compensating for airplane weight and remains an accurate indicator of wing stall. In fact, for practical purposes, the AoA for maximum range airspeed is always the same even though the actual airspeed varies with airplane weight. The same is true for maximum endurance airspeed and stall airspeed. AoA is a seriously cool, real-time, self-compensating metric for pilots.

Okay, fine – what has that got to do with non-aviation (which is a very large domain – sort of like non-dandelions)? To answer that, let’s look at the title of this post – Measure – Matter – Measure. We’ve all heard that what gets measured gets managed, and I think that is certainly true. The question I want to explore is whether or not what gets measured actually matters. Continue reading

Workplace Automation

By Guy Higgins

I recently read an analysis report by the McKinsey Global Institute, Where Machines Could Replace Humans – and Where They Can’t (Yet). I found the analysis very interesting, and I think that workplace automation is something that organizational leaders should understand and think about – very hard.

I found several take-aways that I think are worth considering: Continue reading

Time to Think

By Guy Higgins

I recently read an article, Procrastination makes you more creative, research says. I actually got a different message from the article. What I read was, “It pays dividends to spend time actually thinking about stuff.”

The author of the article highlighted a couple of cases that she claimed validated her title:

  • Lincoln continued to work on his Gettysburg Address almost until the moment he gave it
  • M.L. King actually changed his “I have a dream” speech in real time (in fact, he ad-lib’ed the “I have a dream” phrase).

I don’t think that either of those cases represents procrastination. President Lincoln and Dr. King both worked on their speeches diligently. They didn’t goof off and then “wing it.” They invested significant time and effort – but in bits and pieces over a prolonged period. They gave themselves time to think. Continue reading

The Winter Solstice

By Guy Higgins

Today is the winter solstice – the “shortest day of the year.” That got me to thinking. We (that would be human beings) seem to feel compelled to get things finished by the end of the day, the week, the month, the quarter, the year – whatever time period we’re approaching. So, here we are coming to the end of all of those, and it’s the shortest day of the year (okay, so it’s only the shortest period of daylight – and only for the northern hemisphere, but I want to make a point). Continue reading

Metrics – Signal or Noise?

By Guy Higgins

Everyone has heard the adage, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Certainly “stuff” that has the attention of senior leadership gets a lot of attention from lower level managers. The important question for leaders is, “Do the metrics of the ‘stuff’ being measured actually provide useful information?”

There are a number of factors to consider when identifying metrics – factors beside the obvious, “Am I interested in that parameter? Does it tell me anything about how well I’m performing?” I think that those additional factors include:

  • Sampling frequency – how often am I going to measure the parameter? Is that often enough to give me actionable information? Is it too frequently to give me actionable information?
  • Stability – how stable is the parameter? Is it well behaved or does it vary wildly? Does either of those conditions mean anything important?
  • Signal to noise ratio – is the parameter you are measuring (the “signal”) buried by unrelated noise?

Continue reading

Problems or Symptoms?

By Guy Higgins

I recently came across a blog post on the risks of treating issues as the problem when they might only be the symptom. That reminded me of a story that Michael Roberto relates in his book, Know What You Don’t Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen.

Professor Roberto tells of a time when he was teaching at Harvard Business School and his class was visited by Robert McNamara (who attended HBS just shortly after he got off the ark with Noah). Mr. McNamara asked if they still used case studies at HBS because he was impressed with the value of considering actual business situations as a learning tool. He was told, “Of course. Case studies are the foundation for HBS courses.” Mr. McNamara then observed that such a focus, unfortunately, also created a problem – in case studies, the actual problem is presented to the students while in the real world, problems have to be uncovered.

That takes us right back to the title of this post – is an observed issue a problem in itself or is it a symptom of a deeper problem? Continue reading