Veterans Administration

    October 20, 2014 10:29 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 20

    Recently, this author was in two taxicabs.  A young single mom, a recent US Army veteran who took me to the airport in the very early morning hours, drove the first one.  Raising a young boy and going to school, she was driving the taxi to help the owner due the volume of traffic from the Regatta of that weekend, according to her.  One surmises that the extra cash from the job may have been an economic driver as well.

    Upon arrival back in Houston, the cab back to the marina where my automobile was located was also driven by a veteran of a slightly earlier era.  This mid-career individual was very articulate and appeared very knowledgeable and even wise.  Extremely talkative, he raised and took defendable positions on several sensitive issues from society’s current dialogue—not the normal conversation one would expect to have with a cabbie.

    These two conversations early one Sunday morning were enlightening in many ways.  Both of these individuals were very personable, highly intelligent and by my brief observation hard working.  I can honestly say, I enjoyed their company and talking with them shortened my journey.

    However, several thoughts raced through my head as I exited the last taxi, paid the man and he shook my hand.  It appeared that he might be under-employed.  If that is the case, I asked myself why is it still so hard for veterans to find jobs.

    This point is not a new one and others have expresses similar concerns over the past few years.  Moreover, as a veteran myself it was initially difficult for me to navigate the corporate jungle.  To say that in my early twenties, just out of the Army with no corporate experience, I was clueless might be an understatement.  Fortunately, I managed to land an entry-level position with one of the two energy service companies where my direct military experience fit well.

    The energy sector is a logical next step in their careers for discharged military personnel of all ranks and Military Occupation Specialties (MOS).[i]  The first taxi cab driver had worked in military communications and the second in logistics.  These are two skills the industry desperately needs.

    The industry has an outreach program and many recent veterans are employed throughout it, both in the operator and services sectors.  Can we do more?  Always!

    Readers may draw the logical conclusion that the subject of this piece is to hire vets!  Evidence suggests that vets are highly prized talent and most add value to their employers and enjoy successful careers.

    However, there is another question.  Many vets, perhaps these two living in Texas and documented by my personal experience at the beginning of my career do not know how to find a civilian job.  They may not even understand the functions of an oil company, an energy services company or an engineering firm.  Nor what kinds of people they employ.

    Much has been written about the so-called Big Crew Change, labor shortages in certain states such as North Dakota as well as the apparently shrinking labor pool et al. and it will not be further addressed herein.  However, perhaps the industry can look in its own backyard and reach out to those vets who may not understand how corporations can use their service skill set.  This effort would be an extension to the current initiatives that are successful helping vets making the transition.

    Veterans whose “separation from active military service” may be a decade or more ago still can offer valuable knowledge and skills the industry needs.[ii]  Both kinds of resources are out there, I know I just met two in one morning.

    “Thank you for your service,” either begins or ends many conversations with veterans, especially on television shows.  Yet for many of these young (and even not so young) people, their service to their families and society is really just beginning.

    This blog and other written material and speeches by this author have addressed the continuous improvement of processes as well as use of good or even so-called “best practices” the industry undertakes in operations.  One of the key components of the recent SEMS regulations is personnel competency and proficiency.

    Perhaps Veteran’s hiring processes could be extended to those vets who may not have the luxury of understanding that their MOS has a direct linkage to the Knowledge, Skills, Abilities (KSA) needed now.  Not in the sense of direct mapping of skills from one job to another but as a function of technical knowledge, problem-solving skills, ability to learn, work ethic and maturity that vets bring.
     

    How does your organization administer its veteran’s affairs to take full advantage of these available resources?
     

    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://usmilitary.about.com/od/enlistedjobs/tp/armyenlistedjobs.htm

    [ii] http://www.vetsfirst.org/military-separation-guide/

     

     

    Workflow Alignment

    October 6, 2014 10:41 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 19

    Dateline September 25, 2014, Dallas, Texas.  According to a recent media report, the information regarding the Ebola virus infected individual’s travel history to Liberia was initially disclosed to the nurse per the proper emergency room protocol.  Subsequently it appears that the attending physician was unaware of this key piece of information.[i]  In other words, the set of tasks required to properly diagnose and treat the patient was not properly completed.

    Apparently, this voluntarily provided information was not communicated to the physicians due to “a flaw in the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) workflows.”[ii]  In other words, while it appears both nursing and physician protocols were followed by the individuals involved; the data integration between these knowledge workers had a gap.  Subsequently, the software was updated and this gap was closed.[iii]

    While we will never know how events in Dallas would have unfolded if the knowledge of the patient’s travel were available to the entire medical decision making process.  However, the trials that have transpired (to-date) are having broad and complex impacts globally.  The medical profession is widely acclaimed to have a strong Culture of Safety; however, the lapse in Dallas exposed system vulnerabilities.[iv]

    This problem was not the health care information technology (IT); its probable cause was a failure in the design of the patient care management system.  As such, it is a failure of high reliability management processes.  Or is it?

    High Reliability Management (HRM) has been discussed in these pages a number of times as well as our recent book, Implementing a Culture of Safety: A Roadmap to Performance-Based Compliance.[v]  HRM seeks to create a culture that is mindfulness that failures can take place, complex processes should not be simplified, operations is the focal point, resiliency or the ability to respond and recover is critical and organizations are flexible enough that individuals can take initiative.[vi]

    One of the most overused terms, A Crisis in Confidence is unfolding in Dallas as of this writing.  This concern is broader than simply a failure of one hospital.  How the population perceives the result of the Public Health Care System response to this system failure will have a major impact on its credibility.[vii]

    While we do not know the end game of this problem, one suspects that the health care sector will exhibit the traits of HRM and cure the problem.  This is not to say that political pundits on both sides will not attempt to parley these fears for their benefit.  However, Public Health practitioners and management will most likely prevail over the current challenge.

    Does this seem similar to the deepwater offshore drilling industry, the nuclear industry, the space shuttle program and others?  Good practices and other organizational learning from one sector may have applicability in others.  Good systems management is the fundamental backbone of HRM regardless of the industry sector or life threatening event.

    Much has been written and discussed regarding the plentiful benefits of Big Data to organizations of all sizes.  Often overlooked is the system design process.

    The nursing staff has a different set of workflow processes and data requirements than the physician.  Good systems design (including updates to reflect changing conditions) which must include data sharing should not be under appreciated.

    The oil and gas industry is in the process of changing their Operations Management Systems (OMS) to include the new safety requirements.  Lessons learned from Dallas include a review of the data sharing requirements of rapidly changing business processes.

    The Relationships, Behaviors, Conditions (RBC) model previously discussed by the author in this blog as well as other publications is a good construct for organizations implementing HRM.[viii]  It is important to remember that Relationships can change based on changing Conditions and this often results in new Behaviors.

    The system is not static and it now necessary for the physician to understand the recent travel of a patient.  This may result in changes to tasks in a workflow with the subsequent impact on other workflows.  IT systems must represent the tasks required to accomplish a complex job and workflows must be continuously aligned as necessary.
     

    How does your organization assure that workflows across departments are aligned and data is shared as required to complete the set of tasks?


    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20141001-dallas-hospital-knew-man-had-been-to-w.-africa-didnt-isolate-him-for-ebola-testing.ece
    [ii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/02/dallas-ebola-patient-hospital-error-electronic-health-record-flaw_n_5924698.html
    [iii] Ibid.
    [iv] http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol-16-2011/No3-Sept-2011/Teaching-and-Safety.html
    [v] Holland, Winford “Dutch” E. and Shemwell, Scott M. (2014). Implementing a Culture of Safety: A Roadmap to Performance-Based Compliance. New York: Xlibris.
    [vi] Ibid.
    [vii] http://www.hhs.gov/ash/initiatives/quality/system/
    [viii] http://www.amazon.com/Governing-Energy-Organizational-Governance-Century-ebook/dp/B00NB8C91Q/ref=la_B00KNBEQS8_1_5/179-1492846-1205359?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412372804&sr=1-5

     

     

    Man Machine Codependency

    September 22, 2014 11:44 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 18

    One of the emerging trends in automobile design is the intelligent-car.  This vehicle comes close to driving itself by alerting the driver to vehicles in blind spots, providing assistance backing up and automatic breaking as examples.  Some even put forth the construct of “self-driving.”[i]

    As beneficial as these advancements are, there can be drawbacks.  With the advent of automatic transmissions and the almost complete loss of traditional standard or “stick shift” how many of today’s drivers can actually drive the traditional sports car?  In this case, the implications appear to be minor as not many automobiles even have the standard transmission as an option. [ii]  In other instances the ramifications maybe more acute.

    We also see this phenomenon in mathematics where students trained using calculators and spreadsheets may struggle to understand the basic math operations.  Slide rule generation undergraduates were forced to develop an understanding of the mathematical structure/relationships of the problem being solved due to the limitations of that technology.

    For example, for this (then) student the use of the slide rule required me to devolve the problem into its component parts.  This process led to a better understanding of the problem and its mathematical structure as well as helping establish an order-of-magnitude for the expected solution.  Routine use of terms such as, significant digits, scientific notation, estimation and Powers-of-Tem have now been lost in the lexicon of many today.[iii]

    Following a seminar on the sIide rule, one University of California, San Diego student remarked, “I like being engrossed in the calculations, instead of just punching them into my calculator.  I make less mistakes, and find I know what I am talking about …”[iv]

    Another way to frame this discussion is as cognitive training.  Sometimes referred to as “brain exercise” this approach helps individuals improve their core abilities as well as develop the self-control necessary for the successful completion of a function or process.[v]

    Software systems may not calculate properly.  Many may not be aware that any computer is basically a Babbage “Analytical Engine” circa the mid 1800’s.[vi]

    Most now take the output of digital calculators as gospel.  But, what if these current algorithm developers miss something?  Do many really understand the structure of the problem they are attempting to solve?

    Another example, earlier versions of a popular spreadsheet had known statistical inaccurate algorithms.  One professor is reported to have told his students not to bet their jobs on its accuracy.[vii]

    Now, statistics is widely used in Big Data and Bet-Your-Career, even Bet-Your-Company decisions.  Moreover, we trust our very lives to the accuracy of software calculations and the quality of the data input into the system.

    In 2009, Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330 disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean during a routine flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.[viii]  The subject of a recent documentary, the apparent ice buildup on the aircraft pitot tubes (sensor used to determine airspeed) and the autopilot disengaging required the pilots manual fly the aircraft.[ix]

    Apparent confusion in the cockpit, one pilot pulled the aircraft up thinking he was at a lower altitude and need to climb.  He stalled the Airbus while the other finally understanding the situation urged him to descend and gain airspeed.[x]  Perhaps, the pilot was disoriented due to bad weather, nighttime, or lack of sleep.

    However, when forced by circumstances to manual pilot the aircraft one might surmise that like the software algorithm developer who relies too much on the accuracy of automated mathematics there might have been a degradation of fundamental flying skill set.

    Our digital world provides all with a quality of life and entertainment only dreamed of by previous generations.  However, there is an inherent risk if we rely on technology too much.  We may lose our abilities to understand the problem we are solving, and whether the technology accurately supports that process.
     

    How does your organization assure that its workforce retains fundamental problem solving capability?

     

    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/132812-mit-develops-intelligent-car-co-pilot-that-only-interferes-if-youre-about-to-crash
    [ii] http://www.roadandtrack.com/boot/whats-really-killing-the-manual-transmisson
    [iii] http://sliderulemuseum.com/Manuals/M175_Pickett_TeachingGuide_601.pdf
    [iv] http://sliderulemuseum.com/SR_Class/SlideRuleTalk-MIT.pdf
    [v] http://drjanestewart.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/what-is-cognitive-training/
    [vi] Shemwell, Scott M. (1993). Management Theory - Evolution Not Revolution, Proceedings of the 11th Annual Conference of the Association of Management, 11 (2), pp. 74 - 78.
    [vii] http://www.forecastingprinciples.com/files/McCullough.pdf
    [viii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447
    [ix] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/9231855/Air-France-Flight-447-Damn-it-were-going-to-crash.html
    [x] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/9231855/Air-France-Flight-447-Damn-it-were-going-to-crash.html

     

     

    Empty

    September 3, 2014 1:55 PM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 17

    Confidence is everything!  People need to trust the institutions and organizations that they depend upon, whether for their livelihood, family unit, commercial organizations or government structures.

    When confidence, nay trust is broken the human response can be swift and even terminal.  In a previous edition of this work (June 2012), the fate of the DC-10 aircraft (circa 1970) was posited as a Cautionary Tale.  Repeated accidents relegated this aircraft to freight as the public became “fear of flying” this asset.

    Some 40 years later, passengers appear to be fleeing a modern airline for many of the same reasons.  Malaysian Airlines has lost two aircraft in less than six months.  On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, remains a mystery and may never be solved.[i]

    In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 became the apparent victim of hostilities.[ii]  In this case, questions have been raised as to the wisdom of the flight plan across the Ukraine when other carriers had rerouted.[iii]

    Commercial airlines have been lost before from perceived or actual military action.[iv]  In 1978, Korean Airlines Flight 902 was shot down by the Soviet Union for allegedly violating sovereign airspace and presenting an apparent military threat to that nation.  While an interesting political position, one might see the strategic weakness of this military response to commercial airline airspace intrusion.

    However, when the flying public is concerned about their safety, the impact on the business model can be immediate and severe.  This would appear to be the case with Malaysian Airlines.

    This problem is not limited to the airline industry.  Certain automobiles, e.g., Ford’s Edsel and Pinto are examples when entire model lines were withdrawn after customer confidence was lost.  Ford is not the only manufacturer to produce so-called “lemons,” many claim that title as well.[v]

    The Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium in 2010 is an example whether the US offshore drilling industry suffered a similar fate.  One might argue that this is different because the US government drove this shutdown.[vi]  The counterpoint is that politicians echo their constituents’ desires.

    Six other commercial airliners have disappeared and never been found, including a Boeing 727 in 2003.  While the flying public always seems to bounce back from adversity, there is always a short-term impact at a minimum.  For example, according to the IATA, it took three years for the industry to recover (as measured by revenue) after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.[vii]

    Apparently, like many firms before Malaysian Airlines has marshalled a Crisis Management process that appears will have a far-reaching effect on that organization.[viii]  Time will tell whether this restructure will be successful.  However, one surmises it will be costly.

    Crisis management is just that.  Organizations must move quickly to assure that constituent confidence is quickly reestablished when brought into question.
     

    How does your organization assure that stakeholders do not face a Crisis of Confidence in your Business Model?


    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://www.cbsnews.com/malaysia-airlines-flight-370/
    [ii] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/malaysia-airlines-cutting-6000-jobs/
    [iii] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-plane-crash/who-had-authority-ban-air-travel-over-ukraine-n159636
    [iv] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airliner_shootdown_incidents
    [v] http://www.forbes.com/2004/01/26/cx_dl_0126feat.html
    [vi] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/13/us/13drill.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    [vii] http://www.iata.org/pressroom/documents/impact-9-11-aviation.pdf
    [viii] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/malaysia-airlines-state-fund-plans-overhaul-of-national-airline-9655896.html

     

     

    100

    August 28, 2014 8:41 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 16

    August marks the 100-year anniversary of two seminal events that not only impacted the last century in a dramatic fashion but continue to influence our lives today.  The Guns of August fired in early August 1914 and set the world ablaze for the first of two world wars.  Empires and monarchs fell and millions died.  Many do not realize that the modern Middle East political environment was partially the fall out of the end of the “sick man of Europe”—Ottoman Empire and the resulting political restricting by the Allies.[i]  Moreover, the peace set the stage for an even greater conflict less than 25 years later.

    Not so well known is the opening of the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914.  Long operated by the Americans, in 1977, President Carter signed a treaty turning the canal over to Panama that was effective on December 31, 1999. [ii]

    During the past 15 years, the Panama Canal has been transformed from a “staid state owned public utility, with it quasi-socialist ‘zone’ for employee, to a modern business that aims to maximize revenues and compete internationally.”  One source gives the credit for this to former Panamanian President Guillermo Endara (1989-1994) who led the efforts to depoliticize canal operations through a constitutional amendment. [iii]

    Decisions made generations ago can have consequences long into the future.  High quality decisions are important.  Staying the “proper” course sustains value even in the midst of major structural change.

    These lessons are also important to corporate executives whose vision may be limited to shorter horizons.  This political (US midterm elections in November) season will most likely find pundits stating words to the effect that, “elections have consequences.”  The same can be said of strategic decisions.
     

    How wise are your organization’s long-term strategic decisions?

     

    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/inside-first-world-war/part-six/10607658/ottoman-empire-first-world-war.html
    [ii] http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/panama-canal-open-to-traffic
    [iii] O’Grady, Mary Anastasia. (2014, August 18). The Panama Canal Celebrates 100 Years. The Wall Street Journal. p. A11.

    Culture’s Consequences

    August 12, 2014 10:28 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 15

    One of the seminal works on cross-cultural behaviors is Geert Hofstede’s 1980 book, Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work—Related Values.  In this work, he develops a number of invisible cultural differences from two surveys (over 116,000 responses) conducted in 1968 and 1972.

    He identified and labeled four main dimensions--Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism, and Masculinity for 40 countries.  These data have been updated and expanded since and details as well as definitions are available from The Hofstede Center.[i]

    Statistical data can be descriptive, inferential and more recently predictive.  Keeping it simple, the Hofstede dimensions provide some insight into high-level cultural behaviors.  We recognize that an individual may not fall within one or more standard deviations and thus may behave somewhat different from the statistical norm.  This does not make the assessment any less useful when looking at the overall population of a given country or perhaps subcultures within.

    Since this initial data was acquired and the dimensions defined, a case can be made that cultural interactions are so substantial that simple descriptive analysis no longer provides the granularity necessary to meet the statistical significant test.  Perhaps, multivariate analysis is the inferential statistical technique that should be applied to cultural data sets.[ii]  In any event, as with any statistical assessment an abundance of caution is in order.

    Most recognize and it has been discussed in these pages before, cross-cultural differences can lead to major misunderstandings and actions whose unintentional consequences can be catastrophic in some cases.  One example was our assessment of possible cultural based miscommunication during the 2013 crisis on the Korean Peninsula. [iii]  That blog also noted the possible impact cultural based miscommunication might have had on events leading up to World War I—the 100th anniversary marked this month.[iv]

    This author is not advocating that a similar survey and set of cultural dimensions be developed for the oil and gas industry.  However, this global industry and its multi-dimensional cultural richness is undergoing a transformation to one of a Culture of Safety.  More correctly, a set of Cultures of Safety.

    An organization’s culture is part of this competitive advantage.  It differentiates the entity from others--sometimes starkly but more often subtly.  Therefore, by extension each organization and perhaps global divisions within a large organization will have slightly different implementations of a Culture of Safety.

    The quality of cross-cultural communication can vary widely.  As with any decision or approach there can be unintended consequences.  Don’t let a lack of understanding of the firm’s culture as it relates to customer and supply chain culture generate unsafe unintended consequences.

    What are the operational consequences of your organization’s culture?

    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://geert-hofstede.com/
    [ii] http://www.unt.edu/rss/class/mike/6810/IntrotoMV.pdf
    [iii] Shemwell, Scott M. (2013, April 16). It Must Be Spring. PennEnergy Governing Energy. Vol 2. No. 8
    [iv] http://www.bbc.co.uk/remembrance/timeline/

     

     

    Institutional Imprint

    July 18, 2014 1:19 PM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 14

    This last Fourth of July, I watched the televised concert and celebration from Washington, D.C.  It seemed that for that brief moment political and other differences were cast aside as Americans and non-Americans gathered to say happy birthday USA.

    Many believe that Americans have lost faith in their institutions whether religious, corporate or government.  Sometimes it appears that these pundits may have a point.  However, perhaps we need to redefine what we mean by the word, institution.

    In his 1942 book, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (a time when democracies and by extension capitalism were on the defense) the Austrian economists Joseph Schumpeter wrote, “The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation—if I may use that biological term—that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.  This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”[i]

    The term, Creative Destruction, suggests that the new is built from the old and while the destructive process is difficult, even traumatic ever-stronger societies are the result.  Moreover, this process is continuous so each generation experiences it.

    Perhaps what many Americans are seeing are existing establishments in the midst of Creative Destruction.  Churches are founded, disappear or evolve.

    Corporations can have exceptionally short lives.  For example, the stock listings on the Dow Jones Industrial Average have change 53 times since its inception in 1885.[ii]  This is an average of less than 2.5 years per group listing for this most prestigious index.

    Government agencies are not immune to transformation as well.  Recent events with the Veteran’s Administration will most like result in changes to that entity.  Post 9/11, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security reorganized and integrated all or part of 22 different departments and agencies of the U.S. Federal government.[iii]

    Animals and human have a critical period of learning early in life.  Whether children effortlessly learning a language or ducklings bonding (imprinting) with humans.  This neural mechanism is fundamental to the survivability of the young.[iv]

    In the midst of strife, turmoil and seemingly even decay, Americans celebrated not the establishments that govern them but their core American Institution—the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” is the imprint on this still young country.

    What organizational edifices hinder your core Institution?

    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/CreativeDestruction.html
    [ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_components_of_the_Dow_Jones_Industrial_Average
    [iii] http://www.dhs.gov/creation-department-homeland-security
    [iv] http://www.sparknotes.com/biology/animalbehavior/learning/section3.rhtml

    Ground Stop Chaos

    July 2, 2014 9:21 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 13

    Recently, weather caused substantial problems with air travel in which this author was caught.  Recognizing that airlines, air traffic control and others cannot control the weather and none of us want to be exposed to unnecessary risk, the unfolding events were interesting to say the least.

    As most travelers know, once the daily flight schedules are substantially impacted by negative events they almost never recover until at least the next day.  For example, this writer had already checked his baggage at the San Francisco airport on October 17, 1989 and was headed to the gates when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit.[i]

    Clearly the airport and other infrastructure stopped.  Fortunately, my business host (and his lovely wife) allowed me to spend the night at their condo without electricity (walking up many flights in his downtown condo sans toothbrush et al.).

    The next day with some difficulties, my (reunited) baggage and I returned to Houston, much relieved to go home but with strong feelings for those whose hometown would take weeks and months to return to normal.

    Twenty-five years later, a much less traumatic event seemingly caused more angst among many travelers.  One male passenger decided to challenge in a loud tone the airline employees delivering the message that things were delayed and not going well.  Things stayed polite, but at one point one male employee expressed a comment along the lines of, “What do you expect me to do about it?”  While for some tensions remained high, others took to their electronic communication devices and/or the bar.

    This traveler’s flight was rescheduled (usually in 30 minute intervals for approximately five hours before finally being cancelled).

    However, the real problem began when this author attempted to retrieve his checked luggage and drive home.  First, the typical forms necessary to find the bags.

    Hours later, I was told that the process was still underway and that the actual search for the luggage had not yet started.  Frustration beyond belief, as this was just a thunderstorm not an earthquake that destroyed a city.

    Finally, a young male baggage handler started to take control of the lost baggage “tickets” and found the bags.  He was later joined by his colleagues (men and women) and they made things happen!  Baggage was cleared and this author and others went home.

    Decades ago, as a young lieutenant in the US Army, an experienced sergeant “bailed me out.”  My apologies, as I do not remember his name, this individual moved in on chaos and made sense out of it and made things happen while I was trying to follow “the book.”

    From my perspective, these airline employees did not “throw the book out” but they simply stepped up!  For example, concerning access to the secure areas and their access cards, none of them in the hours I watched this process violated the “don’t tailgate” dictate (posted)—meaning don’t let anyone follow you into the secure areas.

    Hats off to these individuals!  I do not believe that any of them violated corporate policy or security requirements, but once the magnitude of the problem was identified, these individuals made things happen—this author got his luggage back!  However, management may want to review their standard operating processes (SOP) so that herculean efforts by their people are not the norm.

    Are your people empowered to make things happen in times of adversity?

     

    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/1989/

    Price of Failure

    June 18, 2014 10:29 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 12

    A recent blog celebrated the management guru truism that organizations learn from failure and that individuals should be provided an environment where failure is acceptable and part of the learning organization process.  This author might take exception to that management “rule.”

    We all grow as people and it is true, in the opinion of this writer that sometimes we learn more from failure than from success.  In many cases, it is ok to foster a culture that rewards those you reach for the stars and occasionally miss.

    However, some industries require organizations to manage to a high degree of reliability—High Reliability Organizations.[i]  In these sectors the price of failure can threaten the very survivability of the firm itself.

    So can these different approaches to empowering people be reconciled?  The answer might surprise you; both can be highly aligned and generate an organizational culture where a “focus on failure” is highly prized.

    First let’s posit a matrix of hypotheses (researchers will forgive the lack of null hypotheses for brevity and to provide focus).

        - One of the processes described in the High Reliability Mindful Infrastructure is a “Preoccupation with Failure.”[ii]  From the perspective of the (R) Relationships, (B) Behavior, and (C) Conditions Framework (previously discussed in this blog series and elsewhere) this preoccupation with failure might be considered the Relationship variable.[iii]

        - BSEE has presented and the industry has accepted nine tenets of a robust safety culture.[iv]  A subset of them include:

            - Number 3—Personal Accountability
            - Number 5—Continuous Learning
            - Number 6—Raising Concerns
            - Number 7—Effective Communication
            - Number 8—Trust and Respect
            - Number 9—Inquiring Attitude

    We could probably make the case that the other three points should be included but readers will get the point.  These are a set of Behaviors.

        - SEMS II Stop Work Authority[v]  Finally, this is a Condition variable.

    Again at the risk of offending mathematicians everywhere, we posit that that this is effectively a set of difference equations (output based on past and present data)[vi] or perhaps differential equations (similar but continuously varying).[vii]  This is an extension of the R B C Model expressed mathematically as follows:

    It follows that Failure can be expressed as a function of R B C and therefore it can be treated equivalently by those organizations that encourage extended reach even if a new product launch flops and those High Reliability Organizations where failure is not an option.

    We may further develop the math later, but sociologically solving this set of simultaneous equations (a set of equations that are all satisfied by the same values of the variables[viii]) effectively supports the hypotheses that understanding failure does not mean one must experience it to learn from its potential consequences.  

    We need to foster an environment of individualism within the context of organizational constraints.

    How does your organization define failure and its consequences?

    About the Author

    Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector.  He is the author of three books and has written extensively about the field of operations management.  Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling operations excellence and regulatory compliance management.  He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years--his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of social relationships.

    End Notes

    [i] http://amp.aom.org/content/15/3/70.short
    [ii] Holland, Winford “Dutch” E. and Shemwell, Scott M. (2014). Implementing a Culture of Safety: A Roadmap to Performance-Based Compliance. New York: Xlibris.
    [iii] Shemwell, Scott M. (1996). Cross Cultural Negotiations between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis, (Exploratory Study). Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale.
    [iv] http://www.bsee.gov/uploadedFiles/BSEE/BSEE_Newsroom/Speeches/2013/COS%20Speech.pdf
    [v] http://www.pecsafety.com/stop-work-authority-a-key-safety-management-tool/
    [vi] https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~jos/fp/Difference_Equation_I.html
    [vii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differential_equation
    [viii] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/simultaneous+equations

    What Management Wants to Hear

    June 3, 2014 8:40 AM by Dr. Scott M. Shemwell

    Volume 3 Number 11

    As of this writing, the US Veteran’s Administration is under increasing scrutiny.  One physician interviewed on television indicated that management did not want to hear about problems.  Have we heard this story before?

    I am not sure that this culture is one incorporating the Tenets of Safety we have discussed in this blog before—read satire.[i]  Actually, it is just the opposite; a case can be made that it violates all nine canons.  All the more troubling is that the medical industry is often held out as one that is very good at implementing and sustaining High Reliability.[ii]

    The VA discussion suggests that once veterans have an appointment with a medical professional, their medical care is of high quality so it is simply a bureaucratic process problem.  Isn’t getting to see a physician part of the medical care process?

    The systemic nature of large complex organizations (and their ecosystems) requires that management have a holistic perspective towards addressing and fixing process problems.  Throu