My Writing

A Bat Sneezed and the Economy Collapsed

Idea in Brief:
 

  • The second industrial revolution (Mass, Lean, and "Bottom-Lines") created unprecedented growth in humanity a century ago, but this growth has reached limits, and creates a global systemic risk.
     

  • The human population footprint expanded into the former wilderness, where viral reservoirs thrive in rodents, birds, and bats. COVID-19 is the fifth pandemic of the 21st century, and we can expect more to follow.
     

  • Societal growth now requires new technologies and new management theory, as envisioned in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Supply chains must be local, visible, automated, and digital. And economic metrics must balance People and the Planet, as well as Prosperity.

For Better Products, We Need Better Cultures

Idea in Brief:

  • When products result in scandals, an immediate response is to find a bad-actor to be blamed, but this fails to recognize how bad actions are the result of cultural dysfunction. 
     

  • Products are developed based on requirements, the completion of which are decomposed across many groups (for example, the Systems Engineering "Vee-model"). It is this decomposition which creates dysfunction and leads to scandal.
     

  • This article details how the decomposition approach failed General Motors, eventually leading to a scandalous ignition switch, over 120 deaths, and a multi-billion-dollar recall. It further discusses how the legal team which investigated the scandal reinforced the “bad-actor” fallacy, and it provides a counter-narrative to the legal report. 

Complexity Beyond Imagination

Idea in Brief:

  • Modern products are increasingly intelligent, and their development increasingly complex. Such complexity is managed through documented requirements, but these are decomposed and assigned to subgroups, eventually leading to a lack of product clarity and organizational dysfunction.
     

  • The Systems Engineering methods used to manage complexity are not up to the challenge, and we need Systems Thinking. Product Lifecycles are more complex than we can imagine, and we need to reduce, rather than manage, complexity.
     

  • This paper investigates how complexity and dysfunction led to two crashes and the eventual grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft and notes similarities in the case of the GM Ignition Switch Recall