Posts about management

William G. Hunter Award 2008: Ronald Does

The recipient of the 2008 William G. Hunter Award is Ronald Does. The Statistics Division of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) uses the attributes that characterize Bill Hunter’s (my father – John Hunter) career – consultant, educator for practitioners, communicator, and integrator of statistical thinking into other disciplines to decide the recipient. In his acceptance speech Ronald Does said:

The first advice I received from my new colleagues was to read the book by Box, Hunter and Hunter. The reason was clear. Because I was not familiar with industrial statistics I had to learn this from the authors who were really practicing statisticians. It took them years to write this landmark book.

For the past 15 years I have been the managing director of the Institute for Business and Industrial Statistics. This is a consultancy firm owned by the University of Amsterdam. The interaction between scientific research and the application of quality technology via our consultancy work is the core operating principle of the institute. This is reflected in the type of people that work for the institute, all of whom are young professionals having strong ambitions in both the academic world and in business and industry.

The kickoff conference attracted approximately 80 statisticians and statistical practitioners from all over Europe. ENBIS was officially founded in June 2001 as “an autonomous Society having as its objective the development and improvement of statistical methods, and their application, throughout Europe, all this in the widest sense of the words” Since the first meeting membership has grown to about 1300 from nearly all European countries.

Related: 2007 William G. Hunter AwardThe Importance of Management ImprovementDesigned ExperimentsPlaying Dice and Children’s Numeracy

Toyota Engineering Development Process

Kenji Hiranabe talks about Toyota’s development process (webcast). Kenji shares a presentation he attended earlier this year by Nobuaki Katayama, a former Chief Engineer at Toyota, and the lessons he learned from him.

The webcast takes awhile to get going. If you are impatient you might want to start at the 6 minute mark. Some thoughts from the talk:

  • The Voice of the Customer is diffuse. A strong concept (for a project – new car for example) is very important to focus thought, listening to voice of the customer is important but must use strong concept to avoid losing focus (due to diffuse customer feedback).
  • Honest face to face communication is important. Bad news first – present bad news first [don’t try to hide bad news – my thoughts in brackets, John Hunter].
  • Everyone must think about cost reduction, many efforts add up to big impact [the importance of reducing waste everywhere].
  • benchmark, not to copy others, but to learn from what others do well.

The webcast includes a nice (though short) discussion of agile management in software development and lean manufacturing (the different situation of manufacturing versus software development). Kenji Hiranabe has also translated several agile and lean books into Japanese including Implementing Lean Software Development.

Related: Kenji Hiranabe’s blogMarissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationHonda EngineeringEngineering Innovation in Manufacturing and the Economy

Toyota Winglet – Personal Transportation

Winglet Personal Mobility Device from Toyota

Toyota has a long term vision. The population of Japan is aging rapidly. Toyota has invested in personal transportation and personal robotic assistance for quite some time. I must admit this new Winglet doesn’t seem like an incredible breakthrough to me (their earlier iUnit seems much better to me – though I am sure much more expensive too). The interest to me is in their continued focus on this market which I think is a smart move. The aging population worldwide (and others) will benefit greatly from improved personal mechanical assistance.

The Winglet is one of Toyota’s people-assisting Toyota Partner Robots. Designed to contribute to society by helping people enjoy a safe and fully mobile life, the Winglet is a compact next-generation everyday transport tool that offers advanced ease of use and expands the user’s range of mobility.

The Winglet consists of a body that houses an electric motor, two wheels and internal sensors that constantly monitor the user’s position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability. Meanwhile, a unique parallel link mechanism allows the rider to go forward, backward and turn simply by shifting body weight, making the vehicle safe and useful even in tight spaces or crowded environments.

Toyota plans various technical and consumer trials to gain feedback during the Winglet’s lead-up to practical use. Practical tests of its utility as a mobility tool are planned to begin in Autumn 2008 at Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) near Nagoya, and Laguna Gamagori, a seaside marine resort complex in Aichi Prefecture. Testing of its usefulness in crowded and other conditions, and how non-users react to the device, is to be carried out in 2009 at the Tressa Yokohama shopping complex in Yokohama City.

Toyota is pursuing sustainability in research and development, manufacturing and social contribution as part of its concept to realize “sustainability in three areas” and to help contribute to the health and comfort of future society. Toyota Partner Robot development is being carried out with this in mind and applies Toyota’s approach to monozukuri (“making things”), which includes its mobility, production and other technologies.

Toyota aims to realize the practical use of Toyota Partner Robots in the early 2010s.

On a personal note, I bought some more Toyota stock last week. The stock has declined a bit recently. Toyota is one of the companies in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio.

Related: Toyota Develops Personal Transport Assistance Robot ‘Winglet’No Excessive Senior Executive Pay at ToyotaMore on Non-Auto Toyota

Honda Engineering

Inside Honda’s brain by Alex Taylor III

why is Honda playing with robots? Or, for that matter, airplanes? Honda is building a factory in North Carolina to manufacture the Hondajet, a sporty twin-engine runabout that carries six passengers. Or solar energy? Honda has established a subsidiary to make and market thin-film solar-power cells. Or soybeans? Honda grows soybeans in Ohio so that it can fill up cargo containers being shipped back to Japan. The list goes on. All this sounds irrelevant to a company that built some 24 million engines last year and stuffed them into everything from cars to weed whackers.

On fuel cells, Honda is literally years ahead of the competition. The FCX Clarity will go on sale in California this summer. It is powered by a fuel cell that uses no gasoline and emits only water vapor. Though mass production is at least a decade away, the Clarity is no mere test mule. Elegant and efficient, its hydrogen-powered fuel-cell stack is small enough to fit in the center tunnel – a significant improvement over other, bulkier power packs – and robust enough for a range of 270 miles.

The wellspring of Honda’s creative juices is Honda R&D, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honda Motor. Based in Saitama, west of Tokyo, R&D engineers create every product that Honda makes – from lawn mowers to motorcycles and automobiles – and pursue projects like Asimo and Hondajet on the side. Defiantly individualistic, R&D insists on devising its own solutions and shuns outside alliances. On paper it reports to Honda Motor, but it is powerful enough to have produced every CEO since the company was founded in 1948.

The engineer in Fukui [Honda’s president and CEO] cannot help but be intrigued by what his former colleagues are up to, and his office is only a few steps away from Kato’s. But even with the CEO just down the hall, says Kato, “We want to look down the road. We do not want to be influenced by the business.”

Honda allows its engineers wide latitude in interpreting its corporate mission. “We’ve been known to study the movement of cockroaches and bumblebees to better understand mobility,” says Frank Paluch, a vice president of automotive design. Honda R&D gets about 5% of Honda’s annual revenues. Most of the money goes to vehicle development, not cockroach studies

mistakes like the Insight are also the exception. R&D has provided Honda with a long list of engineering firsts that consumers liked, including the motorcycle airbag, the low-polluting four-stroke marine engine, and ultralow-emission cars.

Related: S&P 500 CEOs – More Engineering GraduatesGoogle Investing Huge Sums in Renewable Energy and is HiringAsimo Robot, Running and Climbing StairsApplied ResearchGoogle: Ten Golden Rules

Larry Page and Sergey Brin Interview Webcast

This interview and audience question and answer took place last week at the end of the Google Zeitgeist conference. Some interesting notes from Sergey:

  • I like to see us not focus on maintaining Google’s culture but to improve it – continuous improvement (he specifically mentions how the infrastructure they have in place now allows them to experiment in ways that were not possible before – a reminder of Google’s focus on the scientific method and Experimenting Quickly and Often).
  • Google still follows their model of focusing 70% of the effort on core business (search) and 20% on related activities and 10% on “anything goes” (new business areas).
  • While not directly related to Google he is very interested in the innovation in nanotechnology and carbon nanotubes and the present time.
  • on moving toward universal power supplies – we are talking to some companies about solutions “but I gotta be honest with you it is a harder problem than I thought”


  • focus on Google’s mission – to organize the world’s information
  • believes there is great potential in solar power and would love to see successful companies in that industry
  • improve power supply efficiency on servers


  • discussed poor web usability practices based on sites that adopt flashy technology that make it slower and more difficult for users – flash, excessive Ajax… Larry also mentioned doing testing on the user experience – no surprise for Google and no surprise that most poorly overly fancy sites care more about what a pointy haired boss might think on seeing the flash than on users experiences and testing.

Related: Great Marissa Mayer Webcast on Google Innovation

Great Speech by Marissa Mayer on Innovation at Google

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Marissa Mayer speech at Stanford on innovation at Google (23 minute speech, 26 minutes of question and answers). She leads the product management efforts on Google’s search products- web search, images, groups, news, Froogle, the Google Toolbar, Google Desktop, Google Labs, and more. She joined Google in 1999 as Google’s first female engineer. Excellent speech. Highly recommended. Google top 9 ideas:

(inside these are Marissa’s thoughts) [inside these are my comments]

  1. Ideas come from anywhere (engineers, customers, managers, executives, external companies – that Google acquires)
  2. Share everything you can (very open culture)
  3. Your Brilliant We’re Hiring [Google Hiring]
  4. A license to pursue dreams (Google 20% time)
  5. Innovation not instant perfection (iteration – experiment quickly and often)
  6. Data is apolitical [Data Based Decision Makingcommon errors in interpreting data – read the related links too]
  7. Creativity loves Constraints [process improvement and innovation]
  8. Users not money (Google focuses on providing users what they want and believe it will work out)
  9. Don’t kill projects morph them

So far every time I hear one of Google’s leaders speak I am happier that I own a bit of stock – this is another instance of that.

Related: Technology Speakers at GoogleGoogle’s Page urges scientists to market themselvesInnovation at GoogleAmazon InnovationScience and Engineering Webcast directoryEngineers – Career Options

S&P 500 CEOs – Again Engineering Graduates Lead

2006 Data from Spencer Stuart on S&P 500 CEO (pdf document) shows once again more have bachelors degrees in engineering than any other field.

% of CEOs
Engineering 23%
Economics 13%
Business Administration 12%
Liberal Arts 8%
Accounting 8%
No degree or no data 3%

This data only shows the data for 65% of CEOs, I would like to see the rest of the data but it is not provide in this report. 41% of S&P CEOs have MBAs. 27% have other advanced degrees.

Related: Top degree for S&P 500 CEOs? Engineering (2005 study)Science and Engineering Degrees lead to Career SuccessUSA Engineering JobsCurious Cat Management Improvement Blog

Interview of Steve Wozniak

Excellent interview of Steve Wozniak from Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston, to be published in a few months.

I said, “No, I’m never going to leave Hewlett-Packard. It’s my job for life. It’s the best company because it’s so good to engineers.” It really treated us like we were a community and family, and everyone cared about everyone else. Engineers—bottom of the org chart people—could come up with the ideas that would be the next hot products for the company. Everything was open to thought, discussion and innovation. So I would never leave Hewlett-Packard. I was going to be an engineer for life there.

Sounds like Google today, see: How Google Works focused on engineering and Enginners at Google Make Decisions.
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