Monday, January 15, 2018

Examples of Work Simplification

The Wall Street Journal recently had an excerpt from a new book called "Good at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More" by management professor Morten Hansen.

Hansen's work overlaps my own work as a consultant specializing in Strategic Simplicity℠ and business simplification.

He discussed how most office super stars don't work longer hours than their co-workers—in fact, it's the opposite.  They focus on, and prioritize, a smaller number of tasks, which they excel at.

If their manager tries to pile more tasks on them, they don't meekly accept them.  Instead, they ask their manager what they should prioritize on.

Hansen gives some examples of how simplicity and focus can help an organization:

1. A manager at a Maersk terminal focused his attention on one activity—how crews moved containers on and off ships.  He ended up noticing that the drivers would unload a container, drive it from the pier to the container lot, then would drive back empty.  The process would then repeat with another container.

Instead, he asked the drivers that, before driving back from the lot, they find an outbound container destined for a nearby ship and drive back with it to the pier.  They ended up adopting a motto "Never drive empty", and their productivity increased substantially.

2. A business analyst at an insurance company noticed that one type of product was growing in popularity, but the online application process for this particular product was buried under several layers of menus.  She asked the software people to change the process for this product to allow it to be filled out with only a few clicks.

Friday, January 5, 2018

My "Stock Trading Riches" Portfolio After 13 Years

It's now been 13 years since I've invested my portfolio according to the system in my book Stock Trading Riches.

In 2017, My "Stock Trading Riches" account beat the S&P 500 again (26% vs. 21.83%).

Here is the cumulative 13-year return (Source for S&P500 returns):

Year, Me, S&P 500  

2005, 13%, 4.91%  

2006, 14%, 15.79%  

2007, 22%, 5.49%  

2008, (40%), (37%)  

2009, 44%, 26.46%  

2010, 22%, 15.06%  

2011, (5%), 2.11%  

2012, 13.3%, 16%  

2013, 23%, 32.39%  

2014, 13%, 13.69%  

2015, 1.49%, 1.38%  

2016, 20.88%, 11.96%  

2017, 26%, 21.83% 

My portfolio had a cumulative 13 year return of +281% vs. +187% for the S&P 500.  
That translates into a 13 year average annual return of 10.84% vs. 8.45% 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Is Bitcoin's Blockchain Technology Just Another Distributed Database?

Some skeptics think that Blockchain is over hyped, and it is just another type of Database.

This isn't true, and blockchain technology (the basis of Bitcoin) has the potential to revolutionize many fields, such as stock trading, real estate titling, and supply chain tracking.

A blockchain is more than a distributed database.  

Some quick definitions for everyone:

1. Centralized database (probably 90% of databases) - all parts and data stored and maintained in a single location.

2. Distributed database - the data is stored in different parts of a network but, ultimately,  there is a central point of control.  

    Two characteristics of central and distributed databases:

    A. They operate in a trusted environment.

    B. The owners of centralized and distributed databases can restrict read and write access to outsiders.  

3. Block chain, AKA Distributed ledger -  Uses cryptography to go further than a distributed database:
    A. They operate in a UNtrusted environments.

    B. Anyone has unrestrict read and write access.

Here is an example.  Individuals and companies like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan want to buy and sell stocks.  They don't trust each other, so they use an exchange.  The exchange is a needed middleman, because of the trust issue.  The exchange itself has a distributed database which stores the transactions, but access to this database is done through the exchange's interface.  They settle trades in 2 days, and charge a fee.

A blockchain is used instead.  Everyone (Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, your Aunt Sally's Schwab account) has copies and can read or write to it. None of them trusts each other, but they don't need to because the cryptography registers the blocks and prevents tampering.  The encryption process of future blocks depend on the encryption of previous blocks (a chain of hashes), so fraudulent transactions can't be inserted.  Now, there isn't a need for a middleman exchange with a fee, and transactions settle instantly.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Society for the Advancement of Consulting" December 2017 Press Release

December 1, 2017
The SAC® Release

Volatility and Uncertainty No Deterrent to Business Success

EAST GREENWICH, RI—The uncertainty of natural disasters, as well as labor and political unrest across the globe, should not derail smart businesses from continuing to grow and thrive, according to The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC).

Keep up the Speed to Stay Ahead of Trends
“In spite of the volatility associated with the last few years from politics to natural disasters, the U.S. stock market is at a multi-decade low in terms of volatility, according to the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s Volatility Index (VIX),” points out Lisa Anderson, known as The Manufacturing Business TransformerSM and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., Claremont, CA. 

“We have a bit of a dichotomy across the board,” Anderson notes. “To successfully navigate these ever-changing waters, leaders must rise to the occasion. Agility is more important now than ever before! Speed is essential.

“Just as in jet skiing, you don’t successfully jump waves by going slow. Instead, speeding up is the only path to safety.  To stay on the jet ski, it also helps to read the waves. Staying in front of the coming trends and building your predictive muscle is paramount to thriving in this environment,” she adds.

Stay Focused on the Strategic Factors that Matter
Rebecca Morgan, founder of strategic manufacturing operations consulting firm Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, says: “Wow, talk about uncertainty. Brexit. Trump. Catalonia. Healthcare. Tax reform. North Korea. How’s a business owner supposed to make good strategic decisions under these circumstances?”

Morgan has three guidelines. “First, remember there is a big difference between what has happened, what will definitively happen, and what might happen. Second, distinguish between short term and long-term factors. And third, identify elements that will significantly impact your industry and business regardless of fluid political leadership, tariffs, trade pacts, and labor laws,” she says.

 “Look for the things that are certain, and those that will matter over time. Ensure that your vision, strategy, and capabilities in those arenas are always top priorities. Then, and only then, add near-term opportunistic strategic alternatives to the mix.

“It’s easy to react to every headline. Don’t do it. Absolutely stay abreast of advances around and in your industry. And create your own. Certainly, consider opportunities to gain market share. But don’t waste precious resources on brawling battles that are not strategic to the war you intend to win,” Morgan adds.

Mindful Leaders Create Change Resiliency
Dr. Maynard Brusman, a consulting psychologist, executive coach, and emotional intelligence/mindful leadership expert, notes, “As the world becomes more volatile, uncertain complex and ambiguous (VUCA), there is a need for inspiring leaders to lead innovative organizational change initiatives. Neuroscience research shows that employee engagement conversations are critical so that people feel they have control over their lives.”

According to Dr. Brusman, “Change resilient leaders create purpose-driven cultures where there is clarity, psychological safety, respect, shared values and trust. Agile leaders inspire everyone with a shared vision of a sustainable future.”
Dr. Brusman advises his clients to develop a growth mindset and resilience to thrive in uncertain times. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences. Resilience involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed.”

Balance Reaction and Complacency
“Natural disasters, armed conflict, and political unrest have always been with us”, says Patrick Daly, Managing Director of Alba Consulting Group.  “The world economy today and the global supply chains that underpin it are more interconnected and co-dependent than ever because of advances in transport, communications technology and the integration of previously underdeveloped parts of the world into our global productive networks.

Daly adds, “The critical capability that businesses need now to thrive is a deep and broad understanding with clear perspective on global events and whether they need to change their thinking in response, guarding equally against overreaction to some events and complacency in the face of others.

“For example, many British companies underestimate the future costs of moving goods in and out of UK post-Brexit, whereas many US companies overestimate the risks of doing business internationally in places such as Latin America and the Middle East. Only 1% of America’s 30 million companies currently export anywhere at all,” he notes.

Build an Organization That Can Weather the Storm 
“This year, 2017, has brought its share of storms—dramatic disruptions across the political, economic, and regulatory landscapes—alongside hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and floods. In the face of turbulence and change, leaders must help their organizations stay solid yet flexible, able to pivot, and meet new challenges head-on,” advises Dr. Liz Bywater, leadership expert and author of Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World.

“I advise my clients to engage their teams in robust dialogue about the challenges around them. This will help their organizations develop innovative strategies, adapt to changing circumstances, and prevent “regrettable repetitions” of costly mistakes.

“Leaders must also be direct about the impact of constant change. Reorganizations, budget cuts, natural disasters, and pending changes to the tax code and the ACA are among the many stressors faced. Executives must make it clear that they recognize how tough a road it’s been. They should also model optimism. Leaders have tremendous influence on the tenor of their organizations. Genuine enthusiasm about the future will inspire confidence and hope among their workforce,” Bywater adds.

Lead by Example
 “Choose vision, not fear,” advises Karen Eber Davis, author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and president of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, a Sarasota, Florida firm that helps leaders motivated by vision find pathways to growth and revenue.  

“In the middle of hurricanes, political upheavals, and labor unrest, you can choose to glue yourself to media, to get caught in the push and pull forces, or to focus on your vision in order to lead yourself and those around you to stable ground. Your sphere of influence is larger than you think. Besides your firm, your leadership will influence and refocus your customers, vendors, government, and those whom you support philanthropically,” Eber adds.

Pursue Strategic Simplicity To Counteract Volatility
According to Praveen Puri, expert in Strategic Simplicity and president of Puri Consulting LLC, “The future of business will be coping with volatility, unrest, and rapid change on a global scale.” 

“Those businesses that work to make their operations and strategies simpler and more robust will have a big advantage over their inflexible, bureaucratic rival,” Puri adds.

There’s Nothing More Certain Than Uncertainty
What’s certain in today’s world is that there will always be uncertainty, according to Linda Popky, president of Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic marketing firm Leverage2Market Associates, and author of the book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters.

“We can’t predict what the next disaster—natural or man-made—will be, but we can predict that these events will occur. There’s no excuse not to be prepared for something unusual and perhaps even catastrophic to occur,” according to Popky.
“This means taking proper precautions against those events that are more likely to occur, having contingency plans in place to respond quickly, and putting staff and customers through ‘what if’ drills so they are prepared.

“There was no way that Capt. Sully Sullenberger could have known a bird strike would require him to land a jet plane on the Hudson, but the extensive emergency preparation and training he had been through allowed him to calmly evaluate the situation and respond quickly and effectively,” she notes.

Consistent Value and Outstanding Service Still Win
“Despite a volatile time in terms of natural disaster, political uncertainty, and social upheaval, the US stock market continues an historic advance, unemployment is virtually zero, tax cuts are imminent for most, and consumer spending is up,” said SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD.  “The desire for a good life is alive and well, and those who provide consistent value and outstanding service will thrive, no matter what.”

About SAC
The Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) is an international association of consulting professionals who subscribe to an industry code of ethics and have provided evidence of significant consulting results among their clients. For more information, please go to, write to, or call 401/886-4097.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017