Legacy of the Tōhoku Earthquake: Moral Imperative to Prevent a Future Fukushima Crisis


An article in the New York Times reminds us once again that without a carefully crafted and highly disciplined governance architecture in place, perceived misalignment of personal interests between individuals and organizations across cultural ecosystems can lead to catastrophic decisions and outcomes. The article was written by Martin Fackler and is titled: Nuclear Disaster in Japan Was Avoidable, Critics Contend.

While not unexpected by those who study crises, rather yet another case where brave individuals raised red flags only to be shouted down by the crowd, the article does provide instructive granularity that should guide senior executives, directors, and policy makers in planning organizational models and enterprise systems. In a rare statement by a leading publication, Martin Fackler reports that insiders within “Japan’s tightly knit nuclear industry” attributed the Fukushima plant meltdown to a “culture of collusion in which powerful regulators and compliant academic experts”.  This is a very similar dynamic found in other preventable crises, from the broad systemic financial crisis to narrow product defect cases.

One of the individuals who warned regulators of just such an event was professor Kunihiko Shimizaki, a seismologist on the committee created specifically to manage risk associated with Japan’s off shore earthquakes. Shimizaki’s conservative warnings were not only ignored, but his comments were removed from the final report “pending further research”. Shimizaki is reported to believe that “fault lay not in outright corruption, but rather complicity among like-minded insiders who prospered for decades by scratching one another’s backs.”  This is almost verbatim to events in the U.S. where multi-organizational cultures evolved slowly over time to become among the highest systemic risks to life, property, and economy.

In another commonly found result, the plant operator Tepco failed to act on multiple internal warnings from their own engineers who calculated that a tsunami could reach up to 50 feet in height. This critical information was not revealed to regulators for three years, finally reported just four days before the 9.0 quake occurred causing a 45 foot tsunami, resulting in the meltdown of three reactors at Fukushima.

Three questions for consideration

1) Given that the root cause of the Fukushima meltdown was not the accurately predicted earthquake or tsunami, but rather dysfunctional organizational governance, are leaders not then compelled by moral imperative to seek out and implement organizational systems specifically designed to prevent crises in the future?

2) Given that peer pressure and social dynamics within the academic culture and relationship with regulators and industry are cited as the cause by the most credible witness—from their own community who predicted the event, would not prudence demand that responsible decision makers consider solutions external of the inflicted cultures?

3) With the not-invented-here-syndrome near the core of every major crises in recent history, which have seriously degraded economic capacity, can anyone afford not to?

Steps that must be taken to prevent the next Fukushima

1) Do not return to the same poisoned well for solutions that caused or enabled the crisis

  • The not-invented-here-syndrome combined with bias for institutional solutions perpetuates the myth that humans are incapable of anything but repeating the same errors over again.

  • This phenomenon is evident in the ongoing financial crisis which suffers from similar cultural dynamics between academics, regulators and industry.

  • Researchers have only recently begun to understand the problems associated with deep expertise in isolated disciplines and cultural dynamics. ‘Expertisis’ is a serious problem within disciplines that tend to blind researchers from transdisciplinary patterns and discovery, severely limiting consideration of possible solutions.

  • Systemic crises overlaps too many disciplines for the academic model to execute functional solutions, evidenced by the committee in this case that sidelined their own seismologist’s warnings for further study, which represents a classic enabler of systemic crises.

2) Understand that in the current digital era through the foreseeable future, organizational governance challenges are also data governance challenges, which requires the execution of data governance solutions

    • Traditional organizational governance is rapidly breaking down with the rise of the neural network economy, yet governance solutions are comparably slow to be adopted.

    • Many organizational leaders, policy makers, risk managers, and public safety engineers are not functionally literate with state-of-the-art technology, such as semantic, predictive, and human alignment methodologies.

    • Functional enterprise architecture that has the capacity to prevent the next Fukushima-like event, regardless of location, industry, or sector, will require a holistic design encapsulating a philosophy that proactively considers all variables that have enabled previous events.

      • Any functional architecture for this task cannot be constrained by the not-invented-here-syndrome, defense of guilds, proprietary standards, protection of business models, national pride, institutional pride, branding, culture, or any other factor.

3) Adopt a Finely Woven Decision Tapestry with Carefully Crafted Strands of Human, Sensory, and Business Intelligence

Data provenance is foundational to any functioning critical system in the modern organization, providing:

      • Increased accountability

      • Increased security

      • Carefully managed transparency

      • Far more functional automation

      • The possibility of accurate real-time auditing

4) Extend advanced analytics to the entire human workforce

      • incentives for pre-emptive problem solving and innovation

      • Automate information delivery:

        • Record notification

        • Track and verify resolution

        • Extend network to unbiased regulators of regulators

      • Plug-in multiple predictive models:

        • -establish resolution of conflicts with unbiased review.

        • Automatically include results in reporting to prevent obstacles to essential targeted transparency as occurred in the Fukushima incident

5) Include sensory, financial, and supply chain data in real-time enterprise architecture and reporting

      • Until this year, extending advanced analytics to the entire human workforce was considered futuristic (see 1/10/2012 Forrester Research report Future of BI), in part due to scaling limitations in high performance computing. While always evolving, the design has existed for a decade

      • Automated data generated by sensors should be carefully crafted and combined in modeling with human and financial data for predictive applications for use in risk management, planning, regulatory oversight and operations.

        • Near real-time reporting is now possible, so governance structures and enterprise architectural design should reflect that functionality.

 

Conclusion

While obviously not informed by a first-person audit and review, if reports and quotes from witnesses surrounding the Fukushima crisis are accurate, which are generally consistent from dozens of other human caused crises, we can conclude the following:

The dysfunctional socio-economic relationships in this case resulted in an extremely toxic cultural dynamic across academia, regulators and industry that shared tacit intent to protect the nuclear industry. Their collective actions, however, resulted in an outcome that idled the entire industry in Japan with potentially very serious long-term implications for their national economy.

Whether psychological, social, technical, economic, or some combination thereof, it would seem that no justification for not deploying the most advanced crisis prevention systems can be left standing. Indeed, we all have a moral imperative that demands of us to rise above our bias, personal and institutional conflicts, and defensive nature, to explore and embrace the most appropriate solutions, regardless of origin, institutional labeling, media branding, or any other factor. Some crises are indeed too severe not to prevent.

Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO
Kyield
http://www.kyield.com

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New Video: Extending Analytics to the Information Workplace


Press release on our enterprise pilot program


We decided to expand our reach on our enterprise pilot program through the electronic PR system so I issued the following BusinessWire release today:

Kyield Announces Pilot Program for Advanced Analytics and Big Data with New Revolutionary BI Platform 

“We are inviting well-matched organizations to collaborate with us in piloting our break-through system to bring a higher level of performance to the information workplace,” stated Mark Montgomery, Founder and CEO of Kyield. “In addition to the significant competitive advantage exclusive to our pilot program, we are offering attractive long-term incentives free from lock-in, maintenance fees, and high service costs traditionally associated with the enterprise software industry.”

Regards, MM

Strategic IT Alignment in 2012: Leverage Semantics and Avoid the Caretaker


A very interesting development occurred on the way to the neural network economy: The interests of the software vendor and the customer diverged, circled back and then collided, leaving many executives stunned and confused.

The business model in the early years of software was relatively simple. Whether an individual or enterprise, if the customer didn’t adopt the proprietary standard that provided interoperability, the customer was left behind and couldn’t compete—a no brainer—we all adopted. By winning the proprietary standard in any given software segment, market leaders were able to deliver amazing improvements in productivity at relatively low cost while maintaining some of the highest profit margins in the history of business. This model worked remarkably well for a generation, but as is often the case technology evolved more rapidly than business models and incumbent cultures could adapt, so incumbents relied on lock-in tactics to protect the corporation, profit, jobs, and perhaps in some cases national trade.

Imagine the challenge of a CEO today in a mature, publicly traded software company with a suite of products that is generating many billions of dollars in profits annually. In order to continue to grow and keep the job, the CEO would need to either rediscover the level of innovation of the early years—as very few have been able to do, play favorites by providing some customers with competitive advantage and others with commodities—occurring in the enterprise market but risky, or focus on milking the commoditized market power in developed nations while pushing for growth in developing countries. The latter has been the strategy of choice for most mature companies, of course.

Doing all of the above simultaneously is nearly impossible. Killer apps by definition must cannibalize cash cows and public company CEOs have a fiduciary responsibility to optimize profits while mitigating risk, so most CEOs in this position choose to remain ‘dairy farmers’ either until retirement or are forced to change from emergent competition. In discussing one such incumbent recently with one of the leading veterans in IT, he described such a CEO as “the caretaker”. For enterprise customers this type of caretaker can be similar to the one we hired a few years ago to protect our interests when we moved to the Bay area, returning to a property that was uninhabitable after messaging ‘all is fine’ (beware of the caretaker wolf in sheep’s clothing).

Now consider that software exports generate large, efficient import engines for currency in headquarter countries, thus placing those national governments in strategic alignment with the incumbents in the short-term (often dictated by short-term politics); and another entire dimension appears that is rarely discussed, yet very strongly influences organizations worldwide. This situation can influence governments in protecting and reinforcing perceived short-term benefits of commoditized market leaders over critical long-term needs of organizations, markets, and economies. It is not inaccurate to suggest that national security is occasionally misunderstood and/or misused in the decision process on related policy.

Monopoly cultures think and act alike, whether in the public or private sector, which is often (eventually) their undoing, unless of course they adopt intentional continuous improvement. This is why creative destruction is so essential, has been embraced internally by most progressive organizations in some form, and why customers should proactively support innovators and farm markets towards sustainable diversity. Despite what may appear to be the case, the interests of incumbents in enterprise software are often directly conflicting with the interests of the customer.

While the theory of creative destruction has roots in Marxism, the practice is a necessity for capitalism (or any other ism) today due to the natural migration of cultures and economies to seek security and protection, which in turn takes us away from the discipline required for continual rejuvenation. We embrace creative destruction in what has become modern global socialism simply because very little innovation would emerge otherwise. Competitive advantage for organizations cannot exist in rigid commoditization of organizational systems as we see in software. Simply put—whether at the individual, organizational, or societal level, we should embrace creative destruction for long-term survival, especially in light of our current unsustainable trajectory.

Which brings us to the present day emergent neural network economy. In our modern network economy we simply must have interoperable software and communications systems. The global economy cannot function properly otherwise, so this is in everyone’s interest, as I have been saying for 15 years now. The overpowering force of the network effect would place any proprietary standard in an extortion position to the entire global economy in short order. The current danger is that functional global standards still do not exist while national interests can align perfectly in the short-term with proprietary standards. That is not to say, however, that proprietary languages and applications should not be encouraged and adopted—quite the contrary—open source suffers similar challenges as standards in terms of competitive differentiation. Rather, it only means that proprietary technologies cannot become the de facto standard in a network economy.

In peering into the future from my perch in our small private lab and incubator in wilds of N AZ more than 15 years ago, the need for standardized structured data becomes evident, as does the need for easily adaptable software systems that manage relationships between entities. Combined with the data explosion that seems infinite, it was also obvious that filters would be required to manage the quality and quantity of data based on the profiles of entities. The platform would need to be secure, not trackable for many applications, reflect the formal relationships between entities, and set the foundation for accountability, the rule of law, and sustainable economics. In addition, in order to allow and incentivize differentiation beyond the software programmer community, thus permitting market economics to function, the neural network economy would require adaptability that is similar to that which takes place in the natural, physical world.

I suggest then while nascent and imperfect, semantics is the preferred method to achieve alignment of interests in the emergent neural network economy, for it represents the building blocks in structured data for meaning in the digital age, resting at the confluence of human and universal languages, and serving as the functional portal to the neural network economy.

Finally, as the humble founder and inventor, permit me then to suggest that Kyield is the optimal system to manage semantics as it intentionally achieves the necessary elements for organizations to align and optimize their digital assets with the mission of the organization, containing adaptable tools to manage the relationships between entities, including with and between each individual and workgroup.

May 2012 deliver more meaning to you, your organization, and by extension our collective future.

Best of Kyield Blog Index


I created an index page containing links to the best articles in our blog with personal ratings:

Best of Kyield Blog Index.

Book Review: What’s Holding You Back? — By Robert J. Herbold


While I rarely seem to have time for book reviews, the timing, content, and match to current needs of Bob Herbold’s new book is even more rare, so I wanted to share some thoughts while fresh. I read the book while on annual vacation in the San Juan Mountains with my wife at the end of September.

As a previous business and organizational consultant with dozens of similar cases in my past, combined with years of pro-bono advisory for the public sector and non-profits, and recent partner negotiations with multinationals, I can confirm that the operational guidance throughout the book is spot on.

Indeed, many of the current economic challenges facing the U.S. and EU can be directly traced to the consensus cultures in large organizations of the type highlighted consistently in the business cases Bob shares. In case after case, he shows us how lack of accountability, fear of negative impact on careers, refusing to take decisive bold action meeting actual needs, and poor cultures for innovation have led to failure in our hyper competitive global economy. We know what works and what doesn’t, but the truth is what works is quite often very difficult and uncomfortable; not unlike team competition on the football field or climbing mountains.

I suspect that this book will clash sharply with the predominant idealism found in government, academia, unions, and multinationals that have sufficient market power to ignore competitive issues during the tenure of current management, or so many believed until very recently. For decades now the most common response to increased competition has been to circle the wagons and kick the can down the road for the next generation to worry about, which is of course why western economies in particular are suffering today.  However common and popular, any such culture and practice is failure by any credible definition of leadership. This is why most strong leaders agree that we are suffering from an era of leadership crisis; it’s impossible to conclude otherwise.

Some managers in consensus cultures might even consider Bob’s message as brutal, claiming that such a management philosophy is politically unacceptable in their organizational culture. Such a conclusion would be accurate in many organizations I’ve worked with, which is why crisis is so common today. The mathematical truth in a world with finite resources is indeed often perceived as brutal, particularly for those who have enjoyed a life of surplus and subsidy. These are precisely the cultures and managers who need to fully embrace the teachings offered by Bob, if for no other reason than everything such cultures claim to care about are being economically devastated by uncompetitive philosophies and practices. It is ironic that what’s holding our economy back are so many cultures and leaders who are refusing to follow the proven practices that work in the real economy and attempt to protect a world that no longer exists, rather than deal with the reality we face on planet earth today.

While I found a few items I could quibble with relating to my own specialty work in Kyield, they are minor compared to the much needed broader message. A few of my favorite conclusions include:

  • Avoid commodity hell

  • Staff for success

  • Move weak performers out quickly

  • Creativity and six sigma don’t mix

  • Demand accountability and decisiveness

  • Value ideas from anywhere

  • Exploit inflection points

In each of these areas and many others, Bob provides some detail on how to execute, whether in large global companies like his role at P&G and Microsoft, or in business units dealing with many of the same issues.

Finally, I’d like to share a few personal thoughts. While I’ve never met Bob in person, as is often the case in business we do have multiple shared acquaintances in our past, so I pinged him when reading the book and we’ve exchanged a few emails since.  I often thought about Bob in his role as COO at Microsoft when his duties included dealing with the DOJ on one hand and Bill Gates on the other, which frankly must have been among the most difficult positions any modern executive has endured. The outcome for Bill Gates and Microsoft was exceptional by any known metric, which can be largely attributed to Bob Herbold in my view.

In a recent interview and podcast with the Puget Sound Business Journal (my old stomping ground), the editor asked Bob about his experience at Microsoft and why the company has not been more innovative. His answer was almost verbatim to my own in answering the same question for my late partner Dr. Russell Borland who was on the founding team of Word, and a key person in many of the early products that still deliver most of the profits for MSFT.

Paraphrasing the answer: “It’s very difficult to voluntarily cannibalize two of the most profitable products in the history of business (Office and Windows)”.

Frankly, this reality was not easy for Russell to digest, nor even myself who was an early booster to MS. However, based on fiduciary responsibility that requires quantitative reasoning to guide decision making, a CEO in a public company wouldn’t voluntarily cannibalize such cash cows, and Steve Ballmer hasn’t, so it’s up to customers and innovators–that’s why we need new companies; creative destruction and disruption are essential to our economy.

Unfortunately for the world, when companies who dominate our work environment with commoditized products fail to innovate, and fail to provide easily adaptable tools that enable differentiation and competitiveness, the risk of failure becomes systemic to the entire global economy, acting like a wet blanket to creativity and economic growth. That’s why we spent 15 years creating Kyield—organizations simply can’t afford commoditization of the digital workplace environment, and the world cannot afford not to embrace the rare generational leap Kyield represents.

If you are a senior executive in a mid to large size organization, you will hopefully already have this book, but if not—buy it for all of your managers, then call me and let’s talk about what it will take to install Kyield in your organization so that your organization can execute and optimize the lessons learned:

What’s Holding You Back?
10 Bold Steps That Define Gutsy Leaders
By Robert J. Herbold

Key patent issued


My key patent for Kyield was issued today by the USPTO as scheduled earlier this month.

Title: Modular system for optimizing knowledge yield in the digital workplace

Abstract: A networked computer system, architecture, and method are provided for optimizing human and intellectual capital in the digital workplace environment.

To view our press release go here

To view the actual patent  go here

I will post an article when time allows on the importance of this technology and IP, and perhaps one on the experience with the patent system. Thanks, MM

Short video on tech clusters


Short video on tech clusters.

Too Big to Fail or Too Primitive to Succeed?


Our economy very nearly experienced a financial version of Armageddon due to the gap between a primitive governance structure and highly sophisticated tools employed by a few with interests that were deeply misaligned with the needs of sustaining our national and global economy. We have all since unwillingly experienced the negative impacts of untamed technology while experiencing few of the benefits of the tamed; whether for resolution of the current crisis or prevention of the next.

Given the systemic nature and scale of the financial crisis, and in consideration of the poor ongoing economic conditions, it’s clear that the financial industry, political process, and regulators have all fallen short of achieving the individual mission of each, particularly in consideration of current technological capabilities.

For the past several months financial institutions have been attempting to convince regulators that they should not be labeled a Systemically Important Financial Institution (SIFI). The process of implementing the 2010 Dodd-Frank law in the U.S. has resulted in spin offs in an attempt to avoid increased U.S. regulation, while the new global rules for multi-national banks on top of Basel III, including surcharges and increased capital ratios, is resulting in a comprehensive rethink of the fundamental assumptions surrounding the global banking model.

Observing this dynamic invites a mental imagery of bureaucrats, politicians, and academics in team competition, each applying favored remedies such as duck tape over economic journals in a futile attempt to plug giant leaks in the hull of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

When basic human greed clashed with globalization, networking, and technology, the combination introduced a complexity far beyond the organizational structures and tools available to regulators or corporations. Indeed, the reaction we’ve observed suggests that remedies employed to manage this crisis were designed for a war fought over seven decades ago during the Great Depression; an era when state-of-the-art technology was represented by the IBM Type 285 Numeric Printing Tabulator– capable of tabulating 150 cards per minute. The hourly sales of IBM today are approaching the annual sales of 1933, and billions of records are now run in seconds, yet our archaic regulatory system is employing printing presses in response to the largest financial crisis in 75 years.

A great deal has been learned in recent years beyond traditional economic theory about the systemic nature of networks, social behavior, contagion, and the global economy, with considerable investment in basic and applied research focused on technologies specifically designed to prevent systemic crises.

In the era of high performance computing on an increasingly interconnected planet with ever expanding pipes, economic tipping points can be reached very quickly that can bankrupt even the previously most wealthy nation on earth, particularly in a weakened economic condition suffering from structural problems. Focusing on SIFIs is of course essential, even if tardy by decades, but the emphasis should be on managing real systemic risk, which requires a very specific data structure that ensures data integrity, enhanced security, system-wide automation, modernized organizational structures, and continual, real-time improvement.

Without deep intelligence on the constantly changing relationships in a carefully constructed semantic layer, and automatically managed by pre-configured data valves, systemic risk is impossible to manage well, or even I argue at a level that is minimally acceptable.

Sophisticated new multi-disciplinary systems have been designed specifically to address the modern challenges in systemic risk management, but have yet to be built out and deployed. Policy makers should insist on the new generation of technologies to better protect citizens and the economy; regulators should embrace and promote the technology for it’s impossible to meet their mission otherwise; and financial institutions should adopt the technology due to rare ROI and sharply reduced levels of risk.

Designing a prosperous cluster of synergy between tech, business


An article on our tech cluster project was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper Saturday, June 18th, written by Nico Roesler. This is a complex topic that is challenging to communicate for veterans, particularly in a simple format for the general public, so we appreciate this effort by Nico, Jane and the Santa Fe New Mexican. In the photo next to me is Pat Medvick, who is a long-term resident of the region, working as a computer scientist and software development leader at LANL for many years, then working at PNNL before returning to N NM where she was recently involved with a large data project based in the region, and teaching advanced programming at a local college.  Pat and I met a few months ago at a local software developer’s meet-up, along with many others, thanks to the efforts of Eric Renz-Whitmore at the NM Tech Council. – MM