JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 193 : 11 October 2005
Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
Click on any item to jump directly to that item
Chuck Knight's new book: "Performance without Compromise"
In the past couple of weeks a significant new book was published -
"Performance without compromise - How Emerson Consistently Achieves
Winning Results" by Chuck Knight.
The former Emerson Chairman and CEO offers detailed insights into
the management process that achieved legendary performance over
several decades. Chuck Knight became Emerson's CEO in 1973, when
he was just 37 years old. With consistent, tough-minded management,
he led Emerson from under $1 billion to $15 billion, through 27
years of increased earnings per share and dividends, the longest
record for consistent growth performance in American business.
Now, here's his book (co-authored by Davis Dyer), with back cover
kudos from the likes of Louis Gerstner, Clayton Christensen
and August Busch III.
The book covers several specific topics:
There are several practical check lists - you know how I like
lists; they help to summarize the content.
- Key businesses: Good review of major Emerson business segments.
- Acquisitions: How Emerson completed and integrated more than 200
acquisitions with investment of over $10 billion and an exceptional
degree of success.
- Global expansion: Transforming the company from a domestic US
manufacturer into a leading global technology and solutions
- Restructuring: Responding to emerging trends, and cultivating
new strategic growth opportunities.
The book closes with an important discussion of leadership
succession and an Epilogue by current CEO David Farr - a nice
touch to show how Emerson's good performance continues beyond
the Chuck Knight era.
Appendix B1 is valuable - the template for Emerson's famed
"President's Report", used monthly to assess the reasonableness
of each Division's quarterly and annual expectations.
Buy Chuck Knight's book on Amazon.com
Review of the Emerson culture - The Emerson Difference
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$2 million DARPA Robot race - 5 cross finish line
It sounds like science fiction: An army of robotic vehicles driving
themselves across the Mojave Desert, guided across the rugged
landscape by sophisticated artificial intelligence technology.
This is the "Grand Challenge" launched by the US Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for an unmanned vehicle to drive
itself from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, a distance of 132 miles in
about 10 hours. This is not for a remote-controlled vehicle driven
by someone wielding a wireless laptop, but a completely autonomous
car that will drive and navigate itself on an unspecified route,
including both on-road and off-road driving.
You may recall the March 2004 DARPA robot race which ended
as a bust - no one won the coveted $1 million prize. In fact,
not one participant went much beyond a just a few miles, and many
fizzled out just a short distance from the starting line.
The race was held again this past week, October 8-9, 2005 and DARPA
doubled the prize. This year they designed a much more difficult
course, predicting that several contestants would complete the race
given the level of technology demonstrated in qualifying events.
And indeed, there was a dramatic technology leap; five entries
crossed the finish line and the fastest was judged the winner.
The race started with 23 robotic vehicles on winding dirt trails
and dry lake beds with overhanging brush. The route included three
tunnels which knocked out GPS signals. Only the five robots that
completed the course managed to maneuver a steep 1.3-mile mountain
pass, only 10 feet wide with a 200-feet drop-off.
18 robots failed to complete the course. Even so, most covered more
distance than any other vehicles did last year. Five crossed the
finish line and "Stanley", a customized Volkswagen robot built by
Stanford University, won the race.
The DARPA objective to develop robotics technology that will replace
people with machines in dangerous combat situations. Unmanned vehicles
currently operate in Iraq and Afghanistan, but must be remotely
controlled by soldiers who ride in the same convoy.
The DARPA people say that, based on the technology shown in this
year's race, autonomous robotic convoys could be deployed in
battlefield conditions earlier than planned - within 5 years.
DARPA spent about $25 million on the Grand Challenge. Combined, the
participants invested much more to develop their robotic vehicles.
But clearly, money is not the motivation. This competition has
sparked a level of excitement similar to the early Apollo space
programs. And, of course, the winner has serious bragging rights.
Five vehicles finish in $2 million robot race
Grand Challenge 2004 - No winners in the DARPA robot race
Robot roll call: 'Stanley' first in DARPA desert race
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The Standards dichotomy
Standards are intrinsically difficult to implement and adopt.
Everyone agrees that you need them; but then, everyone has
This dichotomy is succinctly expressed by a couple of verses
from one of my fieldbus poems:
The basic cause of all the fuss
Conflicting standards have bad effects for everyone. Customers get
confused and postpone purchases to see how the market settles. And
suppliers limit development investments in products that may end up
on the losing side of the conflict. So growth is inhibited and the
market becomes fragmented.
The Users want an Open bus
They push and threaten, beg and plead
"Interoperable" is what they need
The widgets made by Vendor A
With Vendor B must plug and play
The Vendors swear they all agree
But just can't bear to make it free
An open door will throw away
Their value-core and make it gray
Proprietary will be gone
To hordes of hungry hangers-on
The dichotomy is best solved by utilizing a standards coordinator,
a neutral third-party organization which can mediate effectively
and is fair to all. For industrial automation, the best choice
is ISA. In my opinion, development and publication of Standards
and Practices is one of ISA's most important and beneficial services
to its members, and to the automation business.
Automation World - ISA Tackles the Standards Dichotomy
Ellen Fussell, ISA - Method Behind the Madness
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The future needs Futurists
During the past years, my avocation (what I enjoy most) is being
a futurist. In October 2005, Wired magazine published an article
which provides a good view of what futurists "do" - summarized here.
Being a futurist sure sounds like a fun job. Observe the world
at large, make scholarly predictions and inspire awe with visionary
talents. But is there a future for futurists? Many people don't
quite understand what they really do, their methods and practices.
I'm a member of the Association of Professional Futurists (APF)
and, as a group, we are trying to rationalize and organize the
profession, to help people to better understand what futurists do.
Futurists don't predict - they observe, synthesize and track trends.
There are no "certified" professional futurists - this is still at
the discussion stage, and APF is working to develop it. Most futurists
welcome "professionalization" because it could make people take
their methodology more seriously.
When you consult a futurist, what can you expect? Anyone can declare
themselves a futurists, though the job title can be vague. Futurists
have a much wider scope than Marketers, who typically track narrow
technologies and market impacts.
In many ways, the techniques employed by futurists don't fit into
traditional academic disciplines. Futurists, aren't as dependent
on numerical data as other forecasting professionals, like insurance
industry actuaries or stock market analysts. Futurist conclusions
tend to be more qualitative than numerical. While computers make
numerical forecasts easily, it takes people to interpret what
the numbers mean.
For those wanting to train as futurists, academic options are
limited. Today, much discussion about the future is concentrated
among futurists themselves who are active in launching organizations.
Besides the APF, other futurist-oriented groups include the World
Future Society (I'm a professional member), the World Futures
Studies Federation and the World Future Council.
Wired - The Future needs Futurists
Association of Professional Futurists
The World Future Society
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"Pinto's Points" - review & feedback please
I'm happy to let you know that my new book, "Pinto's Points" is
selling very well, heading (I hope) to becoming an ISA best-seller.
Thank you to all who have acquired a copy and are now reading it.
When you've had a chance to read at least some of it, I'll appreciate
your comments and feedback. Or, please do a review on Amazon.com
(link below), or Barnes & Noble, when you're ready.
Your comments and feedback (and Amazon.com reviews) are appreciated.
Buy an autographed copy of "Pinto's Points"
"Pinto's Points" - Read the complete Table of Contents
Buy "Pinto's Points" from Amazon.com
Buy "Pinto's Points" directly from ISA Online
Buy a "Pinto book bundle" (Points & Unplugged) from Automation.com
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Lawrence Gould [lsg@LSGould.com] felt that my recent 9/11 editorial
concluded with misdirected burst of energy - the unofficial national
anthem, "God bless America!"
"God? Faith, prayer, religion, as well as flag waving and other
trite, nationalistic slogans and phrases -- has nothing to do with
the health and well-being of America. People do.
"Honestly, I cringe these days when I see the American flag
displayed everywhere, on everything, all the time: decals and
magnetic ribbons on cars, flags waving (usually tattered) from car
antennas, coffee cups and food wrappers, carefully threaded onto
the wire fences on the overpasses over the highway (and too often
tattered, wet, dirtied), tacked or painted on the side of buildings,
on T-shirts, hats, lapel pins, etc., etc.
"It's about time the American people blessed America with:
- Empathy, concern, and charity all the time, everywhere
- not just for relatively localized emergencies where
the Feds have dropped the ball;
- Intellectual and intelligent investigation, analysis,
and decision making, a.k.a., critical thinking;
- Long-term planning;
- The realization that individuals - for instance, Americans
who generate over 60% of this country's gross national product
- might be more important than the holy dollar and faceless
- Deliberate steps toward reducing waste, increasing efficiency,
and being both collaborative as well as cooperative; and
- Active commitment to the health and education of all Americans,
as well as an active commitment to this country's infrastructure
(which includes health and education, as well as roads and bridges
and public transportation and, yes, even levees, to name a few
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Rene.Wijnen@qenos.com [Rene.Wijnen@qenos.com] from Australia gave
us this feedback on Bud Keyes' comments about high oil prices
stimulating the economy:
"I largely agree with Bud's sentiments and his desires and
expectations for high oil prices to provide long term drive for
increasing use of alternative fuel sources and increasing efficiency
in our rather wasteful western-world way of living.
"However I can't help but think that Bud's thoughts and predictions
are tainted with too much optimism. If we think back to the '70s
and '80s and the type of predictions forecast then about the type
of world we'd be living in today (beyond 2000), in retrospect many
were well off the mark, or at least too optimistic about the pace
"Remember we were supposed to run out of oil reserves by now.
But we somehow have discovered more new reserves. Also, we also
shouldn't underplay the political and financial power of the oil
companies. Whilst OPEC may well have direct control and influence
over world oil prices, global oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell,
Texaco, BP etc.) wield great power in many spheres - political
and financial - in many key markets of the world. And they are not
backward about using that power to ensure that the reign of the oil
era is sustained as long as possible - that's their business.
"Whilst the world we live in today is changing at a more rapid pace,
I don't foresee the marked changes mentioned as being major
influences in the short/medium term future. I hope I'm wrong though!
"Another aspect of the high oil prices that wasn't touched on in
the article, is the domino effect that high oil prices are having
on prices of other goods. I can only speak from an Australian
perspective, and this has been a hot topic in the Australian press
since oil prices climbed so sharply over the last few months. The
prices of many day to day goods such as groceries in the supermarket
are visibly increasing due to the impact of higher oil prices on
transportation fuel costs. The reliance on trucks to provide
goods distribution in our society has been strongly underlined.
"When added to the increasing cost to run our own cars, many people
in western countries are starting to feel the pinch. I know and have
heard of people locally who don't have a choice but to drive to work
(sparse population in a big country). But their weekend drives are
reduced, and their shopping habits impacted. The people who do feel
the pinch are those that are not exactly leading overly excessive
lives already (from a western country perspective).
"And let's not start a comparison with 3rd world countries where
obviously much more basic problems and needs exist. Those people
are probably not a segment of society well represented in your
column's readership, so maybe we're all slightly blinkered on some
of the real and immediate impact of high oil prices."
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Automation engineer Kim Ground [firstname.lastname@example.org] commented on
one of my recent articles about ISA membership decline:
"I take exception with your statement, 'No one gets rich by tuning
a control loop or designing a more efficient fieldbus. Instead,
young people dream of becoming movie-stars or football heroes.'
"You seem to be saying that there is no future for automation and
instrument engineers in this country, or that a person should not
expect to earn a good upper middle class income for doing this kind
of work in this country in the future. In my opinion, that is far
from the truth. Even if manufacturing continues to decline in this
country, there will still be a large job market for instrument and
automation engineers and technicians to support the massive
infrastructure which can never be 'outsourced'. Power plants, oil
and gas production, municipal water and sewage treatment plants
are not going anywhere and they all will continue to need skilled
engineers to keep them going.
"Let these lazy would-be yuppies choose nonproductive careers.
Young students who would rather have the satisfaction of actually
building something that works and creates value by converting raw
materials into valuable or desirable products will continue
to have good employment prospects.
"Maybe 'nobody gets rich tuning loops', but that depends on your
definition of 'rich'. I feel that I am rich, and richly rewarded
for the work I do. It provides me with a great deal of satisfaction,
and I get plenty of money to serve my needs and to spread around
to those less fortunate. I don't drive a new Hummer, but I could
if that is where my priorities lie. I've owned my own airplane,
bought and paid for real estate, and put kids through college on
my income from automation work, all without feeling at any point
that I was not getting enough money, or not getting what I deserved.
"In short, I think your pronouncement of the death of automation
as a career field is, as they say, 'grossly exaggerated'."
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