GM Bankruptcy: The Anti-Lean Encounters The Third Standard Deviation Event

It's too easy to conclude that GM couldn't make it because it piled up suffocating pension and health care liabilities.  It wasn't because they didn't know how to design and build great cars; witness the Corvette.  GM sold five million cars domestically in 2001 and despite the economic boom, sold under three million cars in 2008.  Why the forty percent drop?

GM transformed itself from a visionary designer of exciting cars in the 1950's into an anti-lean, complexity-ridden whale.  It became a Hummer and it gave itself, its employees, and its shareholders a great big one.  GM failed in 2009 because it couldn't withstand the third standard deviation economic collapse that was in-part (but only in-part) brought about by its oil-loving, environment-hating cars that enriched its executives and screwed its employees.  It's a shame because it didn't have to be that way.  GM could have remained true to its slimmer and younger self.  So why didn't it?

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In a word, complexity.  I have had many experiences with GM, but not one as a vendor.  I know them through their products and their information systems which I have dealt with for twenty years.  A question about a car loan, a special request on a new purchase, and a painstaking read of their privacy statements have given me insight into the complexity of GM's data model.  It must be unmanageable, not unlike the federal government's, except that the feds can always print more money to hide inefficiencies.

Organizations with lean, well-thought out data models have a greater shot at achieving clarity, rapid response times, and profits.  Imagine the complexity of GM's ERP systems.  ERP leanness is a good proxy for business effectiveness because as battle-hardened ERP veterans know, the more complex the business, the harder it is to implement ERP.   Businesses with bad ERP systems are often exposed as bad businesses, especially when the receding economic waters exposes the jagged rocks of hard times.  I'm not sure which comes first, the lean data model or the lean organization, but I am sure that the two go hand in hand.  

Videoconferencing Becoming A Reality

Videoconferencing is a great green strategy.  Why waste a day traveling to another city when you can reach out and almost touch someone?  In 2009 we are finally getting the picture that was first promised to us forty years ago.  Increased bandwidth and simplification of the technologies has finally made them usable.  I can't wait to load up on my frequent Unflier miles!

Chevron Creates 4 TB Per Day

More Brown Data!  In a recent Computerworld interview with Chevron's CIO, he estimates that the oil company's refinery control systems create four terabytes per data each day.  He also stated that the information managed in their seismic information system would require a stack of CD's 652 miles high to store.

Remember, every byte of storage has to be stored and backed up in multiple sites.  These bytes reside on servers that consume power, therefore requiring carbon-footprint widening energy production.  Maybe Chevron's actually using all that data but it's hard to see how there can be a clear signal buried within so much potential noise.

Brown Data is anything but green!