Sunday Jul 06, 2008

Energy Efficiency and Economic Opportunity

Japan sees a chance to promote its energy-frugal ways: "According to the International Energy Agency, based in Paris, Japan consumed half as much energy per dollar worth of economic activity as the European Union or the United States, and one-eighth as much as China and India in 2005. While the country is known for green products like hybrid cars, most of its efficiency gains have been in less eye-catching areas, for example, in manufacturing ... Japan's strides in efficiency are clearest in heavy industries like steel, which are the nation's biggest consumers of power." -- International Herald Tribune

Seems that high oil prices are offering the Japanese new markets around the world for their technologies. China seems particularly interested. For obvious reasons.

Sunday May 11, 2008


Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?: "Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain. If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don’t set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness." -- New York Times on M. J. Ryan, author of the 2006 book “This Year I Will...”

Take one step at a time. And small steps are best. The tiny, continuous improvements add up, though, and this is actually a very efficient way to just get things done and better in the process. Kaizen.

Friday Apr 04, 2008

Weekly Reports

It's late Friday afternoon here in Japan. That's weekly report time for me. I never miss it. Not that I like it, per say, but it's critical to document what you do. That function usually takes me a couple of hours on a Friday night or a Saturday morning, but today it's just a bit of editing since I now do my weekly report a little bit each day. What a relief. It's amazing how much easier this is. It's also amazing how much work you do every day that you forget when Friday rolls around. Much better this way.

Friday Mar 21, 2008

Email from Vacation

I started the week on Tuesday with over 2,000 messages in my inbox from vacation. I'm ending the week with 35. Damn. I wanted to get to zero. I'm out of time, though. Must go swimming.

Monday Feb 11, 2008

Too Early

The delivery guy came to pick up some stuff early this morning. Too early. This is typical. But this time he was so early we weren't ready, and we had to send him away and have him return later. So, he said he'd do some other things and return at 12 noon. To me 12 noon means12 noon give or take five minutes before or after. Or just 12:00 pm is fine, too. But this is Japan, and time is different here. So, what time did he return? 11:30 am. Early again. Typical. I expected this, of course, so we were ready this time. But I have to wonder. This desire to be hyper efficient to provide extreme service by being too early actually leads to inefficiency. And it's potentially dangerous, too. My delivery dude, after all, had to make two trips, right? That's not efficient. I certainly appreciate the intent, though. Anyway, after we set the delivery guy free, we started walking out to the store -- where we were promptly almost run over by a pizza delivery guy flying by on his jet-fast, three-wheel motor scooter. Rushing to be early, I'm sure. These guys nearly clip me at least once a week. I wonder what a death here and there does to their on-time- delivery rating?

Saturday Jan 12, 2008

Why Early?

I've lived in Japan for about 18 months. Why is it that the service guys -- you know, the people who come to your house to fix something or install something or deliver something or whatever -- are always early? It drives me nuts. I can see being on time or even a few minutes late, even, but why early? And why early every time? How is this possible? Is it genetic, or something? If you say you'll be there at 9 am, and we all agree, why must I then have to do a mental calculation that goes something like this: ok, this dude is Japanese, so 9 am doesn't actually mean 9 am, it actually means any time between 8:45 and 9 am but most certainly before 9 am. That's when the phone rings. He's "just around the corner" or even "already waiting outside" my front door. Every. Single. Time. Absolutely insane. This was never a problem in California, by the way. Or Boston. Or New York. Why here?

Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

American Productivity

Report: U.S. Workers Are Most Productive: "Only part of the U.S. productivity growth, which has outpaced that of many other developed economies, can be explained by the longer hours Americans are putting in, the ILO said. The U.S., according to the report, also beats all 27 nations in the European Union, Japan and Switzerland in the amount of wealth created per hour of work -- a second key measure of productivity." -- AP

Cool. I'm not at all surprised by this. Here's the original study from the International Labour Office. I'll have to read it in detail. I'm sure there are many interesting bits in there.


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