George E. P. Box died in March 2013. He was a remarkably creative scientist and his celebrated professional career in statistics was always at the interface of science and statistics. George Box, J. Stuart Hunter and Cuthbert Daniel were instrumental in launching Technometrics in 1959, with Stu Hunter as the initial editor. Many of his articles were published in the journal. Therefore we think it is especially fitting that Technometrics should host this on-line collection with some of his most memorable and influential articles.
They also include articles from Journal of the American Statistical Association and Quality Engineering. Taylor & Francis is offering these articles freely in honor of George Box until December 31st, 2014. It is very sad that closed science and engineering journals block access to the great work created by scientists and engineers and most often paid for by government (while working for state government universities and with grants organizations like the National Science Foundation[NSF]). At least they are making a minor exception to provide the public (that should be unlimited access to these works) a limited access to these articles this year. These scientists and engineers dedicated their careers to using knowledge to improve society not to hide knowledge from society.
Some of the excellent articles make available for a short time:
An understanding of system thinking allows people to see the relationships of connected elements in a system. As you gain the insight provided by such knowledge, the ignorance of connections seems odd. It is hard to have an appreciation for systems thinking and not appreciate the fundamental interconnection between people, corporations and society.
Respect for people is another management principle that extends to social responsibility. Some companies may see respect for people as only respect for workers but a wiser approach is to view it as respect for all people (as Deming, Toyota, Patagonia and many others do).
Society makes the rules for how we live together. Corporations are allowed because society decided there was a benefit to society to allow them. One can argue the benefit to society is entirely independent of social responsibility. The argument that by ignoring the reason they are allowed to exist will result in that aim being met effectively isn’t what any quality management flavor I know of would suggest.
In the time of the robber barons in the 19th century those leading corporations tried to make the claim that the business world was amoral (morality didn’t apply in that realm). As a society we rejected that assertion. Society has decided morality and ethics do apply to business leaders. Even if so many business leaders themselves show a shocking failure to act ethically in practice (see the endless line of banking executive failures, etc.). The attitude of so many current CEO’s (that you deserve whatever you can take and if you are not caught and stopped it was fine) is passed onto those they work closely with. It is no wonder those people, that are suppose to be leading the organization, instead are just bleeding the organization for whatever they can get away with. That result is very likely when you fail to encourage systems thinking and respect for people (inside and outside the company).
There are many reasons for a corporation to be moral and practice social responsibility but the most important is that is it the ethical thing to do. In addition to that it will be effective. When you create a culture that treats the system as it doesn’t matter that is damaging. We currently do a bad job of systems thinking in general. Building an appreciation for systems thinking will provide great benefits. Ignoring the system impacts so you can justify unethical behavior is damaging.
Lately there have been a large number of stories on people being killed in raids by police on the wrong house: police in full swat gear storming the wrong house by accident and then killing occupants. The media in general sees these as “special causes” – isolated incidents. So while tragic the strategy is then to examine what mistake in this unique situation lead to tragedy. I believe that the readers of Reddit sense this is a systemic problem and therefore see the proper examination to undertake is to look at the whole system. That is, to use the common cause improvement strategy – when the tragedy is seen not as an isolated incident but the result of a system.
It seems to me the Reddit readers are right – I think the users natural tendencies (a willingness to question authority and a trained sense of what is a special cause and what is a common cause, even if they don’t use those terms) result in the stories gaining traction within Reddit. To limit future tragedy the system as a whole needs to be examined. Do not seek to find the special cause that led to the problem in one instance. Look to the system and see why this trend has increased. I don’t actually have good data – I am making a guess that this trend has increased in the last 20 years (getting some decent data on what is really going on is obviously one of the first things to do in looking at this issue). Continue reading →
This kind of stuff makes me mad. I was taught about robber barons in school (or actually I think by my uncle but…). And what I was taught was that business used to be seen as an amoral area. But then society agreed (or rather it no longer was an accepted excuse to claim business was an amoral area) that morality applied to whatever you did, whether you were at work, or not.
But we keep getting these continuing examples that are so distressing: Enron, Worldom, Tyco, Accenture, HP [the broken link was removed]… It is so disappointing that such behavior is mainly excused (until finally the evidence presented is so damning that most stop defending the specific case in question). Continue reading →