Sunday, February 14, 2010

Toyota and the Normalization of Human Relations

What has fr#$@%^&*kin happened to Toyota? Did it not used to be the pride of technologists' example company of developing methodologies for and doing things the right way, knowing the right goals, having the right people, defining the right problem, achieving the right quality, using the right tools, having the right approach and so on?

Steve Wozniak and many others have been complaining of their Prius having unwanted cruise acceleration problems -

Toyota spokespersons keep stonewalling customers by claiming, it's not our fault, or that we have done our homework and have solved the problem and there's no possibility of any other cause because you know what, we are the best auto company in the whole gdamnedded world and you nitwits have no expertise or qualifications or any insight to the actual issues involved.

A Toyota of the 1980s would have invited Steve to bring his Prius in for free checkup and coffee klatch and then problem identified and Steve would have gone home happily telling the world that Toyota is the world's best and most customer attentive company in the world.

But not the Toyota of today. Nor the Sony.

The fault lies with information technology. More precisely, due to information technologists and our success at doing our jobs. The ideology at fault is called data and information normalization.

Normalization is buying a portfolio of stocks where many might individually be bad buys but when statistically normalized the portfolio on the whole would present annual growth of 12-15%.

Normalization is advertisement placement on a portfolio of selected media and target audience that many in their individual channels would present publicity risks but as a portfolio would grow the popularity of a product 18-35% every quarter.

Normalization is when a newbie to a technology forum asks an innocent question but the answer is already found behind thousands of confusing lines of the manual and the gurus and high ranking clergy of the forum votes the question down, flames the question and tells the newbie go read the faqqing faq.

Normalization is the uniform treatment and the reduction of diversity so that you could throw a stone and kill a thousand birds. Normalization is the streamlining of relations within entities so that one and only one channel exists between entities. Normalization is the efficient use of human attention to details and the minimalist reductionism of details by abstraction of details into empiricals.

Normalization is the search engine giving answers that are acceptable to 96.5% of the audience. The other 3.5% are non-profitable outliers.

In quantum electronics is the phenomenon called tunnelling - the exploitation of the capability of events of near zero probabilities to perform major functions by growing the volume of those events.

But Toyota, and to some extent Honda, seems to have forgotten that it was their relentless exploitation on the tunnelling phenomenon of outliers and then growing the size of outliers, which when having caught American and European automakers by surprise, it was too late for them Americans and Europeans to react.

The triumph of Japanese technologists over American and European was their return to basics to having the proper perspective of information normalization. And the Japanese happily and proudly shared and preached their perspective. Today, sadly, they seem to have lost that perspective. Their semiconductor business have lost ground to the Koreans, Taiwanese and Americans.

Normalization is complacency. OK, actually normalization is good but obsessive normalization is evil complacency. Even we, information technologists know that. The holy grail of Boyce Codd Normal Form is at best an idealism - for performance' sake we normally settle for 2.5 normalization.

I wish Kia, Ford and the new General Motors well in exploiting the weakness of the Japanese technologists of late and run the race as good underdogs because normally the good underdogs are the ones who provide the best service to win the race.

Just remember, consumers perform well as normalizable statistics in the short-term, with their individuality unresolved, but in the long run, they are humans who can collectively extinctify your products or even your company.

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