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Hermanni Hyytiälä | Manufacturing Construction Boom | Factoids | Elsewhere
Quote of the Moment
If organisations want to get better at what they do, then their people have to be able to learn. Working within a rigid operating model that is designed on outdated management assumptions and related structures makes it almost impossible for employees to reflect and learn.
| Hermanni Hyytiälä (@hemppah)
This relates to How to Prepare for the Future of Work, down in the Elsewhere section.
Manufacturing Construction Boom
Biden’s economic policies are having an enormous impact on manufacturing construction, particularly in the sector called ‘computer / electronic / electrical’ which is where all the green manufacturing is: batteries, green energy, and electronics to support them.
Explosive growth is happening in the Mountain West, East North Central, and East South Central regions.
In a report from the Economic Innovation Group, we learn about the growth.
The Mountain division, which saw enormous increases in manufacturing construction in late 2021 and into 2022, saw a continued acceleration this spring. The collection of states which were typically home to between five and seven percent of manufacturing construction in the years leading up to the pandemic now consistently sees between one-fifth and one-quarter of such construction activity nationwide. With more than $3.2 billion worth of manufacturing construction projects underway in April (in nominal terms), the Mountain division landed just behind the West South Central region centered around Texas—the nation’s longtime leader in manufacturing construction.
The factory construction boom is also bringing new life to some historic manufacturing hubs. In fact, the East North Central Census division—approximately corresponding to the Upper Midwest—saw the largest relative increase in such construction among all regions over the last 12 months; nearly $3.2 billion worth of projects were underway in April, up from $875 million in April 2022. Rather than simply fleeing the twentieth century home of American manufacturing in search of lower labor costs, some firms are finding renewed value in existing “communities of engineering practice” as the sector shifts to advanced manufacturing.
However, the build-out sweeping some parts of the country has failed to materialize elsewhere, leaving a few regions at or below immediate pre-pandemic highs. In the two northeast divisions, New England and the Mid-Atlantic, manufacturing construction remains roughly half of what it was in January 2020 in real terms, while it is up a mere five percent in the Pacific region.
That link to ‘communities of engineering practice’ points to an interview with Brad DeLong by Cardiff Garcia on his new book, Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy, which reaches a lot farther than the battle between Hamilton and Jefferson at the founding of the country's economic foundation.
The only comparison to make to this enormous infusion of federal capital into a group of industries would be the cold war push into high tech, and specifically into computing, which led to the high of Silicon Valley, the Internet, and the world we line and work in. The impact on these regions will be immense since the manufacturing that will be done there will create hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs, and although they are based in areas with ‘communities of engineering practice’ they will likely entice workers from less booming regions — like the Mid-Atlantic and New England — to migrate.
In the last year, judges have ruled that Starbucks violated U.S. labor laws more than 130 times across six states, among the most of any private employer nationwide. | Greg Jaffe
Stowe: Well, someone has to be the worst, but 130 times? Obviously, the NLRB is a dog with rubber teeth: they can bite, but it doesn’t hurt Starbucks enough to make them change their policies.
Only 16% of top leaders were rated very effective at either strategy or execution. Only 8% were very effective at both, while 63% were rated neutral or worse on at least one dimension.
Stowe: It’s no surprise why so many companies fail.
13.2% US and 7.5% UK have had sex while on a virtual call.
Every ton of food waste that rots in a landfill emits greenhouse gases equivalent to 800 pounds of carbon dioxide, researchers have found.
Office building occupancy in the New York metro area passed 50% of pre-pandemic levels in the week ended June 7 for the first time since the onset of Covid-19.
Stowe: Maybe the start of a really small return to the office?
How To Prepare For The Future of Work? [from 2018]
My old friend Ross Dawson asks a critical question: how should we, as individuals or within our roles in business, try to prepare for the future of work? In general, I like what Ross has to offer, here, for individuals:
Take the time to plan your future.
We all need to be our own futurists. In a busy world, we must carve out proper time to consider how our skills and our dreams will fit with an economy that is swiftly changing. We must work today to prepare ourselves for the jobs and opportunities of the future, transitioning from our past career to our future careers.
Carefully choose your expertise.
Our livelihood tomorrow will be shaped by what we study today. To stand out, we should aim to excel at one or two specific areas of work, at which we can become an ‘expert’. It is important to follow your passion, but also to consider whether the skills you are developing will still be valuable in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time.
Fuel your appetite for learning.
We all need to keep learning throughout our lives to keep ahead in this fast-changing world. Rather than this feeling like a chore, we need to make learning something we want to do. Discover what you most want to learn about, and design it to be as fun and social as you can.
But there is a subtle toe-stub when he enlarges this to the enterprise:
Envisage your successful future organisation.
Today’s companies will fail if they simply try to eliminate some jobs and add others. Every single work role will change in the future, shifting to draw more on uniquely human capabilities. Becoming tomorrow’s successful organisation requires a clear vision of the skills and roles you will require, and planning how to transition your current team from where they are to where they need to be.
I don’t think it’s possible to have ‘a clear vision of the skills and roles you [some business] will require’, or to develop a plan ‘to transition your current team from where they are to where they need to be’. Yes, we can think about the future in broad strokes, but we can’t expect to be able to conceive a single, exact vision of what the future business (and its context) will be. Nor will we be able to come up with a plan today that will cover who knows what in the years to come,
On the contrary, we can be certain that any attempt to develop an ‘official future’ will fail. Instead, we should focus on the behaviors that will allow people to remain constant learners and the other skills that make people curious, creative, and connected, and then business leaders should work to make the business a context in which those human characteristics are more likely to be expressed, and then applied. That’s more of a meta plan, however, which accepts the need for agility, flexibility, and the unknowability of the future before us.
In Labor Board, Reversing Trump-Era Ruling, Widens Definition of Employee, Noam Scheiber reports on the National Labor Relations Board overturning a ruling from Trump’s 2019 Republican-packed Board, and restoring an Obama era ruling ‘that makes it more likely for workers to be considered employees rather than contractors under federal law’. Of course, lobbyists in the pay of the gig economy giants, like Uber and Lyft, immediately cry foul, despite the fact that they control too much of the work of these so-called ‘independent contractors’ for them to be ‘independent’ in any real sense, and so now, as employees, they will be able to form unions, and have access to benefits available to other employees.
Cultural change is really complex contagion | Stowe Boyd (from 2013), a long post, but one that lays out the science about why cultural change can be very difficult, and slow.
What is the social network analysis behind cultural transformation? What sorts of companies are most likely to be able to make cultural changes?
Damon Centola and his colleague Michael Macy wrote a foundational article about this issue, called Complex Contagions and the Weakness of Long Ties. Their work builds on the work of Mark Granovetter, who developed the distinction between the ‘strong ties’ between close friends or kin, and the ‘weak ties’ that exist between more casual acquaintances. Weak and strong are not only relational — referring to the strength of the tie, and the frequency of the individuals’ interactions — but also indicate a structural dimension. Weak ties connect strongly linked clusters — cliques of friends or tightly-knit families — and act as a mechanism for novel information to move from one cluster to another, and once that information reaches a cluster, it spreads to all the members. As a result, Grannoveter called this the ‘strength of weak ties’, and he credits them with being the most important means of information transfer. And information also includes disease, like passing around the newest flu bug, and other social phenomena, like happiness.
So the scenario for contagion is fairly intuitive: on Monday no one in Betty’s office has a head cold. Monday night, Betty attends a meeting of communications professionals, none of which are close friends, but she has a cocktail with a few casual acquaintances, and the new morning has a slight sniffle. She goes to the office Tuesday but leaves early with a head cold. By Friday, 70% of the office has it.
And it doesn’t require very many weak ties in a city for the head cold to reach everyone. It’s a small world, as Granovetter famously put it. But not all contagion is simple, like a head cold, and so the primacy of weak ties — in other situations — may diminish. Centola and Macy call this the ‘weakness of long ties’.
In simple contagion, only one exposure to the rhinovirus is necessary to get the disease. But other sorts of information transmittal — especially around information that is controversial, advocates risky behavior, or is counterintuitive — has a greater threshold for being passed along. As the authors say,
A contagion is complex if its transmission requires an individual to have contact with two or more sources of activation. Depending on how contagious the disease, infection may require multiple exposures to carriers, but it does not require exposure to multiple carriers. The distinction between multiple exposures and exposure to multiple sources is subtle and easily overlooked, but it turns out to be decisively important for understanding the weakness of long ties. It may take multiple exposures to pass on a contagion whose probability of transmission in a given contact is less than one.
By contrast, for complex contagions to spread, multiple sources of activation are required since contact with a single active neighbor is not enough to trigger adoption. There are abundant examples of behaviors for which individuals have thresholds greater than one. The credibility of a bizarre urban legend (Heath, Bell, and Sternberg 2001), the adoption of unproven new technologies (Coleman et al. 1966), the lure of educational attainment (Berg 1970), the willingness to participate in risky migrations (MacDonald and MacDonald 1974) or social movements (Marwell and Oliver 1993; Opp and Gern 1993; McAdam and Paulsen 1993), incentives to exit formal gatherings (Granovetter 1978; Schelling 1978), or the appeal of avant-garde fashion (Crane 1999; Grindereng 1967) all may depend on having contacts with multiple prior adopters.
Go read the whole thing if you want to understand the friction resisting change. And you can charm your friends and family by explaining how making changes at work is quite similar to the appeal of avant-garde fashion.