Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rachel Sterne (CAS' 05), Newly Appointed Chief Digital Officer for New York City

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You may recall the name, Rachel Sterne, who was featured on this blog in April 2009 when she was named one of America's most promising social entrepreneurs. We were pleased to learn that Rachel has been hired as New York City's first chief digital officer where she will be faced with improving the city's online communications. According to the New York Times, "Rachel will close her consulting practice and leave GroundReport, a Website for citizen journalism that she founded and owns, to take the job at City Hall." It will be interesting to see the ways Rachel will use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to improve communication between residents and the city's government.

To read more about Rachel's appointment please click here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Alumnus Kevin Kosar (GSAS '95, '03) Discusses His New Book: Whiskey: A Global History

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Kevin R. Kosar, Ph.D., is a researcher and writer in Washington, DC. We had a chance to speak with Kevin over the phone about his memories of NYU and his new book, Whiskey: A Global History.



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Kosar’s writings have appeared in scholarly and professional journals, such as Presidential Studies Quarterly, Public Administration Review, and Teachers College Record; and in popular media, including The Weekly Standard magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times, New York Press, and Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers, and online publications, such as History News Network.

For more information about Whiskey: A Global History or to purchase please click here.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Manufacturing Maven, Norman Bodek

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Recently, IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of fame recognized 10 individuals who embody the best of U.S. manufacturing. NYU Alumnus Norman Bodek was at the top of this list. In 1979, after 18 years working with Data Processing companies, Norman started Productivity Inc. - Press by publishing a newsletter called PRODUCTIVITY.


Can you tell us a little about your memories of NYU?

My first two years of college were at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and I had a fun time being on the Forum committee, the Film committee, working on the school newspaper, going to Europe over summer vacation, parties at the Frat house, going to all of the football games, etc. I did everything but study. To become educated, my parents encouraged me, insisted, that I transfer to NYU.

I am indebted to NYU for accepting me as a transfer student to your liberal arts college. I quickly learned how to study: no frats, no parties and even no football games. I took education seriously and became a very good student and even was accepted into the Graduate School of Business.

While going to Grad School four nights a week, 12 credits a semester and six credits during the summer session, I also had a full time job as an accountant. The hardest thing for me was finding a parking space on the street both at the school and also in front of my apartment in Washington Heights. I had some excellent teachers.

One thing I regret was listening to a fellow student urge me not to take a Statistics course. He said it was too hard. But, ironically Dr. Edward Deming taught the Statistics course. I didn’t meet him until 30 years later. It just shows you to listen to your own heart not to other people’s misperceptions. It was one of the few things I regret about my past.

Can you briefly tell us about your company, Productivity Inc.?

I sold Productivity Inc. ten years ago with the thought that I would retire. But, retirement was not for me. I started PCS Inc. a publishing and consulting company. I have written six books, and published a few great books from other geniuses. I keynote many conferences and I like to stand up in front of large audiences and have fun together. I like to talk about Japanese management, innovation, and how you can be successful in life.

I also now teach the Best of Japanese Management at both Portland State University and Utah State University.I would love to come to NYU and give a lecture to all of the students.

How did you become interested in the competitiveness of Japanese companies in the world?

It was June 1979, when I was on an airplane sitting next to Walter, my boss, flying back from Indianapolis to New York, after just signing up a very large data conversion contract from Indiana Bell Telephone Company. I felt pretty good, having successfully negotiated the contract, until I turned to Walter and he said, “Norman, you did a great job but I don’t need you anymore and you are fired!”

To put it mildly, I was shocked. What a reward for doing such a good job! I didn’t even know what to say. On the one hand, I was displeased, but on the other hand it was a relief for I was not at all happy working for Walter. He was always highly competitive and not a nice man to work for. I remember one day, he had an operation’s manager that he didn’t like and wanted him to leave. Instead of asking him to go, he just removed his desk from his office. When the manager came to work the next day and saw his desk gone he was furious and stormed into Walter’s office and quit. It made Walter happy.

At the time, I was president of Walter’s company but did not own any of the stock, but fortunately I had a three year contract and he ended up having to pay me more not to work for him then if I had stayed.

Just a few months later, I read the New York Times on Monday, August 13, 1979 and saw that productivity in the United States had declined for the first time in 33 quarters. In researching the word productivity, I decided to publish a newsletter on the subject and started a new company called Productivity, Inc. The company grew to over 100 employees, took me to Japan 67 times, (77 at this date) published 250 books and discovered many of the Japanese manufacturing secrets, JIT/Lean, TQC/TQM, 5S, Kaizen Blitz, Quick and Easy Kaizen, etc. and helped American companies and others to be much more successful.

Just imagine if I didn’t get fired. I might still be working for that “stinker.”


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You’ve visited Japan 77 times in the past 31 years. Can you share with us one of the more amazing stories about either someone you met there or an experience?

In November 1981, on my second study mission to Japan, leading a group of senior American executives, at Nippon Denso, the plant manager Mr. Ohta gave us a lecture on quick change over and mix-modeling. My guide wanted us to leave to catch a bullet train back from Nagoya to Tokyo but Mr. Ohta would not let us leave. He said, “You can’t go until you understand mix-modeling.” So we stayed around another hour, and when we left he gave us all a piece of paper with the words, “The Study of the Toyota Production System from an Engineering View Point,” by Shigeo Shingo. When I arrived in Japan I called the Japan Management Association and asked about Dr. Shingo. I found out the flyer was about a new book written by Dr. Shingo. I ordered two copies of the book to be sent to my hotel and read the book on the airplane. I was so excited that I bought 500 copies of the book to sell through my newsletter. The book was America’s first introduction to the Toyota Production System – Just-In-Time or what we call Lean Management. Dr. Shingo’s book, both, sold over 50,000 copies and launched me into starting a book publishing company – Productivity Press.

For more information on Norman Bodek please visit his website.