Six Sigma Green Belt—Define Phase: Process Maturity Model


In the Define Phase of Six Sixma, defining the process that you are to improve is an essential first step in process management.  The Process Maturity model or Capability Maturity Model describes the five levels or stages in the evolution of process management, which are outlined below.

Level Process Characteristics Quality Level

1

Initial Processes not standardized, not documented, reactive to events. Processes chaotic, unstable. Ad hoc methods (workarounds), bottlenecks, quality is low, high cost of nonconformance (rework, defects, customer complaints, warranty).

2

Repeatable Processes are repeatable, with mostly consistent results, but still not documented. Focus on work unit, not individuals. On-time delivery, but mistakes sometimes made. Quality is good, but still sporadic. Reduced rework, but defects still occur that lead to customer complaints.

3

Defined Processes standardized, decomposed into work instructions, documented, and training offered for workers. Focus on entire business, not just work unit. Productivity growth seen. System in place to handle customer complaints effectively. Improvements in quality. Standardizing brings economics of scale into play.

4

Managed Metrics are used to monitor processes. Processes are now modularized, and capable of being adapted for new projects. Focus on connections with suppliers and customers. Variation reduced, lessons learned causes more efficient management. Quality high. Customer satisfaction high.

5

Optimizing Proactive improvement of processes, alignment with strategic goals of organization. Focus on connection between current operations and future strategic goals. Cost of nonconformance greatly reduced, benefits of superior quality exceed costs. Superior customer satisfaction creates repeat business.

There are different versions of this, but this gives the general idea of how processes are created, defined, managed, and then continuously improved upon or optimized. Even though Six Sigma’s full DMAIC methodology can probably only be used to its full extent after processes have been stabilized or standardized, some of its concepts such as process mapping can be used at the first two stages of process maturity listed above.

Six Sigma Green Belt–Define Phase: Stakeholders on a Six Sigma Project


1. Stakeholder definition

 The concept of stakeholders is any person or organization that is either actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the execution or completion of the project.

2. Categories of stakeholders

Here are the categories of stakeholders as they relate to a Six Sigma project in an organization.

Fig. 1. Categories of Stakeholders on a Six Sigma Project

 

1.  The innermost circle is that of the people actually working on the project, namely the project lead, the Six Sigma Black Belt, and the project team members, the Six Sigma Green Belts.

2.   The second circle is that of the Master Black Belt or Sponsor, the person or group that provides the financial resources for the project and the one who champions the project within the organization when it is first conceived. The Sponsor acts as a spokesperson to higher levels of management within the organization, which is why I placed the Master Black Belt in the second circle. You might also consider the Master Black Belt the equivalent to a program manager that managers several Six Sigma projects, each of which is headed by its own Black Belt.

3.  The third circle contains of the functional managers from whom the resources (money, manpower) will be needed to carry out the Six Sigma project. This can be a potentially negative stakeholder in those organizations where the Six Sigma approach of Process Management strives to break down the barriers between functional areas of the department in order to get the project done. If you a functional manager who built that barrier in the first place, then your vested interest will be to impede the project.

4.  The next circle is still within the organization, but rather than the three inner circles that deal with the Six Sigma Project or provide resources for it, this is the circle of management that sets the strategic goals for an organization. The Six Sigma Project must align with the strategic goals of the organization (i.e., contribute to the bottom line) in order for it the project to be accepted by the Sponsor. Reporting of the results of the project to the strategic managers is important because it justifies the existence of the Six Sigma program within the organization, and will make the sponsoring of further improvements easier once a “track record” of success has been established.

5.  Now we get to the circle which is outside of the organization, but one in which there is a business relationship between the organization and that stakeholder, such as sellers/business partners (vendors and suppliers, for example) in the case of a B2B relationship, and customers/users in the case of a B2C relationship. In the case of customers, they are the ones through the Voice of the Customer that supply the requirements that get translated into the technical design requirements of the product. They are the ultimate arbiter of what sells and makes a profit for your organization. If your product is being produced at a Six Sigma level, and no one is buying it because the market has shifted, then it’s not contributing to the company’s bottom line no matter how good the quality of the product is.   And on the supplier side, the quality of the raw materials or components is something that you are responsible for since they are going in your product, but over which you have no direct control, only the degree of control you get through your contractual relationship with that supplier.   So this is another potentially powerful influence on the success or failure or your Six Sigma Project.

6.  The last circle consists of elements of society that may not have any formal relationship to the organization, but which may contain groups that are affected by the project or that can influence the project because they effect not only the organization, but the industry of which it is a part.  I have put an example of “Regulatory Agencies” as just one type of entity that could be considered a stakeholder. A non-governmental organization such as an environmental awareness group that is an NGO would also be an example of a stakeholder at this level as well. However, industry associations such as ASQ could also be considered a stakeholder that can influence the way a Six Sigma project is done.

These concentric circles, I believe, show a little more of the different kinds of stakeholders and why some of them have more influence than others.

CONCLUSION

These categories of stakeholders show that Six Sigma projects must be done with an awareness of the relationships of the project to the organization as a whole, and the relationship of that organization to its suppliers and customers, and the influence that regulatory agencies, industrial associations, consumer groups, etc., may have on the industry in which the organization is a part.

Also, you must never underestimate or overlook the influence of negative stakeholders, because they can negatively influence your project and its success. These negative stakeholders can come at any category listed above, but I have made suggestions in the paragraphs some of the reasons why these stakeholders might be found at any particular level.

The above analysis applies to Project Managers in general, and not just those doing Six Sigma projects.

Six Sigma Green Belt—Define Phase: SIPOC model


 

This is part of a series of posts discussing the Define phase of Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control or DMAIC in Six Sigma.

In the last post, we discussed the general description of Process Management as opposed to traditional management. SIPOC stands for Suppliers-Inputs-Process-Outputs-Customers and is a tool of Process Management.

1. What are the elements of SIPOC?

Element

Explanation

1. Suppliers Providers of inputs
2. Inputs Raw materials, components or data required for process
3. Process Activities that transform inputs into outputs
4. Outputs The products or services the company is producing
5. Customers The persons who receive the products or services

Here’s a graphic which I found on Meryle Corbett’s blog mentorsonline.wordpress.com. It shows the connection between these elements.

2. Uses of SIPOC

SIPOC can be used as a tool in the following ways:

  1. It can be used to map a new process. In this case, you usually start with listing the Customers, and working backwards through the Outputs, Process, Inputs, and the Suppliers. For that reason, in the context of a new process, the tool is sometimes referred to as COPIS.
  1. It can be used to document an existing process. In this case, you usually start with listing the steps of the process, and working outwards back to the Suppliers on one end and to the Customers on the other.
  2. It can be used as an educational tool to give a high-level overview to those unfamiliar with the process.

It can be used in other creative ways, too. Meryle Corbett shows in her blog post http://mentorsonline.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/sipoc-an-amazing-way-to-reduce-waste-and-streamline-workload/ how people can use this tool to analyze their own jobs within the workplace. In this way, they can gain insight on how to reduce waste and streamline their workload. In this case the suppliers and the customers may be other departments within the company.

3. How is SIPOC created?

It is usually done in a brainstorming session with as many of the stakeholders as possible. It looks like the following diagram in general, with the suppliers, inputs, outputs, and customers being listed in the various columns, and the process being broken into the various steps of activities that comprise it. The process steps are sometimes broken out into a separate area below the main chart.

Suppliers

Inputs

Process

Outputs

Customers

As mentioned above, if this is an already existing process, you start with mapping the process and go to the outputs and customers, then work backwards to the inputs and suppliers. If it is a new process, you should start from the customers and work backwards to the suppliers.

4. What are some points to remember about SIPOC?

  • The focus is not on the process, but on the inputs and outputs, and by extension the customers and suppliers.
  • The supplier can be the customer, especially if the process is a service like getting a car or a computer repaired.
  • It is possible for the supplier and customer to be in the same organization as the unit doing the processing. In the example given by Meryle Corbett referred to above, each person’s job in a company, if considered a process, gets inputs from and gives outputs to another department in that company.

This is a tool that can then be used as precursor to other tools such as Quality Function Deployment, where you start mapping out the requirements of the Customers into those technical requirements of the product or service you would like to provide. Or it can be used in conjunction with the Ishikawa or cause-and-effect diagram where you take the processes and put them in the place of the standard “bones” of the diagram (man, machine, material, methods, measurements, and Mother Nature) to ask how each process could possibly negatively influence the defect you are investigating. (Refer to http://www.isixsigma.com/tools-templates/cause-effect/combining-sipoc-cause-and-effect-diagram/ for more details.)

In conclusion, SIPOC creates a way of visualizing how the inputs are processed into outputs, which is necessary if you are to understand how to improve the processes themselves. If you want to change the output, you have to either change the processes themselves or the inputs. SIPOC tells you where to look in order to do this.

Six Sigma Green Belt—Define: Process Management vs. Traditional Management


“If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.” Albert Einstein

1. Introduction: Define, the “D” of “DMAIC”

The Six Sigma process has five steps or stages, which are listed in the diagram below. The initials of these stages form the acronym DMAIC, and it is the “D” or “Define” stage which will occupy the next series of posts.

2. Business Process Definition

Six Sigma is a tool for attacking problems that impact a company’s bottom line. It does this by improving processes as part of Process Management. But before we discuss Process Management, let’s take a moment to define what a business process is: it is a series of activities that produces a specific product or service for customers.

There are inputs and outputs to each activity in the process, so the entire process can be diagrammed as a flowchart similar to that of a computer program. Except here, the beginning point of the process would be the raw materials or components received from suppliers and the end point would be the shipment of the finished product to the customers.

There are three types of business processes: the core processes that add value to the company’s bottom line (purchasing, manufacturing, sales & marketing), the support processes that support the core processes (accounting, technical support, call centers), and management processes that govern both the core and support processes (corporate governance and strategic planning).

3. Process Management vs. Traditional Management

With the above definition in mind, let’s turn to one of the reasons why Six Sigma is recognized as an effective tool in management, namely that it brings better results than traditional management.

Traditional management focuses on the different silos or departments within an organization so that the focus shifts from what is good for the entire organization to what is good for that particular department. This is called parochialism and can be one of the barriers to success for an organization. In fact, Tom Rieger, in his book Breaking the Fear Barrier refers to it as one of the three barriers (along with territorialism and empire building) which can divert an organization’s resources from fighting the competition to internal battles between departments.

This is why Process Management, as part of the focus of the Six Sigma method, can help break down this parochialism by focusing on the processes no matter which department is responsible for them. It involves management, core, and support-related departments together in finding the solutions to problems, and that is why it has proven to be an effective tool in improving the bottom line for organizations.

#Toastmasters International—The Leadership Excellence Series


This post is designed to introduce those already in Toastmasters International or those who are interested in joining a Toastmasters club on how the organization helps you learn advanced leadership skills. I’ll show what part The Leadership Excellence Series plays in the leadership education program, and what topics are covered in the series. Finally, I’ll give some advice on how to do an effective presentation in the series.

1. Leadership Education Track

There are two educational tracks in Toastmasters International, the communications track and the leadership track. The communications track focuses on public speaking, and runs parallel to the leadership track. There are three levels of awards or “promotions” in the Toastmasters International organization based on your achievements with regards to leadership. They are: the Competent Leader (CL) award, the Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) award, and the Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) award.

The Competent Leader award is the first level, which is achieved after you complete 10 leadership projects. These projects consist of a) performing a certain combination of roles at the regular club meeting, or b) leading a special project such as a club speech contest or membership campaign.

The Advanced Leader Bronze award is the second level, and it takes the practical knowledge learned at club meetings and applies them to being an actual officer of that club. You also need to study leadership by preparing two presentations from the Leadership Excellence Series or The Successful Club Series. That is where the Leadership Excellence Series fits in on the leadership educational track.

For the sake of completeness, I will describe the last and final level of award on the leadership track, that of Advanced Leader Silver. Here you need to serve as an officer not in the club, but at the district level, which usually is achieved by being an Area Governor. You must also complete the High Performance Leadership program, which is a project that can takes up to several months to complete. Finally, you must foster a new club by being a sponsor or mentor of that club.

2. Leadership Excellence Series

Here is a list of the 10 different modules you can choose from in the Leadership Excellence Series. The entire series costs you $100 if you purchase it from Toastmasters International, or $50 if you are a member of the organization. Each module consists of a booklet which gives an outline of your presentation, and a CD which contains visual aids in the form of a handout or Powerpoint presentation.

Remember you only need to complete 2 out of the 10 presentations to achieve your Advanced Leader Bronze award. Your Vice President Education in your club should purchase the entire series and make it available to members to choose from in doing their presentations for the ALB. I suggest that if you have more than one person in your club going after your ALB, that you have them coordinate their choice of module so that they don’t end up doing the same one.

Module Description
1. Visionary Leader Discusses how leaders create and communicate a vision for their organization to help it be successful.
2. Developing a Mission Addresses how successful leaders create and communicate a mission for their organization.
3. Values and Leadership Examines values and how to employ them as you lead a team toward achieving a goal.
4. Goal Setting and Planning Reviews the processes leaders use to set goals and develop plans to achieve these goals.    
5. Delegate to Empower Discusses how to effectively delegate tasks and responsibilities.
6. Building a Team Reviews how to create and lead a team.
7. Giving Effective Feedback Provides suggestions for offering feedback to others on their performance.    
8. The Leader as a Coach Discusses how to work with a team to help them improve.
9. Motivating People Examines how to be sensitive to your team members’ needs and create an environment that will motivate them.
10. Resolving Conflict Provides concepts that will help the presenter and the participants learn conflict resolution skills.

Personally, I chose the Motivating People and Building a Team modules for the presentations I needed to do, but that was my personal choice based on my interest and what I felt the club needed at the time.

3. Tips for doing a Leadership Excellence Series presentation

Research

  • Do your own original research—the outline you are given is just that. In my case, with the module on “Motivating People”, I did research on 4 theories of motivation and made a visual aid demonstrating the most elaborate one, that of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Tailor to your audience—since the club I am giving the presentation to consists of project managers, I made sure to make sure I gave them information they could use as professionals to motivate their project teams.

Prepare

  • Adapt visual aids—the visual aids you are given match the outline, and if you add original research you will need to add visuals to go along with them. However, limit your handout to 1 sheet, or your Powerpoint presentation to 10 slides. And put graphics, pictures, etc. on the Powerpoint presentation if you do use it. Nobody enjoys reading 10 slides filled with bulleted lists. You need to monopolize the audience’s attention; don’t monotonize it!
  • Don’t let them upstage you—I’m referring, of course, to the visual aids, not the other speakers. If you have handouts, give them out BEFORE your speech starts. If you have a Powerpoint presentation, run through it so you know the timing of when to change slides. Also, do a backup of handouts if there is a technical problem with the projector (which sometimes happens). Finally, if you are using a flip chart, always write everything out beforehand. Writing things down while keeping your back away from the audience is awkward. If you need to, use post-it notes or larger pieces of paper that are taped over portions that you will then reveal when that subject on the chart comes up. This “reveal” method works well and prevents you from having your back to the audience.

Practice

  • Even though it’s on the leadership track, remember it still is a speech and by now you should be at the Advanced level on the communication track as well. So start with a script, that will tell you whether you are in the 10-15 minute time range for the speech. Trim accordingly and get to the point where you have the presentation done in 12 minutes, so you can add 2-3 minutes for potential questions from the audience, and still come in “under the wire”.
  • Add vocal variety, staging—You are trying to give a presentation that makes the usual boardroom “Death by Powerpoint” presentation look like the amateur hour. Be a professional presenter and add flourishes with your voice, your gestures, and the position of your body with regards to the visual aids, etc.

These tips should make it a memorable presentation both for you and your listeners. Remember, you are at the Advanced level now, and you want to inspire those you are working on their Competent Leader award that someday they will be where you are now!

World Bank Report on Climate Change: Avoiding 4°C Warmer World


1. Introduction

On Monday, November 26th, the World Bank came out with a report called Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided. A copy of this report can be seen at the following web address.

http://climatechange.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/Turn_Down_the_heat_Why_a_4_degree_centrigrade_warmer_world_must_be_avoided.pdf.

The report was prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. The world is already 0.8°C warmer compared to pre-industrial levels. However even if the emission reductions pledged by countries as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Charge are adhered to, the warming will continue to 3.5° to 4°C. The purpose of this report is to give an idea of what a 4.0°C warmer world would be like, and to urge the global community to take stronger measures than those currently in place in order to limit the global warming to under 2°C. Of course, if the reductions pledged by countries are not adhered to, an even more extreme scenario of 6°C or greater is possible. For perspective, you should realize that 4°C is the difference between the temperature during the last ice age and that of today.

The reason why the World Bank is getting involved in the climate change debate is because is funds development in developing countries, and it turns out that these will be impacted even more than developed countries if such a 4°C warmer occurs.

2. Projected Effects of a 4°C Warmer World

Each of the chapters of the report deals with a different set of effects that having a 4°C world would have on various phenomena and processes. One of the important themes running through the report is that the effects would not be evenly distributed throughout the globe. You can see that many areas of the developed world would be hardest hit with regard to biodiversity, water resources, and heat extremes.

Phenomenon Effect in 4°C world Comments
1. CO2 Concentration and Ocean Acidification 390 ppm → 800 ppm, ocean 150% more acidic At 450 ppm, coral reef growth slowdown; coral reefs dissolve at 550 ppm
2. Droughts and Precipitation 20-30% more precipitation in winter; droughts more extensive in summer Extreme drought areas include: Amazon, western US, Mediterranean, southern Africa, southern Australia
3. Tropical Cyclones 2X current economic damage due to storms Most severe storms: NA, East Asia, Caribbean, Central America
4. Sea-Level Rises Sea level rises 1 meter Sea level could rise 2 meters if ice sheets melt in Greenland and Antarctica
5. Heat Extremes Some regions could be higher than 4°C, up to 10°C Areas of 6°C: Mediterranean, N. Africa, Middle East, US
Areas of 10°C: Arctic region
6. Agriculture Global food production will decrease Mid- to high-latitudes will see increase, low latitudes will see decrease; CO2 fertilization effect somewhat offsets yield reductions
7. Water Resources Population living in water scarce area 28% (current) → 43-50% Areas most effected: N. and E. Africa, South Asia
8. Ecosystems and Biodiversity 20-30% plant and animal species at risk of extinction Tropical and sub-tropical regions in Africa and S. America are particularly vulnerable
9. Human Health Increase in starvation, deaths due to weather extremes, increased disease transmission Disease-related deaths can be mitigated somewhat, but starvation and weather-related deaths are more difficult to mitigate
10. Non-linear effects Amazon Rainforest die-back, ice sheets melting, loss of coral reefs, expansion of ocean “dead zones”, Combination of non-linear effects causes crop yields to decrease 63-82%.

3. Strategy for Mitigation

Well, with the unending list of “gloom and doom” scenarios laid out above, the report itself does not lay out strategies for increased efforts to mitigate these effects by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the comments on the report at the World Bank site do indicate the following components of such a mitigation strategy which are outlined below.

  • Support climate actions in country-led development processes;
  • Mobilize additional concessional and innovative finance;
  • Facilitate the development of market-based financing mechanisms;
  • Leverage private sector resources;
  • Support accelerated development and deployment of new technologies; and
  • Step up policy research, knowledge, and capacity building.

One of the biggest arguments against increased measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is that it would cost resources that the world cannot afford in a time of a global economic slowdown. The point the World Bank makes is that inaction would cost us all a lot more.

Combining the approaches listed above will have the best chance to mitigate the current global warming trend so that it does not exceed 2°C, which would not cause us to live in a paradise here on this planet, but would at least avoid the “hell on Earth” scenario outlined in this report. A technological fix may not be possible, but a portfolio of solutions could spread the costs more equitably and more efficiently and thus reduce the economic impact they would have in the short run. If we don’t do anything at all, well, there won’t BE a long run.

Post-Election Economy: Analysis of Investment Risks and Opportunities in 2013


This is a summary of the webinar given by John Mauldin of Mauldin Economics on Tuesday, November 20, 2012. For those interested in more details about investment advice, please register at Mauldin Economics to watch the re-broadcast of the video presentation. The purpose of this post will be to review the insights of the panelists regarding the economy in 2013.

1. About John Mauldin

I first learned about John Mauldin and his investment advisory company from a friend of a college friend of mine who went on to earn his MBA and who now runs his own investment firm managing pension funds. Based on my friend’s advice, I started subscribing to the John Mauldin newsletter over a year ago, and have appreciated his insights into the economy ever since. He is the author of the book Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle published last Spring. When I heard in his newsletter that he was having a webinar about the post-election economy, I made a point to tune in and watch it.

2. List of Panelists

Here is a list of the panelists who spoke on the program.

Lauren Lyster, moderator

John Mauldin of Mauldin Economics

Mohamed El-Arian, CEO of PIMCO

Barry Ritholtz, CEO of FusionIQ

Rich Yamarone, Senior Economist, Bloomberg Brief: Economics, Professional

Gary Shilling, President of A. Gary Shilling & Co., Inc.

James Bianco, Bianco Research

Barry Habib, Vice President & Chief Market Strategist

3. Economic Risks

The following risks to the economy in 2013 were discussed on the program. I have listed them in the order of those risks with the highest perceived combination of probability, impact, and urgency.

Here is a summary of the discussion among the panelists regarding the risks facing the global economy in 2013.

 

Economic Risk

Explanation

1.

“Fiscal cliff”

If no deal reached, $6B in spending cuts (sequestration will occur) and taxes will increase, which will lower deficit automatically. However, this will cause the immediate slowdown from current 2.0% to 1.5% GDP growth. Only lower growth if S&P downgrades US economy, perhaps down to 1.0%. Worst case scenario: recession + 9% unemployment. Negotiations need to bring in new revenue somehow. Panelists estimate of the chances of US Congress reaching a deal on the fiscal cliff ranged from 50-70%.

2.

Corporate earnings plunge

Currently operating at 2.0% GDP growth in US. Business confidence fell in the 3rd quarter 2012. Productivity growth not increasing past two months, despite corporations decreasing costs. On worker side, real median income down 7% over past decade.

3.

Eurozone

EU going into recession, negative 1-2% contraction. 50% chance of repeat of same problems that happened in July 2012.

4.

Chinese economy hard landing

China growth may slowdown from 8% current growth to 5-6%.

5.

Oil/energy shock

US scheduled to be self-sufficient in oil by 2020; already self-sufficient in natural gas. However, geopolitical problems may cause oil prices to rise in short term, with spillover effects on the collapse of the recent bubble in commodity prices.

6.

Middle East

Flare up of geopolitical problems in Middle East (Syria collapse, Israel/Iran, Israel/Gaza),

 Here are some additional comments from panelists on some of the topics listed above regarding the risks and the possible opportunities that may counter them.

i. Fiscal Cliff

John Mauldin said that the election probably made a deal on the fiscal cliff in the next 30 days more likely with the election of Obama rather than Romney simply for the pragmatic reason that the people doing the deal would already be in place. There have already been behind the scenes conversations because the leadership on both sides want to address the deficit, although they have different visions of how to do it.

All panelists agreed that there must be an increase in revenue to accompany a reduction in spending. Most felt that this would have to come to a certain extent in increased taxes, but some (Gary Shilling) did not agree. The minority opinion was that revenue could be created through the reduction of tax loopholes. However, in contrast to that, the majority felt that a deal that tries to remove tax deductions that are popular with the middle class such as the one for mortgage interest would create popular political pushback. The last time they tried to axe the mortgage interest deduction was in 1986, and there was “million realtor” march in Washington that put an end to that idea.

In Japan, the government will also be trying to print more money to prop up the currency against the Chinese yuan. Many manufacturing sectors are struggling due to competition, particularly from South Korea, but robotics sector continues to do well.

ii. Corporate earnings

Because of the global slowdown, most panelists agreed that in general, shifting from stocks and commodities to long-term treasury bills would be more prudent. The US government should be focusing on those steps which encourage intellectual innovation, which will create economic activity. John Mauldin in particular likes investing in companies that have strong IP as well as balance sheets.

iii. Eurozone

Because of the problems in the Eurozone, non-EU entities in emerging markets (Asia, MENA, SA) will give better dividends, particularly in those areas like telecoms and manufacturing.

iv. China

The emerging leadership in China is trying to make investments in infrastructure and education that will help reduce the negative impact of the global slowdown.

v. Oil/energy Shock

Energy is probably not what you want to invest in now, because of the possibility of a global slowdown. The wild card in this, of course, is the possibility of a spike in oil prices that would be a result of any geopolitical flare-ups in the Middle East.

3. How to turn economic risks into opportunities

Here are some of the suggestions by the panelists on how to turn these economic risks into opportunities.

Suggestion Explanation
1. Watch Central Banks for clues to Monetary Policy in US, EU
Don’t get paralyzed by complexity and fluidity; Central Banks’ moves will contribute to stability of the system.

Example: ECB in Europe is trying to open the spigots, so far to no avail. In US, Fed will do QE3 and QE4, also to little effect.

 

2.  Avoid Inertia  Don’t get stuck in the status quo thinking that what is happening now is only temporary. We are not going back to the 1990s for the foreseeable future 
3.  Emerging Markets Other parts of the world will navigate the global economy better than EU, US.

 

4. Look to Fiscal Policy in China, not US Fiscal policy impotent in US because of political gridlock regarding fiscal cliff; in China, however, new leadership doing extensive investments in infrastructure and education.

In general, there are opportunities for investors as long as they are first aware of where the risks are in the economy both in the short term and the long term.

The general consensus of the panel, in my opinion, regarding the global economy in 2013 was the following: rather than a bearish market that looks for the highest yield, we are in general facing a bearish climate where the most positive outcome in the US would be a deal that it reached to start a slow reduction in deficit that does not put the brakes on the economy too quickly. It will not be an easy world to make money, but targeted opportunities may prevent you at least from losing it.