The Mercer Family Adventures

The adventures of Craig, Kana, Grace Yuki and Wyatt Haku Mercer in Canada and Japan.

The Red Bead Experiment – It’s a system thing…DOH!

The Red Bead Experiment to show total fault in the system was made famous by W Edwards Deming (Deming attributes the original demonstration to Mr. William (Bill) A. Boller of the Hewlett-Packard Company).

The purpose of the red bead experiment, and the reason I cite it here, is to prove scientifically that the majority of problems in business are actually attributable to the system and not the employees. Furthermore the people charged with acting on and improving the system are the managers and leaders and not the employees. The red bead experiment is myriad in its lessons and takes awhile to unpack and folks much wiser than me have taken the time to try and unpack it for you…I defer to their brilliant efforts in explaining what Dr. Deming loved to present.

For more information from the source please read Out of the Crisis by W Edwards Deming. See page 347 for a written account of a 1983 demonstration in Pretoria, Oregon.

For a summary of the red bead experiment please see James R. Martin’s site here:

To watch a YouTUBE video of the red bead experiment please see the Fluor Hanford videos here:

Finally for a nifty red bead simulator please visit Symphony Tech’s site here:

Scope or Die!

scope or die“Skate or die”(1) in its original usage advocated the skate boarding lifestyle as being synonymous with life itself. Here I co-opt it to zero in on the importance of scoping your project properly…put simply…scope or die!

Anyone who has spent time in projects whether they are technology, process improvement, quality control etc. should know that most failures can be attributed to a few usual suspects. These suspects include: inadequate executive support, lack of budget, lack of resources, time constraints but the most common culprit (IMO) is the lack of a proper scope. I’ve always asked project managers under my leadership to be able to provide an “elevator pitch” of their project (the ability to give a brief synopsis of the project in 2 minutes or less). After all, if you can’t explain your project in 2 minutes or less, you probably do not know what your project is.

If we are unable to articulate what it is we are trying to accomplish then we are unlikely to be be able to successfully deliver it. Furthermore we need to understand what scope truly is. Some fall into the trap of thinking that the scope is to turn on technology “x” or to achieve a certain number of widgets produced per hour or a reduction of adverse events by such and such an amount. Scope must be defined by the value, the benefit that it will bring to the organization/company. Scope, when defined by benefits, will be the guide by which the endeavour moves.

When a fork in the road appears the scope will help to determine whether the team goes right or left. Scope from a benefits perspective will ultimately determine the success or failure of the project.


The Widget Company produces and sells widgets to business clients. They have been fortunate enough to be able to purchase and amalgamate two other companies with similar services into their own. The growth has come with some issues though. The other companies brought with them different invoicing systems and workflows. This is causing some customer service issues because invoices are in some cases not being created properly and in others they are not being created in a timely manner which is causing constraints on cashflow.

The company leadership wants to address the growing pains by introducing a new standard invoice computer system in all locations. They hire a project manager. The project manager schedules a meeting with the leadership team and asks them what the purpose of the project is. The leadership tells them that the purpose of the project is to implement technology “x”. So the project manager says: “So if I am able to turn on technology “x” in all locations you will consider this project a success?” To which the leadership team of The Widget Company answers in the affirmative.

  • What if the system causes new delays in an unforeseen part of the process and actually delays the creation of invoices and compounds the cashflow issues?
  • What if the increase in computer costs and technical support are greater than the efficiency in invoice creation?

Perhaps the scope (or purpose) of the project should have been to create the right invoice for the right customer at the right time. But is that enough?

  • What does the company achieve if it is producing the right invoices for the right customer at the right time?
  • Maybe it will decrease the amount of complaints that the company is receiving from unhappy customers?
  • Maybe it will increase the amount of cashflow because they can reduce the backlog of account receivable?
  • So perhaps the purpose of the project is to achieve an improved cash flow?

Hopefully as you are reading this you are beginning to see that the scope is the MOST IMPORTANT factor in the success of a project. There are any number of ways that the project purpose could be framed, being able to articulate the one closest to what the project is needed to achieve will go a long way increasing the chances of success.

Last but not least, once the scope (purpose) of the project has been identified the project manager needs to ensure that the scope is agreed to and authorized by the leadership (usually in the form of a formal document like a project charter that leadership physically signs off on). This will act as a kind of contract that the effort will be measured against.


Fred Mercer has finished well.

fred-mercer-UN-peace-keeperFrederick Joseph Mercer
March 12th, 1940 – March 24th, 2013

In loving memory of Frederick Joseph Mercer who, after a gallant battle with  cancer, passed away with his loving family by his side.

Fred was born in the country of Newfoundland in the city of St. John’s.  In 1957 at the age of 17, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces to serve his country. He then spent the next 21 years primarily with the 1st Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, then the 3rd Battalion PPCLI.  Most of his career was spent as a member of the band, touring the world and captivating audiences with their performances.  As a ”Band Rat” one of the highlights was performing in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 1962. Ultimately, Fred achieved his career goal of becoming the Drum Major for the band. When he wasn’t performing he served in the Anti-Tank platoon. After his departure from the army he took a position with Loomis Armored Car, safely transporting all of your money in and around Victoria for 15 years.  Upon his retirement, Fred took up golf.  Not one to take things lightly he became very good and in short order, recorded the first ever hole in one at Cordova Bay “The Ridge” Golf Course on July 9th, 1999.

Although serving his country was very important to him, what Fred held dearest to his heart was his family. Together with his wife Janice, they devoted their lives to raising four very responsible and loving children.  The family bond instilled in their kids will be his ultimate legacy never to be forgotten.

When Fred was first diagnosed with this disease he chose to fight it on his own terms, with dignity and honour.  This courageous position allowed him and his family to live with this illness and support him every step of the way.  Fred definitely set the bar very high on how to leave this world.

Predeceased  by  his sister Lorraine, Fred is survived by his wife  Janice, children Kirk (Sherri), Craig (Kana), Tony (Nicole) and Janet;  his grandchildren Karsen, Rielyn, Grace, Wyatt, Kaila and Jordan; siblings Rita (Robert), Paul (Jenny), Ken (Diane), Deb (Michael); cousin Jeanette and many nieces and nephews.

The family wishes to express their gratitude to the nursing staff and volunteers of the Palliative Care Unit (PCU) at Saanich Peninsula Hospital along with Dr’s Winsby, Kennedy, Jovic and Marsh. In lieu of flowers, please give generously to the Palliative Care Unit at Please specify ‘other’ and enter ‘Palliative Care Unit’.

A celebration of life will be held on Friday, April 5th, 2013 from 1:30 – 4:00 pm at the Royal Canadian Legion, Trafalgar/Pro Patricia, 411 Gorge Road, Victoria BC

Home School Log 02-07-2013






まずは、Franklinシリーズ。カナダはマニトバ州出身のPaulette Bourgeoisという方の作品で、TVアニメにもなっている人気シリーズです。主人公の亀、Franklinが学校や家、コミュニティで起こる日常的な問題を通して様々なことを学んでいくといった内容で、わかりやすくやわらかい文章で綴られた物語の中に、きちんとした教えが含まれていて、私も大好きなシリーズです。


Hurry_Up_Franklin.jpgHurry Up, Franklin
Franklin Is Messy
Franklin Rides a Bike
Franklin Fibs
Franklin’s New Friend






次に、社会科の学習で使用した書籍では、Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully (Audrey Penn著、Barbara L. Gibson画)をご紹介します。





最後に、”A Drop of Water” by Walter Wick。

Walter Wickはアメリカ出身の写真家で、”I Spy”シリーズで特に有名です。



Home School Log 01-30-2013










Home School Log 01-29-2013

先週、結晶にとって初めての”Show and Tell”がありました。”Show and Tell”とはつまり、プレゼンテーションの第一歩です。クラスメートの前で、ひとつのテーマについて話をするのです。小学校低学年の場合、自分の宝物や特に思い入れのあるもの、大切な人からもらったプレゼントなどなど、何かひとつ物を持参し、それについて話をします。結晶に何について話をしたいか尋ねたところ、何か”日本的な”ことをテーマにしたいとのこと。色々と考えて・・・ではなく、意外にもあっさりと”折り紙”を使って”Show and Tell”をすることに決定しました。





さてさて、クラスに迎えにいってみると、結晶はうかない表情をしてます。”Show and Tell, どうやった?”っと聞くと、”うーん、うまくいかなかった・・・”と結晶。”緊張したん?”と尋ねてみると、そうでもない様子。よくよく聞いてみると、まず話す内容を書き留めていたノートの存在をすっかり忘れていて、いざクラスメートの前に立ってみたら何を話せばいいのかわからなかったということ。そして、みんなと一緒に折り紙をしようと思ったけれど、興味を示した子供達があまりいなかったとのこと。

それはへこみます。私だってへこみます。初めての”Show and Tell”が思ったようにうまくいかなくてごめんね、結晶。








Home School Log 01-11-2013


前に少し触れていますが、10月には担当の先生の2回目の家庭訪問がありました。いわゆる”国語”にあたる科目はもちろん英語になるわけなのですが、この科目を学習するにあたって私達は今期”Come Sit By Me”というテキストを使用しています。この”Come Sit By Me”は同じくホームスクールで子供を育てた方によるテキストで、カナダ人著者による子供向けの本/絵本を使い、1冊ごとに学習ポイントがまとめられています。指定の本の中には、これまでに読んだ事のあった作品や結晶が好む著者の作品などがいくつか見られたので、これなら割とすんなり入っていけるのではないかと思ったのがこのテキストを選択した理由です。








Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mercer Family Christmas 2012Well another year is coming to an end. 2012 was all in all a pretty good year. Grace lost her first teeth, Wyatt used the toilet for the first time, Kana kicked up the home schooling a notch where there is a teacher assigned to help Kana with lesson planning and also provides report cards for Yuki. I turned 40 this year and I changed jobs at VIHA (I left the Project Delivery Office to become the project manager on the SharePoint Services project.

Other notable events this year include my Dad (Fred mercer) getting diagnosed with cancer which prompted a mini-Mercer reunion where my Uncle Ken (whom I had never met in person before), Uncle Paul & Auntie Jenny and Auntie Debbie (whom I last saw when Mt. St. Helens erupted) came out from all over the country for a visit. Also Gav & Rhonda Joth got married, Nick and Denise had baby number two, Jeremy and Aki has baby number two, James & Hiromi had baby number one and Kinya and Mel are expecting baby number one any day now.

We are very thankful for this year of 2012 and glad it didn’t turn out the way the Mayans figured it would. From our family to you and yours we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Love and Prayers,
Craig, Kana, Grace Yuki and Wyatt Haku Mercer

Icy Hot….back medicine from Japan

Icy Hot PatchI’ve had a bad back for quite sometime…ever since I lifted a really heavy box of books in my early twenties. Every once in awhile my back goes out and the lower back pain is intense. Last weekend my back started acting up and yesterday I picked up some icy hot back patches from London Drugs and to my surprise when I looked at the package they are MADE IN JAPAN! Actually to be more specific in Toyama, Japan ( I called over Kana to take a look and she said that Toyama is famous all over Japan (even from ancient times) as a centre for medicine. Needless to say that the icy hot patches work quite well and my back is very happy. It’s nice to have products of Japanese quality available here in Canada for my bad back.

Wyatt’s Plarail Party

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We’ve been building our Plarail collection over the last year and we got a big shipment of track sent over for Wyatt’s birthday. Obviously Kana, Yuki and I had to do most of the building since Wyatt is still a little young for three dimensional modelling. I tried to so some different things with the video (e.g.: putting the camera down at track level instead of the usual overhead shots) so this is mostly experimental and will hopefully lead to ever better plarail tracks and videos. So without further ado I give you “Wyatt’s Plarail Party – 2012-JUN-16)

For more information on Plarail visit