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July 12, 2014

9 months struggling…for an ethics approval?!

As researchers, we are all aware, at least to a certain degree, that understanding ethics and ensuring that our work is ethically sound is important for us and any party involved in the research. However, what I am going to talk about here (probably my last blog post) is how a simple routine (i.e. getting an ethical approval) impacted severely on my life and experience as a student at Warwick University. Nearly 9 months of my life were wasted while being very stressed as a result of this issue.

You see, until this problem occurred, I was quite happy being at Warwick University. I have suggested Warwick University to many of my friends and I was proud of it. However, after this incident, I am not sure if I will be doing that...

Before I explain what happened, I have to make it clear here that I am writing this post for two reasons:

  1. Hopefully to alert decision makers to this issue to resolve it so no one else's life is impacted by this.
  2. To cool-off, by sharing this with visitors and friends.

Below, I will discuss the main key issues and their impact on my life as a student at Warwick University.

The Ethics Process

Up until the point I needed to collect my data as part of my PhD, I was never told that there is a formal process to go through to get approval for doing this. Usually, various lecturers in the workshops would talk about the importance of ensuring our work is ethically sound. Even in a REME module run by WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group), I wasn't told about this process. However, this is not the real issue.

The issue is that, apparently because this is somewhat a new process (Ethical approval process), not many people were aware of how to go about doing it within the department (WMG).

Based on a number of criteria on a university page that helps students in selecting the ethics committee they should apply to, I found that I am supposed to submit my work to the social sciences ethics committee. Of course, this didn't seem wrong since my research is closer to social sciences than pure engineering. However, after spending time preparing all papers, all of a sudden and while seeking more help and feedback on my application before submitting it, I was told that WMG students have to apply through a different committee called BSREC. Of course, I had to start all over again since this committee had a different procedure and applications to follow. This wasted some time initially...

The BSREC committee

BSREC is the ethics committee that deals with the medial schools. So, you probably have an idea of how complex and exhaustive their process is to get approval. They have every right to do so because they deal with sensitive and human tissues and stuff like that. Things that impact lives.

What this meant is that it took quite a lot of time to fill everything. Additionally, another flow I noticed is that they expect researchers to be fully aware of everything in their research from A to Z. Again, this is normal probably in the medial field. However, I was actually planning to use a mixed methods design. Sometimes, you don't actually know what you will be interested in or what you want to specifically ask and collect data from until you finish the first stage! So, how would I fill and go through a process that wants EVERY detail while I am still thinking, considering, and didn't even start the first stage?

Submitting to BSREC

I had to apply 4-5 times to BSREC because each time, they came back with different comments. Below I discuss the main reasons for this and the major delays that I have faced.

Who is the expert?

When applying for an ethical approval, it should be a given that those who are assessing my work should be in my field or at least close to it. It was very clear from the comments that there were major differences in how me and the committee looked at my research and the methodological decisions I made. You see, I believe that the researcher has full responsibility of the choices he makes and this is part of the learning journey. So, as along as these choices are not significantly or negatively impacting on others, he would ultimately have to stand by his decisions and defend his work. Both me and my supervisor believed in this. What's more, every decision I made and mentioned in the application was actually supported by various references. So, I didn't come up with my own novel methodology, I actually picked something that is being used almost everywhere today.

At once time, I noticed some delay in the response so I called BSREC. They informed me that they are getting input from an expert. They informed me that the expert they asked had some comments. I asked: what field or subject is he an expert in? They said: Education. They said but don't worry, we have send the application to another expert. I asked again: what field or subject? They said: Education.

An expert in my field is someone with knowledge of Innovation or Technology adoption. Education researchers usually prefer different methodological approaches. So, I ask, how come my work was assessed from those not from my same field and not even close?

BSREC receives all the information about each study they received. Perhaps they should have contacted my department to ask for an expert opinion from my field or close to it.

Methodological Alterations

Continuing on the previous point, there were times where the comments I received for not approving my work were clearly methodological in nature. Meaning, they would suggest I change the methodology! Really? Last I recall I am the researcher and I make the decision on what approach is best for my goals. So, my question is, if I do change my methodology as a result of BSREC's comments, how do I answer and defend my work at the viva? Do I tell them that such change was suggested by the University's BSREC committee?

Delays in responding

I've read on some page on the university site that responses could take up to 20 days for each submission. However, in my case, there were a number of times where I had to chase them with e-mails or phone calls because it took nearly a month if not more.

Subjectivity

I quickly noticed from the responses that there were almost no rules or criteria governing or drawing the line between what is clearly related to ethics and other (e.g. methodological) areas that shouldn't be assessed unless for their ethical impact.

Many of the comments included things like I think that... or We believe that....

I was expecting something like: You can't do X because it has Y ethical impact. Nothing more!

What is really frustrating is that there doesn't seem to be a good way of defending against such comments. So, my question is, are we really supposed to that what others "think" of our work even if it is wrong?

This doesn't seem to be good...

Vagueness

Again, very frustrating is that instead of making comments that clearly indicate flaws, many of the comments were really and could mean many things. One such comment which wasn't made clear until very late was how the committee doesn't approve of me trying to collect data from the whole population of my study or a large sample. This was never clear from the start and had they stated this key comment clearly, things would have been different. Instead, each time they hint to this differently!

All comments at once please?

This one is really frustrating! Despite my work always being the same and making just small changes to previous comments they have send me, they seem to always generate more comments, leading to more changes. It seems like this has became a full time job of answering comments and receiving more comments. This caused so much frustration especially since many of their comments, as explained above, were vague and subjective.

Comments that have nothing to do with Ethics

Of course, many of the comments were not related to ethics at all. Once example of this is how they asked me to remove my picture from the invitation e-mail I was sending to respondents. Sorry but what does an ethics comment have to do with the way I design or present my work?

Unprofessional responses

One responses I received was clearly unprofessional (both me and my supervisor agree to this. It was from someone who is not a researcher and I am not sure what his relation to my work other than being an administrative worker. He said that my work was rubbish and that it is not their job to guide me to how to do a better application. What is frustrating more, (remember vagueness above), is that he said so without saying anything about my he believes my work is rubbish.

I would have possibly thanked him if there were clear flaws. However, both me and my supervisor have reviewed this many times before and during the whole process. Additionally, this person wasn't even close to my area of research so how could he say such disrespectful things about others work?

Would you allow someone that have no idea of what you are trying to achieve tells you that everything you are doing is rubbish?

Lack of support

Another frustrating thing is that I was feeling that, aside from my supervisor, no one else cared about this. I mean, despite my e-mails to BSREC to help me resolve this so that I could get back to my study, they didn't seem to care...

Also, at some point, I met with someone within WMG and I explained the whole issue to him, he was supposed to be the first one to help since his job was overseeing the whole research team but all that I got out of the meeting I had after asking for help is: We can't do anything. You have to keep going through the process. So much for student support if you ask me. It felt like the only person that cared was my supervisor...



Impact on my life

Needless to say, the near 9 months delay had a severe impact on my life. This is no place to discuss this but I would to like to mention some things:

  • Waste of time struggling and anticipating and always been rejected.
  • Waste of money: I had to wait for the whole period unable to do anything else. So, I was paying for the rent, tuition, etc... without any gain really.
  • Stress: I can't begin to explain this. There was so much stress because I was worried that this would go without an end. Of course it did (I am talking 9 months here...). The high levels of stress impacted everything, but most importnatly, it impacted my family (wife and daughter).

I am really grateful for Paul Roberts, my supervisor, for his continued support. Without his support & encouragement, I would have probably dropped out or transferred to a different institution. Being in continued high stress for so many months is not part of what I've signed up for.

Recommendations for the University

  • Ensure there are clear lines between what the committee can and can't do.
  • Ensure that each applicant gets his work reviewed by someone in his field or at least very close to it.
  • Make it an electronic process and track how many times an application was rejected and any delays in responding.
  • Based on the above, if an application is delayed, trigger another action that would quickly provide help or outside assessment on the process and what was going. This way, at least there is a way to step in and help people who are trapped like I was...
  • Offer full support and help for students before and during the process.
  • Provide a process for the applicant to defend his work and debate any points made by the committee which may not be true or related to ethics.
  • Help the students know their rights and what to expect from this process and what to do if it goes wrong.

October 09, 2013

An alumni's view of MBE

I post this reflection on his time in MBE with permission from the author. If you have any comments or questions that arise after reading this piece, please ask them here and I will respond.

Hello everyone,

My name is Jan from Germany and I am a former student of the WMG at the University of Warwick in 2010/2011.

I am writing this reflection more than one and a half years after I finished my studies in Management for Business Excellence (MBE). I am still in contact with several people of WMG, especially Paul Roberts (Course Leader) and one of his doctoral students. My reason for keeping the contact is that I am convinced that WMG and especially Paul are doing a great job and staying in contact with academics always gives you new input.

This continuing contact actually gave me the motivation to write this blog. I think, and Paul agrees, that it is important to know what you can do with this degree—what is the benefit of MBE. After my studies I got in contact with some people and they asked what was the biggest benefit, what kind of job did I get afterwards, etc. Indeed these are very important questions and so I decided to write a few lines with the aim to share my experiences and thoughts regarding this topic.

I am aiming to support this course and its underlying philosophy, so that finally people have more motivation to decide on this course and to give them more belief in what they are doing during this one year of studying MBE.

Just to summarize it in advance—it was the most mind-opening year that I’ve ever had and it was worth every minute. In my opinion, every job on this world would benefit from these experiences and the conveyed message. So let's have a look at it in more detail:

First of all I should mention that directly after my studies I got employed by a big German company. For 20 months now, I have been working as a project engineer. Even though it is a technically-oriented job and on the first sight it doesn’t have that much to do with MBE, it is a challenging position and MBE steps in every day.

One thing that should be born in mind is, that most of the times you won’t enter a company and be the boss. There are competencies and experiences that must be gained. It is hard to manage and lead if you have no idea how a company works, how people behave and how the work is carried out. Besides getting the respect you need when you come directly from university, respect is easier to get if people see that you have a clue what you are talking about.

However, let me tell you a bit about my business life: I am responsible for a production site that produces a component for automobile paint. It is a chemical process that I didn't know much about. But actually that was not important for me because I do the engineering for this site, and this goes in the direction of what I knew from my previous studies. But being honest, I must admit that my technical knowledge is very basic and I had no clue about the technical component of my job at the beginning. In addition, and mostly forgotten: you work in a company, there are procedures, rules, responsibilities, actually it is real life and not comparable with the university life, even though university tries quite successfully to come close to it.

So at the beginning I had to deal with two main totally new areas. This is why I was also happy about not getting a management position right from the beginning. Even though I see myself capable of doing such a job (this applies to everyone from MBE), I would have been overloaded. Having responsibility for others right from scratch would have been a third main area, probably too much to make for me to be good at my job from the start. Besides without work experience I think it is hard to get the acceptance of your colleagues. It may work out but it would be tough.

But why is this course so beneficial for professional life afterwards?

On the one hand you have the concept of the course and on the other hand the content of the modules and the masters’ thesis.

With regard to the mentioned two main new knowledge areas I would like to kick off with the first one:

The concept, the idea behind MBE and its organization already forms one major benefit. It is about learning how to learn. And this, as simple as it is, is a great and future-building competence, which will help you in every situation. Previously, I studied in Germany, sitting in a class with hundreds of other students and listening to one professor, making notes and I finally proved in a final test that I am capable of learning something by heart. But the real world is different. You do not sit in an office in the basement; alone, no colleagues around you, no computer and you have to write from memory something on paper that you have learned quite a while ago. You do have experienced colleagues; you do have Internet, books, documentation, etc. Finally, your task is to take this basic knowledge and apply it to a new situation, task, project, whatsoever. Otherwise you would need ages for a little task. And this is what the course work but even more the PMAs are about. Like in real life, identify your aim and solve your task with existing knowledge that is available in various sources, while enriching it with your own thoughts and thus developing the solution. Getting used to this and seeing it as normal way to obtain knowledge, becoming confident to work in unfamiliar areas, is of great benefit.

I am quite certain that during your masters’ you will find yourself concerned about time at some point or even frequently. The pressure is high, you have PMAs, you have the dissertation, modules and the time will come when you want to apply for jobs. So it might seem that there is no time for fun and the workload is not manageable. But it is, thousands of people have proven it and it brings its own benefits. At the end of my year, indeed all concentration was on the thesis and the last PMAs, the weekly and daily workload was massive. To be honest, most of the stress was made by myself: how often did I postpone something or wasn't really working when my timetable actually said: Study. But from time to time you learn to cope with it. And this pays back in professional life. In my job it is normal to have about 15-20 projects at the same time. Some are smaller and actually no big deal, but some are quite comprehensive and you have due dates. So it is about keeping every ball in the air. Actually like during the masters’ and specifically when there are the mini projects, if I got it right in mind it was about 5. Having gone through these lessons the job that I am in now was nothing new. It was different, and it was serious, but I had my patterns from the studies at Warwick that I adapted. Of course a university won't be able to mirror professional life for a 100% but WMG has done a great job. Compared to other colleagues who started working at the same time as me, I saw myself more comfortable with the given new situation and all the side effects. It was just like a new module. Besides, all that I have written in this paragraph is also true for diverse Assessment Centers. I have gone through three and the hardest part was nothing other than course work.

So what about content of these studies? Well it also depends on how you understand them and how you apply them to your professional life. Let's take the Six Sigma modules. I wouldn't expect to go into a company and start implementing Six Sigma and optimize processes and products. Nonetheless, you have the idea of DMAIC in mind and this already is worth a lot. You know something different than others do and thus can push, e.g. a project group in the direction to try it. Thinking this further leads you to other modules like Leadership. How do I lead people towards a new initiative, how can I influence? You might not be the boss but you can lead and show the aim, the vision. Ok, that might happen in a smaller circle of influence than when you have learnt it, but it is a beginning and it is a great opportunity to try out several approaches. And this is what I meant about your own understanding and usage of the content. If you keep it in mind you can work with it and try out what works for you. Apart from leadership, change management is vital to implement something new in a sustainable way. Understand why people do not want to change and indeed cope with it. I don’t know if you are surprised to hear that, but I see that as the biggest challenge in a business and there are only a few people out there that are good at it. I am not saying that you are an expert in each of these fields, modules, and this is not the aim, but you definitely have a basic toolbox you can work with. The rest comes from experience and further education.

Let me give you a real life example: I started together with 6 other people in the same department; it was decided to form a newcomer group that was supposed to work on an undefined project. So it was up to us to define it. With everyone having a different background and position we ended up working on something that was concerned with the entrance of new employees. How do they get known to the company, where can they find answers to explicit questions and how could they gain technical knowledge and expertise? After a while the question came up on how knowledge in general was transferred. Therefore, I suggested calling the project knowledge management. That enabled me to contribute the knowledge I gained during MBE, and finally I ended up as the elected leader for a group of 12 people. Following the basic knowledge about change management proved to be absolutely valuable in order to persuade the older colleagues that our project is a positive thing and everyone could benefit from it. Although my experience was mostly theoretical, the knowledge about leadership allowed me to try out several things and finally find my way to lead the team to a successful project completion. In the end the project benefited from 3 WMG modules and my thesis, which I think is a good result.

The Masters’ thesis is a good opportunity to get deeper into a topic. There you really start becoming an expert in this field of knowledge and this is why you can apply it even better to your future job. So choose it wisely ;)

What more is to say? I know Deming is a big topic in MBE and this is a must. When you start working you quickly see Deming with his deadly diseases and 14 points of management everywhere. It is incredible to see that it looks like nothing has really changed for nearly 30 years now. During the studies I always thought: This is common sense, of course you are not doing it like this, you are doing it the other way; you are a nice guy and act like a human being. Who the hell behaves like that described by the seven deadly diseases? Therefore, I was shocked entering the business world and I can feel that it is of great importance to keep the words of this wise man in mind! It hopefully prevents you becoming and a****. In business it works differently, it is not a safe environment and it is vital to get grounded and remember what you have learnt.

In my eyes business ethics is a vital component of professional life and MBE provides the right direction. Paul once said that for him it was important to have his own values, set up his own mindset and stick to them. Although I am not in a leading position, this proved to be great advice and good support for decision-making. It doesn’t let you doubt. An example: should I go to my boss and tell him what I think? Sure, no excuse! I promised myself to always be open and honest as well as having my say. So I went there and in the end it was the right decision.

I am convinced that I actually could write some more pages, but I think this gives you a first insight on how you can benefit from the MBE course. But again it really depends on how you approach the course and use the given input for your benefit. It is not just about taking; it is also about developing it continuously.

If you have got any questions regarding MBE, etc. just drop me an email:

Jan.ruecker@ymail.com

Finally I want to wish you all good luck with your studies but never forget:

Have fun and enjoy your life.

Jan


February 22, 2013

The Need for Innovation in UK Universities

Here is a short video I created to demonstrate the importance and goal of my PhD study concerned with helping UK universities become more innovative.

Note: You can use higher resolutions for better quality (HD).



TEASER: Benefits You will receive after participating

As part of my doctoral studies, members of staff from UK universities who participate will have access to a number of useful free resources. Here is a sample (teaser) of these resources:


Reviews of Useful Tools for use in Education

Nowadays, there are many tools and technologies that can be used by both teachers and students in universities or even schools. Therefore, I developed an interactive website where I write short reviews of some of these useful tools and technologies and give examples of how they can be used. Here is an example:

Many tools/technologies are reviewerd and categoried into different operatnig systems

Reviews

Each tool/technology will have a summary along with any useful links (such as education discounts)

Review Summary

and specific rating

Tool rating

From 0 to 380,000 Fans: Can we use Social platforms in Education?

There is no more doubt today that social platforms can be used in education or to enhance learning. There are many examples of such social learning platforms including YouTube Education, iTunes University and much more.

I have been personally interested in how Facebook can be used to enhance or disseminate learning and useful resources. Therefore, back in 2009, I started an Arabic sceitfic research Facebook page. Now, I have over 380,000 fans and conting. This is all a personal effort! The Facebook page gained quite a lot of attention in the Middle East and it still do.

It is been almost 4 years now and I have gained quite a good experience from this. Therefore, I created a rich presentation of the good practices and lessons learned which I would like to share with you.

If I, as an idividual, was able to get this far and help educate thousands of people from over 15 countries, I am sure universities can benefit and achieve much better, especially since this can be used for marketing as well!

Social Media Marketing in Education


Use of Twitter in Education and Research

In addition to the two resources I have prepared for you above which I will share with you after taking part in the study, I would like to go ahead and share with you NOW some useful resources I came across recently. They are focusing on the social platform Twitter and how it can be used in education and research.

To thank you in advanced for participating in the study, here are the links:


If you are a member of staff working within any UK university, please go ahead and participate in the study to receive access to the rest of the free resources:

Participate in the study (Link will be updated soon)


October 08, 2012

Welcome to MBE 2012

A warm welcome to everyone in the new Management for Business Excellence (MBE) intake--32 students of 14 nationalities. Today saw the start of the Creating Business Excellence module, the first of six MBE-specific modules. Everyone was engaged and lots of questions were asked in the introductory sessions. So, a good start for what promises to be a challenging year. I look forward to working with you.

June 12, 2012

MindMap: Presentation Tips

Here is a Mindmap which I've created after going through the 3 excellent workshops on presentation skills presented by Adair @ The university of Warwick and reading a number of books. I hope you guys find it useful!

presentation2.pdf


May 29, 2012

IKEA…You Fail at Customer's service…

To start of, I usually put the URL when I talk about something. In this case, I am not even going to put any links to IKEA's website so that they don't benefit from any visitors and search engine ranking.

Long Story Short

I bought a large desk. The desk was delivered damaged. I called IKEA over 3 weeks to replace it, every time they say we will send someone, they give me a date and no one comes. After that I decided to return the item, before the return period runs out. They say OK, we respect that and we will send someone. Of course, they give me a date, no one shows up. I call, they give me another date and no one calls or show up and the story goes on and on and on. The last appointment they gave me was last Saturday. No one called or showed up...

There is clearly a pattern here and they could go about doing this for quite sometime...I am not willing to try how long it will take them though! although someone else with more free time and a since of humour might have found it to be a good way to test how bad their customer service is.


Waste of Time

I am really annoyed by how much time I've wasted chasing them, when a one call should have been sufficient. Clearly, they don't care about customer's time. Imagine yourself chasing a company for almost 2 months and every time you call you are put into a queue and you wait to get someone to answer and once someone answers, you spend sometime explaining the problem, waiting for the employee to check the records, wait for him to explain how sorry they are and that they are going to fix this for me.


Lack of Trust !

Needless to say after hearing the phrase "Sorry for the inconvenience" and "We will sort this out" over and over again, I lost both trust and hope in IKEA. Hence, writing this post. Apparently some companies have used these words for too long that they have forgotten what they mean.


Can you help?

Since I am an international student, I am trying to understand what steps could be taken. Obviously I want my money back! and also, I want the damaged items taken from my apartment.

After 2 months of calls and live chats, I know I gave IKEA more than enough time. Now I am done waiting, I want to follow possible legal or other actions that can be taken to resolve this issue once and for all. I can't waste more time chasing them!

Therefore, if you read this post and you have any experience with companies not wanting or bothering to honor their return policy for any reason and you have took an action to resolve that, I would really appreciate your input. I know about the legal advisors at the university's Students Union and I am just not free this week to check with them and I thought some visitors might be able to help!


Oh...One more thing!

How would you feel if you experienced something like this? Please let me know in the comments!


May 17, 2012

The Good…and the BAD

I am a Muslim and I am proud to be one. Islam taught me to be respectful to others, and I hope that I am good at doing that! If not, please let me know :). I am keen to correct the bad image of Islam caused by the media around the world by respecting and helping others, helping those that need, by participating or contributing to great causes or organisations such as UK Heart Foundation, UK Cancer Research among many other things. Of course I am not writing this as a show-off, rather, to show that I care about others and I know I am not the only Muslim doing this.

The world is full of injustice, especially injustice towards Islam or Muslims and in some cases treating them unfairly.

Here are a few comics that I've found and I wanted to share. Unforutantelly, I gave up finding the source so I couldn't add it or mention it.

Islam 1
















Islam

Islam

Islam


Conclusion:

As with everything else in this life, there is the good and there is the bad! but I know you already know this!

The question is, did you do your research before making any judgement? Of course I am not talking about Islam here, I am talking about everything!


March 22, 2012

Scrivener, a great writing environment!

Writing about web page http://drhariri.com/blog/1384/scrivener/

Note: this is a summary of a blog post I wrote on my Arabic research blog (برنامج الكتابة الرائع Scrivener), a blog that I have been running for over 3 years, aiming to spread knowledge and resources to help postgraduate students and researchers in the middle east.


For a while, I have been finding it more and more difficult to use Microsoft Word for writing, especially when it comes to bigger documents.

I often find myself thinking about where to write a certain chunk of text and even if I decided, it is sometimes hard to quickly reach the section that I want to update/edit.


A couple of week ago, Paul, my supervisor, started a discussion with me on how best to store and work on my thesis. He suggested that I use a feature that exists in MS Word where documents can be linked together to a certain master document. So, I went ahead and decided to learn about this feature which I have never heard of before. However, while writing, it came to my attention that some users reported their files and projects becoming coprrupted as a result of using this feature. So, I decided that using it is too risky, so here is an X for that.


I decided to look for alternatives, and all of a sudden, I remembered a certain software called Scrivener, which seemed very inetresting to me about a year ago so I decided to follow their Twitter account back then.

I decided to visit their website and I found out that they have already released a Windows version as it only had a Mac version back then and although I use a Mac mainly, I didn't start using it back then.

I took a look at the introduction video and their website and it was fascinating to me to find out that many novelists, authors, journalists and even researchers have been using Scrivener and have been very happy with it.

I also started googling Scrivener and found that others are using it in education and research.

Scrivener Interface

The main concept behind Scrivener is that it offers a great writing environment where documents are split into chunks of texts. Those chunks could be chapters, sections, a few paragraphs or a few lines. The beauty however about Scrivener is that if you decided to combine all of those chunks into a single document for printing or sending, this can be done automatically and very easily using Scrivner's compile feature.

What this means is, if you are writing and do not want to worry about structuring or stylying at all, you can do that without any problems, and once you finish you can tell Scrivener to combined everything and format it in a way you specify. So, you could tell it to format chunk's titles as H3, for instance and to format any higher level groups as H2s or H1s.

The big advantage in this case of course is, your writing space is always there and you are free to add as many chunks of texts or images as you want.

Scrivener Interface

Scrivener of course is more than just a writing environment, it has many geat features that I suggest you check.


Inregration with Reference Management Software

Since its important to me to have the ability to insert citations within Scrivener as I currently do in MS Word, as it has my Mendeley's plugin installed, I decided to look for possible ways of integration. to my surprise, there was no way to do this with Mendeley at the moment. However, it seems that those using Endnote or Zotero have a better luck as both of those reference management software offer an RTF scan feature that can be used to update citations and references list once the final document is made.

This is a quick video showing how Endnote can be used with Scrivener:


And here is the longer version of it where the author, a PhD student, explains how he uses tools like Evernote and Scrivener in his research activities.


Any hope for those using Mendeley?

Well, personally, I wouldn't turn down a potentialy beneficial software just because it doesn't work nice with another one. In this case, I decided to use Scrivener and insert citations manually like I usually do anyway. However to stay alerted to where they are I write them, for instance something like (John, 2000), then, I highlight them in Scrivener.

I don't see a huge problem of not being able to automatically use Mendeley within Scrivener. However, I decided to tweet those @Mendeley_com and @ScrivenerApp to see if there are any chances for an integration between those 2 to be born, and to my joy! they said that they have met and they are working on something that will make it possible for Scrivener and Mendeley to play nice with each other! So, let's hope that they develop something for us very soon!

Join the campaign and spread the tweets for a Mendeley Scrivener integration!

By the way, if you use Mendeley and would love to use Scrivener, don't be shy to do just what I did, LET THEM KNOW!. go ahead and tweet to both of those great companies how you love to see an integration as soon as possible.

If you are new to twitter, use something like:

Hi! I'm very interested in an integration between @Mendeley_com & @ScrivenerApp please!


October 01, 2011

Atlas.Ti 6 vs NVivo 9: A Comparison

Follow-up to Potential uses of CAQDA software packages from A.Hariri's

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from one of my research blog (in Arabic) followers asking for my opinion on choosing NVivo or Atlas.Ti. I've sent her a summary of some of the issues that I faced when I tried both of them.

Today, I was asked by a friend of mine, Salma Patel of why I chose Atlas.Ti over NVivo as well, therefore, I decided to write a detailed post about this to help those who may be looking into this as well.


I found that Atlas.Ti 6 and NVivo 9 were two of the most used software packages out there. So, I went ahead to do some research and I decided to try them both. I ended up choosing Atlas.Ti although I was much inclined to use Nvivo for the following reasons:

Nvivo stores everything within 1 project file. There is the obvious risk of losing everything if this file becomes corrupted.

Yes, I will make backups, but I still want to be safe. Furthermore, what if there is a bug in the software itself? It wouldn't really be able to access anything.

Atlas.Ti has a project file that only stores projects information and certain details. Documents/PDFS do not have to be imported into the project. Atlas.Ti can get them where they are :).

In the worst case scenario that something may be wrong with the file, you can still access external documents such as PDFs.

I already have a working structure of my documents (Thanks to Mendeley), why would I need to copy those files over to NVivo too? Waste of space in my opinion. Some could say delete the PDFs from Mendeley and just have the record for each document. Well, this can be done but then, I wouldn't really be using Mendeley's nice features such as effective searching within PDFs and pictures, etc..

Because Atlas.Ti will reach your documents where they are, you could have Mendeley arrange your library into a certain structure, then, you ask Atlas.ti to link those documents to your project.

Note: You may want Mendeley to sort your documents into folders based on Years at the the top level so that you could easily see which document your passage you are reading if you output a list of passages within Atlas.Ti. I have also had Mendeley rename the files so that Author's names are in the begining of the file name for the same reason too.

Because it relies on 1 project file, there is no doubt that the file size would become bigger as you go on. Project file remains very small.
I found NVivo to be a bit slow although I was working with an empty project... Still going fast
The bigger the project size the laggier NVivo becomes. Would not lag as much because the project file which runs the show is relatively small.
Until recently, NVivo had a very bad support for PDFs and I was surprised to see the company taking their time (months!!!) to release an update that would fix this although I would expect this to be a core feature in this age! I haven't looked into the update which they said should fix any PDF issues because I had already decided to go with Atlas.Ti. Excellent support for PDFs!
Due to the above point, I believe that NVivo should look more into updating more frequently, especially when certain things should be fixed and are demanded to be fixed by customers in the forums Many updates released continuously which improves the way Atlas.Ti works or fixes bugs and so on. In fact, I think I've seen 4 minor updates for Atlas.Ti within the last 2-3 months. It tells me as a customer that they care!
Although a bit slow sometimes, the UI is better than Atlas.Ti which was one of the main reasons I was seriously hoping to use it. However, the late release of the update and the slow response killed any chance I had of using it. UI not as nice as NVivo, but, as I started working more with Atlas.Ti, I started to appreciate the UI and how it is arranged. However, it is obvious that I am more interested in performance.


These are what I think some of the key issues I based my comparison on, when it comes to features, both software packages offer very similar set of features.

After writing this comparison, I have to say that I do not hate NVivo, I simply think it wasn't for me. Others may find working with NVivo is better for their own reasons. I still follow the development of both NVivo and Atlas.Ti, and I still retweet some of their announcements and so on to my Research Blog (in Arabic) followers.

I hope some of you out there find this helpfu! and I am happy to learn about your experiences with any of the mentioned software packages.


Potential uses of CAQDA software packages

About a year ago, I was looking into Computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDA) software packages that may help me in doing my literature review by allowing me to code certain passages within documents into codes that I could then easily explore or retrieve.

I think one of the potentials I saw in some CAQDA software packages is that if you code useful passages within lots of papers and documents into codes (which are similar to keywords), this will make it easier for you to retrieve those stored passages of texts within different documents.

For example: if I have read 100 PDFs and assigned things that I believe relevant to my research into codes, it would be much easier to just output the passages that belong to a certain code within those 100 PDFs in 3-5 pages (since other information within each document will be hidden) showing where every passage came from and how they can relate to each other (You can use relationships between them too!). This would surely be much easier than having to check all those 100 PDFs to try and find bits and pieces here and there that belong to the topic I am trying to write about.

Another potential where I personally think CAQDA could help is building a rich research library of journal papers and different documents over the years. Because, in many cases, a PhD might be the first step of your research career, especially if you are a lecturer or someone that is interested in publishing journal papers in the same field. I guess what I am trying to say is, lets assume that while doing your PhD you come across 100 journal papers that you consider important in your research field. After that, you become a lecturer at some university where you are expected to do more research. So you read more journal papers and you assign more information to codes within the CAQDA software. After a couple of years, you could have a very rich library of papers that you have already read and classified into certain codes or keywords.

After that, all you have to do really when you want to write a journal paper is ask the CAQDA to output information related to a keyword and start writing.


For instance, you may choose to first write a background, so, you output background information which you store in a code. Next, you may choose to become more specific, so, you may want to identify previous gaps and even gaps that may still be in need of research. You output information assigned to a code "Gaps in....." and you find all different arguments by different authors, etc...

I believe that using a CAQDA helps a lot when it comes to writing, if it was used by the researcher while he was doing his literature review.

I know that some would argue that it is not good to just read certain parts of the paper and assign them and just forget the rest of the paper may see like taking things out of context, but this is only true if the researcher himself didn't pay attention to that.


Of course I am only scratching the surface here as most CAQDA have much more advanced and useful features such as reports & networks diagrams where you could visually show the relationship between different passages. For instance, you could show a number of authors disagreeing with author A while may others are supporting him.


I have been working with a CAQDA software (Atlas.Ti) mainly as part of my literature review as I believe it keeps me organised and helps me find information that I have already looked into much faster than I would usually do. I will continue to use it as I go on with my PhD and I hope that I learn more about it and try the various features available and be able to share what I find or anything new later on.


August 21, 2011

Wordpress Mac Permissions Issues with Zend Server CE

If you have installed Zend Server CE on your computer to use as a development server, you may have ran into the issue of Automatic update not working on Wordpress. This is the function that usually updates your Wordpress plugins and Wordpress system or core files. Furthermore, another related problem that you will likely to have as a result of this is that you won't be able to have Wordpress edit your .htaccess to change the way your blog URLS look like.


The cause of this problem is that the Apache user used by Zend Server CE (User: daemon, Group: daemon) is not given enough permissions to be able to make changes to your files on your Mac. The solution to this should be simple, at least it worked for me right away.

The Solution:

  • Open your Terminal application (Applications -> Utilities)
  • Use the following commands in bold:
  1. Navigate to your htdocs folder that was created by Zend Server CE using something like:
    cd /usr/local/zend/apache2/htdocs
  2. Change the user of your blog folder which resides within the htdocs folder. In my case my blog folder is called blog, so I used this command:
    sudo chown -R daemon blog
  3. Change the permissions of the folder using:
    sudo chmod -R g+w blog
  • Now, try to update your Wordpress plugins or Wordpress system itself (core files), this should have solved your Wordpress Mac permission issues. In my case, I didn't restart and it worked. If it doesn't work rightaway on your development environment, try restarting your Mac.

Note: The solution above worked for me because I don't allow any network access to my development environment, if you for some reason need better security, you should probably check Zend Server's documentation to follow their suggestions with regard to how to make your development environment safer.

Hope these steps work for you!


January 27, 2011

Qualitative Research related blogs

Writing about web page http://merlien.org/news/qualblogs.html

A great list of qualitative research related blogs by Merlien institue. Can be found here.

Do you have any similar excellent resources? Share them please!


January 20, 2011

Visual Understanding Envrionment

Writing about web page http://vue.tufts.edu/index.cfm

The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University. The VUE project is focused on creating flexible tools for managing and integrating digital resources in support of teaching, learning and research. VUE provides a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information.

Wow. A really amazing and interesting open source tool. You have to check it!


December 12, 2010

Mendeley

Writing about web page http://www.mendeley.com/

From Mendeley's website:

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.

  • Automatically generate bibliographies
  • Collaborate easily with other researchers online
  • Easily import papers from other research software
  • Find relevant papers based on what you're reading
  • Access your papers from anywhere online
  • Read papers on the go, with our new iPhone app
  • View more features…

Mendeley is one of the new software/services that provides advanced references management features.

What I liked in Mendeley

What I really liked in Mendeley is that:

  • It can sync your references between multiple PCs/Macs.
  • Allows you to read, annotate & comment on PDFs from within the software itself.
  • User interface is very nice!
  • Can be set so that it starts watching your resources folders, adding every paper/document that is added to these folder to the library itself while tagging these auto added documents as 'To be reviewed' so that you can review and confirm that every bit of information is correct.

If you have been using Endnote (like me), you will be happy to know that you can export your Endnote library to Mendeley directly. Ofcourse, this doesn't mean that you can't use Endnote at all if you swich to Mendeley. You can work on Mendeley and if for any reason you wanted to insert bibliographies from Endnote or for any other reason, you can export your final library to Endnote and use it.

Research & Decide yourself!

Lastly, I just wanted to know that although I see Mendeley as a good choice for referencing management, etc.. However, I don't want to influence your decision in anyway!

You should spend sometime comparing/researching whatever software you are aware of, for example, for me, I ended up comparing Endnote, Zotero and Mendely. I quickly took Endnote out of the equation for a number of reasons such as its lack of easy sync features and inability to edit PDFs within the software. Lastly, I ended up choosing Mendeley over Zotero because:

  • Zotero is a Firefox plugin. Therefore, it relies on another software which really adds another variable into the situation that could go wrong. For instance, what if there were some problems in Firefox? What if Zotero become unstable or incompatible for any reason with one of Firefox's future updates? Lastly, what if Zotero affects Forefox's performance?
  • Mendeley's ability to edit PDFs within the same software is just great!
  • The ability to watch folders within Mendeley is nice!

Therefore, it really depends on your work style and the set of features you might require which can be available in a certain software and not in the others.

Do you use any of these?

If you are using one of the mentioned software, I would really like to hear your experience. There might be features that I am not aware of in any of these mentioned software.


December 09, 2010

NVivo 9 Tutorials

One of my friends told me that his friend suggested that he uses NVivo for management of sources and qualitative data analysis. I have never heard of NVivo before so I wanted to give it a try. I downloaded the software and installed but still didn't really have the time to give it a try.

Furthermore, while searching for relevant reviews. I found that there is a good number of people who have suggested the use of NVivo in Academic Research and most certainly by PhD students.

I am really interested in finding what others who have used/are using NVivo think about it. I know that there is a need for some coding, but since I am going through the new journal papers I am downloading I will probably scan be able to code quickly.

One of the advantages of using NVivo is that it allows me to see all the sources related to one node (Theme or topic). Which really saved time especially if you are talking about having 100s of papers in your library. Being able to assign certain parts of papers to different nodes/topics is a really nice and very helpful feature!

I don't want to waste a lot of my time learning about NVivo 9 and testing it until I know for sure that it can help. Therefore, I haven't started using it.

I am actually hoping that some members of staff or some visitors would shed some light as to if NVivo 9 is indeed helpfull for me as a PhD student or not.

So, if you have any experience using NVivo 9 or any previous version, please let me know how it was. Did it help you get better results? Was it worth it?

Below are a number of videos that explain certain basic parts in NVivo 9, in case you wanted to learn more about it.

Introductin & Overview


Importing Sources to NVivo 9



Linking Cases to Attributes in NViv



Connecting Sources to Demographics in NVivo 9




December 07, 2010

Thumbnails in Wordpress 2.9+ and 3.0+

Now that Wordpress added a thumbnail feature (2.9+), we longer need to assign custom fields and give them values each time we write a blog post. Insted, while writing a blog post, there is a small panel or block to the side that allows us to choose a thumbnail for the post.

However, for people like me, who have been using custom fields to show pictures for sometime, there is a decision to be made. Should we stick to the custom fields and just continuou using them or should we start using the core thumbnails featre instead?

Well, you don't really have to the choose one of these two, you will keep using them both. How you ask? Well, simply, stop using custom fields for any new posts you write and use the thumbnail feature to assign thumbnails to blog posts. Then, edit your templates and add some simple conditions so that Wordpress checks whenever a blog post is viewed if it has a custom field thumbnail or a core wordpress 2.9+ thumbnail. By doing this, your old blog posts thumbnails will still show and your new thumbnails, the one you assign using the new feature will also show.

Honestly, I was very worried about having to choose one of these two, and since I am not a programmer/developer/coder, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to figure this out. However, with some thinking and imagination and with the help of a number of great Wordpress articles I was able to use my thumbnails in my Blog homepage. Not only that, but using some of the new features related to thumbnails, I was actually able to set specific sizes for the different pages in my blog. For example, on my homepage, all posts thumbnails are 100px x 75px. However, when a visitor clicks on a certain blog post to view it, he is shown the same picture but in a different size, say 200px x75px. This is really nice and it's really simple to achieve.

As I said, I am not a programmer and I was able to figure this out with the help of the following resources. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to get similar results :). I would also like to thank each one of those blog authors:

If anyone (not good with coding as I am) wants to look at the code I have used in my template pages to show the thumbnails, I would be happy to share.

If you want to check what I was talking about, you can visit my Arabic Research Blog. Don't ming the language, but make note of the thumbnails then follow some of them to the post view page to see if the thumbnail's dimension will change or not. Please note that because some of the thumbnails are actually cropped, they might not show in a bigger size if you follow them to the post.


December 05, 2010

Get Your Research Library Organised with Zotero

Writing about web page http://www.zotero.org/

Zoter.org:

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.

Honestly, I find it one of the best tools available for researchers. really!

Zotero video:


Check Zotero's website for more information.


Zotero's features:

    • Capture Research Data
    • Archive the Web
    • Store related PDFs, files, images, and links in your library
    • Take Notes
    • Drag and drop bibliographies anywhere: into an email, a blog post, or any word processor
    • Plugins for Word and OpenOffice make it easy to drop in references on the fly
    • Zotero comes preloaded with all major styles, and thousands of additional journal-specific styles are freely available
    • Get the best of both worlds: Work locally with your research materials and automatically sync your data between multiple computers
    • Even without Zotero, you can access your collection from any web browser. You can even view your collection on mobile devices like the iPhone.
    • Share your research with the world and make your library and collections public
    • Create group libraries to collaborate with other Zotero users
    • And Many more...


    So, What are you waiting for? Get Firefox if you don't have it and give Zotero a test drive :)!


    October 22, 2010

    Angry and ashamed

    On Wednesday 20 October a student on the Management for Business Excellence masters was attacked by thugs on his return to his accommodation in Coventry after a day studying on campus. He was severely injured and had to go to hospital.

    Words cannot adequately express the anger that I feel about a situation in which a supposedly civilised country spawns mindless thugs who prey on young people motivated to extend their education. An unprovoked attack by cowardly bullies against a foreign national fills me with shame. I have travelled throughout Europe, South-East Asia, North America, Africa, Australia and have always been met with courtesy, hospitality and friendship. Not once have I felt a threat to me personally, and yet here in Coventry, two weeks after his arrival in Britain our colleague is savaged by two of the poorest examples of humanity.

    I take it upon myself on behalf of all the decent people in this country to offer you and your family my sincere apologies for what has happened to you. I hope that you get better soon and I trust that you will return to your studies with the enthusiasm and motivation that brought you to the University of Warwick in the first place.


    October 17, 2010

    The start of a new academic year

    A new academic year has started and there are 45 students on the Management for Business Excellence (MBE) masters programme. There were 47 originally, but two left, one after the first 90 minutes of MBE induction and the second after a couple of days. Although I was sorry to see them go, they decided that the style of learning on MBE was not for them and they chose to move to another course. I wish them well in their studies this year.

    21 nationalities are represented on MBE - wonderful - so many opportunities to learn from others who have different experiences and perceptions. However, this is not without its problems. Given the learning style in CBE which is largely team-based problem solving, one student wondered how they were ever going to come to an agreement on anything because of the diversity of views.

    I think that the answer at least in part, will come from consideration of one of Stephen Covey's 7 habits of highly effective people: Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. In a group with diverse views there is the temptation to makes one's own views heard and be accepted by the group. What Covey proposes is to spend time listening empathetically to truly understand the views of others. If each team member does this there is a far greater chance that they will be able to understand their common ground. And it is on this common ground that they can build their responses to the projects that they are working on, always working towards win-win outcomes. This process of sharing views, analysing and discussing them will inevitably lead to better understanding of others, help everyone to express themselves more clearly and bond the team in the process of working on the mini-projects, learning through practice the true meaning of collaborative working.

    I am sure that Vineet Nayar would be happy to employ every graduate of MBE next year:-)


    July 12, 2010

    Wordpress Link Library plugin

    Writing about web page http://yannickcorner.nayanna.biz/wordpress-plugins/link-library/

    Wordpress Link Library plugin is one of the most useful plugins I have used for Wordpress. Not only it allows you to show your links along with their categories in a nice way that can be easily formatted, it also allows your Wordpress blog visitors to suggest new links, this was very helpful on one of my websites as I needed a way to allow others to do this.

    Other features include: the ability to set an RSS icon for each link and show/hide links descritions. ofcourse, there are many more!

    I have been using Wordpress Link Library plugin for quite some time on my Arabic Research Blog, in the Research Links Library and Link Library Wordpress plugin have proven to be a very useful and stable plugin.

    Lastly, the Link Library plugin's developer Yannick, is also very useful and helpful when it comes to answering any questions related to any of the Wordpress plugins that he developed, and his blog is the biggest indicator of his will to help others. Thanks Yannick!

    To view some examples of how this plugin can be used, visit the Link Library plugin and look under examples or configuration.


    Lastly, if you find this plugin very helpful (like I did), please don't hesitate to donate, as this will help keep the project going and help Yannick with any costs related to the maintenance of his blog or as a little incentive for him to keep going :).


    July 08, 2010

    Learn and Create Facebook Applications

    A few months ago, I wanted to create a simple Facebook application which allows me to show few items from an RSS feed in a Facebook Tab in a specific way I want. However, because I had no idea whatsoever about Facebook Application development, I spent days trying to figure out how I could create an application that would do that for me. And what made this worst is the fact that I hate programming in general and I had no clue where to start a Facebook application from.


    Facebook Application Development Training Videos

    Finally, I saw an item on Amazon which claims to teach Facebook Applications development. At first, I was very sceptical and I thought that this item is probably going to be useless. However, I decided to order it anyway hoping that these CDs will be of any help and therefore, save my time, as I spent days and days researching...

    Facebook Application Development



    Click on the Image For more information



    The CDs included video tutorials which explain everything clearly! Although you might find a bit of repetition here and there, I found that I learnt quite a few things from the CDs, and I have found the source code included to be really helpful too!

    If you are like me, Zero in programming and Zero in Facebook Applications development and you need to learn a few basics things in order to create your very first Facebook Application, give this a go!


    Please note that a few parts of the CD are outdated due to Facebook updates and/or bugs. However, the rest are very valuable!


    Example of the Facebook Application I have created

    After learning a few things from the CDs, I managed to create what I wanted to do. To view an exmaple, please visit this Facebook page which I am working on for a cousin of mine.

    Shirts 2 Go

    From this page, visit the Shop tab and Enter the UK/EU Shop.

    Let me know of what you think of what I have done so far :) . I am open for any suggestions for improvements if you have any, as this is stil my first Facebook Application!!


    July 03, 2010

    البحث العلمي

    Writing about web page http://drhariri.com/blog/links/

    قمت في موقع د. حريري و البحث العلمي بإنشاء دليل البحث العلمي، و الذي يتم من خلاله جمع العديد من الروابط للخدمات و المجلات و المنشورات العلمية المختلفة و أي مواقع علمية، و التي أقوم بزيارتها شخصيا أو يتم إقتراحها من قبل زوار الموقع.


    إذا كان لديك أي روابط تود إقتراح إضافتها إلى دليل البحث العلمي، لا تتردد في زيارة دليل البحث العلمي، حيث ستجد في آخر الصفحة نموذج لإقتراح رابط جديد.


    الأقسام المتوفرة في الدليل حتى الآن:

    • المجلات و المنشورات العلمية
    • مكتبات و محركات بحث الرسائل و الأطروحات
    • مواضيع و توجيهات في جمع البيانات
    • مواضيع و توجيهات في البحث العلمي
    • محركات بحث عن المراجع العلمية
    • أدوات مساعدة

    May 25, 2010

    Facebook Like button on your Wordpress blog

    Writing about web page http://ottopress.com/wordpress-plugins/simple-facebook-connect/

    A couple of months ago, Facebook released new Facebook Social plugins that can be used on any website. The benefits of using these plugins includes: creating a stronger link with your Facebook fans, allowing your blog visitors to share stories, recommendations and anything with their friends or anyone they have added as friend on Facebook.

    For marketing purposes and in order to grow your website/blog visitors and fans, it is really important to integrate some of these Facebook Social Plugins into your blog, to allow your blog visitors to easily share anything they like or comment or the various things on your blog.



    Facebook Social Plugins for Wordpress

    One of the plugins that I found very easy to use to integrate Facebook Social Plugins into your Wordpress blog is through the use of Simple Facebook Connect Plugin.

    This Wordpress plugin is easy to use, and includes almost all the functionalities and plugins you might want to include in your blog (Comments box, activities, like, share, etc...).



    Facebook Like Button in Simple Facebook Connect

    Although the mentioned Wordpress plugin above allows you to add almost all the Facebook Social Plugins easily, there is a simple step that you can do to improve the Facebook Like button that comes with the same Simple Facebook Connect plugin.

    While the Facebook Like button (Read here for what this plugin does) will work as it should after implementing the plugin, whenever someone presses the like button on an artcile on your blog, in their facebook account, it will show that they like your website while showing your website name.

    While you do want others to see your website name, you wouldn't want it to show like this on anyone's Facebook profile. Simply because lets assume that a visitor likes 4 posts in your blog, and he goes on liking each one of them. After he's done, his Facebook profile will show 4 different lines saying the same thing that he he liked "This Blog", which is stupid and non-informative at all as to what he liked there...



    Like button Additional information

    The solution to this is very simple if you are using Wordpress, all you have to do is provide additional information (using Open Graph Protocol) in your Wordpress theme you are using, in the header file (usually header.php) in particular.

    Open your theme's header file and anywhere between the <head> and </head> tags, use the code shown Here (Can't show within the post as it is HTML), then save.

    After adding the header tags shown, visitors who like any post on your blog will have more meaningful information shown in their Facebook account as the post title will be shown, and whenever they like another post, a different title will be shown. Less repitition, More information and better for your SEO (i think)!


    Now, go ahead and press on the like button in one of your posts and check your Facebook profile to see if this is working!


    July 30, 2009

    Guaranteed employement

    There was an incident during the management of change module about whether or not it is appropriate to make "promises" to employees like guaranteed employment, benefits and so on. This is a real situation that happened to our company Flexipart during the business simulation.

    In real life, the same dilemma is faced by well known companies. Like everything in life, there appear to be two sides to the story. While some argue guaranteed employement is Good for the company because  employee are more likely to be loyal and hence less turnover costs. I remember reading this from Deming's book where he cite the example this in Japanses business practice. 

    However, contradicting evidence include the likes of General Motors, well known for the deal it made with the union worker for 'sweet' pension and retirement benefits. According to an article from the Economist, such employee benefits was a major cause for General Motor's collapse (because it can't meet its pension obligations) . So this make the following question relevant and interesting

    Should organisations offer guaranteed employment to employees?

    Well Argyris provide an interest take on this question, from a different perspective from above, I will just quote him i think

    He writes in an interveiw with Acme CEO, the CEO wrote

    "If the employees express fear about the new plan because the  'old' company guaranteed employment, say: "The new organization will do its utmost to guarantee employment and better prospects for growth. I promise that."

    and

    "If the employees express fear that they are not used to dealing with the market approach, say: I promise you will get the education you need, and I will ensure that appropraite actions are rewarded."

     

    Now if I recall correctly, when this happned during the MOC business simulation, the tutor said to our managing director (I paraphrase) "Making false promises to your employee that they will always have their job is not doing them good, it is an act of cowardice". The rationale behind this is that when under pressure , the MD approached the employee's fear by offering a simple no brainer solution "I give you job no matter what happens", thinking this should eliminate sense of fear and enhance commitment. But the MD in fact have no control over the external environment. By simply asserting that he will guarantee jobs is a momentary attempt to regain legitimacy using his positional power while having no concrete plan to ensure his promises can be fulfilled. (He was treading on thin ice basically)

    Now the three argumentsI mentioned above, all have a very anti-management bias (I didnt invent this term, Argyris did). Basically it first assumes the responsibility of job security rest in the top management while it completely ignores and removes employee's own personal responsibility for ensuring job security. Argyris wrote

    "But look at the confusion of messages and roles. If the CEO means to give these employees a sense of theri own power over their own professional fate - and that was his stated intent - then why emphasize instead what he will do for themEach time he said, "I promise you," the CEO undermined his own goal of creating internal commitment, intrinsic motivation, and genuine empowerment."   (p105)

     Argris's example again illustrate the point that each and everyone of us has our own hidden unsaid assumptions about they way we behave. In the CEO's case, he assumed the management has the full responsibility for employee's job security. But we often don't realise these assumptions are inconsistent with our espoused  (publicly stated intent and behavior).  When we don't realise these two are inconsistent, we produce actions that are inconsistent with are stated beliefs. To others, we appears inauthetic (Dee Nicholls) in our words and actions.

    Now what should one do if he/she was in the CEO's shoe? Well I won't bore you with all the same words about leadership and communication. But I will leave you with an story from Mathew (co-tutor in the module). Instead of using fear to motivate , which is the opposite of guaranteeing job security (saying If you don't work hard , you and I will be both out of a job!).  I think he said "I want us to be the best in what we do". Now I don't know if saying this is actually better than the other approaches mentioned above. I 'd happily welcome your thoughts and comments. :)

    To quickly sum up. It is clear hopefully from my description that Guarantee-ing employee job secruity is NOT a good idea. For two main reasons. Firstthe external environment will dictate organisational action beyond management control (i.e. recent mass layoff from financial crisis), you end up shoot yourself in the foot. Second, it removes that sense of urgency from the very people you try and expect to change their behavior.

     Argris, C (2001). Good Communications that Blocks Learning. Harvard business Review Paperback on Organizational Learning