April 25, 2009

Less is more…

I love Jazz. I also love rock, classical music, Brazilian pop music, etc etc, but currently I`m in love with JAzz (again). Many years ago, when I was a musician I fell in love with it. Specially a school of jazz called Be Bop, that was very popular on the late 40`s early 50`s. Its a very fast, technical, show off kind of Jazz. And them I met Miles Davis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miles_Davis) . He is the father of several jazz styles. One of them was called "Cool Jazz" and it was the antytheses of Be Bop. It was about few, well chosen notes on a slow introspective tempo. The moto of Cool Jazz was "Less is More". On my late teens, being a professional musician, an anxious and communicative human being, it was hard for me to understand this whole "less is more"thing. I really wanted a "more is more"kind of thing. I liked the sound, but I did not support the concept.

Why am I talking about that? Because as the PMA`s go by, I`m more and more into the "less is more"thinking. Not that I`m working less, reading less or doing less. But I`m concentrating more and more on sintetizing my thoughts, on trying to make the ideas I have more clear by puting less ideas on the PMA. I`m not necessarily talking about shorter PMA`s, because you can have the same length even with less ideas if you explain those ideas better or invest more time on having a writing style that is more pleasant to read. But the point is, I`m making an effort on improving one one my weakest spots, that is the difficulty i always had to cut things of and keep them away. I must say I got very proud at the result we achieved on that sense, when we did the KBAM presentation. I think the bit of the work I helped with (KM) was rather sintetic and straight to the point. I think our team managed to do it. But it still a challenge, and one that I`ll think I`ll take with me forever. Always remember Miles Davis saying that less, is more....


April 24, 2009

Tacit to explicit

One of the greatest challenges of any KM policy is how to transform all the huge amount of tacit knowledge that is part of an organisation in explicit knowledge. People want write manuals or fill in systems. The most practical way to do that is through communities of practise or creating in-house training. Based on what I have seen over this years, if a company wants to to somehow make people write down or fill useful information of some sort that has to be connected with some bigger aspect (some prize or being considered a natural part of some other activity). A few years ago we had a structure to allow all projects conducted on the company to leave some kind of information. We managed to have over one hundred projects properly completed on our database. Quite a good number. We did that by establishing that in order to be appreciated over one recognition program we had, all information had to be filled. Some other people also filled because they believed on the idea (and we set example, doing the same on the projects conducted by us). The problem, looking back, was how useful, how frequently those information was used and valued on other initiatives.

But the challenge of making people share and use the available knowledge by turning tacit to explicit persists.


Knowledge Audit

Have you ever performed a knowledge audit on yourself? That is a concept I came accross while working on the mini-project for KBAM. Like many other concepts, is common sense the idea that I should think and know about what I should know. But have you ever done it consciously? Well, for all of us MBE students the answer is yes. At least it should be because every time we are doing a mind map and planning an PMA or the project we are doing some kind of Knowledge Audit. We are identifying what we know, what we need to know and how to do it.

BEsides that, recently I did a different and more complex version of the Knowledge Audit. I was talking to some former colleagues and to some people from the company I worked for and they enquired me if and when I was returning. I knew this question would come so before hand I gave some thought to the the question. And one of the things that came to my mind is that in order to know that, I needed to know what I wanted, what I was looking for. That was something I already knew (see the entry about my personal vision and mission for that answer). Them what I had to think was, what do I needed, what was missing, what were my improving points in order to get to this level. That was basically a knowledge audit with a slightly different connotation. What I needed to have and know here was more closely related to professional experience (a form of knowledge) them to formal academic knowledge.

I think constantly performir personal, honest, realistic audits is a valuable experience to any human being. And I`m not talking about academic or professional experience, more important them all that is making a personal audit, reflecting were I am, were I d like to be and what I need to get there as a human being. 


April 20, 2009

Writing in books….

Never liked writing in books. Them some years ago I had a teacher on university who stimulated me to do so (in my own books, of course, not library ones). So while reading about knowledge management one of the techniques that is often discussed is that people just register conclusions taken from meetings, actions or facts as soon as they happen (Toyota, for example, stimulates that). The idea is that it allows more details to be remembered, real information's to be collected (and not post-fact impressions changed by personal impressions) etc. I related one think to the other. The idea of writing thoughts and ideas on the book as the information is readden relates in an individual level to the same concept. Is a technique for individual knowledge management but that builds in the same ideas used for organisations.

 


April 13, 2009

Do you remember Sue?

Do you remember the lady that used to write all sorts of comments on our blogs? Curious about her? Look at that....creepy! 



http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/gavinalexander/entry/the_guantlet/


April 12, 2009

Organizational Culture is everywhere….

Working on my KBAM PMA. Suggesting how WaiveRiders could use Knowledge Management in order to manage  its assets considering the whole life-cycle of the products. I ended realising that the best way to make it work, is to make those aspects, the care for knowledge and the consideration for the whole life-cycle part of the culture, of the blood of the organisation. That is funny because several PMA`s I worked on had to talk about culture, two of them (PIUSS and LE) were clearly about using specific systems (6S and the EFQM) for that change. It is, of course, a very important aspect. The problem is that changing culture is slow (and I found some interesting material saying that it is not possible to really change at the managers will). The main conclusion is, if you wanna build a good organisation (and thinking, as usual, on the long term!) think about setting up the proper culture on it!


April 10, 2009

Maintenance, Management, Life–Cycle, KM…

Writing about life-cycle costs asset management for my PMA. Actually came to my mind that the basic question of management is always related to the basic question of Life-Cycle. It`s such (or it at least should be) a basic thing, the idea that a manager should make decisions thinking about the life-cycle consequences of those decisions that is sounds funny that somebody has to be remembered of that by a whole body of knowledge. 

But is certainly something we human beings tend to forget. I had a teacher on my MBA who was an specialist on Ethics. He wrote a very interesting book about how the basic question people`s life (and for extension in all business related sciences) is always about spending more, enjoying the moment or saving for later. Reminds me of the old rock`n roll motto that used to say you should have a fast, crazy life and die before being 30....Well personal decisions are personal decisions, but when managing an organisation in which several people depend on you you need to have a non-r`nr approach and think about life time implications and decisions...



April 06, 2009

Knowledge Management and MBE

Yesterday I was in a bus, and I had to wait sometime until the bus left. I had a pen and I started drawing, understanding the KM process. And I was relating to the obvious, to the way we learn. And them I related to MBE, to the way MBE is conducted, planned. To the way we acquire knowledge, for example,  I though that the fact that we are stimulated to choose the way we like to do it certainly makes it easier, because we can use the time of the day we prefer and the topic we are more interested on. How could we do that on a organisational level? How could we allow an organisation to do it in its favourite style ? Them using it. It is very obvious that if we came to Warwick, if we decided to spend all this money we were already planning to use it. But how do we do that in a company? The basic answer is to make it a natural part of the regular processes that they should help, but is still a challenge.


I`m still thinking how I will do that for WaiveRiders....


March 27, 2009

A bit about 5s, organizing a clean enviroment of work

Reading a bit for the future KBAM PMA (still finishing PEUSS....). It came to my mind and incident and something I learn from an older person.

Many years ago I worked on a structure that had a good mix of (very!) experienced people with (very!) junior employees. I was on the second group but I had risen a bit faster so I actually worked as a kind of assistant to the general manager of the area. One day this manager was assigned to take over another area (as well as the one he already had). The are had a quite repetitive work, dealing with LOTSSSSS of papers. It was very easy to lose a paper in there (and depending on the paper it could have quite serious financial consequences).

This manager of mine was a senior person, with about 15-20 years experience but was not a formally educated person and it also had a bit of difficulties communicating, he was not good at it (even though he had some other fantastic qualities). When he assumed the new are he was appalled by the amount of paper and by the lack of organisation on some people`s desks (even though, to be fair, it seemed to work that way because loosing papers was not a particular problem of that area). The thing is that right in the begining he got everyone together (about 20 people on that area) and said that personal stuff should be kept to a minimum on the desks and that they should be very organised, with everything on defined, standardised places). He understood that by doing that the risk of loosing anything would be minimised as productivity would also increase. I did not know (and I`m pretty sure that to this day he still does not know) that this approach is the basis of the Japanese 5S way of managing the working space. Once again, he did not need to know that theory, was just common sense working (like I said very long ago here in this blog, in the end it is all common sense). That made me think, specially because I`m not a organised person. I`m not going to finish the case because this simple request, done in the way he did (and I told him I think he did not do it properly and he agreed), caused all sorts of problems, uncovering serious relantionship questions and ending with the dismissal of a employee.

That entry if for KBAM, for that reason I`ll not go down the road of discussing the communication issues. But the idea of having a organized space stickied with me. So After that I always had quite a bit of organisation when dealing with work. Documents stay on the right place, with the right names, files are organised on the computer, I always do back up, etc etc. I keep a bit of mess on the space itself, in part because it is part of me and I don`t think would be helpful to add any more stress. Besides in the last few years being creative was part of my profession and a bit of confusion, colours, information are proven to help creativity. But for production places, with many parts, objects I think the idea of having a organised space with established processes make all sense.


March 12, 2009

Less selfish capitalism

Fantastic article from today`s FT. The subject itself can interest anyone. But for the discussions we are having specifically on MBE, towards the end of it the author criticises continuously changing. For some that coulr read as a criticism to the whole notion of continuously improving in order to achieve customer requirements and sustainable success in an ever changing reality. I would not agree.
A few days ago I was having that discussion with a friend that works as a business consultant in Brazil. I was defending the concept of constancy of purpose of Deming and he was going against it. He said we always needed to change. I had to explain here that he was mixing different levels of decision. Of course a company has to always change, because the world changes and if the one does not changes it will simply be left behind. As simple as that. But changing is just a way to allow the bigger objective that should not be changed reachable under circumstances that are always new. For example, if taken that concept described on the article bellow that we should create an economy based on values that are more human that should be a constant vision, considered not only on time of crisis like now, but also on the good times. But to do that we will need to constantly improve, learn and improve how to do it. The purpose is always constant (and the deeper it is, the less changed it should go through. For instance you could say that you major life objective -Being happy?- should never change) or should change very seldom, but the strategy the tactics should constantly change, constantly improve.
It took me quite a while to make him understand my point. It is not easy, and I applied the same thinking to the understanding of this article, specially to the bit on the end.

Now is the time for a less selfish capitalism

By Richard Layard

Published: March 11 2009 20:02 | Last updated: March 11 2009 20:02

What is progress? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been asking this question for some time and the current crisis makes it imperative to find an answer. According to the Anglo-Saxon Enlightenment, progress means the reduction of misery and the increase of happiness. It does not mean wealth creation or innovation, which are sometimes useful instruments but never the final goal. So we should stop the worship of money and create a more humane society where the quality of human experience is the criterion. Provided we pay ourselves in line with our productivity, we can choose whatever lifestyle is best for our quality of life.

And what would that involve? The starting point is that, despite massive wealth creation, happiness has not risen since the 1950s in the US or Britain or (over a shorter period) in western Germany. No researcher questions these facts. So accelerated economic growth is not a goal for which we should make large sacrifices. In particular, we should not sacrifice the most important source of happiness, which is the quality of human relationships – at home, at work and in the community. We have sacrificed too many of these in the name of efficiency and productivity growth.

Most of all we have sacrificed our values. In the 1960s, 60 per cent of adults said they believed “most people can be trusted”. Today the figure is 30 per cent, in both Britain and the US. The fall in trustworthy behaviour is clear in the banking sector but can also be seen in family life (more break-ups), in the playground (fewer friends you can trust) and in the workplace (growing competition between colleagues).

Increasingly, we treat private interest as the only motivation on which we can rely and competition between individuals as the way to get the most out of them. This is often counterproductive and does not generally produce a happy workplace since competition for status is a zero-sum game. Instead, we need a society based on positive-sum activities. Humans are a mix of selfishness and altruism but generally feel better working to help each other rather than to do each other down.

Our society has become too individualistic, with too much rivalry and not enough common purpose. We idolise success and status and thus undermine our mutual respect. But countries vary in this regard, and the Scandinavians have managed to combine effective economies with much greater equality and mutual respect. They have the greatest levels of trust (and happiness) of any countries in the world.

To build a society based on trust we have to start in school, if not earlier. Children should learn that the noblest life is the one that produces the least misery and the most happiness in the world. This rule should apply also in business and professional life. People should do work that is useful to society and does not just make paper profits. And all professions – including journalism, advertising and business – should have a clear, professional, ethical code that its members are required to observe. It is not for nothing that doctors form the group most respected in our society – they have a code that is enforced and everyone knows it.

So we need a trend away from excessive individualism and towards greater social responsibility. Is it possible to reverse a cultural trend in this way? It has happened before, in the early 19th century. For the next 150 years there was a growth of social responsibility, followed by a decline in the next 50. So a trend can change and it is often in bad times (such as the 1930s in Scandinavia) that people decide to seek a more co-operative lifestyle.

I have written a book about how to do this and there is room here for three points only. First we should use our schools to promote a better value system – the recent Good Childhoodreport sponsored by the UK Children’s Society was full of ideas about how to do this. Second, adults should reappraise their priorities about what is important. Recent events are likely to encourage this and modern happiness research can help find answers. Third, economists should adopt a more realistic model of what makes humans happy and what makes markets function.

Three ideas taught in business schools have much to answer for. One is the theory of “efficient capital markets”, now clearly discredited. The second is “principal agent” theory, which says the agents will perform best under high-powered financial incentives to align their interests with those of the principal. This has led to excessive performance-related pay, which has often undermined the motive to work well for the sake of doing a good job and introduced unnecessary tension among colleagues. Finally, there is the macho philosophy of “continuous change”, promoted by self-interested consulting companies, which disregards the fundamental human need for stability – in the name of efficiency gains that are often not realised.

We do not want communism – as research shows, the communist countries were the least happy in the world and also inefficient. But we do need a more humane brand of capitalism, based not only on better regulation but on better values.

Values matter and they are affected by our theories. We do not need a society based on Darwinian competition between individuals. Beyond subsistence, the best experience any society can provide is the feeling that other people are on your side. That is the kind of capitalism we want.

Lord Layard is at the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance. He has written ‘Happiness’ (2005) and co-authored ‘A Good Childhood’ (2009)


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