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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

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 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 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)


Ch ch ch ch changessss!

The most interesting question I took of from the PIUSS PMA (that tks God, I already sent on Monday) was questioning myself if one is really able to build a planned process to change the culture of an organisation. REading books about it I found lot`s of arguments for (and a few against. Smaller quantities because defending that is not possible is obviously less interesting commercially speaking....)


I particularly think that it is possible. But it will take a LONG time. And will need not only a method, a plan, but a lot of skill and occasionally a quite strong fist. I thing it is almost impossible (if not impossible) to change a whole organisation`s culture (unless, perhaps, if it is a small or recently created organisation) smiling, without beeing quite hard and though from time to time.

But I think is possible and Six Sigma can be a good method to do so, if done properly and with care. 


March 08, 2009

Rewards, good or bad?

Every organisation I have always been part of had rewards of some sort. IF you behaved properly, a reward (and sometimes if you didn`t a punishment). Every chance I had to organise something on my professional life took that into consideration. I created prizes related to process improvement, to Knowledge Management, etc. I must say I remember reading some people against this kind of approach, but never paid attention to it. When working on my OPP and CBE PMA`s a found this book (Punished by Rewards - The problem with gold stars, incentive plans, A`s,praise and other bribes) that defended the opposite idea. He said people did not change because of those bribes. They just tried to cheat the system. Once again is something that relates to Deming, that was also not a fan of it. His argument builds on psychology, and is very well defended and rational. I used it as a criticism and reflection in my OPP, CBE, and PIUSS PMA. That came to my mind because in PIUSS several authors defend it a form of making a new culture stick. Create punishments and rewards for those who behave. Today reading something about KBAM I found the same kind of argument. I must say I think the logic behind the book is perfect. I can not argue against it. On the other hand, perhaps out of habit I still can`t think this is wrong. The only defence I can present, however, that if people are not changed by prizes or punishment at least you use those prizes to communicate, to indicate what is desired. This might raise awareness, might make people think about why this reward/punishment is been applied and if you can clearly communicate the reason....another possible advantage is that by giving recognition to someone who behaved in an specific way you could be just saying a "thank you"to someone who did something that the organisation understands is good and desired by it. And that can be used on a Six Sigma program or in a KM initiative. But I agree that people will not change just because of that, they can see that, reflect on it and perhaps change out of their reflection, but not because of the reward itself.


targets

Sometime ago I had a discussion in this blog with the Deming idea that one should not put targets on production. It took a while for me to fully understand and agree that the problem were not the targets themselves, but individual production related targets were wrong. For example, having the idea of continuously improving a company is a target because you will have to measure and identify that those measures are improving. That is the target, improving.

However everything you study and see asks for measures. Study for KBAM one of the procedures that is recommended is to have measures and to attach those measures to results and numbers. And those measures/targets have to be SMART, (what means they should be specific...). So that is an important balance. You need to have objectives and some degree of objectivity is needed , some target is needed. But that has to be real and collective, and has to be thought in such a way that will stimulate everyone to drive honestly together, everyone to work as a system toward this guiding objective.

So that is the hard thing, have objectives that help the system to improve, have the people to know what to do and that actually bring performance benefits that are real and not only created to achieve short term advantages.

 



March 02, 2009

Knowing is more them having

About 1,5 years ago I decided to go overseas to study. I had that dream for a while but for one reason or the other I had not done it. However that moment seem very appropriate.

I started looking for it and found all the information's needed. I liked everything but one thing. It was a very expensive thing to do.  I looked for scholarships and they were available however if I wanted them I would have to wait at least one more year and that could have completed cancelled the possibility of coming due to several personal and professional issues.

The thing is, I had money for that. I`ve been working since I was a teenager and I managed to save money for that. I had just enough with a certain margin of safety (and of course if something REALLY out of control, a special Cause happened, I had some emergency alternatives in place). But was it worth? Would not I be better off keeping it, or using it to help me buy a flat or something else?

The first answer to my problem came from my financial background. I calculated what this degree could bring to me in terms of salary increase and compared it to what the overall amount of money would give me interest-wise in a low risk application (if you prefer, made an economical cost calculation using the cost of opportunity concept).  It made sense to spend it that way.

Second I had a very nice conversation with an uncle I have.  And he reminded me of something I always said but had forgotten. What you know is worth much more then what you have. That is specially true when we are young. Knowledge is the best possible asset. No one will never be able to take it away from you. And in this digital workd even more. That was the killing argument, and perhaps the main reason why I am here in the first place.

Therefore it makes all sense the people and organisations should do their best to manage knowledge, to try to make the best out of it. That`s actually what they are paying for when hiring people, specially expensive ones.



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