March 30, 2007

Start from basic and start it realistically

Although the session is finished, the journey of reflection is just start. From today¡¯s presentation and some thoughts from Paul¡¯s EEE structure design. I learned that everything has to start form basic and reality.

Firstly, after the two presentations, Paul acted as the board of the company which has asked a lot of realistic questions, such as the potential cost, the detailed approach and which department would be required etc. Although we all prepared to be quested, the realistic level is still giving both teams a big sock. After this I suddenly realize how tough the reality could be. Then I found that the question which shows the board did not expect any dramatic changes, all they asked was just the most basic and straightforward approaches to solve the current problems. All these facts make me think about one thing, maybe we have the most fantastic philosophy of KM and AM, and maybe we are full of passion and confident about what is right or wrong. However, this was only a dream, the dream that requires a lot of fundamental basis to make it to come true. Whereas we only know how to dream but we would never even think about where to start the basis. That¡¯s why the board is not convinced. We always tell ourselves excellence is a journey but it seems that we never learned how to start the journey.

Similar situation was happened few minutes later. Paul demonstrated his thought on why he let the students to choose the seminar topics. Basically, he believes that students should choose the topic that they are keen on, tutor should support students¡¯ decision. He also believes that learning is a journey, any EEE session is only the start point of the journey. The topic chosen by students could be effective initiations for intrinsic learning thus make a good start point. I think Paul¡¯s thoughts provide us with a good example on how we should view our management careers in the future. As we all know excellence is a journey like study, it is a never ending process. To make a good start would provide us with a platform toward future development. Tomorrow¡¯s job could never be done without today¡¯s efforts. Therefore, I think that maybe to start from basic and realistically would be our best solution for the excellent dream coming true.

The importance of sharing

After this week’s study, perhaps we all recognized that most of the management issues are associated with people. People created the system and at the same time people eliminating the system to improvement. So what is wrong with the people? May be a story could give us some initiations

Today I have read an old story, which is about the different types of living in heaven and hell. There was an envoy that came to examine heaven and hell. Firstly, he came to the hell. He found that people there were very thin and hungry, and they were suffering. Was there no food for them to eat? No, there was enough food for everyone, but the problem was that the handle of the spoon was one meter long. As the result, although there was lots of food in the spoons, but people cannot put the food in their mouths. The more they wanted to eat, the more pain they felt. Then, the envoy came to the heaven, where people there looked very healthy and happy. However, surprisingly, he found that the spoons here were the same as in the hell: with one meter long handle. He felt confused that why people here were so peaceful and happy? Finally, he realised that people in the heaven, they put food in other people’s mouths, in order to help each other to eat; but people in the hell, they just wanted to put the food in their own mouths, therefore they can never eat the food.

This story takes me back to this morning’s seminar. There was a short discussion about wiliness knowledge sharing and performance relevant pay system. From my opinion, any kind of performance pay or promotion should only be viewed as incentives for the wiliness of sharing. What is more important is people should realise that both or many of them exist in a shared system, this system is created by and contains everyone. Anyone within the system should beware that system has far more power and value than any individual. Therefore, collaborate and share is the best and only way to continuously survive. The short-term individual benefits could only lead both the system and any individual within the system to long-term death. Therefore, as the story described: do we want to leave in the hell or in the heaven?

After all this thought, I made an assumption. If I share an apple with one of my classmate who really wants to eat apple, then I would double the pleasure of having an apple (two people), and also I gained the happiness and trust between us. Overall we strengthen our system. I can’t see why should not share with others.

Moreover, as towards the end of the week and term, teamwork was a large part of EEE studies. Looking back to the beginning of the term, actually I have no idea what is teamwork about, although at the time I may think I do. Till now, I realised the amount of knowledge that we have gained from our team’s generation is far more than anyone of us could achieved. Gradually I realised this is because we were operated in a system that we all willing to share and collaborate our individual knowledge towards a shared goals. This led me to think about the collaboration in real organization, if everyone gives sharing and collaboration a try, maybe they will realized that there are much more things have been gained.

March 29, 2007

Some thought from an outstanding seminar

The seminar topic was ‘What is the relationship between individual knowledge and organizational knowledge and how can they be transformed?’ I suggested the topic simply because I believe this is the most important and tricky part for the KM. And as I expected the discussion of the seminar was outstanding. There were two major parts within the seminar.

The first part was about understanding and differentiation of the concepts of tacit and explicit knowledge. Gradually we are getting to understand both terms. Then the exciting part came up which is about the transformations between individual knowledge and organizational knowledge. In this section, all the team members made a great contribution under Paul’s coaching. The major benefit that I have gain was the understanding of the knowledge transition process within the organization.

My understanding is assuming the knowledge start as an individual tacit knowledge. Then under a pleasant environment that created by the efficient leadership, the individual would document or codify his/her knowledge to an individual explicit knowledge. After the assessment of this explicit knowledge, it becomes a public explicit knowledge. Then the public explicit knowledge gradually embedded into each individual’s mindset and behaviour. By repeating this process, gradually we generate a shared organizational tacit knowledge, such as organizational culture, shared vision and mission. Eventually, the tacit to tacit knowledge transition could be achieved. As IBM claimed that ‘tacit knowledge is the most valuable source to create knowledge’.

It may sound like a simple process. But it requires huge amount of conditions.
Firstly, patient is the key to success. This process may take a long time to establish and operate. With patient the whole process should eventually embed into people’s behaviours as a way of working life. Secondly, this process requires a substantial amount of supports from leadership. The leadership needs firstly understand the process and facilitating or maybe creating all the sufficient conditions that are needed. Some levels of communications (vertical and horizontal) are also necessary. An effective communication facility (IT system) is also very important.

Successful knowledge transition process could have many significant contributions for the organizational transformation. The most obvious one is to provide the most valuable source for the continuously development. Knowledge sharing culture is also the one of the key contributions. By sharing the knowledge, the effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge transition process is improved. Although the communication is the pro for the process, at the same time it is also improved by the process. Overall each department of the organization would work together as a system.

This is just some personal interpretation for the topic; please contribute to enrich the understanding.

enviroment or food?

Yesterdays seminar we had some discussions on environmental issues. I do agree with many classmates’ idea that environment is a precious intangible asset which could add value to human life. However, different people have different value scheme. An American multi-millionaire may pay £50m for a house in Beverly Hill due to the pleasant surrounding environment. However, a ShanXi province’s coalminer would give up his beautiful surrounding environment for the food on the table.

This take me back to Maslow’s needs hierarchy. What are people’s current needs? A beautiful environment or food for the family. No matter how much the basic environmental education people have, if there is no food on the table, anyone would give anything for their basic need. On the other hand, if we all have a relatively good living, then environment issues would obviously attract our focus. I think this is human nature, such as if anyone win the lottery they would firstly want a bigger house in a better location.

Therefore, may be we should contribute more on third would economy development (fulfil the basic need for the people) rather than shouting at them about the environmental issues.

March 28, 2007

How do I define…….? Realistic thinking…..

There are many situations recently that make me to think about these questions. The story went back to last Xmas, when I had a discussion session with my father and several his business friends. At the end I was regarded as a dreamer in an ideal world, like a lot of other graduates who would likely to be at their first entrant of any organization. There were a lot of confusions, but I was not able to work out the answer. Today the situation happened again in the seminar. I was asked by Paul whether my ideas would work for my future employers. After the seminar, I think the right questions raised on my head, which I think could bring me a step close to the root answer.

Firstly, how should I define myself? Appropriate definition of oneself is regarded as one of the hardest thing in human life, which requires a continuous self assessing through every stage of life. The self-assessing requires a principle to measure, which is defined by the knowledge that we have.

Secondly, how should I define others and our system? What has been ignored is that others may have their principle and the system (me and others) has its principle. The system is much more powerful than any individual within the system. As Covey suggested, before seeking understood, understand others first. Therefore, understand the system and others within the system should be our first priority. In other word, we should try to understand and be part of the system before change it.

As Deming emphasised in the SoPK, the system is constructed by a group of people, and the people within the system drives the system. Therefore, it is obvious that respect and understand others’ principle would help us to embed in the system. During this process, we could also build relationship with others which is the most necessary intangible assets, power and condition that we need before start to influence others. As time pass by, we could also observe a lot of root problem of the system. By solving these problems with other members and learning from each others, gradually we build our relationship and solved the problem. Although this process may take us a life-time, be patient is still the key. Quick fix can only make the problem even worse.

Then realistic think is to appreciate the current system that we have, and to appreciate others’ principle and situation before any actions. Effective influences are spoken by action and willingness to share the contribution and knowledge with others. Eventually together we (not I) could optimize the overall system. And most importantly: be patient.

Special acknowledge to Mr P Roberts and every classmates in EEE. You taught me idealistic principles and wake me up with realistic thinking….

March 27, 2007

Old Chinese Philosophy, Reflective Learning (Blogging) and Organisational Learning

Last week I have read a book called “the Philosophy of Zhuang Zi”, Zhuang Zi is one of the most famous philosophers in the history of Chinese civilisation. He was believed living in around 369 B.C.. Most of his philosophy is about the attitude towards human life in order to optimally harmonise with the surrounding environment (system). There is a small section about philosophy of learning and understanding. He developed this philosophy from the ancient Buddhism theories which is described as one Chinese word “Jue Wu”, where the direct dictionary translates into English is “consciousness” or “enlightenment” which is a state of deep understanding. This word contains two Chinese characters, where “Jue” means a quick understanding by observation, which is a sensational understanding of certain knowledge; the second character “Wu” means understanding by my heart, which means as the time past by, the knowledge is deeply embedded into somebody’s heart. By combining the two characters together, the word shows that adoption of knowledge is a growing process, where observation and understanding is the first stage, on the other hand to embed (grow) this into somebody’s behaviour is the last stage. To understanding that adopting knowledge is a process between both stages and complete the whole process, could enable someone to apply knowledge in various situations. This old Chinese philosophy is provided as a thorough understanding of the true meaning of learning (direction) and how to learn (the approach).

This old philosophy reminds me with Paul’s encouragement of reflective learning—blogging. A reflective learner shares the similar philosophy of Zhuang Zi’s definition of learning. Blogging is not only a way of recording the reflection of knowledge, but also a process of embedding the knowledge into somebody’s vein. The beauty of this activity is to make us to think and think again. Through this process of understanding and accessing this knowledge, gradually we could apply this into our behaviour. Although blogging cannot be regarded as the full process, it can be an effective approach of the learning progress (reflection) during the process. Moreover, to become to a reflective learner, not only in terms of theoretical, but also in terms of practical, which could assist us gain the full benefit of learning?

This philosophy can not only be applied in individual learning, but also can be applied in organisational learning. In terms of organisational learning, R. Ackoff’s journal named “From Data to Wisdom” shared similar idea. This philosophy of learning process is regarded as the transformation from individual tacit knowledge to organizational explicit knowledge. When the tacit knowledge is generated by people within the organisation, it can only be called “Jue”; whereas after period of time, the individual tacit knowledge transformed into explicit organisational knowledge, then it can be called “Wu”. The organisational learning is to constantly repeat this process, and in order to gain the full benefit of the knowledge. By embedding this process into the organisation’s culture, thus the organization become a learning organisation. Moreover, in terms of management of knowledge, this philosophy of learning could also provide a principle for the management of knowledge.

December 07, 2006

How to judge CSR

Today we had a session on CSR (cooperate social responsibility) and ethic. This session makes me think a lot about what is going on around the world. So what do CSR and ethic mean for us? When we judge BMW that has developed a high performance car (M5:V10, 5L) and sells it to the market, it is seemed not socially responsible due to the high fuel consumption and potentially dangerous on the road. Do we really understand what is CSR and ethic? In other word have we been socially responsible and ethical? I think the answer is ‘maybe not’. Did we realise that when an automotive company develops a new top range engine or a model, how much did they push the advanced technology level up? How many new employment opportunities have been created from varies parts of this model? And how much taxation has been generated from both the company and their customers? Or even broadly how much the automotive culture has been developed by this model? Are we still thinking this is not socially responsible? Another example we discussed this afternoon is the tobacco company. We all think that Tobacco Companies are not socially responsible. Did we ever think about how many jobs tobacco companies generate, did we ever think about how much taxation has been generated by tobacco trading? Perhaps everyone knows about how tobacco could damage our healthy, but did we all realise how tobacco could also make someone’s life much better? A lot of tobacco companies already put warning notes on their product ‘smoking seriously damage your healthy’. Can we still say they are not socially responsible? As we all know, the famous Great Wall in China which is regarded as one of the greatest symbols in the human civilization history. The culture and historical value of the Great Wall in human world is uncountable. However, how about the people who built the Great Wall in 3000 years ago? Did they think the great wall is socially responsible? Perhaps not.

Consequently, before we judge whether any organization or company are socially responsible or not, we need to know that the pure ethic and CSR are not even exist in this world. There is always a conflict between one side and the other. For instance, in the BMW’s case, by compromising all the social responsibilities, choosing to develop the new M5 would have an overall better social effect. Therefore, the BMW decided to produce it. In my opinion, any organizations which provide employment opportunities, pay taxations, and encourage the social developments have already been socially responsible. What they need to also concentrate on is whenever they doing any projects, they need to always think about the overall CSR as a key factor for the production.

Moreover, as an individual, especially academics, we also need to be socially responsible when we make any judgements on the companies. For instance, if we unilaterally judge an organization as it has not been socially responsible. We could cause an even more serious irresponsible result for the society. For instance, if we banned all the tobacco companies because they have not been socially responsible, how many people will lose their job by this? How much funds (taxation) we will lose every year for the NHS? If there are huge percentages of population in one part of the world lost their job, perhaps they could even become terrorists. Therefore, who is more likely to become socially irresponsible?

All these CSR matters require us to have a holistic view about CSR and ethic. As longer as we have an ethical attitude of CSR and a positive willingness to put this attitude in our behaviour, together we could make our world better.

December 05, 2006

Miracles come from understanding and appreciation

Today we had three sessions about the leadership and strategy employment. What a meaningful day in my life again! I wish all the people in the world could have a week EEE session in their life, and then our world would be full of miracles.

The strongest reflection of me from today was understanding and appreciation. For instance, understanding the system, understanding the people surrounding you, understanding your colleagues, understanding your team mate, understanding Jack Welch, understanding Deming, or even just understanding yourself.

As Deming emphasised a system is about interdependence relationship. We could have all kinds of different systems in our life; for instance, the world could be a system which contains human, other animals, plants, hills, lands, air and the whole environment etc. Human is interdependent to all the elements within this system. It is like teeth and lips, without lips teeth would feel cold. Similarly, an organisation could be a system, where all the members are interdependent; a CEO does not mean more than an engineering worker or a cleaner to the system. Everyone does their best for the best benefit to the system. Therefore, every single human life would situate in all kinds of different systems.

More meaningfully, we not only need to understand the systems and all the elements within them, but also need to appreciate them as well as appreciate the system. All the understandings and appreciations would wake up the miracles in our life. Think about all the greatest scientist, musicians, artist, leaders etc, the miracles in their life are come from understanding and appreciation.

December 01, 2006

what makes a good leader???

Today I was talking with a friend about how likely could we apply the fantastic theories of leadership into practices? Power and money are always the boundary. People always fight for more money, but few would ever think about money does not means better life and happiness. How much money does a person need? A bed, some foods, some clothes. When he died how much could he take away? If he prepared to leave the money to his children, he would made the case even worth.

So what makes a good leader? As the Bible emphasised, love yourself is love your neighbour (the people surround you). To be a good leader or even just to be a good person is about how much you could contribute to the world surrounding you. There was an old philosophy about how to be a good person. The story was a guy asks a friend how he can be a good person? His friend told him “imagine when you died how would you like your funeral? Think about the people was around you, will they be there? what would they think and talk about you? Then you would know how to be a good person.”
I think this philosophy is also applied to how to be a good leader. Certainly power and money are not the most meaningful things in our life. Every leader should “self-assess”, when you leave the position what would all the stakeholders in the company think about you? Will they celebrate because the hard life is over or will they always remember you because you made their life better?
I think social responsibility is always the pre-request for someone who wants to be a good leader. An excellent leader should always think in long terms, the term that longer than they could possibly lead.

November 28, 2006

Some Thought about Today’s Study

I have read something in Deming’s book today. There are some words about the state of Japanese economy in the late 1949s. By the end of 1949, Japan has very little native resources and negative net worth in economy. However, today, Japanese economy is regarded as one of the strongest economy in the world. Moreover, in another side of the world, Germany had a very similar situation with Japan in the late 1940s. And now the German economy is considered as one of the dominating economy in the EU.

Are both situations coincidental? Perhaps not. Whenever someone comes cross a typical Germany or Japanese product, such as BMW, AUDI, SONY, TOSHIBA, etc. there is always a shared comment on those products: high quality. This is the comment that enables the Japanese and Germany economies become the best in the world. As Deming emphasised, quality becomes a shared commitment of all the Japanese companies. There is an advertising sentence from AUDI, “This is the pure German technology”. Why the ‘pure German Technology’ is so special? Because the ‘pure German technology’ contains more than 50 years of quality build commitments. These beliefs enable the German technology becomes the technology that customer could trust and rely on.

All these make me to think about the current reputation about Chinese product. The first comment about Chinese goods is always ‘cheap’, but worth the price. Then in most of time, people would say the quality is not brilliant. Another thing which is happening now in China is that people are selling the natural resources. For instance, we all know both Japanese and Chinese are using chopsticks, but more than 90% of Japanese wood chopsticks are made in China. Moreover, nowadays, in northern China, there are still many factories that are mining coals for generating energy. However, the price that they need to pay is the pollution of surrounding environment. What do all these tell us? It is undoubted that China has an average 8% GDP P.A growth for more than 10 years till now. However, the prices that Chinese need to pay are: the pollution of environment, the healthy of the people, the ‘cheap’ reputation and the labour price as cheap as slave. What about the quality that the feature of Chinese productions on the silk-road one thousand years ago? Do the abilities of Chinese workers shrink? Maybe not. The true reason is when the Japanese and Germen are committing quality as their most important commitment of production, the Chinese are rushed into increase their GDP. However, finally, the GDP rate is just a figure. The increase of GDP does not necessarily mean that people have a better living environment and their living length is extended. Quality can mean any thing: the quality of life, quality of a production and quality of goods. But at least we need to remember there is a need for quality and it can be very important for our life.

Moreover, these make me to think why we don’t have quality life in China. Any kind of organization should have a leader. The responsibility of the leaders is to guide the people on the right track. However, the fact shows that the majority of the Chinese leaders do not even know what the right track is; or they have already chosen the other track for their people simply because it is cheaper and less hassle for the leaders. Where is the long term view? You may think the leaders don’t even have a view or at least it is only a short- term one.
Obviously it is not the people’s fault. As we know people can be powerful, but at the same time they could also be stupid. In most of the time, people empowered their leaders to lead them, and trust them with their life. But what will happen if the leaders don’t know how to lead or simply don’t know how to make the people’s life easier? This is what is happening in China at present… If the situation is like this, how could the world still expect China will have a bright future?

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  • Good insight. Would you please tell me where the buddhism history originated, from any paticular doc… by Weiss on this entry
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  • A good reflection Ray. Leadership is about influencing the thoughts and activities of followers towa… by Paul Roberts on this entry
  • The thing that really stuck out of your blog for me was the tobacco companies example, and I basical… by on this entry
  • hi wan, thanks very much for your comments, maybe it is a kind of chinese thought that we all share.… by on this entry

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