All entries for October 2008

October 10, 2008

When have you researched enough?

Writing about When do you know you have researched enough? from Lila's blog

Lila raises some interesting points about when have you done enough research. My thoughts on this for the Management for Business Excellence students follows.

For the team study phase of the Creating Business Excellence module you have a number of projects to complete. Each of those projects could be studied for many hours, let’s say several hundred hours for a reasonably in-depth literature review. Each team member only has 30 hours to spend on pre-module work and this has to be split between the projects appropriately. If you refer to the learning objectives for the module, by now you will hopefully feel that these objectives will be achieved by working for a total of 100 hours. Your question indicates to me that you are in the process of making your own learning decisions, a key element of critical autonomy in which you go beyond the learning objectives set and start reflecting on your progress.

What all this leads to is study to the depth and breadth that time allows, recognizing that you will not be able to cover everything, and make objective choices on what to place emphasis.

Please do not be tempted to spend longer than the total time allocated for each phase of your study. As wonderful as it is to enjoy researching a topic of interest, your degree comprises many elements and focusing on a few to the exclusion of the others is a recipe for disaster from a qualification viewpoint.


October 08, 2008

What is leadership?

The Management for Business Excellence course started last week with registration and induction and the intake of 24 started the first module, Creating Business Excellence on Monday. Organized into 4 teams, the module starts with 30 hours team study on 6 mini-projects.

I suggested that there was an opportunity for everyone to lead a project; everyone could take a turn in monitoring the use of time, managing the paperwork etc. No instruction was given on how any of this could best be achieved and it appears from recent blog posts that there are different ideas about leadership and there exists in some teams frustration and perhaps a little tension. So perhaps the question that arises is “What is leadership?”

Bernard Bass, a respected scholar on leadership, has written that there are as many definitions of leadership as there have been attempts to define it, and so it is perhaps to be expected that ideas about leadership differ when people join a course from different parts of the world and are placed in a team that ensures the widest cultural mix.

I have analyzed 20 definitions of leadership that have been published in journals over the last 50 years and conclude that my definition of non-coercive leadership captures the essence of all of these definitions. Leadership is the process of influencing the thoughts and activities of followers toward achievement of shared goals. This definition implies that the leadership is non-coercive, otherwise the goals would not be shared. They may be agreed due to the use of power or fear, but not necessarily agreed and I think that this is most relevant to the team situation in the Management for Business Excellence course.

There is a great difference between personal power and positional power. If someone assumes leadership of one of the Creating Business Excellence projects, the other team members may go along with that person. But he or she has not been granted positional power by the group, and I think that is unlikely to ever happen in this scenario in which teams are made up of future leaders in whatever career they choose.

Thus, unable to rely on positional power to coerce team members to follow, the leader in this situation has to use personal power to influence and this must surely start with identification of goals for the task that all share. That’s all very well, but have we got time for this? Wouldn’t it be simpler to give the leader the positional authority and let him/her get on with the task? We could do that but this would not be leadership (in my opinion), it would be headship. Headship, through positional power, can influence the activities of followers, but will their thoughts be influenced in the ‘right’ direction? Will the goals be shared? Without hearts and minds working towards achievement of shared goals, how can headship compete with effective leadership?

If as I do, you find it useful to look at extremes, take a look at any one of a number of 20th century dictators and compare their accomplishments to a thought leader such as Gandhi. I know whom I would prefer to follow.


October 05, 2008

Good wet weather gear

I went walking today in the pouring rain, taking my two dogs on a forest track. After about two hours I returned home and apart from spots of rain on my glasses, I was completely dry. So I thought that I’d share what I was wearing in case anyone would like some recommendations on good gear that works in wet weather.

Firstly, I start with my walking boots. I’ve recently returned from a holiday in the Lake District where they were first put to the test. I have to say that these are the most comfortable boots that I’ve ever worn. They are like putting on a pair of slippers. Check out the website at http://www.ecco.com/gb/en/collection/men/outdoor/68074/51052/detail.do. Made of Yak leather, with a great inner lining that cushions and protects, giving great support but being very light and completely waterproof.

I bought a pair of Sprayway all day rainpants at the start of my holiday in Cumbria because the weather this summer had been so ppor, I was convinced that we’d be walking in the rain in the hills. Webpage http://www.sprayway.com/view/mens_pants-and-shorts_waterproof/product/all%20day%20rainpant refers. As luck would have it, we had the best two weeks that Cumbria had experienced since May and the rainpants stayed in the cupboard. So it was this morning that I wore them for the first time, and they kept me completely dry without feeling like waterproof trousers. Although it rained really hard at times it felt that I was wearing a normal pair of trousers without getting soggy.

A year ago I bought a Montane Velocity DT jacket, http://www.montane.co.uk/productdetails.php, because I need a highly breathable waterproof shell when I am walking in wet weather otherwise I just turn the inside of the jacket into a sauna. This jacket kept me completely dry this morning and did a pretty good job of breathing too, especially as I was completely zipped up with cuffs closed tightly and the hood drawn quite tightly around my face.

My outdoor clothing was finished off with a pair of SealSkinz waterproof activity gloves http://www.sealskinz.com/cgi-bin/psProdDet.cgi/KJ461||@c@b|0|user|1,0,0,1|26|. These are truly great because there is nothing worse in my book than keeping dry and warm in wet, windy weather except for your hands. With the Montane jacket cuffs close securely over the wrist of the gloves, my hands stayed dry and warm throughout.

I thoroughly enjoyed my walk today despite the weather thanks to some excellent gear. I’m not so sure that my dogs were impressed with the walk, but they enjoyed being rubbed down, having a meal and a sleep by the gas fire.


MBE class of 2008

This week saw the start of a new postgrad academic year with enrollment on Monday and induction starting on Tuesday. So far there are 24 students enrolled on Management for Business Excellence (MBE) and there may be three more joining the course on Monday. It is a pity that these three will miss the induction sessions, but I am sure that their colleagues will help them get up to speed quickly. Why do I think this? Well, although it is early days, it looks as though this group is already working well as a team. There have been lots of good questions and discussions and the team working shown on Friday’s Teambuild exercise was excellent. I am sure that the newcomers will be welcomed and will integrate quickly.

This is the first year that the course is called MBE and it is also the first year that the numbers on the course have exceeded 10. This in turn means that a greater number of nationalities and hence cultures are represented and if the group continues to go from its excellent start, this year promises to be very exciting because of the high levels of motivation that will lead to a very rich learning environment.

Welcome to MBE. I look forward to working with you all.


October 2008

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