All entries for March 2011

March 29, 2011

Doing unethical jobs, ethically!

In this entry, I want to share my view about a CSR mindset. What initiated this thought in me was the situation about a job offer to one of Paul's students a while ago that Paul shared with our class. First of all, thank Paul for your sharing!

I want to start by another family story.

My mom is a teacher in high school. In Vietnam, where the majority of highschools are run by government, at the end of every academic year, there are accessment and rewards for teachers and schools with high graduation rates. However, for entrance recruitment, there have always been classifying process for students's marks from top to lower ranking schools. Students whose marks are not high enough fall into what is claimed schools of type B and top schools are type A.

I have no ideas how teachers are ranked as well as allocated, probably due to their graduation marks as well. The teaching rewards and high titles, not much suprising, normally go to high ranking schools with workaholic students who during their highschool time have won academic competitions and stuck with tight timetables for most of the time with no other interests except for studying and the competing attitude could make students not good friends (I went through it so I know how it was ...). My mom always see it's such an unfair rewarding system although she is working in a type-A school. To her teaching experience, she found it a lot harder to teach non-hard-working students, who might be not as quick or as bright as others or not enthisiastic in studying. When a teacher comes to a class with noisy and unprepared students, teaching might not be as an enjoyable job as when they chose it. Being patient and being strict, raising their voices quite often when neccessary, facing bad-behaved students sometimes ..., type-B school teachers are those should be rewarded the most. With type-A school students, a teacher play a role mostly as a facilitator. However, for type-B school teachers, they have to play their roles as motivators, directors, facilitators, advisors ... it is a lot more than knowledge in the subjects they teach. At the end, hard-working students graduate with higher rates anyway and it is a lot of efforts required to improve type-B school records. The system just tends to make a bigger and bigger gap between quality of two types of schools.

However, teaching in a type-B school doesn't mean a teacher is not good, there are just different sets of skills to improve different types of students (to facilitate, to direct, moticate ...). It is them who decide their attitudes toward the jobs. The way others look at one job doesn't mean the one who does it would make it that way! No religions tell their followers to kill people but why some do it? Some one play a role as a follower, does it mean he/she would contribute less than the leader? For me, it is the mindset that one choose driving his/her in the jobs, the job titles might not tell everything.

Coming back to Paul's sharing, working in an industry which is seen as unethical by others, doesn't mean all people there are unethical. It is down to how robust a person's ethical mindset can be, which is important in all jobs, all industries, I think. Is it sure that people with commonly ethical job titles such as doctors or medicians are always ethical?

Moreover, for people with an ethical mindset, I think, they might need to take into account different factors more than their expertise to do jobs which are harmful to others rather than those that help. It is just another set of skills that an ethical-mindset person needs to do a claimed unethical job ethically.

In the end, in my opinion, it is the mindset that matter to one's intergrity, not the job title!

LE PMA thought

From the very beginning of my PMA progress, I got stuck with the term 'coaching'!

What I confused was the way of coaching, the method of presenting or the know-how in consulting. Although all the theoretical examples about a holistic picture are provided, the same as other cases I came across during class, no guidelines are available to improve a typical case. To me then, in front of me were lots of theories and the Waverider case and if I bring the whole theories in (you have to understand customers'needs, you need  to improve your operations, you need to think strategically, for example...), the Waverider board could have just bought a leadership text book (Dubrin's, for example). They should be able to use Porter's Five Forces or SWOT or QFD... themselvs. If they haven't known about those tools, a TQM or Operation Management book would help.

It also makes me think about my future employment. When I attended a workshop in skills porfolio of career office, I was introduced with a set of skills that I need to develop untill I finish my degree, there was one that really spotted on to me which is the skill to promote my selling points. From that time, the quesion always hanging in my mind is: what is my sellimg point?.

From this PMA, when asked to encounter a real case, I got stuck. Theories might be accessible for everyone but how can I make me different? how can I make it work? I can't go to a job interview and tell them the theories that I have learnt, as if I am a textbook published from my graduate school with chapters in Six Sigma, in Leadership, in EFQM ... I might be able to tell them what good or bad about those theories, when one should be used, what other experts say about it but how to make it works?? I don't really know or even if I do, how could I convince them?? Theories which are popular, everyone might have known, those are not, might have not been justified to a certain extent to hold true broadly... So what is my selling point? 

Back to my PMA, stuck with how to implement those theories, I look for books in consulting and it does give me an idea how to start, where to look at and what steps to do. Of course, they just give a general idea and guidline of how to approach problems and some tactics to work with clients, problems might arise... And what I came across next was how complex the reality could be and how much a consultant needs to understand a company to do the consulting job well, how the smallest things might count. This makes me face with relevant assumptions need to be made and the available information means something else behind ...

This experience makes me look back on all modules I have studied so far, and feel like I haven't known enough about them. Deming said: "Knowledge comes from theory." and "without theory, there is no learning", he also said: "Knowledge has temporal spread."

I don't want to spend one-year time and all the efforts and resources to get just a textbook back, I don't want to get only low-hanging fruits ... It is 5-6 months left to prepare for my selling point!

March 19, 2011

Consensus – good or bad?

The term 'group thinking' has stuck in my mind since last week lecture. 

It makes me suspicious about any discussion which reaches a consensus. A question comes up first in my mind about any consensus, is it a real consensus or the consequence of group thinking?

I make my own definition about consensus that when there are no interaction during thinking processes and people come up with the same opinion, it is a true consensus. However, if they don't after independent thinking and discussion or arguement bring congruence at the end, I doubt!! There could be chances that people get to a stage where they take into account the same factors so same conclusion can be made. However, when it is not independent thinking, the person who introduce new factors to others, they might have also spread their thoughts in other minds.

This thought makes me come to a lesson that, the anyone can add value to a group or a team when they are themselves, however limited their experience is, as long as they have enough knowledge and keep their thoughts independent to challenge and distort others'biases, they are contributing realistically. It is not necessarily how senior a person could be but it's about a value of an independent mind! :)

March 17, 2011

Is decision–making tools process–focused or result–focused?

As we all have seen, most of tools and techniques used to make decisions are embedded with personal judgement. What I am thinking is, in an attempt to minimize bias, are those tools meant to drive judgement away from personal point of view to a more subjective perspective due to the culture of a group?

During the process, bias will be unveiled apparantly, evidence of bias will be in front of decision-makers. By any chance, it is the meaning of these tools? Is it meant for decision-makers to see through themselves, to review and adjust themselves?

During the whole process of making decisions with my team, I see that what we judge and follow from the beginning was held firm until the end. Our initial, personal judgements became the result of decision tools that we used which was not much of surprise. More than that, it was further expanded to more potential possibilities. What I see after that is how variable our judgements and personal views were among each others and from there, we argued why we thought one factor should have been more important than others and from there, we explored each factor further and deeper, we filled in the gap of impacts from factors among each others. At the end, we reach a consensus where we gained a same deeper understanding about the influences of factors.

I do enjoy discussion although sometimes it turned out tough, especially when, as many have said, it is down to personal bias. However, the more views in discussion we have, I think it is a more potential for a robust decision we can get. The reason for that is everyone pick out different points to base on as he/she sees how far and deep impact it might cause which others might spot on other points in stead so they weight factors differently. After discussion, a deeper and richer understanding of factors is gained by all members, it is when a robust decision is made.

Whatever the result comes out, initial judgement holds true or not, I think it is the process that important. During groupwork I see myself have listened more and held my thought more than before! :)

March 2011

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  • In order to support your point in the last paragraph, you could use the concept of Belbin team–role … by Anh T. Dang on this entry
  • Hi Anh, Great entry. My opinion on where you work is what you want out of life. Is money a motivator… by on this entry
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