June 25, 2014

Asset management. The dissertation?

I am writing on my dissertation today, and am drawn towards blogging mainly as I have an interesting idea of asset management, but may also be procrastinating from the dissertation...


My idea is that the concept of asset management within an organisation is in a way similar to us students writing our dissertation. My reasoning for this is farily simple, and maybe I am making a very ambiguous link between the two concepts, but hear me out. Asset management focuses on concepts such as space management, time management, and as we all know, is about trying to maximise the asset to get the most value from it. Well to us, our dissertation is kind of an asset. It is something that will make our degree (the difference between passing, failing, getting distinction etc.) and will make us as people (opening the door to get a job, developing key knowledge in a certain specified area relevant to our dissertation).


The management of this asset comes from ourselves. Just linking the concept to facilities management. I could work on my dissertaton in an environment and space that is not conducive to good work, such as staying at home watching TV, distracted by my guitars or being told by my mum to help pack things as we are moving house on Thursday. Maybe I should go home and help pack. Back on topic I could work, like I am now, in the library, a better environment for me with books, peace, and an environment/culture of working. My only real distraction here is deciding to blog!!! This is again applicable to ideas such as as maintenance, do I just write a section of my dissertation and then leave it, or do I go back to maintain, improve and make sure it works with the new sections added? Even design and build links, do I take time making sure everything is structurally well placed with references and everything, or do I leave it all to the last minute spending every minute of every day during the last two weeks of August working like mad trying to get it done?

So bit of an odd link, but whilst working on my dissertation I thouhgt there was a slight link between the two and I thought I'd share my views. Asset management should make something that seems big, daunting and almost impossible easy (or easier!).Think of the huge amount of effort involved in managing the assets if you are staging a World Cup like FIFA are, or you operate an airlines as big as British Airways, or a postal service like Royal Mail. If you were told to maintain these assets, you'd think it impossible but asset management breaks things down and makes it simpler. Like with our dissertation, constantly maintaining the work rather than doing it all at the end, working in an environment and space that helps productivity, allocating correct time management can all make the task much easier!


June 23, 2014

Difficulties with knowledge sharing

This blog stems from my practical experiences on this module along with information I have read. I think myself and my classmates know all about knowledge sharing methodologies now, and what the benefits of sharing knowledge are. I have read information about the difficulties of sharing knowledge, the main one being creating the right culture for people to actively seek and share knowledge. Several issues I have read in different articles are:


  • people don't understand knowledge and any variation
  • people don't value knowledge


These theories make sense to me. The stereotypical image I have in my head, which Paul has helped portrayed to me during class, is a big shot CEO sitting in his office with a massive chart indiciating monthly production, but having no idea why this month is 20% lower than the previous month. Knowledge is meaningless if it is not understood. All the knowledge sharing programmes, all the effort to create a culture to facilitate knowledge would be redundant if no one understood what the knowledge and data available means. The reason of variation is a most important aspect of understanding and using knowledge.


Secondly, people don't value knowledge. Paul has illustrated how Lessons Learned documents were used as door stops in organisations he has worked with. I think this has again been prevelant at times during my studies. Blogging is obviously a way of sharing and accessing knowledge, but how many of us can hand on heart say they have used this facility to its maximum potential? I know that I have not. Whilst the further the degree has progressed, the more I have begun to understand the benefits of blogging. I, like a lot of my classmates, viewed blogging as a bit of a chore at the start. Now though I feel I understand the rational and benefit to be had from blogging and reading of other people's blogs.


I think Miriam illustrated this point of MBE students not valuing knowledge inadvertently in one of her blogs. She raised the idea of having a Lessons Learned page for MBE students, but isn't this what blogging should be? It's a good idea, but if everyone was proactively blogging and reading other people's blogs this environment, or at least one of a knowledge network, would have been created.


June 14, 2014

KBAM learning: group dynamics and personal growth

One of the main learnings I have had from this module was not the actual content of the module, but the way our group worked. It is something that I would like to reflect on as when in the future I am working, I will inevitably have to work with people within a group. One of the main things I experienced with this module was respect from my co-workers. Some of the most important things for me when working with people are:


  • Actual do what you say you are going to do.
  • Meet on time. Arriving an hour and a half late for every meeting is not acceptable.
  • Turn up to meetings if you say you are coming.
  • Be proactive in the meetings, don't waste your time or others. Sleeping in meetings is frankly pathetic.
  • Do not be unaccessible. We had a project to do, being hours away from where the group is based essentially on holiday all week is not proactive.


On the whole, I felt that what I experienced within my group was a complete lack of respect. All of the above listed points occurred. People were always late, or simply wouldn't turn up. Additionally, people who arrived hadn't done the work they agreed they would do by the meeting. This eventually had a detrimental effect on me, and led to me not attending our final meeting because I was so annoyed with the group, so I chose to do some other work instead.


What I don't understand is how people act in this manner. We are paying to be here at Warwick. Why do people not put the effort in to get the most out of their time and the money they have invested by being here? Is it my fault that you haven't started a PMA until a few days before it is due? No it is not. It is a pathetic excuse to hide behind for when you have been too lazy to do any of the group work. In the real world when working you will have to balance several tasks at once, and plan your time and energy to ensure that any simultaneously running projects are completed to your highest standard by the deadline.


So on the whole I have learnt a lot about working in a group from my time on the MBE course. I have had some good experiences working in productive groups, and some bad experiences working in very unproductive groups. I feel that for this last group, my colleagues simply didn't have the desire to do any work. There was just one other person in my group who despite turning up slightly late to meetings, worked hard and wanted to do well and for that I am grateful.


From other group projects, I have learnt how best to communicate, delegate and work on tasks with people. This last task has highlighted how important the mindset is. If my colleagues act like this in the real world, they would be lucky to be offered a job, and even more lucky to remain employed for more than a few weeks. The effort just wasn't there, and I ended up doing the majority of the work by myself. The final presentation we produced was in my opinion embarrassing, because it was essentially the work of myself with help from the one other proactive person in my group. In comparison to the other team's presentations, it was clearly lacking, as it was based essentially on my viewpoints as opposed to an amalgamation of ideas from everyone in the group. If all our ideas were combined together, we would have had a more thorough, critical and well thought out presentation that better answered the question.


This is where the issue of authority and accountability comes in. It is our task to do the work. There isn't a person in charge who can give people a kick up the backside. All there is is losing marks. There is no pressure or threat of being reprimanded by a boss, or sacked. When faced with other PMAs, a poorer quality presentation takes precedent if it leads to higher marks for the PMA. People prioritised working on nearly due PMAs over working on the group project, or at least claimed so.


Therefore, I felt on this module I learnt mostly about working in a group. I did develop knowledge on AM and KM, but as Paul informed, it such a big field it could be a degree in itself. I felt I gained more from the group dynamics. I would hate to be hypocritical and act in a manner I have criticised, so I hope my experiences on this module will lead to me being a better group member on future tasks when I am working in a professional environment. This is because I hope I have learnt from the mistakes that I and other classmates have made whilst working in groups on this and other modules. It's all about PDSA right? :)


So a concluding thought. It is my last recommendation or at least idea for Paul to ponder. We have for most other projects been assigned the group we work. For this task I would have liked the leader to have picked who was in their team. I know you do not always get this opportunity in the real world, but I feel it would be good for one module to pick your team and see whether it impacts upon productivity compared to other modules. We have learnt about how important the culture and mindset is, why not try and experience that first hand to reinforce just how important it is? I am sure there is a way a team can be picked that does not cause problems over people being publicly picked with someone being left last (it was normally me for everything in school...).


So that's my concluding thought for this module. I found it on the whole extremely benefical. I would say in terms of content that I have learned little on the MBE course in comparison to my undergrad or school studies. In terms of actual working skills and the actual knowledge retained in my head (I learnt loads on my undergrad HR degree but can't remember anything), I have learnt more than I thought possible. That's why I think the MBE environment is brilliant. I am 100% certain I am a much more employable person now than 12 months ago, and I would like to think the manner in that I work is 100 times better than 12 months ago. That for me is most important thing. When I came to Warwick, it was to get an MSC from a highly ranked university. The mark isn't important to me anymore. What's more important is fulfilment and development. Thanks Paul for changing my perceptions and creating the environment for this transformation to happen.


June 11, 2014

Employer's duty of care

The afternoon workshop we did with Paul in class on Monday revolved around the safety and wellbeing of employees within the workplace. Obviously this is an important issue, especially for any organisation striving to achieve excellence. Happy employees are ultimately better employees. They are more productive, more loyal to the organisation and more proactive. If you're pissed off with something or struggling to do something due to illness, you are unlikely to be motivated or willing to expend energy to achieve that goal. Whilst class focused primarily on the physical wellbeing of workers, experience from past modules along with readings and my own experiences of work emphasise the importance of caring about the mental wellbeing of workers.


As I have said in previous blogs, there is in my opinion no one thing more important to an organisation than another. People are just as important as machines, cash is just as important as property. You could have the most gifted, motivated and capable workforce in the world, but if they are based on an empty island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with no contact to the outside world they won't be able to create an excellent product. Just as if you have the best factory and machines in the world but completely demotivated employees, you won't produce the best products you could.


However, what makes people more important to an organisation in terms of requiring attention and engagement is that people, unlike a machine for example which only needs regular servicing, are different from one another and have emotional needs. If you do not cater to people's emotional needs as well as their physical needs, you will alienate and potetnially damage your workforce. Looking up the cocnept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs emphasises the different factors that need to be satisfied (and as an employer or manager you need to help satisfy) that makes managing people key to the success of any organisaiton.


In my own experience of wellbeing, I have worked in factories before. One organisation I worked in was brilliant. They gave me all sorts of training, safety equipment and time to familiarise myself with the factory and become confident that I would be safe in the factory. It was an industrial paint company and one time I had to make paint stripper, but I felt completely fine in being able to do so. However, I have recently worked for another company, a garden furniture company. Whilst packing pieces of furniture to deliver to customers, I am sometimes required to sand down the wood if there are any stains in the wood whilst it's been kept in storage (such as watermarks or paint). When I do this I am not given any protective eye or breathing equipment, despite their being plenty of dust produced from sanding down the wood. I am not sure of the health ramifications of this, but it certainly unpleasant, causing strong eye irritation and a lot of sneezing. This to me seems like a lack of caring for the employees by not giving myself or other members of staff the opportunity to have protective equipment whether it is a pre-requisite under law or not. Sometimes the most basic things can alter the pereceptions of an organisation's workforce. Managing the assets are important, managing the intellectual capacity of the organisation is just as important. But just doing basic things to please people is also important as illustrated in class on Monday and from my own experiences.


June 10, 2014

Skills capability. Not everyone can play the piano.

We had a discussion in class yesterday that got me thinking. It stemmed from skills capabilty and what people want to do in life. The notion was that nothing is impossible provided you have that mindset and not a deafeatist attitude. This seems failry obvious. For example, if you play a sport such as football and get the ball and think, "I won't score", you won't. If you have the mindset that you will score, then you have more of a chance than the other person who thinks they won't. However, I remember yesterday there was a discussion whereby people stated they wanted to play the piano, and ultimately wanted to perform live for people at a symphony. However, for me, just having this attitude of "I will play that show and be a virtuouso on the piano" doesn't mean anyone with that attitude will achieve it.


Why? There are two things as important as having the mindset. One is talent. I play the guitar, bass, drums and sing. Music is the one thing I feel I am slightly talented at. I can hear a song and figure out the notes in my head, I understand the chord progression and know what melodies will fit. I could pick a guitar up and easily play any song there and then. I know this sounds big headed, but to me this has always come easily. I am in several bands and can learn songs in minutes but the ease I pick things up isn't always the case for others. Exhibit A. One of my bands I am the lead guitarist, whilst my friend plays rhythym guitar. Whenever I write a song, I have to 'tab' out the song so he can play it (he can't figure it out by ear basically) and no matter how much he listens to it, he can not play it from ear. When we have practices sometimes he plays parts of the song in the wrong key and doesn't realise. I think he suffers from tone deafness, where he struggles to differentiate whether something is correct. No matter how much he practices, and regardless of his mindset of whether he wants to just pick an instrument up and just play any song, he can't. As important as the mindset is, talent is also important. Take Cristiano Ronaldo. He is for me the best footballer in the world. I want to take freekicks like he does, I have spent countless hours practising but I am awful in comparison. I don't have the underlying talent required. My friend who is tonedeaf is brilliant at designing logos, images and promoting our music, something that I find exrtemely challenging and difficult to do. Even though I wish to be as good as he is, and regardless that I have spent countless hours trying to improve, I just struggle to do it.


Therefore talent for me is also important. Equally important is that a person enjoys what they do. I know people who want to be the next Jimmy Hendrix, who go and buy a guitar but end up not enjoying playing the instrument and stop playing. Perhaps I was like this when practising free kicks. After countless hours of practicing I realised that I wasnt very good and that I wasn't enjoying myself so I gave up. It's like intrinsic motivation, satisfaction needs to come from what you're doing. I've lost track of the times I've heard people say on this course that I am starting my dissertation tomorrow, finishing the PMA or writing x amount of words a day for the project but do nothing. I have lost count of people I know who want to be fit and healthy by exercising and dieting but don't start or continue. If you don't enjoy something, you will struggle to achieve your goals. Obviously if you're good at something you will more than likely enjoy doing it more than someone who is rubbish at doing something, but whilst learning to do something you need to be able to enjoy it enough to persevere and become good at it provided you have enough underlying talent.


So for me not everyone can play the piano, irrespective of how badly you want to. As important as the mindset is, you need some talent for certain things, and also need to enjoy what you do. I love sports like football but I am awful, I have the least amount of talent available. I couldn't be a professional footballer irrespective of how much I wanted it, becaue I lack the natural ability to be one.


June 08, 2014

The importance of facilities management

So asset management and facilities management is obviously important to an organisation. If you invest in expensive assets, you're obviously going to have to manage them, not just leave them and hope for the best. However, sometimes the practices that are in place are not necessarily the best. Space management within the concept of facilities management is extremely important for any organisation, but perhaps more so in a factory or organisation that produces things. This is because the correct utilisation of space leads to higher efficiency and productivity, which ultimately reduces costs in the long-term and increases profits.


I have experienced this whilst working for an industrial paint company. I worked in the sales department and processed orders received online or over the telephone. Once I had received the order, I processed it into the organisation's database and would take the order to the production warehouse. I would have to walk from my desk for several minutes to access the factory to then try and find the production manager, who would then be distracted from what he was doing to discuss the order with me before then either packing if in stock or going off to produce the order.


This was time consuming and very inefficient, as people would stop mid-task to confer with a co-worker, delaying and sometimes forgetting what they were intially doing. Better facilities management along with better processes in line for dealing with orders could have addressed these issues and led to a more efficient workplace. Whilst I enjoyed the walk and getting away from my desk and office, I always found it a rather inefficient way of doing thngs, and my readings on this module have so far confirmed my original experiences.


June 04, 2014

The Knowledge Network

The knowledge network is another method in which an organisation can share and transfer knowledge. It acts as a method of codifying knowledge, and can be part of a system aimed at converting tactit knowledge that is relevant to an individual intro readily available (if not necessarily understandable) explicit knowledge. A well known example of an organisation that has implemented a knowledge network is Caterpillar. Having faced a potential future skills shortage due to an ageing workforce, Caterpillar implemented a knowledge network allowing workers to share information. This enabled the organisation to retain some of the knowledge from its workforce who were due to retire, ensuring key knowledge was maintained within the organisation and readily available for future and younger workers to access.


This concept of the knowledge network again links to MBE students who blog. We are able to access informtion that other people write down, we can query it, challenge it and ultimately gain knowledge and insight from it. If we did not blog, we would not necessarily have access to other people's thoughts and knowledge certainly would not be as readily available to share. There are of course problems with knowledge networks. As I have said in previous blogs, culture is hugely important to making it work. People need to be confident enough to share their views, people need to trust that other people's views are in fact correct and people need to be willing to share knowledge that they consider their own personal asset. Therefore, these issues need to be avoided to ensure that a knowledge network programme is successful. This is achieved primarily through creating the correct culture amongst employees to support a knowledge network.


June 03, 2014

The Knowledge Worker

The knowledge worker is a concept developed by Peter Drucker concerning the employee in the 21st Century. Drucker argues that the knowledge worker must be treated as an organisation's most important asset, and that six factors determine whether a knowledge worker is productive or not. These consist of:


  • Knowing what the task is
  • Granting knowledge workers autonomy
  • Allowing innovation
  • Creating continuous learning and teaching
  • Measuring quality as opposed to quantity when looking at output
  • Treating the worker as an asset, not a cost


These concepts differ from the traditional viewpoints of a workforce. Consider Taylor and Scientific Management. Taylor would most likely be horrified at the thought of granting workers autonomy and treating them as an asset. This differs from Taylor's views that workers would systematically soldier i.e. do the minimum amount of work possible to get by where he viewed employees as a cost. This concept is not considered when looking at knowledge workers, as knowledge workers are intrinsically motivated by the task at hand, and granting workers autonomy, allowing innovation, training and investing in, increases the knowledge worker's desire and motivation to do well.


People will always be a cost on a balance sheet. Any additional training costs money, any time off work costs money, allowing people freedom in the workplace to innovate new ideas may reduce productivity in the short-term and cost money. The normally intangible benefits provided from investing in these factors (such as future sales) do not directly appear and correlate with the original investment in training, or time allowed to innovate a new idea. Therefore, many organisations, or at least accountants, may loathe to invest in these factors. However in reality, the investment will bring about long-term gain.


It is to an extent like my MSC. I have invested over ten thousand pounds (and always think how stupid I am that I chose to write all these essays, do a dissertation and PAY for the priviledge of doing it...) whilst I could have got a job and begun to earn money. However, in the long-term, I should theoretically earn more money or have more opportunity than if I had begun working with just my BA. You could compare this to my friends who graduated at the same time as me from Undergrad and begun working. In the longer-term will I have more career success because I took additional cost and time investing in my skills? This is the argument that Drucker puts forward. Whilst it would be difficiult to measure and predict the difference in earnings I recieve as a result of my MSC due to variables, like knowledge workers, investing in my skills should bring about benefit in the long-term.


May 29, 2014

First reflection of group work

Today my group first met up to work on the presentation task for the KBAM module. We split the task into two groups, one considering asset management and the other considering knowledge management. My group were looking at knowledge management. One of the key themes relevant to successful knowledge management is achieving the right culture. We discussed in our meeting how the culture needs to be that of empowering workers. What we mean is allowing workers the opportunity for upwards discussion. Looking at WaveRiders' organisation structure, it is very hierarchical. In order to encourage knowledge sharing, particularly that of tacit knowledge obtained from the production workers, creating an upwards flowing or upside down hierarchical structure will be paramount.


Ultimately to acieve the concept of a learning organisation for example, creating the right culture is a pre-requisite. The leadership of the organisation and the values of the organisation will ultimately influence the culture, and must be aligned to and supportive of creating an environment empowered through knowledge. If workers are afraid or feel unable to share their knowledge, a knowledge management programme with fail. If the culture sees employees not willing to share information with other departments or business units, knowledge management again will fail. The culture needs to be one of sharing, with the focus on mutual gain for all. Trust is important.


Again, this can be linked to class when sharing resources or useful journal articles or concepts with class mates. It can be seen in sports teams if a manager asks his players for their opinions and thoughts and trusts their knowledge when making a difficult decision. It again can be obviously viewed in a business if those at the bottom of the organisation's hierarchy have a voice, and can offer their knowledge to potentially improve their business's performance. Therefore, communication and culture is especially important to a knowledge management programme.


May 27, 2014

KBAM and people

I have developed and thought of some reflections from today's introduction to the module KBAM. My main thought is that KBAM further reinforces the view of the importance of people in the workplace. Why? Because people are ultimately responsible for successful knowledge management programmes. It is ultimately the working culture and environment that sees successful use of knowledge management, or leads to conflict and a neglection of policies. Of all the potential 'assets' an organisation has ranging from engineering assets, financial assets, intellectual property, brands, products, patents, leaders etc. the use of knowledge and intellectual property requiring the successful management of people can have arguably the biggest impact on business performance.


If people do not buy into the concept of knowledge management, the process will fail. Knowledge management allows businesses and people to share and transfer knowledge from previous experiences to ensure past failings do not re-occur, and to help achieve further innovation and prosperity through the sharing of existing knowledge to deal with any challenges or issues the organisation faces. If people in an organisation are not willing to share knowledge, or do not feel confident enough to share their knowledge, the programme may fail. Furthermore, if people do not buy into the idea, the process will not happen. Paul illustrated this well in class recalling his experience of lessons learned documents being used as door props. Ironically, something that could have helped the organsiation significantly was only used to help prop open the door. Linking this to my own experience, knowledge management can be used when dealing with PMA work. We are not plagiarising! :) but if I have found and read an interesting journal article that is relevant to the question, it would be beneficial for me to share this knowledge with my class mates and for them to reciprocate to benefit all of us. However, the culture of openness and trust needs to be created to ensure this happens. Some people may believe they are competing against others, and would not want to share something they view as their own individual asset. The concept of blogging whilst primarily for reflective learning also fosters the sharing of knowledge, as different people's views and ideas are shared.


Therefore, knowledge management requires the successful management of people to foster a suitable environment for knowledge managemet programmes to work


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