March 21, 2014

A final reflection on RDM

After today's presentation in class I have a few further reflections to make during this reflective blog period. Firstly, I felt that my group worked very well. We agreed in our first meeting the structure and strategy we would use, allocating who would research what targets and what information we would produce. We then went away over last weekend before meeting and comparing our results the following Monday. Here we began to design our presentation, presenting the evidence we had and explaining the rationale behind our decisions and chosen topics to the other members. We quickly decided how concepts such as SWOT should be used to introduce the situation WaveRiders found themselves in, whilst concepts such as AHP and PMI should be used to explain which marketing strategies should be used by the organisation. Ultimately the decision over which location to use stemmed from the outcome our decision tree presented, and the financial information available to us.


Overall, I felt the team worked very well. We then went away and refined our work before meeting again to inform the group of where we stood and what we had found, before our final meeting yesterday where we put the presentation together, and resolved the fine details required to ensure presenting would run smoothly. I felt there was very good communication and a very good delegation of tasks and responsibilities. We ultimately had an emergent leader who helped ensure that everyone kept on track and was up to date with what was expected of them. This allowed for good team work.


For me personally during this period, I feel I have learnt a lot more about the different decision tools available by undertaking such a practical task. The lectures, whilst informative and useful for offering some context, did not give me a practical insight into the tools available. However the group work has helped me develop my skills and knowledge when concerned with robust decision making tools


Overpower the leader? Further leadership reflections

Having read a colleague's blog, an interesting reflection has occurred to me. If a manager's "subordinate" overpowers them, questions them or does not do what they say, in a traditional organisation this would be viewed potentially as gross misconduct. At the very least, it would be frowned upon and viewed as something that SHOULD NOT happen. However, if a follower overpowers the leader (not in a physical sense :) but the context of what is done in the working environment) is it necessarily a bad thing?

My rationale for this stems from what I have read from my favourite business thinker, Dr. Deming. A manager is not a genius. Certainly if I graduate and go on to become a manager, I will not be a genius. I am probably at the other end of the spectrum. A manager or future manager does not know everything. They are not always right, and often will have little knowledge of the thing they are managing. In fact, this view is shared from a lot of the literature I have read concerning my dissertation, and from conversations with family members who work in professional business and industrial environments. I have heard countless times of workers moaning at the university graduate, someone with little idea of how things work in reality, but believe they can tell people how to do everything because they have a degree and come into the organisation higher up in the hierarchy. There seems to be little realisation of this from the manager. They should believe the employee's knowledge is a valuable resource to be used, not bypassed altogether because one manager with limitied knowledge or experience of the environment knows better!

My dissertation concerns whether people are an organisation's most important asset. From my reading so far, it is apparent that it is the knowledge that a worker posseses that can be argued to be the most important asset to the organisation. Therefore, managers who feel they know more than a worker, quite simply because of their status and position can have a detrimental impact on the organisation's actual performance. Therefore, in an environment where the worker is overpowering the manager, and implementing different working strategies than what they are being told to do, it is not necessarily because the worker is mischievious or deliberately causing conflict, it could be that their knowledge is not being considered. They have no autonomy or creative freedom to express themselves or develop working practices, and may resist managerial strategies because they are not the most effective way of working.


Therefore evidence of employee resistance could potentially be caused not because the employee does not enjoy work or is mischievious, but because of poor managerial strategy. Quite simply I can explore this using an example such as the upsetting news of the missing Malasyian airlines flight. It would not be foolish for someone with no knowledge of sea rescue or aircraft performance to be in charge of the search and rescue operations, but would be foolish if they were to solely decide the strategy and policies to be implemented in the search effort, rather than tap in and use the knowledge of those workers around them!


March 19, 2014

Further leadership reflections

Having finished my PMA for leadership and excellence, I have a few different reflections based from my time on the module and from undertaking the PMA. Firstly, leadership is something that is subjective. What I mean is there is no universal best practice guide to leadership in my opinion (derived from my experiences on the module and the knowledge obtained reviewing the literature whilst undertaking the PMA). The style of leadership and the manner of which it is used should be dependent on the context of the situation and the people involved. For example, if you are making a very basic simple decision that needs a solution quickly, an autocratic leader who says 'we are doing this, let's go and do it', may be the best for the situation as opposed to a democratic leader who allows everyone the opportunity to speak which could lead to indecision and a decision being delayed. At the same time, if a decision that requires creative or innovative solutions is being undertaken, allowing people within a group to share and offer their ideas in a democratic nature may be more effective than the leader dictating the strategy of the group.

Therefore the context of the situation should shape the style of leadership implemented. Furthermore, a leader should try and act in a style that they are naturally comfortable in. If someone does not feel comfortable or confident as a charismatic leader, it is not a style they should necessarily try and employ when leading others. Of course, this links to the concept of trait theory, which argues that leaders should have certain traits that differentiate them from non-leaders, with charisma being a concept that leaders are expected to have according to this theory.

Therefore some reflections of mine from this module basically reinforce the view I have developed that a leader should act dependent on the context of the situation they find themselves in. A leader should not be rigid but should be flexible and able to adapt to changes in the environment they find themselves operating in.


March 18, 2014

Further reflections

The use of plus minus implication (PMI) as a decision tool can help organisations when making a difficult choice. The use of PMI essentially lists all the plus points of a decision, all the minus aspects of a decision and then the implication of this. Then all the positive scores are added together, all the minus scores added together and the total left over is the score for that decision.


So say you can't decide what to have for dinner. You have two choices, salad or cake. A very basic PMI could be that the salad is healthy, which scores +5, but is boring and lacks taste, which scores -3. The implication of this is a healthy but bland meal scoring +1. The salad will also be quick, cheap and easy to produce scoring again +5, but the minus point may be that as a chef, it is not exciting or challenging to prepare, scoring -2. The implication of this is something quick and easy, but not necessarily fun to produce scoring +2. This would score the salad +8 overall.


Cake on the other hand would taste delicious, scoring +5, but lacks any nutrition, is full of fat and lacks substinance scoring -4. The implication of this is a tasty but unhealthy meal that won't fill you up, scoring -4. The cake would be challenging and fun to make scoring +3 but would be messy and time consuming scoring -3. The implication for this is that the cake would therefore be a fun thing to make but both a time consuming and messy process, scoring +1. Therefore the cake would score -2 overall.


Therefore according to the PMI, the salad would be the choice to go for, as it has a higher score. When faced with multiple decisions the use of PMI allows for someone to analyse a decision from all angles, the positives, negatives and implications, to make a suitable decision. It does however have some drawbacks, as the entire process is entirely subjective, with the criteria and scores being solely dependant on the individual grading them.


March 12, 2014

Reflections of RDM

The robust decision making module has so far offered a variety of insights into the processes that can shape and make up a decision. Ultimately a prevelant theme that occurs during the decision making process is bias, which can colour and shape our judgement when making a decision. Bias can occur from different heuristics, such as representative heuristics whereby concepts such as the gamblers fallacy, where someone is surely due good luck soon, can occur. This can therefore lead an individual to believeing that there luck is due to change, for instance if someone flips a coin three times and it lands on tails, they are more likely to go for heads because surely the luck is about to change, even though statistcally whether a coin lands on heads or tails is unrelated to the previous coin toss.


Also the way data and questions are worded and collected can impact decisions made. For example, if you are debating whether to postively or negatively criticise someone over their performance, criticising someone who has done poorly may have little impact, because there performance is surely likely to improve, where as praising someone who has done well is likely to have little impact, as their performance is unlikely to meet the same high standards as before.


With regards to how an individual can make a robust and successful decision, tools such as the analytical hierarchical process, which enables complex decisions to be organised and analysed through the use of mathematics, can be used to help make the correct decision. Sometimes the use of concepts such as the decision tree can be used, which allow the problem and potential solutions to be represented in graphical form. The use of decision nodes, outcome nodes and chance nodes are incorporated, and at the end of every branch is a payoff, which represents the value of any combination of decisions and probabilities made along that specific branch. This therefore allows an individual to make a valued decision based on the probabilities and costs expected.


Overall from my time on the module so far, it seems there is much more than meets the eye when making a decision, and that there are plenty of tools available to use when making a decision which aim at achieving the most desirable and successful outcome, leading to the most robust decision for the individuals involved being made.


March 11, 2014

Groupthink and the Icarus Paradox

In class yesterday we discussed the concept of Groupthink. Groupthink is the process where a group of people make an incorrect decision or a decision with adverse consequences. From class and my reading on the topic, this can be due to an illusion of invulnerability within the group, unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, rationalising warnings, stereotyping and criticising those whose oppose the group's will, self-censoring ideas that are different to the group's ideology, silence from members being viewed as agreement, direct pressure to conform and show loyalty along with mindguards.

A well known example of groupthink occuring in an organisation can be seen with Enron. The organisation Enron, an energy organisation, achieved rapid growth and success throughout the 1990s. The previous success experienced by the organisation was so large that an illusion of invulnerability began to develop within the organisation. Risks were taken, unethical policies began to become prevalent, with the organisation's financial statements hiding a terrible secret that the company was heading towards bankruptcy. Many of the key things listed about groupthink occured and the organisation eventually went bankrupt. Even the auditors of the accounts became a part of the group due to a conflict of interest, ensuring that the organisation did not change its ways. These poor decisions ultimately contributed to the organisation's downfall.


This again links to another topic I have read of, which is called the Icaras Paradox. The Icaras Paradox is a term applied to a company who fail abruptly after a period of success. This is largely due to complacency, poor business decisions being made, and can also occur if groupthink begins to take place. Examples of this can be seen in technology industries where organisations do not adapt to change, such as Sega losing out to Nintendo and Sony, or Polaroid. Again, these two concepts of groupthink and the Icaras Paradox highlight the importance of ensuring correct business decisions are made. It could potentially be argued that some well known organisations, such as Apple or Tesco, are falling into the Icaras Paradox, losing market share after a period of continual growth, and in the case of Tesco, seeing a decrease in revenue.


February 25, 2014

Further reflections

So far upon starting my PMA for the module, I have had further reflections upon leadership. So far, I have begun to explore the different leadership theories. I have currently explored traits of leaders, i.e. what traits leaders have to have that seperates them from non leaders, leadership styles, i.e. democratic leaders or autocratic leaders, transformation and transactional leadership i.e. leaders who either reward intrinsically or extrinsically, power, i.e. the use of it when leading, such as leading through coercion and Deming's philosophies, of which I am already familiar with from previous modules.


Linking these ideas from the PMA back to what I experienced on the module, it is interesting to think about any connections. For instance, on none of the leadership classes did any of the leaders I work under use power in a coercive nature, or use the power they had as leader to order others around. Perhaps I did not work under a leader who chose this style which may have been prevalent in other groups. The concept of leadership traits is another interesting concept. Self-confidence is one of the listed traits required according to the trait theory, and some leaders I worked under had hugely different levels of self confidence. I myself thought self confidence was hugely important when leading (something I was lacking in my leadership task, as I had no idea what I wanted to do!) where as other traits, such as drive or self-motivation I didn't experience as being as important. This was because the leader acted in quite a laissez-faire style, where the rest of the group took on the mantle of doing the task.


The concepts of transformational and transactional leadership are also interesting. No leader I was involved with came across in either style, we could perhaps have focused on the intrinsic rewards to be had from actively working on the tasks? Also, no leaders rewarded extrinsically! Of course as students we can't afford to offer financial reward or incentives like cake, just an interesting thought no leader tried this in moments of desperation!


February 22, 2014

The Leadership Challenge

Some reflections from this activity in class yesterday:

Trust and delegation were two of the main themes that occurred to me during this task.


Firstly trust. A leader needs to be able to inspire trust in their team members. There were several times where myself and other members of the task asked our leader a question (they were the only member of the team made privy to information), and replies consisted of 'I guess' or 'think', which do not inspire huge confidence within members of the team that the leader knows what they are discussing. This is not a criticism of our leader, there were difficult time constraints they had to contend with, and our questions were akwward and challenging. However it has further reinforced my understanding that as a leader, I need to know what I am talking about! I would rather, and when I act as a leader I will, a leader who either says with 100% confidence this is the situation, or says I do not know, let me know find out or let us find out together. By saying I guess, it implies that may be wrong, and you could waste time and resources pursuing something that is fundamentally flawed or wrong, wasting everyone's time. I also find myself more likely to query other things they say as a result of this, because there has been a fundamental loss of trust over whether they know what they supposedly should!

My second main learning from this task was the importance of delegation. My leader delegated some tasks well, though I felt at times that I was left out and seperated from the task. I found myself thinking of things to do that no one else was doing, rather than being told what to do. This in turn began to alienate me from the task, and I lost a lot of motivation to proactivlely try and help within the task. Therefore, I feel a good leader needs to be observant of all team members in ensuring they are occupied with what they are doing, not just in ensuring that say 90% of the team are working, because it is a waste of your resources ultimately.


So therefore, my time on this module has changed my perceptions on leadership a lot. I personally feel a leader should act differently depending on the context of the situation they find themselves in. However, I feel a leader must be decisive, and must lead by example as a basic requirement to get the very best out of people, irrespective of how they consequently act (whether autocratic, democratic etc.)


February 20, 2014

Can a leader be more than one style? And conflict

So in some of my previous blogs, I have argued that a leader should be more than just one style, i.e. a mixture of democratic, autocratic, charismatic or laissez-faire styles. Why? Because I feel being democratic enough to take other considerations on board, then autocratic enough to implement one of these ideas, and then charismatic enough to make other people buy into the vision will bring about the most successful strategy of leadership. Even then acting in a laissez-faire style afterwards can help, as Paul himself says, he is not in the business of solving other people's problems, but that team members should show autonomy in thinking.


Anyway, I had this discussion with a class mate, who argues that my views are plain wrong. Why? Because they believe that people cannot change, that they are who they are and act in only one style. They even said it has been proven by psychiatrists that this is the case. However whilst I respect this view as I always do of other people's opinions, and will try and incorporate in to my views, I have to disagree. Why? Quite simply because I do not always act the same. I am a completely different person when around my gran than I am around my best friends for example. Paul himself also argued this with a good example, where he asked people to call him his first name and interact socially with them whilst off duty, and to then return to a professional relationship when at work. Look at Obama, he is obviously a hugely charismatic leader, he is also autocratic in wanting to push through what was dubbed "Obamacare", he was democratic in making some decisions when getting advice from his guides (for instance such as when America launched its operation to kill Osama Bin-Laden, this was obviously not solely Obama's plan). I am sure there are better examples out there of leaders who are a hybrid of these four prevailing styles we've so far considered on the module.


So leading back to my original idea, I feel implementing a single leadership ideology may not be as effective as employing a leadership strategy that incorporates multiple parts of the ideologies. Of course, which style is predominant and which ones are incorporated obviously depends on the context of the leadership situation and the people involved. Obviously if someone is not a charismatic person, they will struggle when it comes to trying to be a charismatic leader. You obviously play to your strengths. However, I feel this idea of incorporating different leadership philosophies is a better approach, I certainly feel people can adapt and act differently depending on the situation they are in. I am interested to hear other people's opinions on this!


Also, and unrelated to my blog, involves an argument that happened between some of my classmates today in my group and has been brewing for a while. All I will say is hypocrisy is the most stupid thing. I don't have any problems with people issuing complaints or feedback. We are all looking to grow and develop, and sometimes frank assessments are needed. We all have of course our own views and opinions but please, I beg for people not to bitch and complain about people doing certain things, but to then go and do it yourself in a walking contradiction. People will view you in a completely different light if you do, and it is not a positive one. Conflict can be prevalent in any team situation, perhaps we are not efficient enough leaders yet to minimise the risk and impact of it. Or perhaps more likely, we are poor followers who are unable to respect others.


February 19, 2014

CSR

Is Corporate Social Responsibility a marketing ploy, or something a business believes in? This is an area where people can argue on either side. Is something truly a philanthropic activity if they boast about it? Say an organisation donates a percentage of their profit to charity and then publish the news, is this mainly a marketing ploy to say 'look how nice we are' or is it because they feel the need to raise awareness about the charity they are helping? The main thing surely is that a charity or individual in need is receiving benefit. Whether an organisation benefits or not is surely irrespective in the grand sceheme of things? What I hope is more important is that people are being helped, I am more than happy for a certain organisation to boost their reputation if it helps an idividual or charity. Some people might argue organisations have very little obligation to donate money, as profit organisations have obviously one primary aim. Of course CSR concerning envrionmental or health issues is a different debate altogether (an oil company for example SHOULD BE OBLIGED in my mind to look after the environment for future human beings) whilst organisations who produce foods that cause illness, obesity etc should also in my mind look at what they do and the impact it is having on human health, qulaity of life and productivity. However, I would rather an organisation do something that helps the environment or people in the world, even if their intentions are not necessarily 100% behind what they are doing, rather than not offer any aid or help at all.


However, I also realise clever marketing departments can abuse CSR to raise the profile of the organisation, and increase and attract customers to the organisation. Some organisations may not really care about the interests of the people they are looking to help through their CSR policy. This whole concept of ethics in business makes for a really interesting debate. So far on our MBE course, we have looked at views by the likes of Deming, who argues over how he perceives an organisation should be, and how there should be a lot of value placed on the workforce. People should not feel intimidated, people should have a voice and have the opportunity to share their knowledge, to be empowered with an active participation in decision making. This idealistic viewpoint of how organisations should operate (if we look at some practices that have occured in the past and still do i.e. rank and yank, taylorism, the workhouses), then Deming's views may never have been though as feasible. Surely views over CSR which may not seem feasible today could be implemented in the future?

An example of CSR that is interesting is one which my Dad is involved with. He recently as chairman of a group, called Arlington Industries Group, took over an organisation recently renamed after being taken over named Rempower. Rempower intially began as an organisation called Remploy. They are one of the largest employer of disabled workers in the UK. Intially set up after WW2 and employing war veterans who had been left disabled from the conflict, the organisation has consistently grown throughout the years. The organisation primarily provides parts for manufacturing organisations such as Jaguar Land Rover. Organisations can use Rempower as a supplier and 'boast' that they are supporting workers with disabilities in their supply chain. Or organisations can use them as a supplier but not actively inform the public. Is there a huge difference between what an organisation does here? This reraises the whole issue of morality in business, and whether ideas of self gain are prevelent in what business do when concerned with their CSR policy.


Also, does an organisation that employes disabled workers primarily also represent the most sincere form of CSR? Because they are genuinely attempting to help others, as opposed to a business who perceives their CSR as an after thought. One thing that I do find interesting is that they actively discriminate in employing disabled workers! Technically my dad has told me this shouldn't be allowed according to employment law in the UK. However, surely helping those who may need it should be allowed? I guess this issue over discrimination is another long debate.


One of the members of Arlington Industries is called Kevin Morley, who has guest lectured at Warwick before. Perhaps he could come in and offer some insight on his views on CSR? Either way, I find the topic of CSR very interesting. Is it a tool for self gain, or a way of improving the quality of life of those on our planet? I certianly hope it is viewed as a tool aimed at improving the lives of my fellow human beings. Sadly I don't think this is necessarily the case in reality.


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