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November 20, 2013

We regularly fiddle numbers, admit police….

Just an interesting headline I saw in today's paper, police crime figures are routinely fiddled to meet targets and make performance look better. This is some good evidence (granted the paper are accurately reporting) of the problem with performance related targets, as some individuals/organisations try and find ways to manipulate data to meet targets, rather than focus on actually meeting and improving on the target.

November 17, 2013

Forms of learning

The EFQM Model promotes a culture of continuous learning with employees, along with Deming and his theories on organisational behaviour. However, just by allowing and facilitating the opportunity for learning and the sharing of knowledge will not necesarily create the desired results or outcomes. Essentially a key componenet of organisational learning is the implicit learning that occurs between employees without it necessarily being apparent. Most uncodified knowledge is obtained through participation in social events and activites (i.e. being able to discuss problems with a supervisor, or an employee using a concept such as an intranet (see my blog about Caterpillar Inc.)).

It is therefore important that an organisation who wants to encourage learning and share knowledge (perhaps leading to a 'Learning Organization' (or perhaps not, just a quality journey)) that the correct processes are put in place to facilitate knowledge. Creating a culture where the workforce feel confident enough to share knowledge, and ask for help is extremely important, as employees who don't feel supported, or don't feel that they are being offered training or knowledge may lose motivation. Therefore, the following processes can help to encourage the sharing of knowledge: participation in groups, working alongside others, consultation, and having tackling challenges to solve, (to name just a few) can help to create work processes where learning is a by product. Furthermore, processes such as having direct supervision, mentors, shadowing other employees and coaching can also lead to the acqusition of knowledge (although these processes may be more time consuming and expensive to run).

Much learning at work occurs through doing things and being productive, and having the opportunity to share this obtained knowledge is extremely important. Finally, appraisals can also help reinforce learning, highlight areas for improvement that in turn can further motivate employees (provided relevent help and training is offered to strengthen these areas). However, they could also have a negative impact, highlghting the gap between what an employee can do and what an employer wants them to do, leading to a loss of motivation and commitment to an organisation if they feel they aren't good enough to fulfil the aims of the organisation.

I feel this blog highlights some of the more practical elements that the EFQM Model argues to implement, along with Deming's SOPK, and that in this case, this blog covers the section about sharing knowledge. It aims to highlight how organisations and employees can share knowledge, and how sometimes poor processes can lead to adverse results.

November 11, 2013

Six Sigma, EFQM and Deming

The concept of Six Sigma was introduced in class today. A method of statistical process improvement, Six Sigma aims through the concept of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) to see 3.4 defects per million opportunities. So far, our understanding of Six Sigma is limited but it is already interesting to draw conclusions and observations when comparing it to Deming's theories and the EFQM Model.

From a journal I have read, Six Sigma projects can on average take from 6 months to one year, clearly different from the long term journey of continuous improvement that Deming and the EFQM Model focuses on. Six Sigma systems can be argued to limit creativity and entrepreneurship amongst staff, sacfiricing growth of people and talent development. Again, this is very different from Deming's theories along with the empowering, innovative environment the EFQM Model aims to create in an organisation.

Furthermore, my readings argue that Six Sigma is more likely to focus on extrinsic motivational tools, as opposed to intrinsic motivatitional tools that EFQM and Deming state as being more beneficial to an organisation and its employees. This may further reitirate the fact that Six Sigma is largely concerend with improving processes and seeing better results (in statistical form).

Although this blog is quite a one sided view of Six Sigma (largely critiquing it), it is interesting to already note some of the differences between the practices. There are obviously benefits to a six sigma organisation (less defects per million opportunities OBVIOUSLY haves beneficial implications for an organisation) that will be explored in future blogs.

Any further views or comments on mine would be much appreciated.

November 07, 2013


Motivation is a hugely important factor in having a productive, efficient and skillful workforce. Yet what necessarily motivates employees? From some of my readings on the subject area, the common theme observed is that motivation can be either intrinsic, or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation occurs when an employee enjoys their work, and feels to have a high level of autonomy, doing engaging and skillful work that is challenging and fulfilling. Extrinsic motivation concerns things that aren't directly related to the work, such as wages, promotion and bonuses.

Traditional and emerging managerial theory argues that intrinisc motivation leads to a more productive workforce, where as extrinsic motivation can actually decrease job performance. This idea has been already explored in class when we watched a video slating performance related pay by Daniel Pink.

However, some theory I have recently read is not so quick to criticise extrinsic motivation, and argues that it can be used in tandem with intrinsic motivational tools to increase productivity and motivation to its highest level.

In some respects, this makes sense to me (although I have myself critiicised concepts such as performance related pay in previous blogs). A high level of automony for example, with some form of performance related pay, or promotion opportunities, I feel could get a higher level of productivity than using either one or the other. It is important not to over compensate however, and is extremely important not to create an internal competitive environment! (We all know Deming's view on this!

However, I feel a blend of the two can achieve a hugely productive environment.

November 04, 2013

I before E and learn after me.

My blog today stems from reading about the learning organisation. A background view of how learning can occur was explored in class through Dixon's Organizational Learning Cycle, (generate, integrate, interpret, act) but an interesting theory I have read up about consists of Crossan, Lane and White's Four I's. This theory states that learning occurs through four processes; intuitition (i.e. experience relevant to the individual), interpretation (using language to interpret things), integrating (sharing this individuall interpreted knowledge) and institutionalising this knowledge (making it into processes in an organisation).

I thought this was an interesting way of exploring how knowledge can be developed firstly on an individual basis, then at a departmental level and ultimately, at an organisational basis (leading potentially to a learning organisation). It is obviously individuals working on a shop floor who derrive knowledge from doing and observing processes, then this is interpreted before being shared and integrated amongst other employees. If the new processes are continually shared across departments and workers, the knowledge may become institutionalised through processes and routines within the organisation.

Therefore, I feel the four I's are an interesting theory illustrating how knowledge can be shared within or across an organisation, and ultimately how an organisation can attempt to develop into a learning organisation.

November 01, 2013

We are EFQM

This whole course, and module, has led to me developing a much larger and stronger understanding of the EFQM Model. The whole aspect of the EFQM model, from self assessment, to independence on work and the sharing and transfering of knowledge, links heavily to the learning environment on the MBE course. I remember people who have queried the learning environment, feeling they are not getting enough structured content. However, the whole point of this course is to develop our own ideas and thoughts, to challenge views, to share and develop knowledge, to come up with different ideas. If we are lectured one view, by one person, we are likely to learn very little, and are unlikely to actually understand the content of what is being said.

From my previous degree, I could regurgitate many things I was told. One example that comes to mind is from a module entitled Social Theory at Work, where themes and topics of how people perceive things at work, such as in the Social Constructivist view, I discussed in essays and my exam, but I actually have no idea what it is, what it means and how it works! However, in the MBE learning environment, my knowledge has actually developed, and I am understanding things thoroughly. Deming himself states the importance of understanding knowledge, and I think the learning environment of MBE is helping to facilitate this.

Therefore, I feel the whole structure of this course (in some ways based on the EFQM Model) is a more beneficial environment for me to learn. Rather than be spoon fed, I am having to do independent reseach, which in turn leads to me understanding what I am actually talking about, rather than being just able to repeat something I've been told.

October 30, 2013

Don't cry when you fail

Reading Deming's The New Economics, (I literally recommend this book to everyone I know!!!) offered an interesting insight into failure and success. When discussing variation in his concept of System of Profound Knowledge, Deming offers a good example. When a student receives their grades, some of the class will be above average, and some of the class will be below average. If you are rated as being below average, I personally (and believe most people would too) feel greatly inferior in comparison to others. What is irrelevant here is how good the average could be. The average could be 95%.

Therefore, understanding this variability is of key importance to an organisation. In order to understand this, Deming argues that data needs to be brought into a state of statistical control. This subsequently allows for future outcomes to be far more predictable. What is more important is to understand whether any variation is a special cause or common cause. A common cause of variation is something that is built into the process. For example, my times when jogging may vary based on how much energy have I already expended in the day, what have I eaten, how recently have I last exercised and my general mood. A special cause of variation is something that is unique and outside the system, such as having to alter my route because a road is closed, thus varying my time.

Therefore, and back in a business context, understanding this variation and drawing knowledge from it is of significant importance to an organisation looking to develop and grow. That's what the System of Profound Knowledge exactly tries to do, it is aimed at making employees within an organisation get an external view of what is going on in the organisation. If you complain that David Cameron is not doing a good job as Prime Minister, would you be able to do a better job by taking over and working harder? No. You would make exactly the same decisions leading to the same outcomes that David Cameron has. It is only new knowledge that guide an individual in a different, (and hopefully) better direction. As Deming states himself, best effort and hardwork only dig deeper in the pit we are in. It is new knowledge that allows us to climb out of this pit.

Therefore in the future, when I apply for jobs and undertake online tests, if I fail and fall below the average, I will not be to aggreived. Why? Because half of the applicants will fall short of the average, because results will always vary. Who knows in the future what I will achieve? I could be by far a better potential worker for an organisation, but lose out of a job because of variability in my performance on online tests. The candidate that beats me could have experienced a common cause of positive variation, whilst a special cause of variation could have caused me to fall far short of my potential.

October 29, 2013

The Learning Organisation – A part of EFQM?

Does the Learning Organisation naturally lend itself to the EFQM Excellence Model? I would have to argue that yes, it does. Why? Because the EFQM Model is all about improving as an organisation. It is about learning, allowing creativity and ultimately, becoming more innovative as an organisation. A Learning Organisation is all about encouraging the sharing of knowledge. Employees should confidently be able to share their thoughts, views and knowledge they have obtained from experience, and share this with their peers. This would allow organisational learning to occur, provided the organisation is willing to embrace solutions and new processes from its employees and move away from the current code of practice. Provided knowledge obtained is not strictly taught through rigid teaching exercises, allowing for ones own interpretation, the learning organisation can be argued to facilitate new ideas, innovation and processes.

This links heavily to EFQM. The commitment to learning links to EFQM, the sharing of ideas and proceses, links to EFQM, the refinement and development of ideas, links to EFQM. The fact that leadership needs to be a part of organisational learning, links to EFQM. Therefore, the use of the EFQM Model by an organisation would lead to that organisation following the characteristics and behaviours of a learning organisation, just by the very fact of what the EFQM Model causes an organisation to do.

Therefore, I feel that if I were a manager in an organisation who wanted to create a learning organisation, using an excellence model such as the EFQM Model would help as a rough guideline to implement the processes and procedures required to create a learning organisation, and would in tandem bring the benefits that having a learning organisation has.

October 28, 2013

What makes a good leader?

What makes a good leader? Is it charisma, imagination or simply the ability to inspire those around you? Deming would argue not. It does not matter on the person, and whether they are different, because they will follow in a similar pattern to those as before, and will continue to dig away at the pit that they are in. No, it is not the abilities, the charisma or personality of the leader, but it is knowledge of that leader that can lead to change, to improvement and innovation within an organisation or society. A leader without knowledge will follow and act in a similar way to those before them. A leader with knowledge will act upon that learning, and will implement new ideas and processes. Therefore, I feel that it is knowledge that makes a good leader, not someone who is just charismatic or likeable. A charismatic man may inspire those around him to follow, but they could ultimately follow him blindly to their destruction. A less characteristic person with knowledge, could lead them down the correct path to success.

October 27, 2013

Profound Knowledge

The system of profound knowledge outlines four points according to Deming that an organisation should adhere too. Firstly, to set an example, secondly, to be a good listener, but not to compromise, thirdly, to continually teach people and finally, to help people transform their practices and beliefs.

Essentially, this is saying to me that competition is not viable to establishing and ensuring a successful organisation. Why? Because if one department in an organisation tries to optimise its performance, it may lead to sub optimisation of another department within that organisation, through not sharing knowledge, or helping, or teaching others for example. No, it would appear that competition is the very bane of modern organisations, not just from external factors (i.e. competitors, regulations, obtaining resources), but also internally from employees within the organisation.

If a line manager is scared that by educating his work force for example, they may surpass his knowledge and ability subsequently leading to one of them taking his job, organisational output would be limited by this line manager who would not share his knowledge and continually teach people. Therefore, I feel that the SOPK is a key component that organisations should embrace, even those seeking their excellence journey using EFQM or Baldrige. By eliminating competition, we can all grow and all improve. Not just one growing whilst one loses.

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  • I like your comment Mayo, I did try to listen and engage the people in my team, but what tended to h… by Benjamin Roberts on this entry
  • This is a very beautiful piece of blog ben and i am so glad i bumped into it. Its so sad that we all… by on this entry
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