All entries for October 2013
October 27, 2013
The past one month has been an intense studying process for me. The module is not difficult, but it contains huge amount of information and requires great practices. I was never particularly good at time management, so this was definitely a challenge, but the good thing is I am getting better at it. Paul has emphasized many times in class that ‘time is the currency this year’, and now I understand what he meant!
I was learning everyday, from classes and course mates, during researches, by doing presentation and writing reports, and self-assessment. Among all the things that I have learnt, I just want to pick out a few points that have influenced me the most.
1. I knew nothing about ISO 9000, or EFQM before coming to WMG, and had never even heard of Deming. And now I can easily give my friends a 10 minutes presentation on any of those topics.
2. It was extremely shocking when first hearing some of the management philosophies, and I remember that I could not get my head around and was arguing with Paul in class many times. Yet through this one month, I really start to compare those new management tools with the old ones that I was used to, and I realize how these tools are so much more advanced. I learnt to jump out of the box and re-examine the knowledge I was taught before. I started to adapt into this new way of thinking, and I truly appreciate this transform.
3. Group projects were definitely a challenge. Although I have done quite many group reports and presentations during my undergrad study, but one of them were like what we are doing in MBE. And many of the comments are so useful. And I can actually see myself improving throughout the 6 projects.
4. I like how this course always gets you thinking.
In general I enjoyed CBE a lot. It is definitely a new approach of learning to me, and I am looking forward to what is coming next.
I was reviewing the Seminar 2 topic: why do business competitors cooperate with each other, and I thought of an example that may best explain this phenomenon. I am a member of ‘sky blue’ club. So whenever I fly I collect points/miles from my travelling and I can use it for my next travel. There are many airlines in this club, including Chinese Southern Airline, KLM and other companies. As I used to study in Edinburgh, I always flew with KLM. And for the miles I collected, I can use it when booking a KLM flight or any other company’s flight, such as China Southern Airline flight. It gives me great deals on travelling. So for one KLM flight from HK to Edinburgh, I can exchange one domestic flight ticket with China Southern Airline. Travellers choose sky blue, knowing that they get benefits from all these airlines. Yet these benefit as well as customer loyalty would help travellers to stick with the airline companies within this ‘Sky blue’ club, which is then becoming a benefit for all these member airlines as well. This creates a win win situation. And travellers may choose whichever companies according to their own demands and situation. As if one is flying within China, he knows that he can choose Southern airline, while if he is travelling abroad, there are other airlines he can go with.
These airlines are competitors, yet in this case, under 'Sky blue', they are cooperating with each other.
Continuing my last blog, I realise that transaction into ROWE not just requires revolutionary change of the internal organisation culture, but of the culture of the society the organisation lives in.
ROWE is valued very differently in different societies. This is decided by the elements and values within the society, including, for example, the education system, religion, economic and political reasons, and market structures etc. Out of all these aspects, I would assume that education is the most fundamental reason for any social structure and value. To introduce ROWE into the society and its companies and have it accepted by its people would possibly have to start first by introducing the philosophy behind ROWE into that society. This is a meaningful step for the development of the whole society for the following reasons:
1. -Thinking outside of the box: ROWE as its name suggests focuses on results only, and does not force any particular process of achieving that results to its people. Therefore, it provides great freedom for people to decide whichever routes they are intend to take, and to encourage them to brainstorm the most effective and efficient working way. This is not only important in organisations, but would be a general benefit if the society adopts this thinking logic.
2. -Encourages respects to individuals. Organisations that use ROWE are giving freedom and space to employees, they respect that each individual may have its own working patterns and habits, and any employees may have to deal with unexpected personal issues outside of work. The philosophy behind this is that every individual should be respected and understood, rather than used as robots. ROWE, to a certain degree, promotes human right development.
3. -ROWE is not only about completing missions. It is about creating values. Creation shows development. It is not only needed inside organisations, but also in the improvement of a society.
Start from education. Change how people think and believe about management. That is important, and that change will then be fundamental and would last and change the society structure and value.
October 22, 2013
In the seminar yesterday, we learnt about Result Only Work Environment (ROWE). One of the arguments was that ROWE might not be suitable to be used in just any organisation. For example, it may not work for large manufacturing firms. The adoption of ROWE is revolutionary. The process not only requires courage and willpower of an organisation, but also excellent leadership, and the wisdom and vision of the management team. To adopt ROWE and abandon the old classic system where your work is constantly being monitored and supervised, an organisation is asked to change its culture and management approach completely and re-education of its employees.
We have talked a lot about ROWE in class, but little discussion was laid on the transaction process from one management system to another. In my opinion, trying to change an organisation sometimes can be harder than building an organisation from scratch. This is probably because once human beings are used to their environments and surroundings, they are reluctant to jump out of their community and comfort zone, and this phenomenon, if I remember correctly, is explained through an economic term known as ‘stickiness’.
And is switching management systems actually a good idea? I think, or managers, who originally hold the power within the organisation, may not be happy if such power is taken away from them. This, as a result, may lead to negative emotion and working attitude flowing into the organisation, they feel de-motivated. Employees on the other hand, switching from a high-pressure working environment to a relatively relaxing one all in a sudden, will need time, maybe training too, to re-learn how to work in the new system efficiently. It means re-educating employees, re-building company culture which they were formerly used to. These means that the organisation finance will be under great pressure as these requires large spending over time/years. There are many other side effects that may come with the transaction.
I am actually interested in knowing if any organisation has gone through this transaction process successfully and how it handled the reform and the pressure comes with it. I shall do some research on this later when I have time.
October 16, 2013
Group projects can get really intense, especially when we all have different thoughts and opinions on a topic and we all are unwilling to step down. But what I found that is even scarier than unable to convince each other to agree with oneself, is unable to get one’s point across because either he/she experiences language problems/not speaking up, or people refuse to listen.
There were times when we all got a little bit tired and frustrated and the atmosphere intensified, but I am glad in the end we all chose to patiently listen to each other, and to respect other’s viewpoints. I am happy we overcame and passed that phase when six voices were flying over the room and our faces were all red and we were all a bit emotional, and then listened, because that was when I realise ‘wow, he actually has a really good point! that I have never thought of’, and I learnt from him.
I think I understand better the concept Paul has always been trying to deliver to us all: cooperation is better than competition within an organisation. Always cooperate.
October 13, 2013
When reviewing my first entry, I realised that Paul’s argument on ‘nature’ and ‘training’ somehow contradicts with what he said in another lecture about job promotion. He argued that some companies promote people mainly based on their productivity, and ignored the fact that they may not be the best managerial material. This somehow means, from what I understood, that Paul think management ability is something that cannot be trained therefore choosing the right people is better than help someone to develop this skill/quality, and this contradicts with his argument on ‘you can become anyone you want’.
During the first lecture, Paul also argued that companies should not just kick out employees that are underperforming, but to help them grow. Yet I believe that promoting is also another way of helping employees to develop different skills. Most of the people are pushed by their ego, pride and greed, they either want a raise in salary or a promotion to be more respectful. This works as a motivation too. Therefore, if this is taken away from them, as they know that they will forever be put on the position they are on now, they may feel bored of what they do, and they may feel discouraged, and unwilling to give out the best performance.
Personally, I agree with Paul that someone great with what he does may not have the best management skills, but I still think promotion decisions should be based on employee’s performance and productivity, because this is only fair to some that work so much harder than his colleagues. Also, without the help of the performance records, who is to judge that whether this employee should be promoted but not that one? Obviously you cannot just base such decision on your sixth sense or your personal understanding towards the employees, it would not be fair or convincing. And promotion gives employees something to fight for and look forward to, right? :)
After Dan Pink’s speech ‘The Puzzle of Motivation’, the class had a good discussion on ‘whether financial incentive plays an positive role in encouraging employees to get more involved and engaged in work’. Paul, armed with Demin’s theory, affirmatively argued from his past experience that financial incentive does not work. I was shocked, as it sounded way too idealistic to me. Throughout the years of my education, I have always been taught (with my own experience as well) that companies are best to set up a reward-punishment scheme for their employees as methods of motivation, as well as the way of showing fairness towards the work loads each one individual commit to the company. Pink’s speech is mind blowing, yet it was revolutionary from what I have learnt in school before, and I simply could not get my head around.
1. Does Financial Incentive Work?
I believe financial incentive definitely works. Obviously, if the leaders of the companies can get all their employees to WANT to work and LOVE to work and to be 100% devoted, that would be the best case, and in this case, I would agree with Demin and Pink. Yet in reality, it may not always be the case, people have their self-interests and they do get lazy sometimes, etc., then a reward-punishment system would be more effective and efficient. So I would still think that should be a set-up standards of employees’ performance level, and a financial inventive scheme should be adapted as a way of insurance and guarantee of the productivity. Meanwhile the company leaders should search for ways that will motivate their employees and make them want to give out their best performance themselves, if they manage doing so, wonderful, but if not, then at least you have got the financial inventive as an insurance.
2. The Difference between Eastern and Western Mindsets
When I was struggling with understanding Paul’s idea, other classmates seem to be quite familiar with such way of thinking. Then I realised how different the East and the West think, how they treat their employees and how they have developed their company cultures as well as the value of the society they live in. The east is often seemed to be way too hard-working, strict and less caring, while the west is much more relaxed. This difference does not only apply to companies, but can also be found when comparing the education systems of the east and west. When I studied in China before coming to the UK, I had classes from 7am to 5pm, followed by a 3-hour study session at night when we supposed to be doing homework, which would be handed in the next morning. The system was extremely strict, and the pressure coming from your teachers was indescribable. Under such system, students are forced to keep studying and learning. It is therefore efficient, and the result is apparent and positive. The UK system is more about self-studying. This can be very affective when it comes to encouraging students to actively think and question the existing literatures by themselves, yet it runs the risk that the students may not be very self-disciplined. I would not argue that one is better than the other. I can see from both sides and I enjoyed both ways of teaching, yet it would be great that if the two system can be combined, that is to say, the English with more teaching hours and teacher-student interactions, while the Chinese gives students more opportunities to learn, think and reflect by themselves.
This leads back to what I have argued earlier, I would argue that do search for effective ways of motivation, but do not deny the effect of financial incentive too, as money is powerful after all.
October 11, 2013
1. Time Management
This is the first entry I wrote on Warwick blog. I have been wanting to get it started since day one but I have this important job application going on (as I really like the company and would love to be a part of it after graduation) that I got distracted. Although I am an efficient worker, I am very poor at time management and very good at procrastination. As Paul emphasized again and again in class about the importance of time management, I realise that this would be the most challenging task for me this year, but I have promised myself that I would try my best to overcome it, so I am willing to give out 100% of my effort.
2. Leadership: ‘Born With It’ Or ‘Train to Have’?
While I was writing the self-evaluation part of my CV and I realised that I had mentioned ‘leadership’ several times and prided myself on being a good leader from the past experiences I had working with people in teams. When questioning myself what are the elements/qualities that helped me built up my leadership skills, I realised it is not only because of the experiences and training I gained from earlier years, but largely because of personality and characteristic I was born with, the way I grew up, the way my brain thinks and does things. I am no better than others with a softer and tender characteristic, but I believe the nature of oneself plays an important role in deciding what he will become/do as a career in the future, and that maybe something you cannot be trained.
Paul argued in class that if you want to become the president of the USA you can, you can become anyone you want to be if you try hard enough and search for varies methods that will lead you to your goals, but I have to argue that this may not be the case. When you set a goal, it also has to be realistic and actually suits you. For example, if you want to become a singer, for whatever reasons, but you have a horrible voice, then most likely, after hundreds and hundreds of training session, you still cannot. This is something you are born with physically. You cannot ask a person with mobility problem to be professional in football no matter how much he desires to play. People have their limitations, and there are things cannot be trained.
Furthermore, people tend to choose to do things that they are actually good at. This not only boosts their confidence, making them feel good about themselves and therefore feel happy spend time on it and to do more, but also provides higher efficiency for themselves and the society they live in, where ideally, people should be put to places that best fit them. So we can argue that struggling to do something that you are actually bad at as a life-long career may not be the wisest thing, there are other options opening.
C. The Case of Leadership
There is this Chinese old saying goes like this: even the forms of the great mountains and rivers can be changed and transformed through time, yet one’s nature, the real characteristic of oneself, is so hard, or maybe impossible to be changed. So to conclude, i think although some are born with certain talents, knowledge and skills, such as management skills and presentation skills can be improved to reach and give out the same level of performance if one with less talent really tries, yet there things you cannot train. This includes physical ability (such as singing, and sports etc.) and the true nature and characteristic of oneself. When coming to the arguement of what make good leadership, I believe it depends on:
a. The leader himself (includes IQ, EQ, personality, mindsets, charisma etc.), and
b. His management and leadership skills.
The second quality can be trained and improved. Therefore people who are born with such talents and those without CAN reach the same level of leadership performance standard if the later put into more efforts. Yet I also think that the first quality of leadership is something that CANNOT be trained, people are born with it and this is unchangeable, or at least it would not natural if they force to change away from their true selves.