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February 18, 2009

Common sense strikes back…

Follow-up to Good sense, organizations and people from Francisco's blog

Working on PIUSS PMAI found a phrase rather interesting "Common Sense is the least common of the senses" (better reference it just in case....(Pande, Neuman & Cavanagh ; 2000) ). It relates to my old post saying that most scientific knowledge I saw in my life in economics, finance, engineering, quality, process and so forth are organised and well presented common sense.

6 Sigma is no different. Common sense all the way. Even though I must say that the way it is presented, the toools, the way priorities are defined do stimulate some thinking that we don`t usually do. I realisedsome colleagues are having trouble perceiving the whole logic of thinking on a process and variation related way, and that what 6 Sigma can help with, to show the importance of understanding that logic and presenting a way to relate it to everyday practises and results. So it is a clever way to stimulate and take results out of common sense.

So if I had to say what is the most important aspect of 6S, the one you should really understand it would be: "Pay attention to processes, look at them carefuly and sistematically and take as much variation out of it as possible".

But when the concepts are understoos, it is common sense ain`t it?


December 07, 2008

Good sense, organizations and people

Submitted my CBE PMA. Good feeling, glad I did and glad I worked on it. It is a good feeling to deliver something that took a lot of honest effort.

I few things that came to my mind while working on it.

My father is a very religious person, very catholic. But he has a very nice approach to it, he understands faith is an individual questions and that each on of us must deal with it in a personal way. So we all (me, my 2 brothers and my sister) had the option to go or not this way (and so far, none of us did). But there is something he always says. It does not matter if you follow or not an organised religion as long as you love each other the same way you love yourself. It`s a beautiful thing. But sometimes not so easy to apply. Once I had a doubt about how to apply it on a specific situation, I came to him and discussed the matter. I remember he saying he could not decide for me, he could not say what to do, but that I should not forget the rule of love and I should use common sense when using it.

This common sense thing became part of me. Years later I was in the university learning economy, and after a time I realized that except by the jargons and very specific thing economy, like pretty much any other science, is a matter of common sense. I had the opportunity to teach it and always said that to my students, when in doubt, common sense.

Now, finnaly CBE. When giving a closer look at change management, organisational culture, continuous improvement and above all EFQM we find out it is all above common sense. It`s something special to say that when changing something you should put all the involved people to participate? It`s something new to understand that when going in a specific direction all the processes involved on it should be aligned in that direction? But that`s all in the material we found. Human beings are funny, we know what we should do when we stop and think, we know what is common sense, we know that what is called "common sense" is called that way because lots of people in lots of situations have taken that direction and decision so that it became a COMMON decision and logic, a tested and proved choice. But we still behave wrongly quite frequently and need studies, frameworks, models, theories to do it. Human, very human.

One last think. Common sense is good, but is not all. Sometimes we have to try something different, to break common sense, to go further, to innovate. The problem is knowing when and how. That`s why we have geniuses with major successes, and dumb people with major failures. The difference between brilliantly going beyond common sense and sadly falling by not respecting it, is success.

December 04, 2008

Some changes on mission and vision

Follow-up to My mission and vision from Francisco's blog

Reflecting on what we discussed today and in some learnings that I`m taking from my readings for the CBE PMA, I`ll make two changes on the mission (none in the vision):

Include one mission:

- Being an active member of the society I`m living on, doing my part to help it improve through volunteer work, political participation or any other mean that I uderstand possible and necessary

Change from:

"Make my best to help my colleagues to achieve their objectives. Always share knowledge."


Always have a cooperative approach and not a competitive one with my colleagues. Always share knowledge

It`s going to be improved.

November 28, 2008

Organizations culture

Working on CBE`s PMA. Reading about something I`ve always thought of that is how fascinating is a companies culture. So many different ways or working. Impressive how companies in the same country, city, industry, pretty similar staff have such different ways to decide and organize, such different values.

It`s obvious to say country, sector, seniority of staff, etc etc etc are strong influences on a company culture. But connecting CBE with LE, it`s amazing the effect leadership styles have on a company. It is amaze to think that, for example, a global industry, with hundreds of thousands of employees spread in the whole world can be influenced by the style of a CEO, one person that`s is as close to this people as Britney Spears or the Dalai Lama. The example that strikes me the most is Jack Welch. But there`s one that I find very interesting. There`s a Brazilian company that is the biggest heavy construction company in latin america. They also have huge positions in petrochemical and services industries, but they`re heart is civil engineering, big stuff (airports, bridges, dams, etc etc). They have sites in all continents. They have some 50.000 employees. Some of them are members of my family, including my brother (and a uncle who is  responsible for keeping the company culture going). The company follows a Management Manual kind of thing, a business model that was created by their founder (that is over 90 years old but still alive and working!) that is called Odebrecht Empresarial Technology (Odebrecht is the company`s name).   It is amazing how all employees knowing or not somehow act in that way. They all receive the book when they join the company, but I`m pretty sure very few read it. 2 examples:

- They are against showing off richness, wealth. The founder and his family have always been very simple, accessible, humble. Even though they are billionaires, but they lead a very simple life. I`ve been colleague with one of they`re grandchildren in university (public one, not-paid!) and her car was VERY VERY simple. They reproduce that into the company. Be simple, don`t show off,  no unnecessary luxury, not private jets or anything like that for anyone!

-Independence. The managers have a great deal of independence. They manage each one of the sites in a very free way, they have a lot of power to make decisions (but of course they respond for it as well).

Now imagine how to implement an excellence management model and having to deal with all the implications of companies specific cultural issues?

October 26, 2008

Communication, honest, true, direct

Writing about web page /alanhung/entry/turnover_/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

From my experience I think the most powerful tool one can use with people is straight, honest, complete communication. People are not dumb and don`t like being treated as such. I hated when I had bosses or I received any corporate communication and it was very clear that this was not true, was not complete information.

Many years ago I attended a meeting where we had a presentation from a senior manager of the company. The company was going through a tough moment and was not easy to get promotions, to hire people to positions where we had lost people etc. In the end of the presentation a colleague asked about it to this manager. Instead of going straight he engaged in a word-game, meaning of specific words in the question trying to say that everything was normal and that this moment was just a wrong impression we had (worth to say the whole sector had problems and anyone who watched the news knew that!). That made him look silly and we land lost confidence in him and felt stupid. he should have been straight saying something like: "All the companies of our sector are going through a complex moment and we are not different, so now we will have to hold for a while, to keep together working as a team patiently because it will pass and them we will grow together, we will remember those who have been through it together. That would have been honest.

I`ve had honest relationships both with my bosses and with the teams I managed. Once I had a boss that was a very open person,  and once he made a decision that affected me and a fully desagreed. I`ve got to his table and held my opinion. We could not agree, he kept his, but the simple fact that we were able to hold a honest straightforward conversation made both feel better.

When I managed people it was the same thing. I`m proud to say I always had very honest and direct conversations and always had some very good feedback's because of that. Of course some truth must be said with care, choosing well the words and making very clear that the objective is to grow together, to improve together. Another important thing is when you have a piece of information that for any specific reason you can not talk about, and you are asked about, how to deal with it? That`s another thing I`ve learned from a  previous boss. If you usually have a straight and honest communication most people won`t mind if you just tell them that unfortunately you can not talk about that now, but that as soon as you can you will give her an answer. That has worked with me many times as both an manager as a managed.

I`m just writing that to say that sometimes, a very simple and obvious tool such as good, clear, honest communication works betters them other complex things in order to have a low turnover rate.


October 24, 2008

About the imperial discussion


1. of, like, or pertaining to an empire.
2. of, like, or pertaining to an emperor or empress.
3. characterising the rule or authority of a sovereign state over its dependencies.
4. of the nature or rank of an emperor or supreme ruler.
5. of a commanding quality, manner, aspect, etc.
6. domineering; imperious.
7. befitting an emperor or empress; regal; majestic; very fine or grand; magnificent.
8. of special or superior size or quality, as various products and commodities.
9. (of weights and measures) conforming to the standards legally established in Great Britain.


10. a size of printing or drawing paper, 22 × 30 in. (56 × 76 cm) in England, 23 × 33 in. (58 × 84 cm) in America.
11. imperial octavo, a size of book, about 8 1/4 × 11 1/2 in. (21 × 29 cm), untrimmed, in America, and 7 1/2 × 11 in. (19 × 28 cm), untrimmed, in England. Abbreviation: imperial 8vo
12. imperial quarto, Chiefly British. a size of book, about 11 × 15 in. (28 × 38 cm), untrimmed. Abbreviation: imperial 4to
13. the top of a carriage, esp. of a diligence.
14. a case for luggage carried there.
15. a member of an imperial party or of imperial troops.
16. an emperor or empress.
17. any of various articles of special size or quality.

an oversized bottle used esp. for storing Bordeaux wine, equivalent to 8 regular bottles or 6 l (6.6 qt.).

As I said I liked very much Lila`s/team 3 presentation. And that`s because I like bold statements that arise controversy. My team tried that a bit on our presentation discussing the prescriptive/not-prescriptive classification and the philosophy bit.

But I`ll give my explanation about why I do not agree with classifying the leadership style in Demings work as "ïmperial. The word imperial refers to an emperor/empress. In my mind this connects quite closely to Kings. In the old times, before the adoption of the republic by most countries the base of the emperor/king power was based on the assumption that he had some kind of support from god, he was some kind of divinity. That`s why he didn`t have to be elected, did not have to obey regular human rules, and his power was just gone if he died. And when he died his son inherited it! Of course an emperor, like a king, could not be questioned or challenged because he had god and all his wisdom with him. God choose him, therefore he could not be wrong.

Well...that`s exactly what came to my mind when I saw imperial. That`s the classic definition I remembered. I rest my case. But do i rest my case?

When I left the lecture I was talking about that with Aykut, and even though we did not finish our conversation he gave me an insight. He was talking about the Ottoman empire, and that perhaps it was not like that, etc etc. And them two things came to my mind:

1st Perhaps that is a cutural bias. I`m interpreting through my culture`s point of view and being prejudicial. Therefore perhaps there was another sense I had not picked up and that could make a lot of sense relating to Demings work.

2nd We could give another interpretation for imperial, and think it as not related directly to an emperor, but to an empire. So the leader in Deming would be a great leader able to built and related an empire. I still don`t think that would be appropriate but it would be closer to what I think.

Them I said, in England, let`s go with the English! So I researched in two places. First the dictionarys and them the Britannica Encyclopedia ( could not copy the second one here because of copyright issues0 for definitions of imperial (and in the encyclopedia Emperor). And I must say that after doing that I`m back to my old thought. Looking specifically at the dictionary definition there`s one point the could be argued that is definition 5:

of a commanding quality, manner, aspect, etc.

One could say that a leader could resemble an emperor in this commanding quality, manner or aspect. But I still don`t think that would suit Deming. I don`t think Deming thinks a leader that way, he talks about lot`s of qualities a leader should have but none of them look similar to those stated, even though I think you can have a leader applying Deming`s lessons and having some of the characteristics described in the 5th definition.

But the main thing is I think imperial takes us to a non-challenging, not learning together  kind of thinking that does not fit in Deming`s views. I think Deming`s leader fit`s more in the image of a visionary, someone who is not intrinsically more clever or superior, but someone who has a vision and knows how to share it. Someone who helps a tem produce more that the simple addition of it`s individual abilities and who promotes coletive growth.

Well...just some thought really!

Tks guys!


October 07, 2008

A hint

Writing about web page

Just for those who are looking for material about Deming, I`ve found this website. It has lots of interesting material including some of the material that was used in MBA`s based on Demings`s work.

Of course care must always be taken when using net sources, but it seems like a useful resource.

October 06, 2008

Comment on Kangs entry

I wrote this comment bellow to the entry our colleague Kang has posted about his experience with leadership . For some reason the blog is no allowing my comment to be posted. I did not want to lose it so I decided to post it here.


I`ve seen you had quite an experience today. From my personal (and professional)experience I can say that there are several kinds  of leaders, several kinds of leadership styles, and you will have to find yours. Things are even harder in your (our) situation because  we all here come from different backgrounds, different cultures. So this is quite a challenge. I think you should talk as clear as possible about your expectations, your thoughts to the rest of the team and be ready to receive feedback, to learn. From my point of view neither you or your colleagues are wrong in they`re opinions, is just a matter of situation, of environment.

Cheers !


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