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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.

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?

November 27, 2008

Leadership and situation

I really liked the definition we achieved for leadership in the last few days. I believer each one of us would make smaller changes to it, but since it was done by a group we reached quite a good definition.

However, in one of the other definitions the word "situation" came up. The same happened last Monday, when the situation was also considered.

I do think the situation plays a very important part in HOW to lead in a specific moment. But I don`t think it should be IN the definition and I will say why.

We all agree that like dancing or writing leadership is a skill. Some people find it easier to lead then other, the same way some people find dancing much easier them others. Both can be learned and improved. Of course even with a lot of training I`ll never dance like Fred Astaire or Nureyev, but it can be improved. The same with leadership. You might not became a Gandhy or a Alexander the Great but you can improve it. And if that`s a skill it means that it can used or adapted for use in lot`s of situations.  Some one who is a good dancer might be fantastic at Jazz or Waltz, but not so good Samba or Salsa. But this person is probably going to do much better them someone who simply can not dance anything (like myself, for instance). Of course you would be able to find someone who was good at dancing and was especially good in Samba and Salsa and that would be the most recommended person for that specific situation, but skill wise (dancing) it does not make this person better them the other dancer who is better in Waltz and Jazz. But if you had to define the skill of dancing, you should make both of them fit.

The example Paul presented on Monday to justify the situation part of the definition was Winston Churchill.Churchill has a very funny life story. A very aristocratic person, from a very traditional English family had a good education. He also had a very interesting and unusual life. When in the navy he planned what was to became one of the greatest defeats ever for the British navy, the Galipoli Battle. Late, as the chancellor of the exchequer (English version of ministry of finance), he conducted the transition of the pound back to the gold standard and did it in a awful away despite several warnings from very important people (notably Keynes, by them already one of the most important economists in history). He later admitted that he conducted it awfully. But in WW2 he played such an amazing part, he was the true leader of the British and one of the major leaders (alongside Roosevelt-US and Stalin-USSR) for the part of the world that did not support Germany-Italy-Japan. Even though separated by the channel, with almost all of continental Europe taken, he was able to keep the morale up and to find support for UK. A true leader in a very needed moment. Until nowadays he is probably the most famous English leader of the world, more then Queen Elizabeth I, or Queen Victoria. But as soon as the war was over, he failed to remain and prime-minister again. He was later to come back, but did not shine like he did during the war.

So I ask the question, considering that he failed many times but had a MAJOR success in a much needed time would we qualify him as a real leader only in a specific situation? Not sure I agree with that. I agre that some people, some styles do fit better in some situations, but when defining a leader I think that if someone is able to lead in a situation, he is a leader even if he has trouble in other kinds of situations. Like Churchill, or like a dancer who is good in Waltz and Jazz but not im Samba and Salsa is also a dancer.


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!


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