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January 20, 2009

Deming, always holistic…

Working on the PIUSS project we decided to divide the questions among us. It is not the best way learning-wise however is the quickest way and for us now, the quicker the better.

Anyway, did a lot of reading on variation and it`s very easy to relate Deming`s understanding of variation with 6 Sigma. However is not so easy to relate it on an isolated way to Psychology. That is funny since Psy is related to pretty much everything. 

So I had a long discussion about it with Cristal and Gilbert on the computer lab. We reached two conclusions, first (and obvious) is that a holistic vision is always needed (and actually Deming says that himself, all parts must be applied together). Psychology must be understood alongside variation, theory of knowledge and appreciation of a system. Secondly is that exactly for being part of all psychology can be related to everything, after all organisations are made of people....But I`d think the best connection between psychology on the SoPK and 6 sigma would be the need of conduct change in which psychology can help but 6 Sigma can also help since it is a structured and tested way. Even the fact that the name "six sigma"is famous can be o f great help to conduct change.

Heroic leader

Writing about The Dark Knight and Leadership from Jingjing's blog

I read this entry by Jing Jing and something that I`ve longed thought of came to my mind. To explain it I`ll go through a small personal history.

I have always liked to be in front of things so many years ago I was an intern in a company (actually a British one in Brazil) an they decided to hire a large number of interns at the same time to build the team of a new department they were creating. They divided us in teams of about 3-4 people each to handle different activities and at first they did not specify anyone to be "responsible" for each team, we were generally managed by the same person. But naturally each team ended up having an informal leader that was naturally recognised as so by everyone else (later it became formal, but I was already working in another area).

I was the leader of my team. We had an activity that was not fun, was kind of boring and repetitive but was probably the most risky one because one mistake could represent real losses for both the company and the client. I`m glad to say that compared to tha amount of transactions we handled we rarely committed mistakes, even though we once committed a big one that really was our fault, but since I was the leader I assumed it as my mistake, but in the other hand I`m ashamed to say that looking backwards we were so naive and had so little control and no understanding at all about processes, systems, etc. Anyway, we managed to be a very close and united team and even though the work was boring an repetitive we were proud together.

But there was something that gave me pleasure. I loved problems. When we had a problem or a complaint/question from our internal clients, even though that was a potential mistake we committed (most of the time it wasn`t) I liked because I had to investigate, to figure it out. Basically I loved outing "fires" of. It is understandable but it is also stupid. I liked being the hero and fixing things up. I liked the heroic leader thing. In my defence I have to say that I soon realised that rationally that was stupid, that even though my boss liked it and it put in me in a good position I`ve already understood that the simple fact that we had problems meant we had bad processes and planning. A heroic leader on that sense, someone who puts fires off is a bad thing. But as the literature recognises he is frequently praised and rewarded. I realised that many years ago (even though I benefited from it) and I`m glad all authors agree on that.

Of course JingJing posts can also refer to the heroic leader in the sense of the guy who had nothing to do with the lack of planning before and steps in to fix it. Churchill on WW2, Obama now, etc etc etc.

But the real good leader is the one who is able to avoid problems, is the unsung hero who prevents problems. But people do not see it.... 

January 19, 2009


Do you know what is an Anarchist? It is somebody that does not believe in having organised systems governing societies, political organisations and that actually fights against it. He likes the idea that people should rule themselves instead of living under an organised political process.

Relating that to leadership. Are Anarchists actually advocating that each one should govern oneself, therefore stimulating people to be leaders or actually saying leaders, at least formal institutionalised ones, are not needed? Or they are doing both? Are they pro or against leaders? Formally thinking they are against because all leadership theory is built based on the idea that one to be a leader must have followers, that is exactly what the anarchists are against (again, at least on the political/institutional level, my very limited knowledge about it does not know if the say applies to other kinds of leadership...).

Anyway, I`ve became more curious about them...Will try to find sometime to read and learn about.


Ps. Sue, I really like your opinions even realising that you are kind of bored with all the posts about leadership, but believe me is an act of discipline because since I`m not crazy about the subject but it is part of my master degree to understand a bit more about it, therefore as an exercise of discipline I`m trying, with my limited knowledge, to reflect on the matter. By the way, being yourself such a mythical figure you should enlighten us with an address to your own blog or some informations about yourself, but I must say that I, for one, like very much your comments!

January 18, 2009

Share the vision – Che Guevara

Back from the arts centre. Went to see the movie about Che Guevara (quite nice movie, recommended) . Che was a very good example of a charismatic leader (I`m not saying that based on the movie, that is a work of fiction of course). There is a moment in the movie where there is a dialogue in which a reporter asks Che why he follows Fidel and why the Cuban people followed them. And he says because Fidel was able to share his vision. Well it is much easier to share a vision if you are good at communication and charisma, but and if you are not? We could get again in the discussion about born and made and decide that one could be trained to improve in bith communication and charisma, but the movie (again, the movie, not necessarily the real character) provides onde answer in which I believe. Example.

On the movie, Che did not have any privileges, fought desperately against his breathing difficulties (he had ashtma), and besides that someone who graduates in a medical school and voluntarily decides to joining that movement had some authority based on the example. So, its the old story, to be respected you have got to set example, have got to walk the talk.

January 15, 2009

LEadership definition

More and more about leadership.

Writing it today I kind of realised the obvious. The best definition of leadership will always depend on what it is made for. Reading on Bass guide about it and it just pop up on me. But the more I read about it the more I think that the main thing a leader has to do is helping to build the future. THe leader should only be concerned about every day matters if by not doing so he is jeopardising his vision for the future. That is why like Jack Welch frequently says, his most important activity on GE was cultivating people, was human resources management. Because developing people is building the future.

So Leaders of the world, think about the future as much as you can, and manage the everyday matters as little as necessary...

LEarning and using

Working on my LE PMA and got very aware about leadership and how people use it, how people who have a tendency to lead behave. That why today I was in a meeting for the SLLC, were elected representants of all the programs in WMG meet to discuss several matters. Thinking that we are all volunteers elected by our colleagues to represent them is reasonable to assume that all of us have, in some degree, a tendency to lead. Well, there was a moment in which it was hard to find an agreement on a specific question. I was paying so much attention in everyone`s behaviour that I did not really paid attention to the matter. I saw how some people try to use rational arguments, others tryed to make different proposals combine by mixing (and it was the worst solution, both the original ones worked well on themselves but mixing, in my opinion was worse them any of them individually). Some other people were not really dictatorial because the situation did not allow but by paying attention I could feel that if the situation allowed they would rather had decided alone. 

No one had a similar approach and by only concentrating on them I could see some theories working. Interesting experiment....

January 08, 2009

Obama and (once again!) leadership

I was reading Time magazine the other day, the edition in which they elected Obama man of the year. There`s a hell lot material about him and as I was reading two contradictory feelings came to me. First I got a bit emotional, because of all the people that got so happy and so full of hope because of him. That is beautiful and specially needed in harsh and violent times like now. Second I`ve got worried because I though that his challenges are so big and people have such high hopes that frustration will probably come, and that will be something to get worried, because people frustrated in times like these can have some very unhealthy behaviours.

But them, right in the middle of the magazine there`s a interview with him.  I must say I got impressed. I was amazed about how transparent and sometimes humble but not in a artificial way he was. He was always very objective and direct. He talks about leadership, about what are his qualities as a leader and I was amazed that all he said was so similar to what we have been discussing, and what I think is important. 

Some post ago I wrote about the important of honest, transparent communication even when you have bad news and that is exaclty what he did. I was very impressed and I will use that material on my PMA.

Now I`m under the impression that even not delivering all that is expected he will still be popular and a source of hope because of those ability to communicate clearly, directly and honestly. That is real leadership, a real talented leader.

December 22, 2008

About Leaders

About leaders. Thinking about some people I know that are really great leaders. Just real people I deal with, colleagues, friends, bosses. Trying not to confound managers with leader, people I liked with leaders. Using as a criteria people that somehow seemed to inspire other people. If being very strict when using the criteria, can`t find many. But all that I thought have one common characteristic. They all seem to have a brave way of taking their ideas forward. They all have personality, they are not afraid of thinking differently and assuming it. They have independent thinking.

All people that came to my mind are people that are not afraid of expressing different opinios from the majority when that is relevant. They are not stubborn or want to be different just for the sake of it, they are able to listen and to change their minds if convinced that they might be wrong, but they don`t do so just for the sake of doing or for being afraid of not belonging to the majority and being accepted.  They also don`t stick by their ideas out or proudness, but because they have put some thought on it and they have a set of values in place, therefore their ideas are usually backed up by a lot of effort and reflective thinking. I think that is the best criteria I`ve found so far to qualify someone as a leader.

If you want to be a leader, you first have to be able to lead yourself, to think independently and that (as pretty much everything else in life) does not come for free, it comes with effort, hard work. 

December 07, 2008

Leadership challenge

Last Friday we had the leadership challenge in the morning. I was very happy the Ally offered herself to lead us, that was a very nice evolution and demonstration of courage.

We did very well ending with a very high punctuation. However a small thing happened, few people noticed but our team noticed, and it was a learning experience.

When there were only1 or 2 minutes left I realised that we had to input our results in the computer. There was another team using the computer so I got quite anxious. Half of our work was finished, we had one route defined but not the other. Ally and Luis were working on it.

With about 30 seconds left I set in the computer and input my numbers. Them Paul said we had only 10 seconds. I shouted to my team and told them to bring whatever they had. Better something them nothing. They brought me their route, but in a paper, not in the template. They gave the numbers, I typd them. I guess that by that time the 10 seconds were gone. I still had to input 2 other information, if they had gone through Kyle and how many points they had. None of those information was clear and I was to make a decision in seconds. I remember perfectly what came to my mind. For the points I know we had at least 500, probably more, but I could not be sure. Since we had 700  in the other route I decided to input 1200 and be honest, no try to put more them I thought we had (even though we probably had more). Second I also decided no tu put the lighthouse, for the same reason. Being honest, if I was not sure, best assume that we did not. Of course being honest was a driver, but there was another driver that was the fact that we could have some trouble if we had any kind of testing, if we had to prove and we could not prove it (and I did not know if we could!). So I take the safe route.

Ally got quite angry with me, because she thought we were trowing points away. I understand her, but reflecting on it, if I had to make the same decision again pressured by time and not having all needed information I`d have done the same. I think I took the right decision given the conditions. My only mistake on that specific situation is that I could have made an exta effort to explain it after. But things soon got clear and this was not needed.

But that`s a good example of how hard it is to make a decision under pressure, no time, not having full information and representing a group. In the specific situation I`m glad I made the right one and I think that what helped me do it was the fact that I have built in me a set of criteria, ready to be used when facing a decision . That`s good, but has got to be treated with care because can also became a barrier to taking different an new decisions.

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.

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