April 16, 2010

Reflections on the Presentations given to Waveriders, for KM, AM and how they tie in with the EFQM

With regards to our team presentation today, group A1, for Waveriders; we feel that we did consistently make a conscious effort, when trying to link theory with practice. We feel that we paid attention to the inconsistencies and conflicts that exist between the directors. And we acknowledged that it is vitally important that these inconsistencies first need to be clarified; before any attempts for future success can stand a chance when being implemented.

As consultants we believe that 80% of consulting has more to do with the psychological and human factor, and 20% has to do with the tools. Tools are important, but if you can’t get people to want to work collaboratively together, then they simply don’t stand as a good a chance. (Even in the EFQM, Leadership, is the first box, that’s where everything starts). In any case, despite holding these strong beliefs, we are still novices, and we made the mistake of focusing too much on the details of the individual tools, which in effect did not leave us enough time to make the obvious link between Asset Management, Knowledge Management, and how these philosophies can help Waveriders achieve the requirement of the EFQM criteria.

Upon reflecting, my personal belief is, and I believe that my teammates will agree with me; is that we should have tried to ask ourselves more clear questions. What is our Information System like? Do we collect data? Do we store it? Do we analyze it? Do we have knowledge of our customers’ perceptions? How quick can we respond? How can Life Cycle Management actually allow us to improve our discounting methods?... We could of focused less on the technical aspects, as at the end of the day the directors are not really interested in how they work, but instead what they can do for Waveriders, and what they require in order to work. So we need to focus our attention more on the actual solutions that Asset Management and Knowledge Management can offer; explain what they need, and the long-term intangible benefit.

Furthermore, we need to improve on the finishing touches of our presentation. We need to (in the future) create a clear introduction, instead of rapidly changing slides, loaded with information rich content; and then link each slide nicely with the next, in order for it to be a smooth flow for the audience, and then finally wrap it up nicely in the end. So basically we need to tell our audience what we are going to talk about, then talk about it, and then tell them what we told them. It helps information sink in. And it must be done in a simple, non-technical language; because at the end of the day the directors do not care about the technical details, they just want to know what the tools can achieve, and what it takes to achieve the required results. So our ‘job’ mainly entails convincing our audience; and thus we need to highlight the importance of a wholehearted and widespread adoption, the long-term view, the intangible benefits, and of course the monetary prospects.

One final point I have thought about, is that since English is not our first language, we need to make a conscious effort in coloring our voice; otherwise it can sound a bit monotonous. And when trying to engage with the audience, one way of doing that is by coloring our voices, and giving more emphasis to certain parts, in order to highlight them. Eye contact is imperative. So the better we know our material, the more we can catch our audiences eye, and keep them engaged. And we must remember that when presenting to our audience, we do find that inevitably our pace will become slower; because we are talking to people that need time to digest information which is new to them. We must try and put ourselves in their shoes and objectively examine if we are actually good at selling these concepts. And if not, what can we improve? Of course every audience is different, and no one person is the same. With time we will learn to adjust depending on the circumstances. But I believe that some things are a constant; such as positivity, being knowledgeable, having faith in the tools we use, simplifying the technical language and how they can translate into business benefit, clear links/smooth flowing, and finally body language when engaging with our audience.

Despite having a lot to improve on, we must keep in mind that we have all significantly improved in the last few weeks, so Good Work everyone!, and I wish you all the best!


April 14, 2010

Situational Awareness and the Key of Communication

In today’s lecture we were introduced to ‘Unclear and Present Danger – Situation Awareness’ at every level. The theme of the video was that the vast majority of accidents happen as a result of human error; which could have been avoidable. The video started with a brief and concise explanation of how we humans make sense of the world around us. We use our knowledge, mental patterns we have formed, expectations that we have; and all of these combined greatly contribute to how we experience the world around us.

The video explained that there are three main reasons why errors occur. The first is that when we gather information, we may miss something. This mainly has to do with being inattentive; but it may very well be a result of being overwhelmed. Our working memory, otherwise known as the Short Term Memory, can only process up to 5-6 chunks of information at any one time. Thus if it is overburdened, this will inevitably result in some important information being missed. The second reason errors occur is because we may have interpreted information incorrectly and formed a wrong picture, or/and reached the wrong conclusion. The third reason why errors occur is because of a failure to look ahead and anticipate what may happen. The video then went on to explain that there are four types of errors. 1. Information is not available. 2. Information is not observed. 3. Information is difficult to detect. And 4. Memory error.

There are many factors which can affect the working memory of an individual, such as, their physical well being, whether they are rested and alert; feeling fresh and aware. Experience is a protector, as it aids better understanding, but it is not a complete guarantee. In some cases experience can hinder reactions, because people may be overconfident and will switch off and go on autopilot mode. It was discussed in class that it is very important that as responsible leaders we must develop our listening skills constantly. We must be attentive. We must pick up on behaviors of others and try to be intuitive towards their needs. Furthermore, we must walk the talk, and practice what we preach. The people, who work with us, constantly observe us; and are much more likely to pick up on our Non Verbal Behavior. Thus, one can tell by the mentality of the employees what the leaders true belief and stance is.

Leaders need to be aware that people may have incorrect mental models. People may perceive things through many different filters. Communication is key! Various questions were put forth in class, questions which by all means do not have a straightforward answer. Some of the questions put forth include the following: How am I going to check that people are using information properly? How can I check that they are anticipating? Do people know what is right? Depending on what people perceive as right, immediately impacts quality and standards. That is why there is a lot of variability in products, or customer relations for example. Are our people functioning as a team, or are they functioning as a team of individuals? Is everyone clear about what needs to be done? How it must be done? What we are aiming to achieve? Are people conscious all the time? Do they pay attention to what must be kept in mind at all times? Do they feel comfortable to feedback information? The aim of these questions is to assist people in the process of working with their brains switched on, rather than being physically present and having their brains switched off.

Attention to detail is especially a leader’s responsibility, but the ideal situation is to instill that within everybody’s mind gradually, and for it to become part of the company’s culture. Attention to detail will result in more situational awareness, a safer environment, a safer product, and of course a satisfied customer.

It is a tough task to make ourselves aware. Even by having access to all the amazing knowledge about how the mind works and how people function, mistakes still are repeated. Therefore it can be even more difficult to make other people aware. But there are some tips which can function as practical tools and pearls of wisdom which can assist in the process of making others aware. I am reading a book at the moment called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, by Dale Carnegie, and I have found it an absolute gem. It gives great tips on how to deal with people and make the want to go the extra mile. It is all about genuiness, good will, honesty, fundamental values, and human nature. There are many common points with the book I read recently for our Leadership essay; ‘On Becoming a Leader’ by Warren Bennis. It was stressed in the latter book that the only way to be a successful leader, is by being a successful person. And I find this message is apparent in both of these books. Funnily enough Dale Carnegie quotes Carl Rogers from a book ‘On Becoming a Person’; thus is can be said that this common theme is not down to sheer coincidence.

Dale Carnegie mentions that you cannot directly tell a person that they need to change their mind, or they need to know this, or that they are practicing something in the wrong manner. This direct, abrupt approach can only result in the other person raising their defenses. He states that it is difficult even under the most compassionate of conditions to change peoples’ minds. So why make it harder by making the other person defensive? Even Galileo said over 350 years ago that: You cannot teach a man anything – you can only help him find it within himself.

The above statement reminds me of something I heard recently. I was watching a documentary in which one of the people interviewed was a successful business consultant. And I can remember –very clearly- her saying that 80% of her consulting has to do with psychological factors, and the other 20% has to do with business improvement tools. I first realized this when doing the Process Improvement Using Six Sigma essay. It became explicitly apparent that the main reason why Six Sigma fails is because the people at the top are inattentive to the psychological needs of the people implementing the business improvement tool.

Language is also very important. The word error is a heavy one. If we are told we are making errors, or that we are wrong, or that we are mistaken, none of us take to it well. This is human nature. Dale Carnegies states: “It is a fact that few people are logical. Most of us are prejudiced and biased. Most of us are blighted with preconceived notions, with jealousy, suspicion, fear, envy and pride”. This is identical to what was stated by Professor Rhona Flin in the video, when she talked about confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when we see what we want to see, and we select what suits us in order to confirm what we already see. We manage to fit things into our model, even though everything is indicating otherwise. An example was given of two pilots, which perfectly illustrates this. These pilots were on a transatlantic flight, and they landed not only in the wrong airport, but also in the wrong country; they had many pieces of information that indicated otherwise, but they could only see what they wanted to see, that they were on track, doing the correct thing. James Harvey Robinson in his book ‘The Mind in the Making’ says that “We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to it. The result it that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do”.

We all tend to think that it is important to be clear about what we set to achieve. And it is! But sometimes we risk having a mental model and getting stuck to that, and as a result becoming oblivious to the reality. In such cases it might be best to come along with no mental model, in order to be more capable of identifying our faults and realizing solutions. In our process of achieving what we set out to achieve it is important to win people over, and have them want to work with us, and want to willingly go the extra mile. This simply cannot be achieved by telling the other person that he or she is wrong. The only thing which will result from such a remark will be to strip the other person of their self-dignity and make them in effect block out what is being said; so much so that you are practically unwelcome to discussion.

One of the ways Dale Carnegie suggests one can start a conversation is by saying: ‘Well, now, look. I thought otherwise but I may be wrong. I frequently am. And if I am wrong, I want to be put right. Let’s examine the facts’. Politeness is powerful; as is accepting that one can be wrong. Nobody will deny that, nobody will try and argue that or prove you wrong, when you admit to possibly being wrong. By accepting frailty ourselves, others are disarmed. By admitting that we too can be wrong, will make the other person soften up; it will help us to help them avoid raising their barriers, and avoid the rise of negative emotions within them (which are immediately linked to their pride, ego, stubbornness etc.), and of course it will help to avoid arguments (which in many cases are just wasted energy). By opening up about our own ability to make mistakes (after all we are only human) it may even inspire the individual we are talking to, to be just as fair and open and broad-minded as we are (Dale Carnegie).


March 07, 2010

Warren Bennis and Leadership

I was completely taken by surprise by reading Warren Bennis. He engaged me in every page of his book. I found myself smiling and laughing, with his tips, experiences, insights, everything! The book resonated with my own beliefs and abstract thoughts on so many levels, that I feel amazed and enlightened! I feel that pieces of the puzzle which are still a random mass, are slowly but surely, coming together and forming a picture. What I particularly enjoyed was that his view of leadership, above and beyond everything else, introduces you to the ideology, that you need to know yourself, and how to be a decent individual, before being able to successfully lead others. By doing this (which of course is not an easy journey) you end up feeling happy, positive, and in alignment to what you truly want. This in turn allows for a positive impact on those around you. People can feel if you are genuine, they know if they are being lied to, as they don’t just listen to the words, they listen to their heart, and their gut instinct also. So being able to be true to yourself, will lead to a natural progression of having people willingly ‘fight’ alongside you.

His advice with regards to reflecting on past experiences in order to understand their meanings for us, plus his advice on overcoming mental blocks, and therefore opening up the way to your true potential… is all insightful and liberating, and communicate to me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading views and opinions of many successful leaders of the business world, and being able to get a ‘taste’ of their experience. Bits and pieces of information which I come across, such as historical events which have resulted in today’s world, help me realize and put things in context. I begin to understand my position as a human being in this world, grateful for events which have lead to today; and overall this helps me to see how I fit in, if that makes any sense… I only just recently have started experiencing this change in my perception of the world around me; and this now includes interest in the arts, accompanied by a very real change in reading more (not just for University), and an honest interest in history. I remember characteristically him saying that, the majority all the successful CEO’s he interviewed have a background in social sciences, such as art, philosophy, and history. I have come to realize and believe that the reason for this is completely and utterly simple; it is because these people have an interest in the fellow human, and the world around them.

Bits and pieces of knowledge are coming together, to paint a beautiful picture. It started with Deming’s emphasis on the importance of psychology. Then we studied Six Sigma and I realized that the vast majority of failures when people try to implement business improvement tools is because those responsible at the top usually disregarded the human element of it all. I became acquainted to the writings of Kouzes and Posner, as well as Robert K. Greenleaf and the concept of Servant Leadership. It has all made me feel inspired, enlightened, and on track. I would like to read more, and now I know where to turn to for good reads. I just feel very happy to see that I as a person, I find myself inspired, in agreement, and in alignment with the views of people who are what we call leaders; and I know that their insight will help me develop as an individual.


February 04, 2010

Reflection on Leadership, Personal Authority and Positional Power, Logic and Emotion, and Coaching.

I’ve been reading my course mates thoughts, and I’d just like to say that it is so nice to be able to share thoughts in this way. There are some moments when the buildup of pressure kinda gets to you, and by reading what other people have realized and are going through just makes you snap out of it, as you are not the only one. So yeah, thanks for your blogs guys! I initially never thought I’d like having to write and read blogs, but I really do!

I watched two documentaries recently. One was about three women who are ministers in Greece, and what their position of power means to them. I found it really interesting because it just gave me some insight into the lives of ministers. People tend to usually be averse to politics, politicians, banks, police, military etc. And because people tend to usually be so, many people who don?t have an opinion follow the mass like sheep. When I was younger, before I started being a critical thinker I used to be the same; I used to dislike politicians without examining why I dislike them (this took place up until very recently). By watching this documentary I saw that these three women have a passion for what they do, they love it, they work very, very hard, despite the difficulties and the pressure. What stayed with me is what one of the three said, that what drives her is the feeling, the passion for what she does; if one does not have passion for what they do, they can simply not do it well (they will even struggle to meet minimal requirements). I believe the same stands true for those who aspire to become effective leaders. You must love what you do, and want to become great at it! To become a great leader entails a lot of effort, work, thinking, reading, communicating, reflection, courage to stand up to yourself, maturity on many levels, ongoing evolution, subtle honesty towards others, humility, patience, and many more qualities.

It requires willingness to understand the other persons point of view, to take time to listen, to put yourself in their position, to try and understand what filters they might be understanding you through, to constantly sharpen one’s emotional intelligence and intuition, to be brave enough to learn from mistakes, to be open to criticism, to know one’s (and others) limits. It is of course a process which takes time. But as long as one truly wants it, then they will recognize that it needs time and will be patient and enjoy the journey. By recognizing the need for time I think will in a way help relieve the pressure the leader may feel at times. One may experience feelings of being inadequate. But that is all part and parcel of it; and by having this knowledge that time is necessary, and to keep on going. By being calm within, even when times are tough, the leader will be able to use his personal authority, instead of trying to turn to utilizing their positional power. Using positional power to make people do what you want them to do will just make the follower loose respect; which is a real pity, as respect takes a lot of time to be built, and can be shattered quickly. I believe that the leader who is happy with who they are, and are calm within, are based on solid personal foundations. Furthermore, I believe that effective leaders have an amazing support system of (family, partner, friends) and their support system is what makes them much more likely to achieve excellent results. In effect, people will have been lead without realizing they have been guided. One of the personal experiences I have where this became apparent, was when I was serving in the army. One of the officers was kind to us soldiers, and because we respected him (we knew he could also be firm) we were willing to assist, help, and volunteer for something. This was a huge lesson for me at the age of 18, and it stayed with me ever since; that kindness is the best way to make people want to do something for you. I found it very powerful!

Through our Leadership and Excellence module I learnt that there are four types of leaders. The Autocratic, the Democratic, the Charismatic, and the Les Affair. Out of all of these I believe our army officer was democratic. We have all met or seen loads of autocratic, or if we haven’t seen, we at least have experienced the result of their attitude towards employees, in the behavior of people who are employees which we happen to know. I have met the Les Affair type (also in the army), and we experienced him to be more of a friend instead of a commanding officer, so we really didn’t end up getting done what was supposed to be done. With regards to charismatic I learnt in this module, that it is one of the most effective forms of leadership, as people are as if enchanted by the leader and follow them unarguably. This latter type of leadership can have a dark side to it, and I’m sure all of us can bring to mind a dark charismatic leader to mind from History.

Another thing I learnt and really liked in this module is the following: “Someone who never makes mistakes is a person who does nothing, because they never leave their comfort zones. Every person makes mistakes; everyone!” I really liked this, because even though it is such a straightforward, reasonable, and logical statement; it is something I never thought of myself, I guess that this is because we live in a society where mistakes are considered taboo, everything and everyone is competitive, and making a mistake is considered unacceptable. How very limiting! And it puts people in the loophole of feeling bad, because most don’t realize that in effect, they haven’t done anything wrong. Life, if a constant learning process. Thus, the only true mistake one can make is to carry on making the same mistakes, when they KNOW they are repeating the same mistakes. Of course that is again a logical statement, and people tend to be emotional and logical at the same time, and of course these two will never walk hand, in hand. Thus, it is important that one learns their own-self and be open to third party guidance. Taking a step back always gives the view of the larger picture. So knowing oneself, knowing when to distance oneself, knowing when to reflect, or to do something else simply to take your mind of things, knowing your own reactions, responses etc, etc can greatly assist a leader, or any person for that matter. I believe that by examining yourself in great depth, allows to understand and empathize with other people; or if not understand at least be open to understanding them.

Leadership and Excellence also offered me insight with regards to Coaching. Prior to the lecture, I had a vague understanding of what coaching is. I have come to realize that coaching is a soft way of achieving hard results. It requires perseverance, but can bear a lot of fruit. I realized that it essentially helps people to come to their own decision about how to address an issue. It is not a lecture of personal opinions which you have to learn. This would be negative as it will most likely result in the person reacting negatively, or doing whatever it is they are supposed to do, but in a half-hearted manner. Thus, the tool the coach has is that of establishing what the problem is by questioning. But, I learnt that WHY?, should not be used, as it sounds very accusatory. WHY?, Is OK in an exploratory situation, but in a coaching situation it can be negative. It should be used only very rarely and safely. In effect, the coach can still get the answer that they want, without being challenging. Clearly managers and leaders also take on the role of a psychologist. Knowing human behavior can greatly assist a leader in achieving what they want to achieve. Reading about leadership in textbooks, or hearing opinions in a lecture is the start, but only by experiencing these in a real life situation will one truly be able to truly grasp and integrate the power of this knowledge. Essentially, wanting to acquire this knowledge (for me) constitutes one of the strategic moves to becoming an effective leader and driving an organization to excellence. By wanting to acquire this knowledge, and by making mistakes and learning from them, the aspiring leader can move from being in a state of conscious competence, to being in a state of unconscious competence; or otherwise what we call second nature.


January 14, 2010

The virtue of 'Patience'; the power of 'Knowledge'; and the secret ingredient of 'Humility'

We have all got used to such a fast pace of life. Everything is quick and getting quicker. Information is readily available for the vast majority of what one wants to know. I dont see this as a negative, BUT there is a flip side to it. We have got so used to everything being quick, that we get inpatient when time is actually required for something. I think that phrase, “Patience is a virtue” is something that many people have heard, but very, very few actually understand its power in practical terms. As I read somewhere, theory can be weighed in ounces, and the respective theory when practiced can be weighed in kilos! I for one definitely believe that to be true! I especially saw this in Paul’s answer, when I asked how change was brought about in the company they worked with. I was hugely impressed and inspired by the example of the 52 year old employee, who said that ‘these three last weeks have been the best of my working life’. How huge is that? I believe it is monumental!

So how was change actually implemented? They had used the same ‘structured problem solving theory’ in the past. So what was different this time? What I identified as being different was the fact that the directors were effectively ‘forced’ to allow their human resource TIME! It is really simple stuff –as Paul put it- “If you fail to give these guys the opportunity to implement this stuff”, how can you expect this to work? And of course the FAITH that the consultants have in their stuff, i.e. “I cannot be associated with a failed course” (Loved it!). So the point I am trying to make is that in todays quick world we have become so impatient; that even though we understand the significance of these business improvement tools, we still fail to allow time. We expect to click a button and make it happen. The reason I use the word we, instead of they, them, or the, is because the impatience element can of course be extended to the personal; with regards to personal development. Furthermore, we are in the process of being educated and formed to be the leaders of tomorrow.

For the managers that have the ability to open their eyes, challenge current practice, and contemplate on these issues; a world of opportunity can become available to them. Business at the end of the day comprises of people. And everything always seems to be focused on money. That’s why it is great that we live in this day and age, whereby research in areas such as behavioral science have allowed for those who study it, to be able to gain insight with regards to the understanding of behaviors. The process of change has started, people who reflect on such concepts will most likely move away from the classical ‘Tayloristic’ view of the workplace… I had made an odd sort of comparison of Taylorism, to cigarette smoking. For example, people have in a way been socially conditioned to expect a manager to behave in an autocratic manner, via means of movies, tv shows, current practice or whatever. The same way through movies, tv, and current practice people associate smoking with being cool, or wise, sophisticated etc (that is why it is so difficult to quit, because not only do you experience substance withdrawal, but also the psychological element of smoking is not being satisfied). But with knowledge you can change that. Smoking is really bad for you because it has x, y, and z (+ many, many more) chemicals in it; and that makes quite a lot of people want to stop harming their bodies. Equally, by acquiring leadership knowledge, a manager can realize the differences in managing and leading, and how that can benefit their organization; and as a result change the company culture. Power of knowledge – A whole new set of possibilities is opened up through education.

I bet that the most exciting part of this theory (when implemented) must be the part where you actually start experiencing the positive benefits in practice. When employees who see opportunities management will never see, start contributing those thoughts/opportunities/visions to the company. When you see the change from a gloomy face, to a happy face. When one feels that change in atmosphere. When you see money being saved, and lots of it (i.e. the example of 19:1 money saved which astounded accountants comes to mind). Thus, it is always important to have the key questions which can contribute to achieving an aim, in the back part of our minds. How can I get the workforce to work for themselves? How do I go from 5 days of darkness and 2 days of light, to 7 days of light? How can I communicate what it is I want to achieve, and how each and every one will actively contribute towards that goal? How can I manage to indirectly (or even directly for that matter) answer the ‘whats in it for me?’ question?, that the workforce holds in their minds. I believe these are the critical questions for any leader to ask themselves constantly; in order to influence their human workforce.

Initially I didnt take to the word influence, because for me it had a negative connotation attached to it. But after discussing about it, I reached the conclusion that it is impossible to constantly inspire other people. Therefore, leadership is not achieved through constant inspiration, but mainly by knowing how to influence. Then of course, during moments when one experiences a stroke of brilliance, others can also be inspired.

Another element of the discussion which helped me put ‘Leadership’ into perspective is that of L = f (l, gm, s); where f= function, l= leadership (leaders qualities and characteristics), gm= group member, s= situation. My understanding is that few people are natural born leaders, where the gift of leadership is something which just takes place effortlessly; when one knows what to do in order to have people follow them. The majority of people need to nurture their leadership qualities; and can become great leaders only when they truly want to become great leaders. The example of Winston Churchill being an excellent leader during war times, but being made to leave in times of peace, helped me move away from viewing the term Leader in black and white. In other words, it is perfectly acceptable to be able to lead in some situations, but in others it is better if one steps aside. There is power in knowing one’s abilities, and having the maturity to know when others are better equipped to take on a certain role. Thus, in my opinion one of the many qualities of a leader includes knowing when and how to be a follower. And that comes down to the ’s’ element of the function. So knowing how to ‘read’ a situation, or/and the ‘gm’s’ will assist one in knowing whether or not to take the lead. Another example which I thoroughly enjoyed was that of a British guy who went to China, and within 15 years became Chief Executive, of 4-5 companies. When asked how? He replied, I had people better than me working for me. That to me is the power of ‘Humility’, which I consider to be another vital ingredient which constitutes a leader.


January 11, 2010

Leadership and Excellence, Initial Thoughts

Concepts I heard and came across today during the discussion we had, are concepts which I take a real liking to. I am interested to hear the opinions of others with regards to what constitutes a leader. Somewhere I had read that a good leader is the leader that can make the workforce give more than they believe they are capable of offering. I really like that philosophy. If I remember correctly it was of the Chief Executive of British Aerospace, Sir Raymond Lygo.

Ideas expressed in today’s class, were that inspiration is important. I believe that inspiration can be offered, when the leader has a vision of the future, a belief that it is possible, optimism, and faith. I believe that positivity and enthusiasm are imperative, and can be transmitted towards the rest of the people working alongside you; and as such having overall a stronger influence. I also believe that the element of appreciation is of great importance; as it makes people want to give more. I am very glad to be in an environment that brings up, thinks, and contemplates on such issues; because what I observe in the world we live in is something different to the concepts we are talking about. And that may very well be the reason why so few companies are what we call excellent. For many people, what we talk about may appear to be ideal, and they may turn around and say that the ideal is something which can never be reached. That is a fair comment to make, although I liked what the talker said in the TED video… By reaching for the ideal, you can achieve excellence.

I have come across Maslow’s pyramid of needs in the past, but today I saw it under a different prism. The order as stated in the pyramid is Physiological, Security, Social, Esteem, Self-Actualization (bottom to top). It was mentioned in class (including myself) that many reach from 2-3 on the Pyramid. Many people in today’s world fear about losing their job, and this immediately takes us to the conclusion that since Security is not being covered, then people are not in a position to cover their Social and Esteem needs, and as a result of this they cannot offer the company more than what is required; as fear restricts creativity, enthusiasm etc.

We (my colleagues and I) are in the fortunate position of having options, as a result of our education. Which in my case the education is something that my parents have offered me from a young age. I am very grateful for being able to experience the world as my oyster, and this is something that solely comes down to the guidance, knowledge, emotional support, education, and above all unconditional LOVE my parents have offered me. The reason I share this in this blog is because in class my thought was: Why does a leader have to be the one responsible for offering the Social and Esteem needs of the individual worker? Is not every man responsible for themselves? If they are not feeling happy with what they are doing and where they are why don’t they get up and leave? And then it dawned on me how selfish a thought that is, and how in reality a very big number of people, do not have the privilege of having the choices that I do. I (maybe we) tend to forget of the outside reality, as currently we co-exist in the world of academia, privilege and opportunity. Today’s discussion had a positive impact on a more personal aspect, as it made me realize the cynical view I sometimes hold; as much as I hate to admit it. What I want to keep from today is the simple starting point –but very powerful- of basic human manners (which constitute appreciation, respect, and gratitude), all of which can be summed up in two simple words: Thank You. I believe that if these two words were more frequently used in the world of business and professionalism, then more people would be enjoying their work, and as a result more companies would be achieving excellence.

This of course is not conclusive, it is more of a starting point, and I am looking forward to points of view, over the next few weeks that build upon the notion of an excellent leader.


November 13, 2009

PIUSS module… The mental path I followed, which helped me put things into perspective.

Hello everyone! :) I know this seems like a long post, but I decided to post the whole thing anyway, as it really put things into perspective in my head with regards to Process Improvement Using Six Sigma.

This entry is with regard to our first presentation, which took place today..: Six Sigma is often described as an improvement on TQM approaches. As established on earlier modules, Demings System of Profound Knowledge is a sound basis for organizational transformation which was strongly associated with the TQM movement. Using the SoPK as a template, consider the potential for Six Sigma to deliver a transformation to a truly excellent organization.

Notes I took from Mr. Graeme Knowles and Dr. Jiju Antonys: ?Six Sigma and Organisational Learning: An Opportunity Missed? The literature review that was conducted for this paper indicates that:

• Six Sigma as change and business improvement strategy is resulting in increased business benefit, but is not contributing as much as it should, to Organizational Learning.
• Six Sigma is focused on short-term benefits and localised team learning, to the detriment of Organizational Learning, and the organizations long-term benefits.
• The Six Sigma approach is shown to concentrate on building a systems capability at the expense of building organisational capability.
• The driving force of Six Sigma is the DMAIC cycle. The DMAIC is an exploratory approach and it is basically a refinement of the PDCA cycle.

The DMAIC process is a learning process since it requires Definition if the process, the customer requirements, the opportunities, the likely benefits, the possible contributors etc; Measurement of current performance and variability; Analysis of key variables and relationships; Improvement; and Control, whereby key variables are controlled, management plans for stability, and changes are integrated.

Organizational Learning is an integral part of the SoPK. This becomes evident from the third element of the SoPK, The Theory of Knowledge: “A rational prediction requires theory and builds knowledge through the systematic revision and extension of theory based on comparison of prediction with observation” (Deming, 1994:102). Hence, no theory is ever proved, since the aim is not to maintain a theory until it is proved wrong; but to build on the theory by making use of newly acquired knowledge. According to Deming “Working hard without knowledge is our downfall, there is no substitute for knowledge”, and “Beware of numbers, you had better know what they mean. Be guided by theory”. It is impossible to learn if observations are not compared to theory. And it is only possible to make a prediction based on theory. Thus, we constantly learn by comparing predictions and observations, and we constantly build on theory. It is vital that theory is understood and integrated within the organizations being, in order to achieve the desired change and success. Any attempt to just copy will of course result in a failure (Direct link of SoPK and 6S).

The fourth element of the SoPK is Psychology of the individual is of great importance. Organizations comprise of people. People are an organizations most invaluable asset. Thus, the manner in which people interact with each other, the stimuli that motivates them, and the way in which they learn is a huge determinant of the system of success. Psychology allows top management to realize that their workforce are individuals, and it is towards the senior managements? interests to be aware of this knowledge in order to better utilize the human resources of the company.
Notes from ‘Six Sigma and Organisational Learning: An Opportunity Missed?’ indicated to me that Six Sigma has failed to achieve this fourth element of the SoPK (i.e. Psychology); as Six Sigma “has the potential to fail due to lack of focus on people issues” (Knowles, Antony). Moreover a point which I think can help us is: “The focus on bottom line has the potential to impede learning by encouraging short cuts and inadequate reflection processes” (ibid). Thus, the third element of the SoPK (i.e. Theory of Knowledge) is limited, since the only way to build on a theory/knowledge, is to reflect on the experience, on the observations, and on the comparison of the predictions to the observations).

Knowles and Antony’s literature review indicates that Six Sigma “is pursued in an exclusive, overly results-focused and top down way which is anathema to the inclusivity and broader perspectives of organisational learning”. Furthermore, Knowles and Antony state that contemporary literature “present this as the positive attributes of a highly focused, management driven, results-oriented programme, but these interpretations are more about perspective than the facts”.

According to Smith and Tosay (1999) cited in Knowles and Antony, it is difficult to measure the progress of learning because of three reasons:

1. Reductionism: Where the tendency is to measure what is easy to measure, rather than what is meaningful.
2. Elusiveness of the ‘phenomenon’: Learning is a construct and, as such cannot be directly observed. What is always observed is behaviours, qualities and so on and inferring learning.
3. Relationship to change: Formal learning can be easily measured, but does this link to business performance in any significant way?

Although, there have been 11 characteristics developed by Pedler et al (1997) cited in Knowles and Antony, that define a Learning Organization. Even though they are not truly measurable, it can be said that if a company achieves them then they are satisfying the Learning Process which is integral to DMAIC and the SoPK.

It makes a big impression on me (negative) that organizations fail to transform into truly excellent organizations, when they know that failing any one element of the SoPK, will result in an overall failure to transform.

I believe that the answer is hidden in the document: Six Sigma and Organisational Learning: An Opportunity Missed?, the part referring to the EFQM.

According to Knowles and Antony “the SoPK explicitly includes the elements of Organizational Learning and the 6S competencies. If a complete transformation is to be made, the two aspects need to blended in some way”.

Mc Adam et al (1998) cited in Knowles and Antony mapped learning organisation model characteristics generated by Pedler et al (1997) against the EFQM model criteria and found that there was a very good match with the ‘enablers section’ (Mc Adam et al, 1998 cited in Knowles and Antony). “They draw the conclusion that learning organization characteristics are very important but need to be reinforced by ‘harder’ methodologies and tools (which they describe as Total Quality) in order to deliver business results” (Knowles and Antony). “From their description of ‘Total Quality’ as largely mechanistic set of tools, techniques, principles and methodologies it can be seen that Six Sigma may well fit the bill”.

So what I understand from this is that Six Sigma functions as the push, and the enactment of the theory of the SoPK. They are complementary. . “A complete model of organisational transformation requires both elements: hard, pragmatic improvement tools and approaches (Six Sigma) allied to subtle organisational development activity (SoPK)” (Knowles and Antony).


October 15, 2009

My first blog, EVER!

Hello to everyone. My name is George, I am from Greece, otherwise known as George the Greek; and I am studying MSc Management for Business Excellence. This is my first blog ever, and I'm glad to say that I feel positive towards it, as I can 'see' its benefits. I like the idea of being able to read about my coursemates thoughts, ideas, links made, questions etc. I believe the internet is an amazing tool in being able to share information rapidly, have multiple conversations, and quickly have access to other viewpoints. My belief is that the only way to 'open your eyes', is by being open to other viewpoints othen than your own. Despite holding this belief for quite some time now, I have never participated actively in an online community. So I am glad that part of the assessment for this course, has in effect 'pushed' me towards this direction... Maybe that is all I needed; a small 'push', and I'm glad it has finally happened :)

Like many other fellow human beings, I do have the tendency of postponing things that need to be done (i.e. this blog, I've been wanting to write something for days!) My grandfather always used to say to me since I was a boy... "Do not postpone for tomorrow, what can be done today". How right he was, and is! Wise man, my grandfather.

For me, postponing classifies as a bad habit; but it is just that, a habit. And I believe that it is just down to us to change these bad habits whatever they may be. By the way, it has also been proven scientifically that it takes 21 days to change the wiring of the brain, so also the wiring that results in a bad habit (smoking included!). So 21 days of persistence and the bad habit is eliminated, and hopefully transformed into a good habit. Of course it can take longer, because it needs a good mixture of wanting to change it, faith that you can change it, and a reasonable amount of effort to achieve it... I like to believe I am pretty persistent and always up for a challenge.

This year I am aiming to tackle this element of human nature, and get out of the habit of doing things last minute; which is especially a cultural trademark of us Greeks, if I may say so. A recent example known to all, would be that of Olympics 2004. We just barely made it in time, but they were impressive; so we proved the media wrong. So far being the last minute type hasn't been a problem for me, on the contrary it has helped me perform; but from what I can grasp at these initial stages of our MSc, time is of the essence. And as I do want to gain as much as I possibly can from MBE, WMG and Warwick as a whole; plus have time to sozialize, do sports, cook nice meals and of course get a good night's sleep; time management is massively important!

So I took the opportunity to blog for the first time today, as it is my birthday; and I want to link it with change towards the better!

Got to rush at the moment, more to come soon. Take care everyone!, and have a great day!


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