All entries for April 2013
April 28, 2013
There is one moral story that I remember coming across in my childhood, which highlights the message that unity is strength. I never thought that I would be sharing it here but I now feel that in many ways, it also points to the win-win culture of knowledge sharing.
"Once, an old man was very ill and lay dying in his bed. He had four sons who were always fighting with each other. He always worried about them and wanted to teach them a lesson and asked his sons to come to him. When they came, the old man gave them a bundle of sticks and said, “Can you break these sticks?”
The first son tried to break the bundle but nothing happened. He tried very hard and finally gave up. Then it was the turn of the second son to try his luck. He thought it would be an easy task and picked up the sticks easily. He tried his best to break the sticks but nothing happened. Then, the third son tried to break the bundle of sticks, but he couldn’t do anything either.
Meanwhile, the youngest son jeered at his brothers and thought they were very incompetent. He thought he was very clever and took one stick at a time and easily broke all of them.
The old father then smiled at his sons and said, “Children, do you understand what happened? It is always easy to break the sticks one by one. But when they are bundled to‑ gether, none of you could break them. In the same way. you four brothers should always be together. No one will be able to hurt you then.” The four brothers realised what their father was trying to teach them and forgot all their enmity and learnt that unity is strength.
From that day onwards, they never fought with each other and lived together in peace and harmony."
The message that organizations can learn from this story is that if they use the collective knowledge of all their workers, they can easily achieve the desired performance. To conclude, I really think that they can only truly achieve excellence when they live by the value of "shared goals, shared knowledge".
April 27, 2013
In my last blog, I talked briefly about 'what' asset management is and 'why' it is important. Now, I want to address the 'how' element, which often gets overlooked as pointed out by luisa today.
Without going into too much detail, I would like to share my reflections on how assets can be managed more effectively. Firstly, I believe that there should be clear objectives. This can only be achieved if an accurate assessment of the current situation is made (similar to what the teams did today for the presentations). The desired outome from the asset system should be outlined so that it is measurable. This could, for example, be a specific level of performance required from the asset. A timescale plan should also be constructed for implementing the strategy aimed at achieving the objectives of asset management. I also believe that these objectives should be tied in with organzational goals and strategy.
In essence, one can (and ideally should) use the principles of PDCA and continuous improvement in asset management. Organizations must always work on the enablers (for example, their processes and resources) in order to have an efficient and effective asset management procedure.
On completing this module, I now better appreciate the scope of Asset Management. We only covered the management of physical or tangible assets but we found even that to be such an extensive topic. This has made me reflect on the importance of asset management. More specifically, why do organizations need to manage their physical assets?
I believe that it has such a significant role in determining the profitability and the operational performance of a company that they really cannot afford to ignore the effective management of their assets. It optimises their processes, reduces the whole life cost of their assets and ensures value for money in terms of property, plant, buildings, machinery and vehicles, etc. Hence, I will try to use this knowledge and build upon it through my work on the PMA in order to enhance the knowledge and asset management at my organization.
April 26, 2013
An important element of life cycle costing is discounting. I have come across this concept before but now I understand it in a greater depth. In essence, it ensures that all costs or benefits are compared in a meaningful way. The idea stems from the fact that real value of money changes due to interest rates and inflation.
One quote that often gets mentioned whenever someone brings up the topic of net present value is: "A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow". This is true since you can invest that money and earn interest. Moreover, inflation will lead to an increase in the price of an item, meaning that you will not be able to buy it with the same amount in the future. I know that this detail can often get overlooked by people, so I will make sure that I avoid this mistake when evaluating alternatives or identifying preferred choices in the future.
April 23, 2013
The seminar today on wisdom was immensely enjoyable. In my preparation, I came across many qualities associated with being wise. These included having experience, knowledge, good judgement, compassion and morality.
However, from the discussion today, I have learnt that the significance of reflection cannot be downplayed. Confucious also labelled it the noblest way to increase wisdom. Indeed, if we think about it, having a lot of experience and knowledge will not make you wise unless you reflect. Hence, one must never pass up an opportunity to reflect and become a little wiser during the process.
"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest"- Confucious.
There are many roadblocks in effective sharing of knowledge. For example, employees may fear loss of ownership. Their false mental model can discourage them from sharing knowledge as they might feel they will not receive recognition. I believe that this is closely related to other barriers too such as lack of trust and lack of education. As a future manager, I hope to overcome these barriers by motivating and educating employees in my area of influence (to begin with). I would also ensure that feedback is provided. Another helpful way to harness knowledge can be to enhance socializing and be genuinenly interested in my followers' interests.
The one barrier that I am most concerned about presently is the lack of time. Managers are under a lot of pressure from their bosses, who may ask them to focus on purely operational activities rather than facilitate knowledge sharing. I suppose it depends on how receptive your boss is to your ideas, but we can still educate them on the importance of sharing knowledge and on the concept of control limits.
Today's workshop on information, knowledge and awareness was very informative. I have to admit the video had an impact on me as all these disasters could have been avoided. Although I am not burdened by it, I do feel the sense of responsibility that a manager has in ensuring the safety of workers.
I have also learnt that it is important to not just gather information but also interpret it effectively and anticipate what could go wrong. Hence, I would personally like to develop my situational awareness more.
In addition, I now know at least one thing that I will be focusing on when I start my new job. The early days will be a perfect opportunity for me to observe the processes and ensure that any relevant information is readily available to employees. I would also like to emphasize the need on being effective rather than just efficient, as workers can sometimes overlook safety in order to be fast and efficient.
April 22, 2013
I am a firm believer that if we are not going to practice what we learn, then what's the point? In light of this, it was very encouraging to see how our group has already started the practice of sharing knowledge.
Basically, we divided the task amongst ourselves so that each of us had a separate section to look at in the online notes on moodle. The purpose was to spend time developing an understanding of our individual topic within Asset management and knowledge management, and then share that understanding with other group members. This is what we did, and I believe it worked really well. There are obvious advantages of sharing knowledge in this manner too. For starters, we managed to cover all the sections in a short period of time. This suggests that sharing knowledge can really make your life easier, which is a very nice thought.
Moreover, we were all able to transmit our detailed and personalized understanding of the area we were looking at. It was more than just sharing data or simple information.
This moves me nicely to my final point. Since we all gave a detailed presentation to the group, we were in effect sharing tacit knowledge. However, as we also made notes (either on computer or handwritten), we can also very conveniently share explicit knowledge rather than simply tacit. This can be beneficial in a number of ways. For example, let's suppose a new member joins us. He or she can easily access that knowledge even though they were not present when each of us delivered our presentations to other teammates. This also explains why it is so important for companies to have a system in place that actively transforms the tacit into explicit knowledge. It ensures that any new recruits can easily access and benefit from the knowledge gained by other employees' experiences.
Knowledge management is undeniably very important. Judging by how all the topics put forward for seminar were related more closely to knowledge management than asset management, it seems that almost all of us appreciate its importance too. Whilst, I do not wish to undermine asset management (which is also vital), it was, nonetheless, an interesting observation.
So one must ask: why is knowledge management such a big deal?
In my opinion, the answer lies partly in the constant bombardment of data that we get regularly. For example, anyone who has been to an assessment centre and done the e-tray exercise will concur with me that an overload of data is almost suffocating. In that short space of time, you get close to about 30 emails in your inbox which require you to interpret data and make a decision. Now, if these organizations are using that to mirror their day-to-day work, then that paints a very critical picture. Essentially, these companies are living and breathing on data. This ever-increasing overload of data has, in my opinion, made knowledge management very important. Some would even go as far as comparing it with the analogy of a life support machine.
As a future manager, I hope to instil a culture where learning is a routine and knowledge management is a priority. This will not only aid the decision-making process at the organization but also harness innovation and generate wealth.
April 20, 2013
For our presentation, we all worked together in teams and made decisions collectively. However, there is an age old debate about the relative effectiveness of group and individual decision-making.
Since, decision-making is such an important part of life and businesses nowadays, I feel that it is important to address these two types of decision-making.
Individual decision-making: This can perhaps be thought of as the traditional way of making decisions. An example can be a manager making important decisions by him/herself. It is widely believed that when there is only a single person involved, making a decision can be relatively quick and easy. However, I believe that it should only be made when the decision does not affect anyone else (otherwise, it is likely to be met with resistance).
Group decision-making: This is more of a collaborative effort. It can be done either via consensus or consultation. Consensus means that the most popular choice is selected, whilst consultation refers to a person (e.g. manager) asking others for their opinions when making a decision.
As the saying goes "Two heads (or more) are better than one", I believe that group-decision making (if done properly) can actually lead to a more robust decision. This is because input from all members is considered. Moreover, different stakeholders will be able to have their say in the criteria selection. Also, they will bring their individual expertise to the table and so more accurate assumptions can be used to reach the decision. In addition, there is a possibility of coming up with many alternative approaches to the problem. In order to make sure that these benefits are realized, we have to make sure though that there is no one person dominating others and that issues such as group think and social pressures are avoided. Only then, an effective decision can be made.