All 14 entries tagged Eee

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January 17, 2006

Six Sigma

The past two days have been spent learning about the human aspects of six sigma. After spending a few days thinking about it, it is clear that people are the most important part of any improvement initiative. How else will the improvements happen? Sounds like common sense to me.

Dealing with people is much harder than dealing with technical problems but one cannot be taken without the other in any six sigma improvement programme. I decided to check out what others thought about human aspects of 6S…

I was warned about the level of the isixsigma forums but wasn't really prepared for this (the first forum post I read)

"Are you, as you have frequently appeared to be, merely a disgruntled employee? Your railing has all the earmarks of a cubical farm dweller frequently passed over or not otherwise qualified to be a manger. Or are you as the cell phone commercial goes, a manager sticking it to the man yourself? Or is it just that your experience is limited?"

Oh, the temptation to get stuck in but a flame war would take up too much of my time right now. I've seen some trolls in my time but this guy is unreal. So, naturally, I reported it. If this is how some managers think of their employees then there is a long way to go. Unbelievable.


January 09, 2006

2006

The only really good thing that i'm feeling about the new year is that damned FACS assignment is finished. But some people love accounting. I'm freakish in that I love sitting with a load of numbers in a spreadsheet and doing some lovely number-crunching. Hugely satisfying. But there are people who would rather eat glass. I like things that can be proved. But in EEE there are very few things that one can say, in the mathematical sense of the word, are true.

Just because one knows something to be true, doesn't mean that it has been proved, or even that it can be proved. Often one can prove that something can't be proved, which leaves a big hole for me at the moment in the context of my research project.

When thinking about how CSR activities affect the success of businesses, we may have good reasons to think that something may be true, but that doesn't mean that we can ever prove it. Just because things 'ought' doesn't mean things 'are' or 'will'. And can we ever know? Empirical studies on the topic differ in result with many methodological flaws. But one can always pick a hole in the method or argument. I'm exploring this 'hole' of what it means to be true and following on from this, the dissertation.

I suppose it is naive to think that the project can ever be totally watertight; to have a flawless methodology and argument. I understand that this project is about the process as well as the result, but the ambiguity of the result and its validity bothers me still.


November 24, 2005

What is leadership?

Over the past few days we have been thinking about leadership and coming up with our own definitions. Initially, I came up with: "the process of influence" because it makes sense to me that every time someone tries to influence, they try to lead. But it doesn't quite cover it. Through our group analysis of other definitions we identified three common themes: Influence, relationships and goals. Relationships must exist as to lead, there has to be someone to follow, and a realtionship must exist. Also, to lead implies a direction i.e. the achievement of some purpose of goal. Our analysis was corroborated by other authors on the subject (which was pleasing). The definition that our group came up with was: Leadership is the process of influence between the leader and followers to achieve goals.

Paul's definition was similar to ours but he specifies 'shared goals' in his definition: Leadership is the process of influencing the thoughts and activities of followers toward achievement of shared goals. This definition doesn't work for me. It implies that these shared goals have to exist for leadership to take place. I suggest that leadership encompasses the creation of these shared goals. I think that the creation of shared values is something more than selling an idea.

To create shared values, there has to be some influence. This could be an event or equally a person using their influence over others to bring them round to a single point of view. So, I would refine this definition to the following: Leadership is the process of influencing the thoughts and activities of followers to create and achieve shared goals. For the moment i'm happy with this but I know that I will refine this again and again.

I've also found myself interested in entrepreneurship and leadership. Entrepreneurs display a large amount of personal leadership, but are entrepreneurs always effective leaders? Do entrepreneurs have to have leadership qualities to be successful?


November 21, 2005

Ramblings

I can't really think of stuff to write today. It's the first day of 'Leadership and Excellence'. I'm sure i'm going to enjoy the next two weeks, as I learn about different leadership theories and how I can translate these into practice. How well will these work for me? How well do they work for other people? Will I be able to spot specific management styles as I walk around? Are there specific methods for breaking the cycle of poor leadership?

I've been thinking about why business people choose to look like they've been cloned i.e. wearing a suit, but that choosing to wear the same type of outfit as others in a social situation, for example, would be just plain creepy. I don't get it. It all seems so shallow and myopic. Maybe i'm being naive. What happened to actually talking to people and finding about what they have to say, rather than what their clothes say about them? And no comments about 'that's just the way that it is'. I get that. Sorry peeps, I have the grumps. Can you hear the snarling?


November 19, 2005

Rantage: The Assignment

I've hit a wall with my assignment. I'm sitting here with the document open and not making any headway. I can't see a way forward with it, possibly because I know that there is so much to do. Maybe Im at the top of the mountain and its all downhill from here? The best thing is to write something, anything. If I write in my blog, will it help to get me started today? Hopefully.

I'm beginning to wonder how on earth it is possible to produce a worthy post module assignment in 40 hours. Am I doing something wrong here? It is me having an appalling writing process? Does this tutor have unrealistic expectations or is it me getting the wrong end of the stick? The stats assignment is achievable in the time. Do all tutors have unrealistic expectations, having forgotten what it is like to be a student?

M is off to buy a new vacuum cleaner and then off to watch England vs. New Zealand at the rugby club. I'm not going to Shrewsbury to be with the team because I can't justify the time away from writing the assignment. The whole thing is completely shagged. What possessed me to pick something so bloody wordy? Someone bring me some calculus… Is this subject wrong for me? This is the wrong time to re-evaluate my degree choices but an engineering undergrad would have been more enjoyable, something more quantitative at least.

Doing something for 40 hours and then handing it in even though I know that it can be improved is a hard one for me to grasp. Perfectionism is a real strength but it's a fight with myself. I can drive myself through it. The deadline will come and I will submit something. And I don't dwell on it and over time I will see the good points. Beating myself up over what I could have done is illogical and pointless. Why do I put myself through this if this is the way I work? Why on earth do I have ideas of doing further study when I finish?

I'm letting this thing run my life. It only represents 4.72% of the overall degree mark, so a mark of 50% in the assignment is only 2.36% of my overall degree lost. Not so bad. I'm blowing this all out of proportion. Jane: stop the meltdown and get on with it.


November 17, 2005

Assignment Progress

I managed to make lots of progress on my assignment yesterday. I tried writing down any non-work thoughts on a pad of paper and then wrote relevant thoughts into mindmap. It worked really well for me as when the thought was 'out' and recorded, I knew that I wouldn't forget it and my brain left me alone, letting me work with fewer interuptions from myslf, if that makes sense. I think that I trust myself more with mindmaps too. Instead of wanting to put it into a word format I stuck with it (but it was tempting). This 'birds-eye' view is so much better in a mindmap format.

I managed to generate another 1500 words without knowing it (without it feeling like climbing Everest). Today is about tidying it up. I think that its useful for me to split the two component activities clearly in my head. Yesterday I was generating and playing ideas and writing down all of the half thoughts etc and today I will tidy up what I have done i.e. create something that has a coherant structure. Sometimes I get the two parts mixed up i.e. I generate a few ideas, tidy them up, generate some more etc and all the perfect pieces don't fit together as I wanted. And I worry about it as I can't see the bigger picture – I only have a vague idea about what the thing is supposed to look like.

There's no way that I am going to spend anywhere close to this amount of time on any of my other assignments. I didn't start it late, it has just dragged on and on. There's no point bashing my head in about the excessive time spent. I've learned a lot and will move on. I don't think about it when i've submitted it. There's no point analysing it over and over. It only increases stress and worry. And I don't like it…


November 14, 2005

Writing

Follow-up to Work from Jane's Blog

I've been thinking a lot about my stlye of thinking and writing over the past few days. This all came about through the PPE assignment which ground to a halt for me midway through last week. I found myself trying to find excuses to do statistics. I mean, honestly! Some assignments go well; they seem to get done quickly and I enjoy doing them. Others just hang around. Why is that? Is it just me?

Doing maths is a very linear process as 99% of it involves a clear starting point and end point with a void in the middle which one should fill with a clear, logical argument. At a first glance, essay writing looks a lot like this, but no matter how much effort, it is impossible for me to write in a linear way i.e. beginning, middle, end.

My thoughts have always been jumpy and it has been a long term stress factor in my life that I can't hang on to a thought for more than about 5 seconds. I wanted to work on it in my head and be able to write somethng on paper that was reasonably well developed.

After a conversation with my tutor, i'm exploring the idea that being scatty can be a strength and that one can get more original ideas by allowing my mind to have ideas and not to stop them coming because i'm busy working on another thought. If the brain is faster than the pen than I should work on methods to increase the speed of recording my thoughts rather than to slow my brain down.

I think a good analogy for what I was trying to do is this: I was trying to paint a perfect picture from a description without a sketching it all out first. I don't allow myself to 'just write'. I realise that I should save the perfectionism for the end 'tidying up' part, and try to appreciate the difference in the two distinct processes in writing an essay.

After reading the first part of Writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day by Joan Bolker, it's clear that that i'm not writing enough. So, I will write more. For a start, I will aim to write something in the blog about how work is going. And I will stop torturing myself when something is not exactly how I would like it and move on.

Mindmaps seem to be the best way forward for me. I will use them properly for my next assignment, which happens to be accounting. Yummy. I thought that I was using mindmaps correctly, but I don't think I was. I didn't believe that I was making 'progress' on an assignment unless I had it in essay form and it had a work count. I don't stick with it long enough and I don't use mindmpas for brainstorming, just for structure. This is something that i'm going to change in my next assignment.

So I'm thinking about what I mean by progress at the moment. How do you determine how your essay is going? Is it by word count? How you feel about it? In comparison to others? If anyone reads this, do reply as I am really interested.


November 12, 2005

Work

Why is it that some assignments come and go with a minimum of fuss and some just won't die? The PPE assignment has been driving me up the wall but I recognise that i'm tying myself up in knots about it.

At the last count, this is the fourth proper essay that I've written since bluffing my way through 1000 words about Twelfth Night at GCSE. I've written other stuff, mainly internet based, in which my fantastic wit and clever observation (haha) covered up my complete lack of experience and ability in the writing department :-)

I'm on a steep learning curve.

More to follow. I need sleep as i'm off to Twickenham tomorrow (today actually) to watch England get whipped by Australia. Wuhoo.


October 30, 2005

Problem Solving With Statistics

The past week has included as much statistics as could be crammed in to 40 hours. Needless to say, I am very tired and welcome the switch this morning from BST to GMT.

I was pleased that I picked up most of the new stuff quickly but I feel that this is only because I understand the basics after doing it at A-Level and in my UG course. The approach was a very practical one but I am quite happy to use the formula without having to derive it from first principles under exam conditions.

The approach has enabled me to view the tools in an industrial perspective and see how they can be used; which situations, pitfalls, benefits etc. I can see all these tools in terms of the experiments which I will design and run. Very useful.

For some people, almost all of the stats we covered was new. This must be a nightmare-ish situation to be in! All the way from the formula for the mean and standard to multiple regression, ANOVA, and pdfs in a week.

Today, i'm going with OLRFC who are playing Worcester 2nds in Worcester. It's not so far and even though away matches are a faff and take up the entire day, i'm looking forward to being somewhere different. Good luck Old Leams!


October 14, 2005

Problem of depth in EEE

Writing about Am I supposed to be shallow? from Vladislav's blog

The practices and principles of excellence course has ended today and I have had a little time to reflect on my solution to Vlad's problem of the trade-off between depth and breadth of knowledge. I completely agree with his statement that each topic could be a PhD thesis in itself. So, where should we stop?

I find myself applying some of Demings thinking to my own study this week. There are 168 hours in a week with far fewer available for study. By being enabler focused rather than worrying about not achieving the reults we can be better achieve improvement in our learning skills to improve the depth of learning that we can achieve at the time. Clearly, it is important to be guided by the learning objectives and outcomes for the module.

It is important to reiterate my point that efficiency of time is just as important than quantity of time available for study. It is easy to work for hours and hours and get nowhere.

I imagine that this way of thinking will be unsatisfactory for some i.e. 'you do what you can in the time available'. Indeed, skimming the surface of many topics increases your knowledge of what you don't know, perhaps leaving you less satisfied than when you started. I believe I have moved from feeling very unsatisfied (and quite insecure with my depth of knowledge on a topic) to understanding what I don't know. I intend to continue my learning on these topics way after my degree has ended and so I don't feel so worried about how much knowledge I can gain in a year. I will learn it next year. And I know where to start and how to ask the right questions.

I think that EFQM excellence is not only applicable to businesses but to many other situations. I have been thinking about the EFQM Model in the context of a MSc student at Warwick university. I have my own set of results that I want to achieve at the end of the year, not to mention learning objectives for the course!

This year, I want to discover what my limits are which is something that I was unable to do in my ug degree (due to unforseen medical circumstances). I think that knowing what you as an individual are capable of is very important and it is only by working at the limits of our abilities that we can hope to improve. This course is guiding me to work at the boundries of my abilities already and there are areas in which I am already beginning to improve.

With all of this in mind I have adapted the EFQM for myself at Warwick this year. Expanded ideas to follow.


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