All entries for Thursday 12 March 2009

March 12, 2009

One more on Leadership– creating common grounds

I was reading an interview (here) of the founder of Acer Inc, a Taiwanese computer technology manufacturer, Stan Shi . In this he discussed the qualities of leadership he possess and this spurred some thoughts in my mind. Some of the things he said were

"I (lead) through the use of (people) organisation, not me personally driving (progress, change). Of course I utilise my persuasion skills, but my persuasion comes from understanding the psychology, thoughts of everybody, and combine them together. This is what I called "Meeting the expectation of the group".

"For example, when we first started, every young people wanted to make a difference, do something meaningful. At that time we tried to drive the second industrial revolution because we didn't have the opportunity to take part in the first one. So I said to my team. If we understand this, but still don't do it properly, we will carry the blames of history. I used this to motivate them, so they understood this is the right path to follow. I used this to activated what is on everyone's mind, (by finding their common grounds).

From this I wish to talk about leading in a group environment from my experience. Sometimes it is difficult  to achieve what Mr. Shih refer to as finding the common grounds . Often individuals or leaders themselves focus on their argument/persuasion skills but forget to pay attention to what the group is saying or want. It is easy to argue with people on things we don't agree with. We find flaws in other people's logic and try to criticise it. It's almost a human nature and we do it intuitively. But at the same time, I do not mean leader should accept every suggestion made by group members. Of course there has to be crtical thinking on why a particular idea is useful or not. But before we rush to judge or criticise it, why not take a moment to listen what other group members have to say about it. Often initial ideas proposed by any one person will be unrefined and contain many flaws. But before we rush to criticise and treat it as unworthy, why not use the group mechanism to further discuss and refine the idea so that it becomes stronger.

This is why I believe a leader should not be a debater, but a listener. Before he/she had a chance to listen to everyone's views he/she should not rush to shut people down. Instead he should listen to all the voices and seek to reconcile the opposing views so that everyone can reach a common ground.


Experimental Planning – in the context of Taguchi

I remember when I did my undergraduate research project. I often rushed to carry out the experiments without thorough considerations beforehand. The end result is I realise there is a flaw in my experimental design, and make my result difficult to interpret or impossible to draw a valid conclusion. The consequence is plenty of re-do's and re-work which were both time consuming and expensive.

Today (Wednesday) I continued working on Taguchi experiment. I find the initial phase of research and experimental planning to be very time consuming. I needed to consider many aspects of experiment (selecting arrarys, control factors, assigning factors) all before I even start folding the planes. This is to ensure I do not make costly mistakes later on in the conducting experiment. This is the same idea as DFSS, where we want to make all the changes as early as possible to prevent costly changes later on. One book I frequently refer to for this PMA is Taguchi - Hands on approach (Peace 1997) is quite useful in this respect because it takes me through a step by step process, emphasising pitfalls and common mistakes, ensure all necessary precautions are taken to avoid making mistakes.

But the truth is even if I gave my best shot at paying careful attention to the experimental design, there always seems to some slip-ups somewhere in your experiment which you realise much later. For example, after I determined my design variable, and started folding planes. I forget to consider the effect of combinantorial (?) layout of orthorgonal arrays, which means some of the control factors are mutually incompatible with each other. Specifically, I couldnt have  planes with a 6 inch wing span AND a 1.5 inch high wing tip both at the same time (due to paper size constraint)! This means I had two planes that turned out to be impossible to build according to my design specifications. It's too late to change things now because that would take too much effort. I will simply point that out in my pma reflection.

I guess the important lesson to take away from this, is the importance of spending time and effort on the initial experimental planning. Making sure you have considered everything that can go wrong in your experiment and take steps to mitigate the effects in case they happen. In most PMA's this is not so important because we can easily make changes to our essays on the computer. But for the project, especially if it involve surveys or experiment. It is handy to study books on experimental designs , many of which are mentioned in the REME module.


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