All entries for Saturday 24 January 2009

January 24, 2009

What does your business stand for?

I was reading an HBR article on "change management" and in it the authors uses an example of a military equipment manufacturing company to illustrate the idea of "tinkering" or small scale changes. Something he said triggered what I want to say in this entry.

"The company developed a new production strategy, which it called the Barbie doll. It built a base helicopter that could be dressed up with a set of accessories- guns, bombs, avionics - for customers in the military to play with. The strategy allowed the company to reap the benefits of both mass production and mass customization"(Abrahamson, July-August (2000), Harvard Business Review)

You are probably wondering what the hell I am on about. Well, as I read this passage, I was amazed by how the tone and attitude adopted by the author is so innocent and naive, using words like "play" , "Barbie". Especially in the last sentence, I just wanted to add another word "mass destruction".

Considering that these product are going to be used for only one purpose-- extermination of human lives, I can't help wondering how, and what can the purpose of vision of the company be? As the leader of the company, how can he argue what his company is doing is in fact beneficial to the human race?

The same argument probably could go the same way with tobacco companies. How do they justify to themselve and their employees what they are doing is ethical or even moral? Satisfy people's needs? There are demands out there, we just supply the product for that demand? I suppose, at the end of the day, this comes down one's moral propensity of whether the end result (i.e. loss of human lives) should be a consideration of the people who did not directly cause it (i.e. manufacturers).

This is something I really like to get some ideas from you guys, all inputs are appreciated.


Six Sigma and Success Factor

Today team 3 presented our findings from our research as well as ideas about making change which we elicited from members of the group. We thought we captured the idea that Graeme had us to do but somehow we still came out a bit confused about the project/initiative level change effort. The only team that did capture that differentiation was Apinya, Lila, and Mennu's presentation.

When Graeme popped the question about this fine difference to me and Luis, I was a bit taken aback by it. I never thought about change on an project or a personal level. I guessed I have assumed that change takes place in the higher level through the vision, strategy and personal influence of the leaders. But come to think of it, changing the attitudes and behaviors of individuals may require a different approach from one that is directed at  a large group of people.And that seem to need a deeper understanding of the change curve of every individual. As different people may be going through different stages of change (i.e. denial, acceptance, realisation), what is required to change people may differ from person to person. And that would mean different style of leadership should be directed in different situations. What would be interesting is some of the techniques, or motivational tools that are useful for this purpose.

This idea of of people on various stage of change nicely linked with what Graeme suggested about the four dimensions of followers. They were stars, cynical terriost, fan , walking dead. Stars are obviously most desirable. Whereas cynical terrorists are mos difficult to deal with, but they should be respected. But Fans and walking dead I am thinking are probablt not much good if what they lack of interest. Usually I'd rather work with people who may not disagree but still show the passion to care about a particular subject.

A few people including meself, mannu, and alan were a bit sceptical about what Graeme called "appreciative enquiry" which is you tell people to improve but do it in a very non-direct way. By first telling them about their strength (what they are doing right) followed by what they are not doing so well (weaknesses or areas of improvement). Hmm.. what should I say about this. It's a nice idea and probably the more desirable and more easily accepted way. But it really is hard to do in practice. Mainly I think everybody wants to hear other people talk god things about themselves (I would be the first to admit!). But it takes a truly reflective person to see his own weaknesses and for the others it would be difficult when it's not pointed out directly. Well, I guess this just vary from person to person.


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