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March 09, 2009

Reward and recognition

An interesting discussion came up in today's seminar about reward and recognition. It seems that the idea that 'recognition' could be a better motivational tool than financial 'reward' is hard to accept by many people. They would ask "How can I expect to receive only a pat on the back after making a huge contribution to my company?". Well, my answer is " No you should expect more!". But not more money, then what?

One of the biggest problem with financial reward is that it is never enough. This idea has popped up many times during MBE classes. You give a child one piece of cake for good behavior, the next time he is going to come back and ask you for two, the next for three and so on ... Does this mean he is behaving well because he is a good kid and listen to his parent? or is he doing so to receive the cake from you? . One immediate concern is the diminished return, the more cake the child receives the less he would desire it. So giving cakes becomes less effective the more you gave. "Give him candy instead", you might say. Well, the same problem persist and you are just changing from one form of reward to another. This is exactly the problem with reward based performance management,companies comes up with ever more inventive creative bonus schemes... 5 day holiday in Hawaii, membership in a prestigious golf club... you focus worker's attention on the reward itself but not on the purpose of rewarding which is the fact that they are doing a good job for you

But imagine this, what if one day you exhaust all your creative reward ideas. Or worse, what if one day you run out of money, and you turn to your employee and say "Sorry mate, we are in a rut and I have nothing more to give you, but can you stay in the company? for old times sake?". Would it be a surprise if your employee, after telling you he's been head-hunted by a competitor firm, wave you 'Sa-yo-nara' and leave your office while leaving a 5 dollar note on your desk?

Imagine another scenario. Suppose you are an average worker. Your boss pays your by the going market rate, no more, no less. But your boss also care about his employees personally. I mean, he cares about your day, your worries in the family, or even goes to the trouble to talk to your about your future, and how you can make progress in your personal and life goals. One day a headhunter comes along , give you this 15% extra base pay and ask you to jump ship. Then you think... " Okay I know nothing about this new company, even though the pay is good, but how about the people? are they friendly? is my contribution going to be appreciated by others? most importantly am I going to be happy there?". You keep thinking and then you realise "But I am happy here! Why should I risk a good job, caring boss and my happiness for a 15% raise? I mean I will only put those extra money in the bank and earn interest" .

Marslow's hierachy of human needs tell us human goes through incremental levels physilogical, safety, love, esteem, and self actualisation needs.... I am guessing in certain countries where basic supplies and resources are extremely deficient ... it might be the physiological/safety needs of food and shelter (satisfied by forms of financial reward) may have larger impact than higher level needs such as respect by colleague, love and caring, pursuit of life goals etc. Nevertheless, in a truly excellent organisation, we want to make sure every worker's needs is cared for. Every individual, poor or not, will eventually grow out of the need to satify its physiological need and seek to fulfil esteem and self actualisation goals. It is important that managers recognise this and is prepared to offer support for these higher level needs when the time comes.

I know all of this sound too "ideal" or "in a perfect world this is what happens". But I know this from experience. In my previous job I often hear about my colleagues talk about a manager that used to run the place. They would tell me "Yeah... he was a good boss, I mean he really cared about us". Although at the time I joined this manager had already left the company, I could often feel his influence on the people he left behind.


So much work to do- PIUSS pma, KBAM mini project, KBAM seminar preparation, ... ... ... keep fightin~

March 08, 2009

Recommend a book on Lean production

Today I came across reading a book on Lean production "The Machine that changed the world" James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos; 1990; Macmillan. I got this book initially to read about supply chain management but realised this is actually a book about Lean production of Toyota.

I recommend this book because

  • I believe it is one of the first texts on lean, according to the book the authors coined the term lean
  • It is easy to read. It begins with a history of automobile manufacturing from craft production to mass production which has ills and inefficiencies that eventually give rise to Japan's lean production. The clear logical flow allow you to see why lean become important. What I find most useful is it clearly contrast the management philosophies between the West and Japan
    Mass Production Lean Production
    Produce everything in mass leads to inventories Produce only what is needed, aim for zero inventory Kanban system
    Market style relationship with supply chain Seek long term relationship with suppliers
    Clear separation of design with production Provide suppliers only with performance specs, but allow supplier to come up with product specs
    Tolerance mentality toward defect, defect is seen as 'inherent' and cannot be eliminated '5 why's' problem solving system (similar to root cause analysis). root cause of defect is eliminated and will never happen again
    Firefighting or 'fix it' mentality toward problems Kaizen gradual improvements invovling small teams and devote time to reflect and solve problems

One of the amazing idea I find is

In Western style assembly line, management promote maximum throughput and allow no stoppage in assembly line. So line managers have no incentive to fix minor problems because his ass is on the line if assembly stops. This result in small problems snow-balling into big problem in end product, and within production process.

Lean production devolve responsibility down to floor worker,  any worker is free to stop assembly line if a problem is discovered, and group of workers will work on solving problem together.

Not surprisingly, when each worker is free to halt the process, the assembly proces actually almost never stops because the process defects has been eliminated. Whereas to impose non-stop assembly always end up stopping the assembly because of various small problems during production. And the end product often has  many defect which needs to be checked and fixed, incurring significant cost on repair and quality checks.

  • Detailed description of lean and how it relate to production, supply chain, customer and so on. Page 55-57 describes lean principles in assembly line which resembles six sigma (teamwork, quality circle, root cause)

Verdict: Even though I have only spent a couple hours reading this book, I can already grasp the keys ideas about lean (compare this to some books you read for hours but still have no idea what the topic is about?). This text is filled with rich examples from Toyota company and is very easy to read. I'd recommend this to people studying lean for PIUSS or for their project, if they havnt already come across it.

    March 07, 2009

    Flight testing II

    Follow-up to Flight testing from Kang's blog

    After some more testing today incorporating some design changes, I have isolated factors influencing flight performance

    • Wing span
    • Wing angle
    • Head weight
    • Folding wing tip
    • Fold wing trailing edge
    • Cut out plane head

    Especially the ones in bold made significant impact on performance. Once this is realised, I spent sometime with my next door neightbour discussing why this is so (who by the way showed me how to fold his 'ultimate paper plane' ; see picture below) .We finally agreed that

    1. Head weight helps to keep plane head down (lower pitch angle) during flight (too much pitch angle create stalling).
    2. Folding wing tip helps focus airflow above the wing surface. This in turn increases 'above' wing speed and hence lower 'above' wing air pressure according to Bernoulli's principle
    3. Folding wing trailing edge up increase climb, whereas fold down makes plane dive. Folding one up and the other one down makes plane turn corners.

    Ideally to keep plane aflot, the plane should not climb too much so that stalling occurs. Equally, it should not dive. So to keep plane 'leveled' , different adjustment to the head weight and folding trailing edge is needed. I think this could be a potential source of 'interaction' in Taguchi experiment. Another observation I got from my neighbour's design is plane can go through a series of climb-dive fly patterns to stay in air longer, I have yet to figure out how this happens.

    I think these discoveries are good, I feel I finally discovered some significant control factors. Now I need to proceed into my next stage- experimental design, and finding a way to measure time, and find a big space to carry out my experiment.

    I have spoke to sport centre and I think I can use the basket ball courst in the moring (730am) during the week. But I still someone to do measuring time for me. I understand everyone will be busy this week with KBAM and PIUSS , is anyone able to help ??

    First prototype

    First prototype - Cut plane head; folded wingtip and folded wing trailing edge; paperclip added to head (not visible)


    Ray's Flying Champion - My neighbour's ultimate flying champion. According to him this one can fly for ages and ages. It's a very different design with much bigger wing aspect ratio. The head is folded several times to make plan head 'heavy'. Wingtip is 'rolled' instead of folded. Strangely this one has a habit of flying in circles and go through several 'climb dive' patterns.

    March 06, 2009

    Flight testing

    Today I began doing some preliminary tests on my paper airplanes (or gliders). I just want to 1) try a few small things like folding the wing tip up/down, changing the wing area, to see what effect they have on flight time. I was actually quite surprised at the result especially when some of the modifications I made produced unexpected results (like when I expected not to fly, it did, when I expect it to fly, it crashes etc). Some of the more consistent finding I observed were

    1) The way I throw launch the plane has a significant impact on the flight time/ distance

    Initially I did not expect this to make much difference because I thought after the launch phase, the plane will just glide according to its aerodynamic properties conferred by its design. But I noticed sometimes on the same plane I get different results. When I tried to make my throw consistent, I noticed a relatively horizontal throw (very little angled throw) will produce much better flight distance than a more vertical throw (aimed higher say around 30 degrees from horizontal).

    This finding made me reconsider whether to use throwing angle as my 'noise' factor in my Taguchi experiment. Initially I thought from a customer's view , one may not pay careful attention to the way he/she throws the paper aeroplane, so a 'robust' plane could be something that could be thrown at any angle and still produce good flight results. But since any throwing angle of above 20 degree or so may potentially reduce flight performance significantly, there may not be much point changing the angle of flight throw (i dont know...) .

    Then I read about several different launch method. One is to throw the plane vertical as high as possible and let it decend through gliding. The second is to launch it from a high place. The second method is better for me because I don't think I could get my throw consistently high every time. But both methods require a large space such as the basketball court in the sport centre. This availability of space could be a potential constraint for my experiement. This means I may end up throwing it horizontally allowed by my height in a large classroom, or in a long corridor (such as the corridor in Claycroft).

    2) The flight result of two identical planes are surprisingly similar

    This is a result I wanted but I didn't expect the flight result of two identifical planes to be so similar to each other. Initially I thought the variation in my throw could have significant impact on the result, but to my surprise, when I perform the same throw on two planes with identical design (with a little practice to get consistent throw), they both landed at the exact same location! This is good news because it suggests with a careful attention to my throw, I could actually eliminate or reduce the influence of my throw on the flight result. This means the changes in flight result will likely be attributed to the design changes.

    3) Somtimes it hard to determine whether improved flight is due to deliberate change in design or unknown factor

    This is something I observed when I tried to throw a randomly folded plane (still maintain the basic design but has its wing tip folded down for no particular reason), I noticed the plane actually 'glide' quite nicely (slow descent)  but in an upside down manner. But when I fold another plane properly with a much larger wing surface, it didn't glide but rather flies like a dart (very fast, no gliding) and descend very quickly. This suggest to me that for the first plane it wasnt the wing that was producing lift but when it turned upside down, the whole plane upside down was producing lift (confusing).

    That's for now, I will think more about what control factors I will use for the Taguchi experiment to influence flight performance. I also need to think about the location where I perform the experiment. Initially I thought about doing this outside, but now I think the wind will have too much influence which could make my experiment invalid. So indoor is probably better option for now. But as mentioned before, there are also multiple options for indoor location.

    principles of flight

    Principles of flight
    This is a simplisitic summary of how I understand paper airplane aerodynamics


    How does plane fly?
    Plane flys because when it flys lift is created on its wings.

    How is the lift created?
    This lift is created because when the air pressure is smaller above the wing and greater underneath the wing.

    Why is airpressure different above and under the wing?
    This happens because when wings travel through air, the air travels faster above the wing and slower underneath the wing.

    Why air travels faster above wing?


    (Fig 2a)
    The ways airfoil is designed (curvature on the top) means the distance to travel from the front end to the rear end is greater on the top surface than on the bottom surface (more distance to travel at the top, less distance underneath). When to bottom air reaches the rear end of the airfoil, the top end is still 3/4 of the way (see fig 2a), this creates a vacuum of air (vortex) at the rear end that pulls the top air to make it go faster (like how a vacuum cleaner pulls air) to meet the bottom air at the rear. (Note as of 16:40 06/03 a mistake in the description about the 'distance difference as a cause of lift generation' is recongised and will be corrected in a future entry)

    How is air pressure difference related to lift?
    Consider this; a motionless object is simply in a state where all forces applied to is equal in all directions. Pressure difference creates unequal balance in force. As the pressure above the wing lessens, the downward 'push' by gravity and weight of atomphsphere is overcomed by the upward 'push' of a denser under-wing air (like a hydrogen balloon, air inside ballon is 'lighter' (less pressure) than the 'heavier' air outside the ballon (higher pressure), therefore the plane rises up.

    March 05, 2009

    An amazing Discovery

    Think you are paying too much for your international calls?

    Then you should read about my 'amazing discovery'!

    It's for all the people who make international calls to their family, friends

    If you usually talk on the phone with someone from one country

    You can pay GBP 2 something and talk as much as you like from your skype to their landline

    The voice clarity is much better than Skype-2-Skype, or MSN-2-MSN

    What's more!

    You can select a landline number in any country, so your friend and family can use their landline to call you on a local number and pay only the local rate! It's great if your friend or family does not have good internet connection, just ask them to call their local landline number !

    In New Zealand, local phone calls are capped, so now I have a virtual New Zealand phone number. My girlfriend  and family can call me from their landline phone and pay nothing !

    I put this information here because before my 'amazing discovery' I paid like GBP 5-8 a month on international calls T.T

    March 04, 2009

    Inventory Management

    After spending sometime reading the content page on KBAM (Knowledge based asset management) homepage. I realise Knowledge management and Asset management is only an umbrella term for a huge number of other management ideas/tools. For example, asset management alone has 7 separate ideas from facilities management, security management to resource utlisation, all of which are important in ensuring that, resources (such as building, knowledge, man power, machines, raw materials etc etc) are used in the most efficient manner. This high level of effciency is important for successful companies because being highly lean, effcient means less wastage, and product and services can be produced/provided at lower cost.

    I am particular interested in one area - inventory management. Inventory exists in companies (esp in manufacturing) because it is often difficult to predict how much demand there will be at a future time. If we do not have some spare stock sitting in our warehouse, we risk losing sales and make disatisfied customers. Inventory, which can be raw material, work in progress, and finished good , provides a buffer that balances the discontinuity between supply and customer demand. I guess the general philosophy is it is better to play safe, to have excess stock sitting in the warehouse rather than not to have enough.

    But there is the JIT (just in time) philosophy which goes against the idea of inventory. It argues inventory makes the job of supplier easier but it adds no value to end customer, plus it ties up working capital which can be better utlised in e.g. investing in new technology, paying off debt. The JIT philosophy, although make good sense, seem to require a very good system of managing supply orders, fulfilling customer orders, inventory levels etc in order to avoid problem with unbalanced supply and demand. I think I would read up more about it to see how it works.

    To achieve JIT philosophy, there seem to be tools that help to gather and organise supply, production , and inventory information so that they can be translated into specific orders, times of orders, times of receipts etc. Right now these tools such as MRP(Material requirement planning), MRP II (master production planning), DRP (distribution requirement planning) are just names to me, but I think they are used to manage inventory.

    Right now I have no idea why this is important to me or how I may use this knowledge. It just seem interesting to me because of two reasons. First I can relate it to my previous work experience as a salesperson. At that time, I remember the many occasions when there were many customers demanding a particular Television or Fridge but we simply did not have the stock sitting in our warehouse. A sales opportunity wasted. It wasn't even our own fault because we have no say in our warehouse. So you can imagine our disappointment after successfully persuaded customer to buy something only to find out we have nothing to sell them. Since this happened so much in our job, we developed the habit to check stock before we sell something (I have a small trick for this :P). But this means we often have to, 1) only sell product that are available but not the one best suited for customer, 2) Go extra effort to convince customer to change their choice of product. I believe if the problem with inadequate supply is addressed we could have increase our turnover significantly.

    The second reason comes from the business simulation we did in FACS module. In that simulation I was the commercial manager responsible for getting the right amount of contract. I remember it was quite tricky determining our production capacity and use that information so that at the end of each year we have no working capital tied up in the inventory. Then there was issue of determining how much raw material to purchase at each quarter so that we don't either have too much raw material (tied up money) or too small raw material (we have nothing to make). The general feeling I had at the time was managing supply chain is quite tricky. It seemed like if every body (production, finance, marketing directors) just try to optimise their own departments, there would be a huge problem with supply chain.

    February 10, 2009

    Changing focus

    Lately I have been having a feeling that the content of MBE modules are shifting somewhat towards greater technicality and complexity. In PIUSS many of us were suddenly hit by a whole lot of statistics which many of us found challenging and unfamiliar. Now in PEUSS, there seems to be endless numbers of techniques or procedures we are suppose to learn. This trend seem to continue in our next module in Robust Design with probably more techniques that are heavily Engineering/Manufacturing orientation. Before this we were learning more about principles of things like Deming, TQM, Business Excellence, and Quality philosophies... It is probably a good thing that we are getting a taste of different styles of learning and materials, but admittedly this sudden change in focus did come as a surprise and is a little hard to adjust. Since in previous year, this degree was called Electronic Engineering Excellence (EEE) so I am guessing that is the reason for the stuff we we being taught now,although the name has changed to Managing Business Excellence (MBE), the content of the course hasn't.

    Is this a good thing to be happening? Well I wouldn't complain too much about it. Afterall, it is what it is, even though some of us may not like it, I can see that tutors are trying to make things relevant to student from non-engineering background. Personally, I prefer the stuff we did before like CBE, GBE, LE, OPP because they seem relevant in every business/organisations. But studying all these "theories" can be a bit "empty" or "high level" sometimes, it doesn't feel like we are learning something concrete. On the contrary, Six sigma and Design for Six Sigma is very concrete, these are tools that are applied in project design or process improvement. So we are getting a bit of both theoretical and practical education here.

    What I really enjoy, and just begining to realise now, is kind of the whole idea of "management". The way I see it is that we are not just learning about business management. Yes they are the context in which we carry out our learning. But I see a grander level of management in all the things we are doing. Learning about managing self discipline, managing teams, understanding psychological factors, critical thinking, self reflection etc. Blogging for example, is a powerful tool to learn about ourselves. Through jotting down thoughts about ANYTHING, we develop a greater ability for critical thinking, for writing, and for expressing our opinions. What Paul said earlier was very true and I always think back to his words. This year is an opportunity for us to develop key skills that will accompany us throughout our life. The great thing is, we can make mistakes and not be expected to pay for them. I can blog anything and not having to worry whether other people will judge me for what I said. I can learn to take lead in group situation and not be expected to be punished if I fail. I can learn to express freely anything I don't like about the class and not worry about losing my job. There is much we can learn to experiment and may not have same luxury once we leave.

    Today on facebook, a friend from New Zealand asked me whether my course is challenging. My immediate thought was "No, not really, I really enjoy it, so it must not be too hard, because how can something enjoyable be challenging?". But then I think back to my undergraduate degree in science, many of the classes was quite challenging but none of that really taught me the stuff I think I should know. This year, will be a chance for me to explore things I am interested in knowing, and perfecting skills I am keen on developing. I should not let it go to waste.

    February 05, 2009

    Erdogan and Peres– On Gaza– World Economic Forum

    It was aykut who mentioned about this video to me last week. I didnt get around to viewing it until today. Thought I will post two opposing views from Turkey & Israel Priministers. Peres, especially gave a very passionate speech about Israel's generosity to the Palenstinians but only to be treated with hostile attacks. Erdogan's speech was translated version but basically he was saying killing is wrong using the Six Commandment from the Bible. Also that "one minute, one minute, one minute, one minute...." & "I don't think I will come back because you don't let me speak :'(" part was pretty funny...... But anyway....both great speech from both sides

    Peres on Gaza

    [media] [/media]

    Erdogan on Israel's killing

    [media] [/media]

    February 02, 2009

    Quick reflection to Kenichi Ohmae Interview

    Finally it's finished... the translation was not as tiring as I thought, took me maybe 3 hours all together. I hope the language is easily accesible.

    I didnt translate the entire interview because some of it is of little relevance to the class. Only the part on the Economy and devloping our own personal competencies I thought is quite useful to everyone.

    When Ohmae talked about developing our own "global perspective", it really resonate with a voice inside me. "That's bloody right!" I thought to myself. The world is changing too fast and if we don't keep up with it, how can we compete with billions of people out there looking for jobs.

    In researching world events, Ohmae says "Don't just read books and magazine, find a theme". I also agree with this, reading newspapers and magazine, we are just digesting what other people thinks. We need our own view. If someone ask me "So... Louis, what is your view on the current situation faced by the manufacturing industry?". Which by the way is a perfectly plausible question in an job interview, at least I will already have prepared a unique answer up my sleeve. Because of this, I have decided I will spend every Sunday in researching something. And I will start with the financial crisis....

    I also really like what he said about the ability to communicate, organise opinions and execute on decision. This is a major challenge I faced during the PIUSS aeroplane building activity. There was so many "opinions", eveybody has a different view on how to best approach the DMAIC cycle. What does a leader need to do to best accomodate those different voices? One lesson I learnt from Graeme, I think is that a leader sometimes has to prioritise the opinions according to their importance. If an opinion is "useful", it must be made #1. On the other hand, if an opinion is "interesting" but not really "useful", then the leader must learn to say "no" to the group member. A useful thing to say is "Your idea is very interesting, but right now we must focus on the main topic, let's talk about it next". This will give the leader a better leverage in managing the group dynamics which sometimes can be quite tough indeed.

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