June 10, 2012

Environment Management– Just for society or for organizational profits?

I have been studying about environmental management from the past few days. This topic has really become very important in the business world from sometime now. There has been a lot of emphasis given now on environmental sustainability and how if any organization wants to grow or make profit, they should keep n mind the environmental implications of their products and processes before going into production.

People treat the 'green' companies or the environmentally inclined companies to be good and makes their reputation good in the market. Environemnt is some thing that people relate with society, so if any company decides to put their minds and resources to lessen the pollution it creates, people think it as a social service, a thing that is generaly not necessary, so it improves the image of the company in the minds of people.

However, I think environmental management or paying attention to environmental implications of your product is just a win-win situation for the company. Generally, companies dont like to go 'green' because they think there are a lot of unnecessary costs attached to it. But what they dont understand is that the costs that the company think are there are just short-term and up-front. If we look at the case studies of any 'green' company or even in the literature, we can see that going for environmental sustainability actually saves money for the organization and proves to be quite profitable in the future. It is because if company thinks about preventing the pollution in the production process, it wuld save them a whole lot of costs that is associated with storing and then disposing off the wastes and pollutants. Thus, if pollution and wastes is not created during the production process, there would be no costs attached to this. Thus, making profits for the company. But this generally happens in the long-run and managers generally ignore this long-run profit in front of short-term costs. So, if managers think wisely and realize the profitably of environemntal management, they would see that going 'green' is actually win-win. First they are actually making a profit by going to a environmental management. Secondly, there reputation is really improved in the eyes of the people, thus, helping them in marketing. So, only if the managers can see this profitable side and handle the early stages of this change (change management), they would realize how good it is for them to turn 'green'.

Nonaka's SECI knowledge spiral and culture for knowledge

I had been studying about how to implement knowledge management. There are more than 20 models that I had come across for implementing knowledge.But I felt the best one was from Nonaka..the Socialization-Externalization-Combination and Internalization model as i concnetrates on how to convert the two kings of knowledge- tacit and explicit together. Moreover, it builds on the fact that Knowledge management can never be cyclic, it has to be spiral, as once a cycle finishes, an organizaion would have more knowledge than the previous year and thus, an organization wuld always build from that and move into highe knowledge. Thats why I felt Nonaka's model made the most sense. Moreover, it is known as the knowledge creating model, however I felt that both storing and utilization of knowledge, that are theother components of knowledge management, does happen during its stages. Thus, I felt it was a very complete model. However, I do feel that in order to implement this model, an organization would certainly have to create a culture, an environment that would support knowledge management. Without that, applying any model would not really help. An organization would have to have a culture where every member trusts each other and each employee is has a mentality of team spirit. Only if employees trust each other and are ready to coordinate with each other, then they would really share knowledge amongst themselves and would try to enrich the organization. Shared vision and mental models are necessary for any creation or management of knowledge. It is necessary so that each employee have the same target in mind, that is, the vision of the company. Only when this can happen, any organization can even think about knowledge management.

Generally, knowldge management is seen as that of technology-driven. However, as much as I have read and interpreted, it is quite clear that any knowledge management system can only survive if the employees of the company are willing. Thus, it becomes imperative for the leaders of that organization to make a cultue and environment as such so that no one is jealous of each other, and everybody thinks that they are treated fairly by the management. Only then would employees be willing to give their 100% for the organization. Also, the management needs to show and make it clear to the employees, the importance of knowledge management and the high regard it gives to it, to make them contribute to it and become a part of the system. Moreover, the management needs to be open and free, so that the employees are allowed to experiment and innovate without the fear in their hearts hat if an experiment goes wrong they will be thrown out of the company. It is then only that more knowledge could be created as the main knowledge is generated through on-the-job learning.

Thus, we can see that leadership and culture of the organization are of utmost importance before any organization can even think about putting in a system or model of knowledge management.

April 26, 2012

Knowledge Management is necessary for every asset….

Knowledge management is the foremost requirment if one is thinking of having asset management in one's company. This is a very important lesson, as managing assets without first managing your knowledge will really make your asset management ineffective. Now for example, if we consider security and think about improving the security of the company, even then we need to manage knowledge efficiently. This is because any new policy that the company makes in respect to security, would require the company to make a written document of it, and here the knowledge management would come into play. An effective knowledge manaement company in this case would not find it difficult to distribute this new security rules and regulations around the organization, through its effective knowledge management mechanism, which would make sure that everyone in the company is now aware of these regulations they need to follow and that everyone is on the same wavelength. Similar example could be given through managing inventory by product scheduling. Any good mechanism requires forecasting of sales and this means that the production, purchasing and marketing department working together. I becomes imperative in this scenario of free flow of information between these departments. Thus, only a knowledge management company may work well in this scenario.

Similar examples could be given for health&safety or maintenance, etc. The point to consider here is that it is extremely essential for any organization to first manage its knowledge resources and then plan for managing its assets, as on the core of asset management is knowledge management, and I have realized that how much easy and efficient it would be for any organization to have a knowledge-based asset management.

Managing knowledge

Knowledge I feel is the key for any organization. If an organization can learn how to manage knowledge effectively, it should feel that it is halfway through the job of being an excellent organization. Knowledge is present all around the organization, it is with everyone and is getting richer in volume each second. However, it is how well the knowledge is stored in the organization, distributed among people and applied in the right way, is what makes the difference in managing knowledge effectively or just wasting the most important resource you may have.

Now, in order to effectively manage your knowledge, more than the technology, it is the managing of the people that one should concentrate upon. It is very necessary to maintain an environment in the company that would allow the employees to talk freely to each other. It is important for transferring or sharing of knwoledge that people should be able to converse with each other in a free enironment where they can share their experiences and make one another gain more knowledge from each other. This requires the leader to do his part in making the environment team-based by not having incentives like rewards or bonuses and organizing workshops for his employees where they can freely and truly communicate with each other.

For storing the knowledge, technology assistance maybe taken where the employees are asked to document their learning through a partiular process, or a problem-solving instance to be documented, or sharing any best practices for a particular process they had come across, so in such a situation, an internal database could be set up that can store all this knowledge and have it available for anyone who needs it. These are just a few basic steps for knowledge management

But this has really enriched my learning and I would dare say made me more knowledgable as compared to the people who doesnt understand how to manage knowledge or its importance. Now, I have realized not only the importance of knowledge management for a company but also how to implement it. It has made me realize that the managers generally across the world are unaware of the amount of information and knowledge that is available in their own organizations through the enriching experiences of its employees, and the practices that are going on in the company. This is already the basic bit availabe to them and how effective this could be to improve the personal and team skills of his organization. However, they tend to ignore it and does not even realize the magnitude of their loss.

Workload, Stress and Pressure…

Leaders of the organizations should be aware of the workload they are putting their employees under. It is so easy to get carried away and keep on giving some employee a large amounts of work as he is just keep on doing it efficiently. This can be a good tactic to get the most out of your employees, however, they need to be careful that the employee is not overburdened with work, and is not going into any kind of stress or pressure. There has been cases in the past where the leader does not realize the stress he is putting under his subordinates, and finally the employee gives in to th pressure and either changes his job or makes a mistake in the work he was allotted. I is the duty of the leader to realize that how much work can he expect the employee to do, as he needs to realize that generally an employee would not come upto him and say that this work would overload him and he wont be able to do it efficiently. This type of behaviour is seldom seen, so it rests on the shoulders of the leader to realize the workload of each employee under him and giving him just the right amount of work with which he can work efficiently. And it becomes all the more necessary again, when you are working in a life critical kind of a job, where one mistake on the part of the employee, could lead to his or others death.

Also, it is very important to realize that sometimes even when the work given to an employee is not much, and you may feel that he is not overloaded, the conditions under which he needs to work, maybe the time deadline, or the physical environment he is working in, is stressful and put him under immense pressure. It is essential at this point to realize these challenges for the employees and make suitable efforts to reduce this pressure and stress from him as much as possible.

Leader could well create an environement where there is so much open and free communication between the subordinates and with the leader, that the subordinate could well notify the leader of the work load he is putting him under, and that he may not be able to handle this. However, even here the leader needs to be careful as the employees well may start taking advantage of him and start working below their full capacity by giving him excuses of stress and workload. so he needs to make sure and understand it himself is how much an employee could handle. Also, it is indeed very difficult for any leader to have such open communication, and more often than not, he has to assess the workload on his different employees himself.

It has been an important learning for me as now I could make sure that if I happen to lead any team, I shall keep the workload and stress to the level my team could handle, as that is when you can expect maximum efficiency out of your team, and it reduces the errors manyfold.

Gathering knowledge

On Monday, we had a workshop on situation awareness. It made me realize the importance of how it is necessary to do the basic things correctly. Gathering knowledge is one of the most basic things that ever could be. A person doing a certain job or working on a certin thing should always have the knowledge available to him that would enable him to do that particular work. But then how I fail to realize that in the past there has been so many instances where the knowlegde was not available to the person who needed it. And what is more shocking is that this to happen in things that are so critical to health and safety, not only to that particular person but also thousands surrounding him. There has been the case where the workers collecting the chemical waste does not know of the chemicals they are dealing with and in this instance, they just decide not to touch things they are unsure of, but they do all sort of things and it ends up blasting the godown.

It is so necessary to realize how this can be so devestating for the organizations especially that work closely on safety critical issues. Also otherwise, organizations should start considering why is that the knowledge that is available somewhere in the universe, possibly in the company itself, is not with the right person at the right time. This seems to be unbelivable but surely it tends to happen more often than not. so, it is up to the individuals and especially the leaders to make sure that the right person has the right knowledge available to him.

For me, I have not had much of an exprienc regarding this sitaution that could end up being very critical for some one or an organization in this case, however, I feel that this as a very important lesson for the context of my future. I am sure that having gone through this session of knowledge management where I have looked at unavailability of knowledge leading up to so many instances that could have been easily avoided, will really help me in my future as now I have a mental note of the problem and realize the magnitude of the problem. I would make sure that the information that the company has is available easily to those that may require it in any circumstance, as it is so necessary to have the necessary information available for the efficient working of the company, and come to think of it, it is the first basic step every organization should ensure.

April 22, 2012

How successful SMART is with two alternatives…

SMART is a good technique for multi criteria decision analysis as it can objectively qualtify even the qualitative factors and make comparisons among them. However, if there are two alternatives just to choose from, I dont think SMART can work really efficiently. It is because it requires to give how well the alternatives work in respect to the criteria or factors that are responsible for making the decision. So, here the worst choice gets zero and the best gets 100. So, if there are only two alternatives, one has to get a 0 and other has to get a 100, no matter how closely they are in terms of performance for that particular factor. Thats why, there could be a case here where there is a lot of biasedness where even though one choice maybe a little worse than the others is some and lot better than the other in the others. That may lead us to take the wrong decision. That is why I feel is that if there are just two alternatives and even though thee is a multi-criteria decision to take, SMART would not be a very robust option, and thus, I feel AHP would work better in these cases.

Making a mistake in decision making is so easy…

Well I have realized one thing from the module, from the mini-project and the classes we had, that it is very easy to go onto the wrong path when you are making decisions. There are just so many places where you could potentially do a wrong thing and the decision outcome you choose would not then be based on a completely rational process and there is a good chance of it being wrong. Starting from choosing the decision tool you would want to use for coming out with a decsion. There are just so many tools and techniques avilable, each having their fair share of crtiticism and strenghts. So, in order to come out with a decsion, the first potential place where you could go wrong is in choosing the right decision tool itelf. After that it is so important to understand the tool and apply it in the right manner. Application of the tool in iself a complex task especially of tools such as AHP. Then there is a chance that you would go wrong because of the hueristics and biases that arise from them. So in applying the decision tool, the presence of biases can make you apply it wrong and as I had previously blogged, I feel a decision tool is as good as the decision maker makes it. There is a fair amount of chance that in ranking the alternatives or in giving weights to the various factors as is required by the major decision making tools, you may not consult the literature available on it, or the toal information on it. You may use the knowledge or the perception you have about the topic and rank them according to those. Even in such a scenario there is a good chance that the decsion you take will not be rational. Then there is a consideration of taking the most robust decision. Sometimes the most robust decision is not the most obvious one, and due to the various biases we have, we may still be bent towards our intuition and use the decision tool in such a way, knowingly or unknowingly, so as the final decision comes out to be the one you want it to be. Also, then if you are taking a decision in a group, all sort of problems conjure up and you need to be careful of so many things specially the Groupthink problem. Thus, I feel that there are just so many places or chances for a decision maker to go wrong in his journey of taking a decision, I do not expect people to ever take a 100% rational decision. The probabilty of going wrong in the process is just so high.

April 20, 2012

How important it is to comply to a standard such as ISO14001 to be on the path of 'excellence''

While gong to the literature on environmental management bu manufacturing companies, mostly I came across the frame work of standards such as ISO14001 that the company should comply to if they wants to make environment a part of their strategy, that is, if they want to be an eco-friendly enteprise. Now, the EFQM Excellence Model gives companies the framework for them to take steps so that they take environment to be an integral part of their strategies. Now, the framework and later the self assessment would or should take company to the path of an eco-friendly enteprise where they take into account the environmental considerations as very essential. So, why do the companies first want to comply with the ISO standards if the ultimate aim of them is to be environmentally aware. If the company goes for excellence, they would automatically acheive the standards set by ISO. So how important it is for the companies to get this external certificate if the same or arguably more they could achieve through going through the process of excellence, that is, continuous improvement and self-assessment. So, could this be case that where the companies who seek to achieve this certification, does it just to have a good impression on the customers and purely as a marketing strategy, where the environmental consideration may not be so much important for them and they fall back to the old ways or become less attentive to environmental needs when they received the certification...or is getting an external certification an important step towards excellence, and each company that seeks to be an excellent organization should go for it first or should seek to achieve it in its journey to excellence..!?

April 19, 2012

Environmental Management Systems– Preventive rather than compliance

When the company decided to go 'green' that is, decides to intgrate environemntal considerations with the company's amis and objectives, they have two options majorly, one is to control or comply to the environemenal rules and regulations and try to reduce the impact of the pollution they create on the environment by treating it in different manners. However, the better way is to go preventive, that is, using such methods and technique that does not create pollution only, so that you dont have to make expensive measures to reduce the pollution as the pollution is not created in the first place. This could be achieved by having environmental management systems in the company where everyone in the company is committed to this plan. Here, the new products are made according to the environmental friendly procedures and restructing the current processes and modifying the products, so that such materials are used that are not environmentally degrading. Thus, it is always better to go preventive as it is not only better for the environemnt but also is cost-effective for the company.

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  • That is true mimi..But if you really look at companies that go for environmental management systems … by Manav Gupta on this entry
  • I think some companies are reluctant to appear to be hopping on the green bandwagon without really u… by Oritseweyinmi Barber on this entry
  • Of course every time that we go back to previous decisions we think of what we could have done diffe… by Ilektra-maria Kaldi on this entry
  • I agree with your comments. I think that's why we can say that the decision we make is only as good … by on this entry
  • I agree with you Manav! I tend to think that group–based decisions are better, as most group members… by Ilektra-maria Kaldi on this entry

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