February 10, 2013

Policy deployment

Policy deployment, also known as Hoshin Kanri is a method used to push organisations to reach certain goals. In simple words, by going from point A to point B might be difficult and high risk to get lost, but Hoshin planning process will make sure to analyse every single step and will point you to undertake the right steps towards point B.

Nowadays, a significant number of organizations, both small and large, are struggling to implement Lean Tools or Six Sigma in order to gain a significant advantage over the market. Therefore, in order to implement Lean or Six Sigma you need a clear, fresh and strategic plan. I believe that the most effective approach that helps to archive this, tuned up to be the Hoshin Kanri or Policy Deployment.

The policy deployment is seen as a tool capable to manage the accomplishment of targets, while having an eye on the future for breakthroughs. Moreover, this specific tool is a strategic methodology, based on an idea popularized in Japan in 1960s saying that each person is the expert in his own job. The policy deployment process is a management system in which all employees participate, from the top down and from the bottom up.

Learning about Hoshin Kanri made me realize how important communication is in the workplace and how valuable feedback can be. In my future business I will definitely use policy deployment because I like that it is a participative approach focused on the vital few which could facilitate my way to achieve excellence.

Performance related pay

Some managers often prefer performance related pay as they see it as a way of providing a motivation for the employees. Managers feel that this incentive leads to an improvement in performance, establishes control and generates increased commitment to the organization.

I used to be part of such organization a couple of years ago and I had to face more of its disadvantages than its advantages.

The job was focused on financial rewards rather than the development of the employees. Training was provided during one weed but the goals set by the organization were hard to achieve mostly because of the lack of co-operation and support. Finding myself in this situation I felt de-motivated, and I left the job after one month. I am sure there more people in this situation, therefore the organization was facing a high staff turnover, was losing money and not only (talent).

I doubt it a lot that performance-related pay actually does anything to motivate employees probably because for me the performance element was only a small percentage of total pay and after having this experience and understanding the concept with its advantages and disadvantages, I would strongly advice against using it within the organizations.

Leadership types

Often, it is said that being a good leader means that you have to follow your specific leadership style.

The most common leadership types are: Autocratic leadership, Bureaucratic leadership, Charismatic leadership, Democratic leadership or Participative leadership, Laissez-faire leadership, People-oriented leadership or relations-oriented leadership, Servant leadership, Situational Leadership, Task-oriented leadership, Transactional leadership and Transformational leadership.

However, researchers show that there is no right or wrong leadership style, which leads to the concept that an efficient leader can involve more than one style. In order to obtain the greatest result, it is important to have a balance of different styles and to understand their characteristics, because the most significant step in a ‘leadership life’ is to know how to determine which style suits us best. Many will argue that your leadership style will be shaped by the experience and circumstances that your team may encounter. In my opinion, this is true and false, at the same time. A leadership style can be shaped by the circumstances already encountered, but the most effective way is to define what style best match our personality and our values. In other words, the best leaders lead from their deeply held values. However, it is also important to analyse those values and decide what strengths or weaknesses might have.

In order to choose which styles we may want to mix, it is important to consider not to combine styles that have at their origins ‘opposite’ characteristics. For instance, it might be ‘bad practice’ to combine transformational leadership with charismatic leadership. The concept of transformational leadership reflects into a person who is a true leader by inspiring the team with vision of the future. They are characterised as highly visible and very communicative. Additionally, they do not tend to lead from the ‘front line’, as delegating responsibilities among the team is also one of their characteristics. In contrast, charismatic leadership usually is reflecting into a person that believes more in him or herself than in their entire team. By failing to share responsibilities with your team, it may raise unexpected issues during a project.

I believe that learning and practicing various leadership types during our team exercises will help me in the future to develop my own leadership style. By doing this I will next be able to inspire people towards great achievement and provide them with my support.

Is followership an essential element of leadership?

Is followership an essential element of leadership?

After a meaningful discussion in class about follower’s importance in the context of leadership, we concluded that being able to be a follower is as important as being a leader.

In my opinion no one is leading all the time, everyone spends a part of their time following and another part leading. For example, in an organization, a manager should be a leader when dealing with subordinates but, when dealing with the company CEO he/she should be a follower that supports and work together for achieving a common goal.

The majority of people spend their life moving between these two positions. I am saying this because the leadership/followership case applies not only in business, but in every role we have in life (daughters and sons, parents, colleagues, friends and many others). The parents usually lead the family, but for example, when organizing a party for your brother, you might be in a better position to do all the arrangements and they will be there to help you and support you in order to get the best outcome… “Everyone just pitches in and gets it done” However, there are times when teamwork happens and leader and follower roles change so frequently that there is not worth labelling. This is happening when people who don’t normally consider themselves leaders will assume the role whenever their leadership skills are asked for.

Any leader should help people become productive followers and leaders because their major responsibilities are to accomplish their mission, to take care of their people and to create more leaders. In other words, the best thing a leader can do is to lead by example.

Now, I can say that by improving my knowledge about the leadership’s value and scope, I am more confident when it comes to applying my leadership skills. However, there are times in our life when the best thing to do is to listen, learn and follow the people who can lead you to success. That was proved during team exercises, when as a leader of the team I chose to follow advices of my colleagues. Despite the fact that at the beginning I felt that this is not what a leader has to do, the outcome was grater in the end and everyone felt appreciated.

It would of help me a lot in the past to know what a powerful role followers have. This is mostly because there were times when my perceptions about leadership did not fully allow me to let others take the responsibility because I was the one leading.

Taking into account that after graduating I will be part of the business world, where team working is a key point, I personally think that knowing how to be the right person at the right time (a good leader or a good follower) will bring me nothing else but success.

It was probably not as important in the past, but in our days it is vital to understand the importance of followership, both in day to day life and business environment.

January 29, 2013

Born or made?

Born or made?

This issue is raised in many fields of the business environment, as it was raised in our class today. Today's topic focused on the origin of the leaders, but the nature - nurture debate is also present amongst the entrepreneurs, salespeople and even communicators. I think it does not matter which one we are talking about, the end results are the same.

In my opinion a leader can be both born and thought to be effective. What make the difference are the passion and the effort it takes each of them to achieve their objectives at the same level of effectiveness. A leader that was born with this set of skills will find the steps to follow naturally, while a 'made' leader will have to put much more effort to get similar results. In the past it would have been even harder to believe this, but it is not impossible, mostly due to years and years of research that explored the actions and abilities of leaders. This allowed us to discover valuable details of leadership that we can develop.
However, I think there is a side of leadership that no one can learn it, VISION. I am not entirely sure if this contradicts everything I previously said but I think this is the piece that differentiates the two of them.

This is the way I see it: Both versions can bring effectiveness and benefits in a company, but they work in two different contexts. From a ‘gathering followers’ point of view both born and ‘made’ leaders can achieve similar outcomes, but from a ‘making a difference in the world’ perspective the innate abilities are needed. The best example of a visionary leader I know is Richard Branson. He is not a good manager and he lacks knowledge in some fields, but he employed the best people to transform his ideas into practice. I imagine this is one of the things that make him a successful leader, along with his ability of making his employees to believe in his ides.

Being born with the personality characteristics of a leader does not necessary make us leaders. Those abilities have to be developed and updated to the present society needs.

Management or leadership?

Long time ago after reading one of Paul Hawken’s books I found what I call my inspiration and motivation to choose the MBE master course.

‘Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.’

After attending today's session on Leadership and excellence and analysing the 20 definitions provided on moodle, I tend to believe is not all about management skills. A manager without having a leader's vision and ability to inspire people could never do the work. This is mostly because, knowing how to manage the resources of the company and having what tools and techniques are needed for the success is just not enough. At the end of the day, the human resources are still the most powerful resources a business can have because this is what can offer its uniqueness.

It is shown in the literature that some people are assertive to change, and I think this is one of the examples where being a manager without being a leader is not enough. This problem could be easily solved with communication at the workplace, but people do not usually invest in qualitative socialisation.

I think the simplest way in which a manager/leader can gain followers is by showing interest in people's work and understanding their needs and investing time and resources in their learning.

This does not happen as often in the business environment as it happens in MBE course, but if we can help each other during our studies, I cannot see any reason why this would not be possible within an organisation.

I was pleased to see many colleagues cared enough to listen to my issues and take time understand me and learn from me. This motivated me to pay attention to other people needs and help them when I can.

Instead of encouraging competitiveness amongst teams, organisations should promote a trustworthy environment where employees don't look for excuses for inefficiency but help each other.

January 27, 2013

PEUSS Module reflection

On the first lecture of PEUSS my ideas about Six Sigma started to mix up. I used to think Six Sigma is the concept and Design for Six Sigma encloses the methodology which includes DMAIC, DMADV, IDOV, DMEIC and other acronyms. Fact that proved to be wrong, they are 2 different things who have the same aim (eliminate waste and inefficiency and develop nearly perfect products – six sigma level), but are used in different situations (six sigma projects are used to improve an existing product/service/ process, while design for six sigma is used to develop a new product/service/ process).

I intend to believe I developed these thoughts during the PIUSS module because we were studying Six Sigma only and we also covered things that better fit DFSS. The first example I can think of, is the airplane experiment where we entirely changed the process of manufacturing the airplanes, and not only improve some parts of the process. The second example is related to the study of Teguchi experimental design and the helicopter exercise.

After researching more the subject of six sigma and design for Six Sigma and building the presentation on the comparison and contrast of these two topics I really understood the differences, the similarities and the synergies between them.

The most important thing I realized during my research is that Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma do not have to work separately. They can complement each other. DFSS can be used when Six Sigma is not going to give sufficient results or is just not effective to invest in the project. Additionally, businesses that use Six Sigma to facilitate the DFSS process bring better results (fact reinforced by the examples our guest lecturers presented this week).

Knowing this, I now understand why is important to train the best people when it comes to Six Sigma and how beneficial can be the tools used in the process if they are used right. I agree with Dr. Jane, my lecturer, that project managers are the best people to train in a company. This is mostly because the management engagement and commitment is as crucial for the Six Sigma project success as it is their understanding of the Six Sigma methodology. However, the belt system does not fit very well with the DFSS process because it is difficult to be prescriptive about the training.

On the one hand, literature shows that the businesses that implement Six Sigma and DFSS correctly achieve significant benefits that contribute to competitive advantage and to changing the culture in an organisation from reactive problem solving to proactive problem prevention. On the other hand, the majority of the companies the guest lecturers represented did not follow Six Sigma or DFSS methodology rigidly, but they tailored it to best fit the company’s needs by choosing the right tools from those provided.

I strongly believe that it is more useful to adapt the tools six sigma and DFSS offers to each business because, like this, companies can avoid wasting unnecessary money, and focus on their high priorities.

In our days, businesses use different concepts, methodologies and tools for implementing a quality within the organization. Whether it is PDSA, RADAR that we studied in CBE module, DMAIC, DMADV or any other, every business has to use and/or combine of different approaches, tools and techniques. Some of them are simple to understand and can be easily used and others are more complex and require specialist applications. Nevertheless, I think it is very important that the selection is made with the aim of the organization in mind and for the appropriate employees, because the success depends on their understanding, knowledge and proper application in organizational processes. I believe that the whole Six Sigma concept would be more beneficial if practitioners would focus less on its name and more on integrating into the business strategy and goals. In other words making it part of the organizational infrastructure.

What I like most about the DFSS methodology aims to design things right from the first time. It considers the voice of the customer (VOC) to collect and understand customer requirements, and Quality Function Deployment (QFD) tools to identify customer needs and translate them into design requirements and prioritizes them, uses concurrent engineering and expert judgement to spot and deal with risks better.

To understand thinks better I tend to associate these concepts with things that happened to me in the past, and the best example I could find at that moment, was writing an assignment.

VOC could be used to understand what the marker wants from me when reading my assignment, QFD would help me prioritize information and translate it into a structure while I would develop the paper concurrently paying attention to what critiques think about the subject researched.

I find these tools, and many others that we studied during the PEUSS module, useful because they underline the important things a business should considered. As I intend to start my own business one day, I think it is vital to understand what customers want and what are the risks I may encounter. Even if I may not implement DFSS into my company, from financial reasons (not cost effective in small, service organizations), I now feel confident PEUSS gave me sufficient knowledge to consider what is right for my company.

January 20, 2013

Compatibility study of six sigma and lean

Compatibility study of six sigma and lean


At the present time, there are two tools named six sigma and lean which are both different approaches of continuous improvement.

They are related to some extent, but at the same time have distinct aims.

The Six Sigma project is much more focus on the reduction and removal of variation by the application of an extensive set of statistical tools, while lean thinking focuses on the reduction and removal of waste.

The central point of both approaches is business improvement. However, one strategy aims to meet the costumers’ expectations and the other one aims to reduce the costs. The route through their approaches should depend mainly upon the issues that the organisation is facing. Both approaches have different tools and different way of working. Therefore, lean and Six Sigma aim to improve organisations, but both need different resources to work on, so this depends on how the company combines resources for both of them. The compatibility between them may vary as per combination of resources and tools that are implemented. Obviously, the two approaches have different strengths and limitations. Especially, six sigma has a potential tendency towards complexity of analysis, while lean has a potential tendency towards naive simplicity.

Within the literature, it is easy to see that many attempts have been put in place to combine lean with Six Sigma. Theoretically, these two approaches can be combined in order to increase the success rate of the improvement. However, in reality it doesn’t always work, lean and Six Sigma can be seen as an example of incompatibility and conflicts. Combining Lean with Six Sigma suggests that one of them has to dominate and the other has to subordinate.

By analyzing these two approaches I realized that sometimes we don’t have to choose between apples and pears, or Microsoft and IOS, we might take advantage and use them both in order to achieve what we want easier and more efficiently. However, decisions have to be based on a complete understanding of them, of the benefits and the limitations so that we can balance them and choose what is right for us.

January 19, 2013

"The pursuit of happiness

The idea of lean thinking easily can be placed next to some famous names such as Henry Ford or Edwards Deming. The concept of Lean suggests a way to maximize customer valuewhile minimizing waste. In other words, by adopting lean thinking, organizations develop the ability to create more value for customers with less resource. Within the literature, it is easy to perceive one popular misunderstanding regarding lean flexibility, which many researches claim that it works only into the manufacturing field.

However, environment has proved that lean thinking can be applied in every business and in every process.

Many people are seeing lean as a tactic or a cost reduction program, but in fact it is way of thinking and acting for an entire organization. The concept also consists in the elimination of waste of all kind resulting in the optimal use of all resources in an organization.

I think using Lean thinking is a good way to increase our efficiency, not only inside the organizations, but also in our daily life. People could make better use of their time and money and use them for the pursuit of their happiness instead of using them unwisely and than complaining that they don’t have enough.

A few months ago, at the beginning of this master programme, it was the first time when I heard about Lean. I remember exactly that the example given was about the Toyota. Obviously, at that time I did not know that Toyota is the world leading example for Lean. By studying the lean concept, now I understand that behind every success stays logic and an organised strategy. This kind of information motivates me to undertake more research into this area and perhaps one day I will be able to implement it into an organisation.

My improved image of Six Sigma

The first impression Six Sigma gave me on the first session of PIUSS was that is no more than a tool that aims to provide defect free products to customers. However, as the literature went much deeper and highlighted the fact that Six Sigma can be seen as a defect-eliminating tool (by having the main target: matching the costumers’ expectations), the improved business efficiency and the learning side of it were also underlined.

In an Organisation, in order to achieve Six Sigma, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities, when, a Six Sigma defect is defined as anything outside of customer expectations.

I remember, my teacher said that people use to link Six Sigma with Motorola, but nowadays, Six Sigma is a Brand with 27 years experience and its strategy can be implemented in every business.Six Sigma strategy is based on two project methodologies, inspired by Deming's (PDSA) cycle. DMAIC is used for projects aimed at improving an existing business process, while DFSS is used for projects aimed at creating new product, service or process designs.

After going through a significant part of the Six Sigma literature, I can now see business improvements in a new way.

During my gap year I used to volunteer as a manager assistant in a coffee shop. There was so much space for improvements, but no one knew the solutions and tried make changes all together. As they were dealing with problems o a ‘first come first served’ basis, the problems were not prioritized in the best rational way to benefit the company and the investments did not always bring satisfactory results. If I knew some of the principles of Six Sigma at that moment, I think it would have saved the business a lot of money. Most probably they wouldn’t achieve a six sigma level, but a considerable amount of variation would be reduced and many more customers would be left satisfied from the coffee shop.

By seeing things from a different perspective, I think I now fully understand why Six Sigma received considerable attention in the past few years and I feel more and more confident in choosing the right methods in terms of business improvement.

June 2021

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