All entries for November 2012

November 29, 2012

From textbooks to giraffes and aeroplanes

Who would have thought that we would be making giraffes and aeroplanes in class instead of going through lengthy slides, complicated textbooks and mind-boggling journals on a masters course in an effort to learn business excellence? Well hats off to whoever came up with the idea of this interactive approach to learning! Contrary to what I had believed and anticipated earlier in terms of the structure of this masters course, I have to admit that I am fairly smitten by this approach to learning. Whilst being fun, innovative and interactive, the practical exercises are also intellectually stimulating and very effective in preparing us for the actual workplace as they not only reinforce the core learning outcomes and knowledge and understanding of the topic through practical lens, but, additionally, they also reiterate an understanding of the significance of the key competencies required in today's workplace, such as teamwork, time management, leadership, interpersonal, communication and presentation skills. Although textbooks, lecture slides and other reference materials, such as journals, etc, are fundamentally vital for success, and significant in aiding our learning on this course, the exercises are paramount in making learning more enjoyable, and I hope that we continue to have such exercises throughout the year. As Confucius says, "I see and I forget, I hear and I remember, I do and I understand.” Departing on this journey to learn management for business excellence will be interesting indeed, and I am sure everyone is excited about taking off and landing safely around this time next year as "blackbelts" in MBE.


November 28, 2012

Six Sigma Change Management

We live in a society where change is the only thing that remains unchanged; it is inevitable and inherent in the dynamic and evolving organizational processes. Six Sigma change management is a structured approach which focuses on transiting employees and organizations from their present state to a state which aligns with their aims and objectives for the future. In many organizations, change is often resisted due to a variety of different factors. It can be an organization’s most difficult to control asset, but it can also work as the central tool resulting in sustained competitive advantage for the organization. Whilst doing the presentations on Six Sigma, we learnt the two types of changes in firms: planned and reactive. Essentially, planned changes are regarded as the more superior form of change as they are instigated when managers decide to make extensive changes, whilst reactive changes occur as a result of the sudden response to making adjustments. At the heart of Six Sigma is Statistical Process Control, which is primarily a way of accumulating knowledge and experience in a coherent manner. Today’s session with Jan Gillet emphasised the key point about change, which is observable in more or less everything in our everyday life. Jan stressed the point that a state of statistical control is not a natural state, and the understanding behind this is that controlling something means we are intervening with the natural process of things. Continual process improvement makes attentive use of process control charts, which were demonstrated in the video Jan played in the first half of the session.

Session with Jan Gillet

The presentation we did a couple of weeks back on Six Sigma and Success Factors helped me to grasp some basic knowledge and understanding of the topic, but the morning session with Jan Gillet today was very helpful in strengthening that learning. The reference to Jack Welch was very insightful, as it reinforced what I had learnt reading the book ‘What I’ve Learned Leading A Great company and Great People’ by Jack Welch four years ago, in which he emphasises the importance of achieving a renewed balance at work in the midst of constant pressures and crisis. The session also reminded me of some of the key things that I had studied over the years, such as The Hawthorne Effect. In reference to processes involving Six Sigma for improvement and excellence, especially in production, I was sceptical about the impact/the extent of impact of The Hawthorne Effect in a controlled environment in the context of overt observation, which Jan addressed really well. Jan's approach to teaching was very interactive, logical and engrossing, and I am looking forward to reading his book, 'Working with the Grain', to gain an in depth and broad understanding of the subject.

November 19, 2012

Human capital and sustained competitive advantage

The value of human capital can never be reiterated enough. Many academics and practitioners believe that human capital is, at the most fundamental level, a main source of sustained competitive advantage. This perspective is also shared by Peter Senge, who is a pioneer in the field of learning organizations, and aligns with Deming's System of Profound Knowledge and the EFQM Excellence Model. The belief is that humans are agents who are able to act upon the system they are a part of and influence it. However, it is substantial to mention that while humans are capable to learn, the infrastructure in which they have to function is often not simple and straightforward and is dependent on internal and external constraints. Thus, the system does not always necessarily conform to reflection and involvement. Therefore, the consensus derived from Peter Senge, Deming's System of Profound Knowledge and the EFQM Excellence Model is that albeit people are the main force driving learning and progression, all the interrelated and interconnected parts of an organization have to work together to ensure the effective running of the larger whole organization.

The Importance of Systems Thinking

To resolve the challenges we face today at a global corporate level, it is imperative that our business leaders must overcome the erroneous beliefs that lead to the predicament. Fundamentally, this would require diverging away from a "linear" approach of thinking which focuses on instantly fixing the most apparent errors resulting in negative correlation with the system, to a "systems" approach that emphasises perspectives and practices in conjunction with the foundational laws of sustainability. Irrespective of the fact that literature available on systematic thinking dates a few years back, only a few organizations have understood the significance of this approach and adopted it. This is due, in part, to the limitation of a coherent framework to pioneer the application of systems thinking. I believe that more investment needs to be done in this field of study, so that more organizations are able to not only understand the significance of implementing this framework, but also understand its application, and apply it within their organizations to attain sustained competitive advantage.

November 11, 2012


So we are ONLY a week away from submitting the actual PMA, and I still keep having moments of utter discombobulation at the middle of nowhere when I'm unsure whether I have chosen the right question for my PMA or not. What's slightly comforting to admit is that the moment of sheer perplexitivity and indecisiveness lasts only for a few minutes and then fades away into the background, after I reassure myself to 'keep calm and carry on' - reiterating the maintenance of focus and perserverance. Not too sure if anyone else goes through similar phases of discomposure, or whether I am the only exception, but for those stressing over their PMAs over other 'less distressing issues' (the definition might vary from person to person), this blog might provide a little sense of encouragement, I hope. *facepalm*

November 02, 2012


I remember arriving fashionably late to class on the morning of 12th October, a few minutes before the morning session was about to end, and raising my hand up as soon as I had arrived. The class was discussing seminar topics for next week, so I asked Paul if we could have a seminar on the similarities and differences between High Performance Work System and The EFQM Excellence Model. Paul looked rather confused, and asked me what I meant by HPWS. Once I had offered the brief explanation, Paul added the topic to the list on the board. Since not many people in the class had come across the term HPWS before, I was not too sure if we would have a seminar on it, but to my surprise, it was one of the topics to receive the most votes. I was looking forward to delivering the presentation on HPWS in the seminar in the upcoming week, which went very well.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised, and quite pleased in fact, when Paul told us that he has made a recent change, which is adding HPWS to the list of questions for the PMA. For me, this was a sense of contentment that not only I had managed to deliver the seminar well, but also that the topic significantly appealed to Paul, and he believed it was important enough to be studied. I instantly knew which question I was going to do. In a way, I felt obliged to do the question on HPWS since I am the one who proposed this topic, but irrespective of that, I am aware that the decision is entirely up to us.

I have issued a chunk of books from the library on Business Process Reengineering, Best Practice, Organizational Behaviour and Performance, etc. For now, I am focusing on the reading materials. Once I have drafted the relevant notes from the books, journals and online papers, I will start writing the formal essay. The stress levels are increasing as the deadline for submission is approaching, but I believe we should keep going. Once we have ensured that we have included all the key points in our essay and have thoroughly reviewed it, we should hope for the best, but also be prepared for any feeback - positive or negative and accept it constructively for our next piece of work. Since this is our first formal post module assignment for MBE, it is absolutely understandable why anyone would be nervous, but here's wishing everyone all the very best! :)

It is important to remember that hard work, effective time management and perseverance are the key to success - as I have mentioned in my previous blogs as well.

Ps. I was excused for being late on the 12th as it was my birthday that day, and Paul was very understanding. However, punctuality can never be emphasised enough - a reminder for myself first and foremost!

November 2012

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