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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!

October 21, 2012

Teamwork and Achievement

I firmly believe in trust, truth and outstanding teamwork; sharing mistakes and celebrating success. Life has taught me that you get the best out of others provided you give the best out of yourself. Essentially, teamwork is always important, whether it is concerned in our personal or professional lives. It is at times mildly and at other times significantly incorporated into everything we do in our lives. On any scale and at any front, teamwork is cardinal as all parts and entities work collabaratively to achieve the common objective. The group assignments that we have been working on over the last couple of weeks have definitely strengthened our team working skills. Ranging from preparing and delivering seminars and presentations to writing reports, team working skills have been constantly reinforced. It is absolutely vital to understand that these skills and competencies are essentially imperative for the competitive professional workplace.

I strongly believe that achievement and performance, when recognised and rewarded, lead to motivation, which, therefore, results in greater achievement. Motivation is intrinsically related to happiness and success, which are the determinants of higher performance. This is also implied by Frederick Herzberg's theory of motivation, as discussed in the last seminar.

Performance Management

The continual process of aiming to improve organisational performance through the continuous improvement of the employees is referred as Performance Management. Performance Management is increasingly important for both the business and the individuals. It aims to improve business performance through focusing on objective setting, performance discussions, and working towards a high performance work culture. Intrinsically, it promotes the idea of teamwork and perseverance, specifically in relation to consistency of approach to people and of talent data. It also facilitates the internal structure of an organisation in reference to its objectives. As far as the individuals are concerned, it again focuses on objective settings, and on personal self assessment and personal development. Furthermore, it enables training identification, and the need for accuracy and perseverance in achieving business goals. Through the reflective personal self assessment, it aims to deliver fairness and objectivity related to performance.

There are several benefits of Performance Reviews for the appraisee and the appraiser. As far as the appraisee is concerned, they provide a clarity of agenda and purpose, i.e. the job role and expectations. Feedback on performance is also given, which is helpful if taken constructively. This can result in an increase in job satisfaction and motivation - which I believe is directly proportional to increased performance. Performance Reviews also provide clarity in terms of future direction by giving an opportunity to discuss job enrichment and career progression. They are especially helpful in identifying the need for training and support. For the appraiser, they provide a greater knowledge and understanding of individual's strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunity to identify competency, development and training needs.

The last two weeks have been consistently promoting these key concepts and instilling the necessary knowledge and understanding in us through the various topics, such as The EFQM Excellence Model, Deming's Principles, Organizational Learning, High Performance Work Systems and Motivation at Work. I believe that this process of continual learning and improvement will not only benefit us in the short term, as far as this course is concerned, but remain with us as lifelong learning.

Creating Business Excellence

Our first module, ‘Creating Business Excellence,’ went beyond just teaching us the foundations of creating business excellence. It provided us with the opportunity to exercise business acumen, leadership abilities, and team-work skills through role plays, presentations, reports, seminars and group discussions – ensuring we have the fundamental ingredients to strive for excellence on this module, course and beyond. I believe that this has invoked confidence within us, and amongst our team members. It has also provided a sense of trust, performance, and cohesion. Working in an approachable, actionable and harmonious environment is always beneficial.

It is substantial to reiterate that it is both the fundamental organisational principles on which the practise of business management is based, and the competency to amalgamate it with the art of enterprise leadership and employment relations that are crucial for survival and success in the increasingly competitive global corporate environment. Reinforcing this understanding has been the core objective of ‘Creating Business Excellence’.

Flexible Working

It is integral to have a strong work ethic, and embed it as a key feature into our working style. However, it is increasingly imperative to understand and ensure that this work ethic needs to be balanced with a certain extent of flexibility in individual working arrangements to enable us to deliver our best to people and get the best from them.

On an ad hoc basis, we already make judgements about dealing with different individuals and situations within a team. Therefore, having a degree of flexibility in our working environment is fundamental for success. Albeit, unfortunately, there will be some situations in which it would be difficult to reach a certain degree of flexible working, it is important to assure that we are able to accommodate special requests where normal arrangements are disrupted in order to make the best out of the given situation.

Presentations: A Continual Learning Process

Taking part in several presentations this week has certainly given me a lot of confidence. Additionally, as Paul told us last week, there are going to be numerous presentations in the year ahead. I am confident that this is the year in which we will learn.

I suppose the most essential thing when speaking is the confidence that you develop in front of your colleagues and peers. We all come from different parts of the world; having different cultures, languages, and accents. Ultimately, what matters is the confidence and poise with which we deliver and put forth our opinions across the audience. Of course, confidence does not come naturally to everybody. However, the more we speak in public, the better we get in the time to come.

Presentations held on Friday certainly got overshadowed by the ones held earlier on Tuesday. We relied too much on the definitions and did not pay much heed to the audience. It was an ‘undergrad level’ because we did not concentrate much on the structure and eventually lost the focus.

Confidence, audible voice, credible sources, effective speech and stance, proper structure, and sound content are perhaps the most important aspects we need to consider and learn this year!

October 13, 2012

Life only happens once; only good time management and planning can make it a productive one

It has indeed been a hectic first week or so for me. There has been so much influx of information coming from all directions. It surely can be daunting, but I guess I was mentally prepared for it. One of the various things that has surely had quite an impact on my mind is one observation put forth by Vagelis in the very first class.

Why do children learn so much? I have been contemplating over it and feel like sharing with you all some food for thought:
• We need to ask whether we are giving enough time to ourselves. Children learn so much because they have the most important commodity in life: TIME. Are we managing our time in an effective manner? Are we wasting our time on leisure activities that do not matter?
• Children are not concerned with the long term future. They live in the moment and thus they learn. Albeit long term planning is imperative, how many of us actually plan on short term goals and eventually go on to achieve them? We need to make the best out of every moment we live.
• Stop taking life too seriously and worrying unncessarily since it is not going to add one cubit to our stature, so why worry?
• Stop complicating things. Usually, things are not that complex unless we make them.
• It is okay to question. It is okay to look foolish for a few minutes perhaps. It is even better to learn!
• No task, no theory, no subject can be learnt, understood fully or achieved unless we devote the right time and effort required for it. Learning is a gradual process and commands perseverance.

To conclude, effective time management, hard work, and perservance are the key to success.

It is fun to be back in the phase where we learnt the most :)

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