All entries for October 2010

October 27, 2010

Profound Knowledge… in daily life?

Demings idea of Profound knowledge involves 4 factors relating to knowledge.

1. Appreciation of a system

2. Knowledge about variation

3. Theory of knowledge

4. Knowledge of psychology

How do these fit into daily life though? Do they all even apply to any aspect of our daily living? Well, for me this is a purely subjective matter. Everyone may interpret if and how these do factors come up during our to day lives. Well, for my view on this I will not start at the beginning, but conversly start at number 4. I believe this is the easiest aspect of profound knowledge to apply to our daily lives. Knowledge of psychology... Think about it... Is this not present in how we interact with everybody we speak to? We behave in a manner fitting to the company we are in. In other words, we act appropriately. This implies we have enough knowledge of (or at least an intuitive understanding of) the psychology of those around us to behave appropriately.

Now moving onto point 3. Theory of Knowledge. For me, this applies to our understanding of what constitutes knowledge. How we learn and our methods in acquiring knowledge. In essance our knowledge of the most efficient way to learn for ourselves.

As for point 2, for me this relates to individuals having awareness that things change. An example in my life, traffic. I know that if I leave my house at 7:50am to get to uni, with average traffic I can arrive, park and be in the IMC by approximately 8:40. But I know that this can vary. If for example, there is no traffic, I can be at uni by 8:20. However it may be that traffic is above the norm, which could delay me by up to an hour as has happened in the past meaning I arrive at 9:40 and am late for everything! My knowledge of this variation means that I can plan ahead and leave earlier, avoiding possible traffic problems and guaranteeing my timely arrival! Knowledge of variation for me is definitely a useful concept.

Finally, I get to point 1. Why did I leave this till last? Simple. My understanding of how this may fit into daily life is more vague than the other points. Appreciation of a system. In relation to our day to day lives, for me this implies knowledge about how any system we deal with works. For example, the library. I know that system and understand the process by which I use it. I enter, search for a books, find it, check it out. I know this system. Again, using sports facilities. I know that to go climbing I need to only go to reception, check in, and climb. I have knowledge on how this system works and can make use of it effectively. While this is my interpretation of the day to day relavance of point 1, I believe that the idea itself is much more complex than this and that my interpretation of it has somewhat oversimplified the ideas behind it...

What say you all? Am I the only one who struggles to see a deeper meaning of appreciation of knowledge in day to day living? Or can anyone shed some light and possibly a deeper understanding of this concept in daily life?


The path to excellence…

We all agree Excellence is a fairly good target for any organisation to be aiming for. During the last few weeks we have also gone over methods on how an organisation can work towards achieving this concept of excellence. When it comes to what excellence actually is, the EFQM handbook of 2010 tells us that excellence is achieved through good results in people, customers and societies perceptions on the organisation, performance is those criteris as well as key performance indicators of the organisation itself. These perceptions and performance indicators encompass a large variety of factors that are quite easily found via this EFQM handbook, or any literature that discusses the model to any degree of depth. But how can these methods actually be monitored?

The performace indicators manifest themselves in the form of quantitave data. In most modern business environments, quantitative data is relatively easy to access. IT systems record data regarding nearly all aspects of quantitative information on a daily basic. To monitor and make sense of this information, this information can be aggregated, analysed and presented in a way that details the progress of performance indicators. Data could be represented in tabular form, graphically, or any other means that an organisation finds appropriate and effective to monitor performance.

Qualitive data become a trickier issue when it comes to monitor performance. Qualitative data, such as consumer perspectives on the organisation, or employee satisfaction, must be gathered in a social survey of some sort. The means by which the survey is delivered and collected is variable, but the requirement of a survey is essential to gather such data. Once this is collected, interpreting vast amounts of such data and compiling it into a form that easily displays performance in these areas is also another matter that must be considered. Depending on the amount of information gathered in such a survey, simple graphical representation of information (for example, if a pie chart) becomes a more complex issue that in my opinion, cannot be faced until you actually have the information and can evaluate the most effective and informative way of analysing it.


October 24, 2010

Putting Organisational Learning into practice…

Hi all!

I have been absent from blogging for awhile. Simple reason. Lots of work to get on with. I'll have a more detailed look over my last weeks learning and studies soon, but for now... Organisational Learning. The topic of our seminar on monday, as well as our first presentation. Organisational Learning is a vast topic that many consider difficult to define. Going into its exact definition is a discussion in its own right, but for now our main concern in how we use is in practice. My interpretation from various bits of literature is that the concept comes down to firms putting in place systems to allow learning to take place within the organisation to promote innovation and organisational evolution.Putting organisation learning into practice to become a Learning Organisation requires the organisation in question to ensure certain practices are in place the cultivate, promote and develop the culture of learning. Various processes are mentioned in different sources of literature, but in my opinion come down to a few basic steps required. In a very simplified manner, I believe the following provide the basic foundation of the processes needed to be put in place...

Step 1:
Leadership and Management needs to cultivate a culture of learning within the organisation that will create an organisation wide will for learning.

Step 2:
Ensure the structure and strategy to be put in place is feasible. This should include input from employees, financial viability, flexibility of stucture to facilitate multilevel learning.

Step 3:
Ensure resources are available to facilitate learning and that effective intra organisational communication is present.

Step 4:
Put in place feedback mechanisms that will allows the learning to occure from feedback provided by customers, suppliers, and delivery or services and information.

Step 5:
Reinforcement by management of the culture of learning within the environment.


October 18, 2010

Have a break, have a Beer.

Goooood morning, good afternoon, or possibly even good night depending on when you have read this. I'm saying this now, during the weekend I didn't do much. Well, I didn't do much academically I should say. I did do some light reading here and there but on the whole, the weekend was put aside for relaxing, catching up on sleep, and family time so this post will not contain much academic reflection. This doesn't mean I spent the whole weekend sleeping and lounging infront of the TV. It was quite the opposite infact.

I'll start with saturday. After an unusually late wakeup, it was time for the traditional weekend pub trip with my father. Playing pool and darts with family and a pint in hand is definitely a nice way to spend an hour or so. Now before I go further with this tale, I would like to point out something. I play pool more often that my father, fitting in the occasional game with friends. I consider myself better at pool than him. He on the other hand, has many years of experiences with darts, with some a few competitions wins thrown in there. He is without question better at darts than me. What happened saturday however was a turn up for the books. A complete twist whereby he defeated my at pool, and I was the victor at darts. I didn't even win by a small margin, it was infact a whitewash (for those who haven't heard this term before, in this context it means beating your opponent without them even scoring). This was a very very strange result for us, one that made a nice change I have to say.

While in the pub, a few other thoughts also came to mind regarding the change of ownership in our local. The previous manager was not a nice man. He was always bitter towards his customers, never smiled, and did nothing to interact with the pubs patrons, or even see wht they thought about his establishment. He was a perfect example of poor management. The new owner has completely changed the atmsphere in the pub. I find it strage that I'm saying this in regards to a pub, but his management style fits in much more with the EFQM model. He has better relations with the brewery resulting in more investment. By listening to the thoughts of customers he has taken on board many suggestions and pub in place renovations to improve conditions for the customers. He always serves with a smile. And the results have been a better image for the pub in the village, happier staff, more customers and more profit. He even frequently "self assesses" by asking patrons about their thoughts on the changes and any other ideas they may have.  To me this demonstrates that wide applicability of management models, within any industry.

Now, back onto the the none academic stuff. Sunday.... Wow... This was a tiring day. Following 2 years of not playing a single game of squash, jumping straight into a full on game without practice session was exhausting. My legs trembled as I walked around after that. If I were more sensible I would have relaxed abit after this, but instead I went straight to a Kung Fu lesson. My first kung fu lesson infact. As if the pain in my legs didn't suffice, I left the lesson with wrists glowing as red as a tomato and throbbing to boot. Will I go to another lesson next week? Definitely. As the saying goes; no pain, no gain!

Physically drained, but mentally fresh and ready to go, I start the week once more. With many long days in the library ahead of me, all I can say is BRING IT ON!


October 15, 2010

Breakthrough

You know how at times, you read and read and read to try and figure out the link between certain elements of various theories but can't see it. Then suddenly, you find an article that clears it all up an puts it in perspective. Well, that happened to me today.

For awhile I was struggling to see how the idea of selection bias fit into Demings idea of profound knowledge then in one article, it all became clear. Don't you just love it when you get the "EUREKA!" moment.

And now for something completely different. We had our first seminar today, and one of the topic we talked about was the podcast of an interview with Vineet Nayar, the CEO of HCL technologies. In this interview, he talked about the failure of university degree courses around the world to provide graduates with real skillsapplicable in the work place. This results in graduates who are essentially unemployable, so any firm that does take them on has to provide extensive retraining in order for the graduate to have any of the skills and abilities required by the position. This was a topic that really struck a cord with me. From first hand experience, I completely agree with his view of the education provided in degree courses. My undergraduate degree was in European Economics with French. A fascinating course in many respects that involved a broad range of theoretical and legislative studies about economics and trade, as well as lots of statistical analysis techinques. How these studies could be employed in a working environment however, i have no idea. While the course provided an understanding of economics on a macro and micro level, both domestically and internationally, how this knowledge is put into application in a business sense was not covered. The results of this ws that the only chance I had of emplyability was a graduate scheme, in which I would be heavily retrained in order to be able to perform the functions needed. This was the case with nearly every other person who graduated alongside me, and naturally, in the recession we graduated right into the middle of our "unemployability" was not very useful. I had thought this train of thought was just my own, but to hear it coming from somebody in such a prestigous position somehow eases my mind and affirms that starting my MSc was infact the right choice.



October 13, 2010

Deming vs Drucker

Follow-up to Inspiring from MKN Chronicles

So far in my reading it seems to be that every management theory i've come accross can trace its routes back to one of the two contrasting ideas belonging to either Deming or Drucker.

From Deming's work arose the EFQM model. This model which was developed from the Deming circle and the importance of continuous self improvement emphasises the importance of all the enablers of an organisation to achieve the desired results. With this model, success isn't solely based on performance and that for the proccesses which achieve results to work efficiently, cooperation is needed to effectively coordinate all the enablers.

The contrasting view of Drucker, who coined the term Management by Objectives, placed heavy emphasis on target setting to harmonize the efforts of the organisation towards a specific goal. As this theory developed, Performance Management was born. Despite seemingly integrating the workforce into the target setting process, this method still relies heavily on the idea of setting objectives and reviewing performance against them.

I have also come accross the balanced scorecard strategy. While my reading into this is more limited that the previous methods I have mentioned it seems to me that this strategy has similarities to Performance Management with its reliance on metric data to assess the business. And while it does try to include other factors into how it assesses performance by including aspects such as customer opinion, it does seem to be more heavily focussed on the financial aspects. I have to read further into this strategy to fully understand it, but at the moment my first impressions are that it has many parallels with the ideas of Performance Management, and in a loose way has some rootes in the ideas of Drucker.

Both the Deming view and Drucker view (as well as their derivatives) have certain benefits, both have certain drawbacks, but until I have gained a more thorough understanding of them I shall not be delving into the critiques just yet. For now, I have many unanswered questions, many books at my side in which I hope some answers, and a few days of extensive reading.


Belated Reflection

Looks into my eyes... you are feeling sleeping... when I click my fingers you will read the date of this entry as the 10th October...

Ok, that won't work. But this entry is actually a look back at the mentally draining events of yesterday. Why didn't I actually write this last night, well, simply because I didn't actually know what to write. It took a good night sleep and a morning swim to put my thoughts together into a coherent structure. Yesterday was without a doubt a library day. With so many presentation and project deadlines looming already, getting to grips with or even getting a grip on the resources on offer was essential.

First off, the journals. So much access to a vast and rich source of information! Then the books, from my experiences doing my undergraduate studies finding books I was looking for on a shelf and where they were meant to be was an exciting new experience! With books in hand and journals loaded I started to read through the print. Carefully bearing in mind Paul's advice that reading must be with a purpose, with specific questions to be answered or points to be found. Even so, narrowing down all the available resources into a handfull of useful and practical ones is a time consuming and mentally draining process. By the end of the day I had a good idea of the background, arguments and ideas involved in our group task. Getting these down on paper (well, typed on screen really) was another matter. After a couple of paragraphs, compiling my interpretation of the arguments starting becoming more difficult and took longer and longer. This morning however, just discussing these ideas with my group made me realise how much of them actually registered. Sleep is a marvoulous thing. Detabing the ideas of Management by Objective, its implications and alternatives, I realised that between us we can quite easily come up with a coherant and full critique of any issue raised within our assignments. After abit of an organisational discussion as well we managed to give ourselves a direction and are now plodding along happily with our work. With many many questions left unanswered, and an eagerness to leave as few unknowns as possible I plan on spending the majority of the next few days tirelessly working away in the library.


October 11, 2010

Inspiring

Well, what can I say. 8:00 this morning, driving down the A45 all I could think of was how many people seem to know very little, if anything at all about the highway code, or how to drive in general. Feeling I had to express my road rage creatively I thought a full on grumpy rant would more than likely by my next blog entry. Little did I expect that our introduction to CBE (Creating Business Excellence) would capture my imagination and completely distract me from the mornings frustrations.

A discussion based on the ideas W. Edwards Deming regarding the principals of Management. Principals which contradict the widespread westerm management techniques internal competitiveness in the work force and target based management. In the UK for example, they are both clearly present in most areas of the private and public sectors. Hospitals have targets in terms of patient care, time with each patient, and number of people "processed". Schools have set targets to meet in terms of grades. Private enterprises base their management goals on sales targets. Individuals are frequently renumerated based on their performance leading to people striving for individual gain as opposed to collective gain within their workplace. None of this is revelatory however.

For me, what sparked my interest was Deming's alternate view on how to achieve management excellence, and the wide applicability of his ideas. This theory centred around 14 principles of manangement that would create a situation in which the leadership and workforce within an organisation would cooperate in such a way that teamwork is promoted and the desire for self-improvement is created on both an aggregate level for the whole organisation, and a micro level for each individual employee. By the removal of interdepartment and hierarchical barriers, efficiency problems become clearer and a process of improvement can be initiated. If the desire for self improvement is present, the Deming Cycle, or PDCA (Plan-DO-Check-Act) method can be applied to determine the source of any potential improvement and act accordingly. This PDCA method of self assessment and improvement can be applied into all aspects of life and work in which a desire or need for improvement exists.

I am under no illusions that my knowledge on this topic is incomplete, but these ideas of removing statistics and target based management for leadership and motivation got me thinking about what firms that have used various aspects of this theory in a successful manner, and to what extend Deming's ideas were utilised. Google for example allows employees time for personal projects as part of their working day which has lead to many successful innovations in various aspects of their organisation. John Lewis can be used as an example of a business that has organised its ownership structure in a way that all employees are part owners of the organisation, which naturally promote a desire to collective self improvement because all employees gain from the success and development of the business.

My reading on this topic is far from over, but what I do know at the moment is that this is going to be an interesting topic to explore.


October 08, 2010

And so it begins…

Welcome ladies and gentle to my first post on MKN Chronicles. As my academic adventure commences at Warwick, so too does my blog through which I will be sharing everything from my scholastic ponderings to my irate rantings with the world.

I'd like to start with a look back over my first week at Warwick and my introduction to MBE, or "Management for Business Excellence" for those who aren't up to date with the WMG lingo. These three letters which represent the postgraduate masters course that I have just commenced will undoubtedly be the single most important aspect of my life for the next 48 weeks as well as the foundation of my entire future career aspirations. For something so crucial in the lives of so many, you could expect the introductory week to fill the hearts and minds of those attending with dread as the years workload is laid bare. Alternatively, you may also expect a week filled with reassurance to alleviate the panic that may be setting in. Which did get you ask? Well, to be perfectly honest, I would have to say neither, or possibly both.

The early half of the week consisted of informative lectures about full time masters courses at WMG, and for me and my cohorts in MBE, a more specific lecture on the structure of our course and what to expect in the year ahead. The no illusions style of those lecturing clearly laid out the immensity of the task ahead of us all, and the effort required by each individual to succeed. To some this may have seemed daunting, but to others, the useful scheduling tips and resources shown provided some relief and much appreciated guidance in organising the year ahead.

The Latter half of the week was a slightly more mixed story. An amazingly fun team building session of games and newspaper giraffe building set us up in our groups for the coming year. Yes you read that right, postgraduate students building giraffes out of newspaper. Not only was this a fun filled ice breaker, it touched on certain areas that will no doubt be explored in depth later as communication, delegation, and leadership were all necessities when it came to a successful giraffe. Unfortunate our group didn't win the challenge, however we still stood proudly by our "sleeping" giraffe!

The single disappointment of the latter half of the week was the time in Butterworth Hall. Although all the topics and information provided by speakers was without a doubt informative and useful, in my humble opinion the entire afternoon could have been condensed by omitting large amounts of information that had already been provided in different talks.

Overall this has definitely been a fantastic start to what I hope will be a challenging, and rewarding year!



“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

~ John F. Kennedy



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