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December 07, 2010

Eureka

Wow, its been a long while since my last blog entry. Let me first explain. Over the past many weeks my free time has been somewhat limited. Infact, that is an understatement in every sense of the word. While juggling Module weeks, projects, PMA work, society responsibilities, paid work, and illness, exhaustion has more than got the better the better of me. Now i'm slowly managing to get back on top of everything, and so have I come back to the world of blogging.

Todays entry is regarding my PMA. While i've spent awhile researching, gathering information and planning how i will put this into the context of the question, i am now in the process of putting pen to paper (so to speak). The more I go about typing up my PMA, the more I realise the interconnected nature of the topic. With As far as my interpretation of the literature goes, application of profound knowledge is a key aspect of transformation into a learning organisation. Every process put in place to facilitate the transformation requires a systemic understanding of the organisation to ensure the methods and processes used are appropriate. This is where profound knowledge really shows the connection. A learning strategy cannot be put in place without knowing how employees will react (knowledge of psychology), knowing how people aquire knowledge (theory of knowledge), what systems are needed to faciliate learning (system thinking) and finally are the improvements from learning due to development of skills or was there some other reason (knowledge of variation). Every literary source I have used thusfar has mentioned the importance of understanding how organisational learning will affect people, the cultural change that underlines it, and the knowledge of the processes needed, so to me it seems they all link with SoPK. Application of profound knowledge is a crucial process that forms the foundations of any learning strategy that is to be applied to drive towards the creation of a learning organisation.


November 01, 2010

Epic

ep·ic  [ep-ik] –adjective Also, ep·i·cal.

1. Of, constituting, having to do with, or suggestive of a literary epic: an epic poem.
2. Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size
3. Heroic and impressive in quality:

This one little word sums up my last week in more ways than one, and because of this my entry today will be an epic (in literary terms) because a quick post will not do the week justice. For me, the CBE module was indeed impressive in quality and surpassed the usual (comparing module standards of my academic life to date) far beyond my expectations. It wasn't until the final few days that it hit me how much we, as a class, have actually learned directly and passively during the previous weeks.

I'll give some examples. Our last seminar, a few questions on leadership lead into a heated and very much indepth discussion about leadership styles, morales, values. What is considered an effective style of leadership is a good question. Does the authority of an autocratic leader having absolute control motivate? Is a leader that leads by example better for morale? Is a democratic approach allowing input from everyone a better way to create an environment of high efficiency and creativity? Or can a more laissez-faire approach provide individuals with the drive to achieve by empowering them and giving them greater responsibility? Personally, i don't believe a leader should be restricted to any of these styles. I think what makes a leader is the ability to adapt, to be flexible and knowledgable enough to see the best approach any situation may require and to behave accordingly. No two situations are the same and a leader must be able to adapt as required.

But what role do values and morales play? Can a leader be "corrupted". We debated this to great extent, with opinions often at polar opposits to each other. On the one hand, it was argued that the only way to proceed in life is through a steadfast resolve to never succomb to moraly dubious actions to maintain ones dignity. That the ends will never justify the means. While on the other hand it was argued that sometimes corruption is a way of life, that the only method to achieve any end is through actions that may be considered questionable. This stream of thought considered that sometimes the ends do indeed justify the means. Personally, I sided with the latter. While the ideology that the ends never justify the means is the epitome of ideologies in a perfect world, I think that the flawed nature of our world means that the this cannot always be applied. I believe situations do exist whereby what people may consider a questionable action such as accepting or offering bribery is indeed the only option to achieve a desired result. For example, in a country where bribery is common place, an individual may desire to build a hospital that will improve social welfare, but the political system means that to be granted permissions a bribe must be offered. For me, not doing everything in my power to ensure the permissions are granted would mean a failing of my values, the ends here would justify the means. This is a very tricky topic however, does this put an individual on the path to complete corruption, or would such an assumption be a cruel stereotype that all individuals do no have the morale fibre to know when they will be going against what they believe in. For me, such actions will not guarentee the complete corruption of an individual.

Now, moving on to something different. Learning. How much have we been learning? The last presentations of the week enlightened me to the extent that which I have personally leart from my personal reading, and from my colleagues. I did not think I was as knowledgable about this presentation as the previous ones, I felt in some way unprepared. But once I started talking, it all made sense. As questions were asked at the end, I was able to participate in answering these question in an informed manner! For me, this showed that we have learnt far more this week that we are actually aware of and filled me with confidence that in the coming weeks, I will be able to apply this knowledge to my PMA.

As for the end of the week, once again, epic. The first MBE social gathering went off smoothly and I was amazed with the turnout. Seeing everybody together and enjoying themselves demonstrated the comradery present within our course. It made me thankful to be part of such a dynamic group that works so well together. We are all on this journey to excellence together.



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 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.


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