March 09, 2008

Knowledge as Asset?

Asset management is a broad topic, especially when asset is no longer a term only limited to physical asset. People more and more frequently using the term like Intellectual Asset Management, Intangible Asset, and Intellectual Capital.

This new trend, new economy, or even new value creation, has recognised by many intellectuals such as Peter Drunker who frequently used the term knowledge workers, knowledge organisations, and knowledge economy. The landscape also dramatically changed, since the proliferation of technology in particular information technology. According to research, prior to 90s 70% of U.S.A.'s investment went to tangible goods and some 30% went to intangibles. However, today the portion has inverted.

It is perhaps most noticeable in the stock prices,  the relationship of market value and book value was more than 6 times by the end of 90s in comparison with 1 time in the 70s. For some companies, especially IT firms, about 90% of their market capitalisation was in intangibles. Some, such like Skandia tried to visualise this change of value creation, and made an attempt to give a sounding explanation to their shareholders and the public at large. Skandia has included a series of supplement to accompany their interim and annual report through out the late 90s.

Skandia Market Value Scheme

However, since bust of dot com bubble in 2001, and the late crisis in financial industry, how much does the intellectual asset and capital contribute to the creation of value is remain to be justified. (Surely, such asset/capital is an very important and critical factor for any business. ) 

March 08, 2008

the power of writing

There was again some discussion on reflection and blogging. Paul used the words "the power of writing", which I liked very much.

There was an Chinese idiom or phrase, which can be loosely translated as "half understanding of a subject" or some times as sciolism(which I doubt if it is the suitable translation). This happen to me very frequent, especially when I first learn something. Some times I wonder if this perhaps has something to do with my nature, as it can be impatient.

To overcome this, Paul has encouraged us to reflect on what we have learned during the day (or night). Use the form of writing blogs to let the writing to inform the thinking. I do fully agree his point of view and perhaps I can think of some reasons why I was not so diligent on this practise.

      • maybe somewhere down there, I still treated it like a chore thus delay and completing it until the last minute.
        • I felt like to write up some elementary school's homework or a pupil essay, which developed no deep reflection into the subject
          • did not habituate myself to blogging as a daily practise
            • sometimes certain topics require some effort and time to digest and decomposite before writing anything 

            Seems, the first 3 are some sort of attitude problems, and actually the last one makes blogging and reflection as an effective technique to support the process of comprehension.

            One of the two things my grandma tried to get me started as a child were: making notes/comments while reading, and write a journal or diary. I didn't seem to make any of those two. Hopefully, it is not too late to start on reflective blogging. (which can be sort of a combination of both and more)

            March 07, 2008

            having a plan

            This seem to be one of the central theme of asset & knowledge management. I suppose it is true for any managerial topics. It is clear without a plan, how can you waste resources in such magnitude. Watched the documentary "No End in Sight", the coalition force went to Iraq without a plan(or having a plan but without execution). The result is devastating.

            On the other hands, there is comparison being made regards to the speed, scale, and cost of construction between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Beijing Terminal 3. BAA definitely used much longer time to plan. Was this effort worthwhile? Maybe it will be more clear after 2008 Olympics?

            The new chief economist and vice president of world bank, Mr. Lin is also advocating "Crossing the River by Groping the Stones" which means less planning to some extend. However this is based on the assumption, that there is almost none or very limited experiences.

            Perhaps the PDCA cycle, in fact should be starting with a DCA and than followed by a continuous PDCA. Either way when experiences is acquired, without studying and planning, these experiences are wasted. An inadequate management of knowledge resources.

            March 05, 2008

            People & Knowledge Managment

            There are two views or perspective of knowledge. One view it as a entity, the other sees it as an integral part of people. I think both are valid, and there is hardly any clear line of it.

            I suspect the context of KM in this module meant both. However EFQM 4e perhaps meant the management of knowledge as a entity, since EFQM 3b covers the management of knowledge as an integral part of people.

            Interestingly, with different perspective, different courses also being developed on knowledge management. There are university which taught it as more of a extension of IT (Cranfield?, Middlesex, Westminster, Southampton), and there are some taught it more as a extension of HR (Lancaster).

            I think both approach are valid, but when organisations think about knowledge management, may be they need to consider the following:

                • Volume or Scale
                  • Efficacy & Efficiency
                    • Complexity
                      • Knowledge Life Cycle

                      March 03, 2008

                      Partnerships and Resources

                      Paul gave some example of how each module covers all the sub criteria of partnerships & resources. It really made me wonder for a while, if this is the case. Maybe when EFQM developed, they used boxes to help illustration. However, the more I know it, the more it sounds like a black box for me. For each, so much is covered and contained, and every parts is inter linked and even overlapped. It is always clear when you look at the model, which seems so simple. Yet when you read into the elaborations of each sub criteria, there is always something more perhaps can be included.

                      Luckily, only the asset, information & knowledge part will be covered. They are all seen as part of resources, one way of categorising them. For the company I worked for, it was very much event driven kind of business. Most of the resources were simply consumed and than acquired. I wonder for the company lives in patterns of behaviour or systemic structure, would they be more proactively managing the resources and even developing the resources?

                      (Maybe I wasn't being fair, to a extend we did manage or develop our resources from time to time. However that is only in the case where is an top-down initiative or external demand such as inspection visit.) 

                      February 05, 2008

                      a thought derived from model of deployment

                      I remember guest speaker Mr. Goodsell from PPE, matched CMMI to the process box of the EFQM model in his presentation. I didn't think about it too much at that time, as CMMI is process oriented. However, Mr. Higgis's model of deployment for six sigma gave me another thought on this.

                      In the model of deployment, he said six sigma only provides a measurement, and it is other success factors which provides the change. He mapped all these success factors as the enablers of excellence. It reminded of me something, CMMI perhaps is a bit more than a process. 8 out 22 CMMI process can be matched to policy and strategy, people, partnerships & resources. Perhaps this should not comes out as a surprise for me, since CMMI is intended to improve the capability of the organisation. Interesting to note, there are some studies on how to use CMMI as framework to improve capability and use six sigma (actually statistical analytic tools) to measure it. (many are software companies)

                      activity substituting for achievement

                      Follow-up to Mao Tse–tung from Luo's blog

                      A recent conversation with former colleagues made me realised why many improvement projects are destined to fail from day one.

                      It is said there are two ways of keeping yourself in the job as a manager.

                      • consistently showing excellent performance
                      • or constantly having troubles

                      First case, is easy to understand. Second case, the reason behind is that: so nobody wants anything to do with the mess, and in turn you keep yourself safe.

                      Another thought would be, the second case is perhaps more likely to keep yourself in the job  than the first one. It is much easier to keep yourself look busy for many good reasons. So in turn, we see many initiatives. For many, activity substituting for achievement becomes the key for survival.

                      Perhaps now I know why they say six sigma is a old wine with new bottle, simply because the demand by the management at large. They need something new, something fresh, which can solve all the problems they have. Sadly what they really don't want is having all of their problem solved (If we assume that there is a tool, technique or methodology which can solve all of our problems), because for some this is why they exist at the first place. And you can hardly blame them, can you? They are always seeking for improvement, ain't they? It is only bad luck that they did not succeed in any of them.

                      Many problems can trace their root back to the management, can't they? 

                      people vs. process

                      Dr. Deming once estimated  that about 94% troubles belong to the system which is management responsibility, and 6% troubles are special causes which can be attributed to people.

                      Interestingly, the guest speaker Mr. Williams said sometimes in certain industries when they are doing good, they think they are smarter than the others. I was not too sure he was trying to imply the aerospace industry or the financial industry.

                      However, one of my friend, she graduated from Warwick with top grades a few years back. Naturally, she joined one of the biggest investment bank which always ask the best people.  She was assigned to Asset Based Security, as they demanded the best out of the best. Just before the subprime mortgage are making a crack in the industry, she moved from the London office to Hong Kong, but a different bank. Friends asked why, she replied, limited opportunities in mature markets and too much pressure from the top. Recently, thru her blog I read, her boss told her the following "we demand more from you".

                      If I was told the same thing a few years ago, I would agree with her boss. However, now I take it from a different view. What her boss might not know is the level of significance of individual effort under the current circumstances. (Sure, she might be slacking a bit, which is unlikely based on what I knew her from the past.) You do not need to be an expert to realise the situation with the financial industry is rather caused by the system than any specific reason, do you? However, it seems people who have been there and had their own merit bet on the line, are often trying to think otherwise.

                      January 31, 2008

                      paper helicopter

                      seems all our experiment are somehow related to aviation. this time paper helicopters. was to keen on the factors, and i guess the ratio approach sort of made the problem more complicated. didn't quite get the matrix right, however we were lucky that this effect was rather limited, since the interaction did not significantly change the result predicted. perhaps should sort out ABC first in the right order next time instead of jumping into calculations.

                      robustness, i think i must didn't quite understand the word before. lots of things became more clearer today for me. why the products of the company we worked for was performing fantastically in Germany, but failing at a crazy rate in china. my initial thought was that the product was not that stable, and it is perhaps the MD covered something up to save faces. on the contrary, the product was really good on the other side of the world. what I assumed wrong was they are performing under the same sort of condition, which is not. this difference had a great impact. the noise produced by the environment must had significant impact on the product at the tuning stage, as the product is constantly adjust towards that environment, and made it less robust. I think we must had a wide variation as well, that's perhaps was the reason why we need to adjust the product to fit the specification under certain environmental conditions.

                      January 30, 2008

                      contingency theory

                      Rather a backtrack, I guess I spent too much time on contingency theory in the leadership PMA. (Or maybe in fact, I have spent too much reading things, 14 books in total was taken out of the library. Now it seemed to be a very unwise decision) Could not use it after all, don't know that is a side effect when you read too much or too less. The opinions on Fiedler's contingency theory is largely divided. Some says there is a number of studies that have failed to find support for the model. There seems to be also frequent changes and uncertainties in theoretical positions during the early years. Even after applying meta-analysis which rescues the theory in the 1980s, some part (octant 2) still presents potential problems. support for the theory is considerably stronger when laboratory studies are used than from field studies. The explanation given by Fiedler himself also sounds like a post hoc adjustment in the theory to make it fit the data approach. I guess it is fair to say that there are remaining problems with contingency theory and further adjustments and elaborations are needed.

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