All entries for May 2011

May 29, 2011

Redundancy in KM

While reading one Nonaka's papers today, I came across the concept of redundancy, i.e. conscious overlapping of activities, information and responsibilities, which is very common in Japanese companies. It has negative connotations of waste, and it is easy to argue that it is not as efficient since there is duplication of effort. Still, it is not necessarily a bad thing if the duplication of effort is channeled in a collaborative way. Nonaka makes the point that building in redundancy like this increases the level of communication and dialogue about issues, since more people are involved. These extra connections can lead to breakthroughs in understanding or insight in my opinion, and I have three examples.

The first goes back to the KBAM in-module work. My group was struggling for ideas on what to do. We decided to write various aspects of what we working on, on the board for everyone to see. This led to numerous conversations about the links between each person's work. By doing this, redundancy was found - we were able to see where things crossed over and since everyone had different viewpoints, this led to creativity, and ideas for approaching WaveRiders asset management is a unified way.

The next is about the Lego task in OPP this past week (sorry to those of you who were not present, this might not mean much). We were working on dismantling and reassembling a model, using only our own memories and drawings. Guy mentioned that most teams did it by splitting the work, but that another approach was to have everybody do everything together, drawing or memorising every connection. He mentioned this was slow, but likely to result in success eventually. I guess you could call it complete redundancy or something. If you remember, then he drew a diagram on the board, of overlapping circles, signifying an approach where everyone has there own part, but their remit crosses with others. This is probably the ideal. I don't know about everyone else, but certainly a problem in my group was that everyone remembered their part, but struggled with how to connect their part back to the overall model. Had we extended the scope of 'our part' to the connection, and created some more redundancy, it would have been much easier to complete the task more quickly.

Ok, the last is not technically about knowledge, but I think it demonstrates the concept well. Remember, we talked about redundancy in PEUSS, as a safety mechanism to build in reliability or robustness into design. If one area fails, something else is there to cover for it and protect the system from failure. In the case of knowledge, if one person doesn't recognise something important, but other people are engaged, they may spot it, potentially leading to realisations that can be passed around the organisation, perhaps saving money or time.

The Environmental Knowledge Circulation Process (EKCP) in WaveRiders?

The EKCP is a version of Nonaka's SECI model, adapted for environmental knowledge management purposes. Socialisation, externalisation, combination and internalisation, are replaced by Creation, Accumulation, Sharing, Utilisation and Internalisation. The EKCP however is considered more like a never-ending process of continuous improvement that helps companies to gain a competitive advantage through excellent KM. Essentially, it combines the tacit knowledge gained from employee experience, the explicit knowledge learned from environmental tasks, and, supported by appropriate environmental management information systems, to improve team efficiency when it comes to solving environmental problems.

Is something like this applicable to an SME like WaveRiders? Certain literature would suggest that it goes beyond the means most SME's have, to implement something like this. However, going beyond the cost of software (and the often hidden cost of reviewing and maintaining the knowledge repositories regularly), I believe this is something that almost any company can do if there is enough support for it. Particularly in the case of a company like WaveRiders where there is so much call for good KM in terms of maintenance, health and safety and other forms of asset management, that it might be possible to combine them all to great effect, as in the TP00 system developed by China Steel Corporation, which successfully integrated ISO9001, ISO14001 and OHSAS18001 (quality, environmental and health and safety management, respectively).

May 23, 2011

Environmental Knowledge Management, and applying MBE to reality

I have not yet started writing the PMA, but after 20-odd hours of research, I am struck by just how wide the scope of it is. This is not a surprise - the module was more than capable of pointing this out to us all, but there is just so much you can do, you sometimes feel a bit lost about which way to go. In this respect, it reminds me of the LE PMA. It's easier because the question is a bit more focused, but also harder because there is so much you can potentially do when advising about asset management. And this is just in one field!

Environmental management is big enough. The area of Knowledge Management is just ridiculously huge, almost like leadership theory. Fortunately, the crossover area of these, seems manageable, but even it has it's own subset of Environmental Knowledge Management, which sent me on another wild search for literature...

Still, I am convinced we have the right approach. Having begun OPP today, and hearing even more from new sources about the transition to a knowledge-economy, which seems to have been taking place for about 40 years at an ever-increasing pace (and yet somehow there is still plenty more that can change), I feel ready to be part of that. I was thinking about all my undergraduate friends who are currently revising madly for their final exams. I feel so lucky not to be amongst them - not because I am averse to hard work, but because they are largely wasting their time! Sure, they'll get their degree out of it, and that is an end in itself (it might be hard to get a job in the knowledge-economy without one), but for all their hard work, some of them will not remember the material in a few months, and most of them will never need to use it again.

Meanwhile, you and I, while sick to death of asset and knowledge management, leadership, excellence, or whatever, will be able to perform any task asked of us in a few months' or years' time. If we don't know how to do it already, we sure know how to learn to do it. I think this is SO MUCH more valuable in the long term. However, I feel PMA-fatigue and I'm glad that I don't have another module. My project is a burden at the moment, but one that I think will lighten when I get a good run at it. Don't get me wrong, I've loved this degree for the most part, but I, for one, am itching to test myself properly. 

What I am looking forward to now is starting work and seeing how everything I've learnt can be put to use in reality. I've heard and read about the idealised theory, and seen some of my tutors and classmates shoot them down as unrealistic - I'm tired of being called naive for thinking any of it can work, just because I haven't worked in that kind of environment before, even when there are so many examples that it can. I feel ready to go out there and try things. There's been enough talking, listening, reading and writing for me. I want to be doing now. I want to contribute to the creation of an organisational environment based around knowledge-share, that makes me some money and improves, but does even more for society.

Don't tell me I can't - I don't believe you ;-)

May 18, 2011

Opportunities for KM

One of the first things that came to my mind when we were given the PMA was that it was going to be really hard to identify appropriate ways to implement knowledge management for certain types of asset management, such as within certain areas of Facilities Management, or Environmental Management (EM), which was the one I had planned to work on. I chose that to work on because I find it a really engaging area, and I couldn't immediately see how KM might be best applied. I wanted the challenge, and it made sense because I had already done quite a lot of work on EM within the in-module work.

Obviously, because it is a tricky area, I decided to mitigate the risk of choosing it, by only allowing myself a few hours to work on it, and if some relevant ideas had not been presented in the literature, I would abandon it, and move to another area. Fortunately, this has not proven to be the case - there are so many opportunities for KM within EM. In fact, good KM is pretty much a requirement for many EM tools such as Life-Cycle Analysis (different to Life-Cycle Costing), where you need a huge amount of data in order to estimate product impacts over the life-time. Additionally, another vital use for KM comes in the design stage, when you need a multi-disciplinary team composed of designers, engineers, manufacturers, executives, marketers, etc to come together and share and communicate a huge amount of data and information, to develop successful products within a Design for the Environment framework.

I think one of the big challenges of this PMA will be to find good examples of how this has been done effectively in industry, and also examples of where such initiatives have failed.

May 12, 2011

Management of Change – A Reflection

The management of change simulation has provided me with a lot to think about. It was a process in which I became a lot more aware of the impact of my feelings on situations I am involved with. There were numerous problems throughout the simulation, which have provided plenty of learning points for managing myself and others, through the change process.

Feelings were an interesting aspect of all this. To be honest, I see myself as someone with reasonable emotional intelligence and control over myself (I rarely get angry), and more than able to work with most people in most situations to achieve desirable outcomes. Thus, it came as a surprise to me to experience such strong emotions, ranging from excitement, curiosity and energy, to annoyance, frustration and outright anger, all in such condensed time frames. Of course, these were all functions of the situations we were put through, and the problems we faced during the simulation.

For example, I was originally a bit disappointed to be assigned the position of ‘packer’. For a long time, I failed to grasp that this didn’t need to define me completely, as evidenced by not doing anything if there was no packing to do. It was only after being reminded that I had done this, at the end of the first day, when I began to question why I believed I had such a limited scope. In reality I could have just moved past it, and enacted the change I wanted to see anyway, rather than complaining to no-one in particular about it, when my suggestions had been ignored.

I think my original thought process was affected and reinforced by the clear divide between management and the rest of the team, along with a lack of communication and direction that left me feeling a bit excluded and not empowered to do more. This was a fault of both parties. There was nothing stopping me doing more, but leadership also plays a key role in setting up the environment, and this was a bit closed off to non-management on the first day. I like being part of the process, but being outside the communication loop made this tough, especially in the context of change. Upon moving past this mental barrier, I was much more effective in contributing to the group. However, to an extent, the original barrier remained throughout the rest of the simulation, resulting in me not always recognising that there were very few barriers to the things I wanted to do, and following through on ideas was not nearly as difficult as I seemed to perceive.

I don’t think we as a group had serious aversion to change, but there wasn’t enough driving force or willingness at the higher levels, to see it through. On a number of occasions, I suggested to people that we would benefit from rearranging the stock/packing department (as we didn’t need two packers), or changing personnel from one role to another, as they weren’t suited to it, but these were ignored. Perhaps, it was not so much a case of restraining forces blocking change, but not enough driving forces within the group as a whole to see it through, when good ideas were presented.

I now understand that this was to a degree about wishing to stay inside the comfort zone, and not explore other possibilities that might present a risk or threat. I came to the realisation that in the MOC situation, my reputation counts for nothing, since so few people knew me. Because of that, it seemed like there was greater potential for being scared, embarrassed, etc. That made me freeze a little, and I wasn’t able to act normally. My confidence was killed by one mistake, which I was unable to move past straight away. The comfort zone is about confidence and competence, and I felt like I had neither. Because of the ever-changing situation, it always felt like I was on the cusp of unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence in a lot of respects.

On the second day, I had had time to reflect on my performance, and realised that I needed to be more proactive. I had volunteered to be the Union Representative the day before. Overnight, I realised that this was a legitimate avenue to giving me a voice. I called a Union meeting before lunch, where all the non-management discussed the previous day. This resulted in the management being told that we were not happy, and that if the situation didn’t improve, we would be leaving to start a new company. We gave them time to improve as they had put forward some good ideas, but this could be construed as moving back into the comfort zone!

In terms of myself, I think I have realised my resistance to change is greater than I ever realised before. I never considered myself particularly set in my ways, and am usually happy to adapt to change. But, this is reactive only, and I now recognise I need to be much more proactive about this if I want to be excellent. You always have to be looking for new opportunities and be thinking about how to exploit them, if you want to succeed and be at the forefront of anything. I definitely noticed more blue ocean strategy in my thinking by the end of the simulation.

The experience was good overall, if uncomfortable. Being aware that it is stretching beyond the comfort zone is what facilitates improvement is invaluable. Being able to then recognise the panic situations is important too, as it gives you a chance to step back and think more rationally rather than having cognitive processes compromised by panic. This allows you to step past, resolve the situation, and extend your comfort zone to meet future challenges. I have a poster on my wall with a quote which has a lot more meaning to me now: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space”. I think this summarises my learning from MOC so far, quite well.

May 01, 2011

Rewarding Bad Decisions?

I came across some literature earlier, where the author argued that there should be separation between the decision-making process, and the outcome of the decision, when it comes to rewarding decision makers for their work. I think that this makes sense in principle, as his argument for this was that there are many other factors that can affect an outcome, which are far beyond the decision maker's control.

This got me thinking about investment banking, and the high-profile that bankers' bonuses have received in the last few years especially. Bankers seem to receive a bonus regardless of how their decisions have played out. But is this because their decision processes are being measured and rewarded, and these are generally robust and deserving, or is it only due to the culture of greed and not linked to them having a good process? I don't know much about the activities of investment bankers to be honest.

Perhaps there is a case that there should be a transition to this system, if it is not being practiced. I think the public who have been forced to bail-out banks around the world would appreciate this, knowing that at least the practices of the bankers were worth rewarding. I appreciate that investment banking is fast-moving, and the methods we have learnt about might not always be appropriate for that, but it might be a good step to restoring public confidence in them.

May 2011

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Most recent comments

  • Nice examples Yanik, especially the second one from OPP that shows that the redundancy of knowledge … by on this entry
  • It was interesting to consider Nonaka's view of human resource redundancy as an knowledge asset and … by on this entry
  • Hi, Surya. I agree with you that human being get extremely paranoid now. It is extremely unfair to u… by on this entry
  • I really like the way you have coined the term knowledge economy and stuffs with its relative approa… by on this entry
  • Hi, Yanik. Great post here! When I saw the movies 'Lord of the rings' once again tonight, I was thin… by on this entry

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