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April 19, 2011

I think I have grown

I was re-reading a part of The New Economics (Deming, obviously!) for some project work, and I read something that made me think of a blog entry that I wrote a reeaaally long time ago. In fact, it was my first proper CBE entry... I invite you to check it out: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/yanikjoshi/entry/and_so_it/

With all the talk of win-win environments we've had lately, it's particularly relevant, especially the comments section - feel free to comment on it if you like, it'd be fun to re-open that discussion. Reading back on what I thought at the beginning of this course, it made me realise just how far I have actually come in the last 6 months. It's quite astonishing actually! KBAM really did draw a lot of stuff together for me.


April 05, 2011

I'm seeing the connections

I have to learn to stop being surprised by things that Paul says to us, which then go on to be true. Some of you may remember that he mentioned in our introductory KBAM session, that last year's MBE group found that this was the module where everything came together for them. Maybe it is because he said this, and so my bias has taken over and I have been looking, but for the past week, I have been seeing the connections everywhere, and when least expected. I feel like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind (although hopefully a little less crazy - I'll let you all be the judge!).

For example, from CBE, the topic of organisational learning is vital to future asset management strategies. There's little point in getting assets in order unless you have developed the capabilities to continue to do so. From PEUSS, we are using the ideas of considering the product and our assets in a life cycle management approach, so that we can get the best possible use of them for ourselves and our customers. Risk management is also relevant. LE's influence is clear to everyone in all we do, particularly for those of us who volunteered to be leaders, but certainly also for everyone who has taken the time to consider the role they play within their team, and whether they want to be a star, fan, walking dead or urban terrorist. It also taught us about how to implement strategy. RDM has made us aware of our biases, and how assumptions we make impact our results, as well as methods for making the hard decisions on what to do with our assets, in an organised way. I could think of examples for the others, but I think you get the idea! ;-)

I think that the only EFQM enablers we haven't looked at directly are people, and partnerships. And people have been covered indirectly in pretty much everything we have done anyway; they are inseparable from the system! Not to mention we have OPP to look forward to... (and MOC still for me!) As for partnerships, well they haven't been ignored either exactly - there was the option in the CBE PMA, they featured in FACS and could well be a part of KBAM, especially if we decide to outsource. Not to mention that my project is focusing on them to a degree...

Ladies and gentlemen, we have the tools! It might only be April, but I feel it is incredible how good an overview we have of so many aspects of business and management. I've said it a lot, but I'll say it again - doing this MSc was the best decision I ever made.


February 17, 2011

The surprising science of motivation

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

I decided to write about motivation today, after watching this video, during my break from doing research on the same subject! This is particularly relevant to performance appraisal, and the mini-project we're working on regarding it. You should watch it before you read on.

So, the speaker presents the case for intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, and in a powerful, convincing way. Carrot and stick (reward and punishment) motivators just don't work, at least for the majority of tasks. The reason for this is the kinds of things we do now require THINKING, not just mechanistic, zombie-like, ability. He says it best at 6:30, financial incentives might work, but only if the problem to solve is 'for dummies'! It doesn't work.

Let me repeat. THESE THINGS DON'T WORK!

What I don't get, is if the science is quite clearly there, why do organisations and managers continually try to go the other way? It's been repeatedly proven, around the world, in all kinds of situations, that pay-for-performance actually achieves a NEGATIVE effect, and yet, this news seems not to have made it up to senior management in most companies.

Knowledge is not being made use of; in fact, it is being actively ignored to the detriment of excellence. Deming is turning in his grave...

I haven't gone into what does work here, but the video covers it pretty well I feel. I'm thankful for companies/leaders who learn and then think, like Google, Atlassian, Semco, or the likes of Vineet Nayar.


December 07, 2010

The best Learning Organisation experience I've ever had! – An epic tale

Doing my PMA on LO's got me thinking about whether I could claim to ever have had a true experience of anything like that, prior to joining MBE, which of course is nothing if not an organisational learning environment for us all. 

Senge's Fifth Discipline spoke of how most of us at one point or another in our lives have been part of a team that may not have been much to start with, but learned together and went on to be extraordinarily excellent. I looked back at my life: I couldn't find much in most of my jobs (excluding maybe my present one which certainly demonstrates a lot of the characteristics), or in sports teams I have played in. There were maybe a couple of times during school or at uni where certain group projects, but these were often short lived. Just then, a really striking example hit me: my band at Warwick, The Black Dogs. I really wanted to share it with you all. This is going to be a long one, so only stick around if you have some time! :P

We started in my first year here (so, Oct 2007). A few of us, with varying musical influences (from classic rock and blues, to indie, punk and funk) got together, wanting to form a band. Most of us were self-taught, and had a really strong passion for our instruments because no-one had ever made us learn, we just desperately wanted to (personal mastery in action). Also, most of us had never played in a band before! It started slowly...

We ran for a year, trying to come up with original songs, doing cover versions, but not really getting anywhere. With hindsight, I can see that time wasn't wasted. We were learning. About ourselves, each other, the local music scene, and all the while, our ability to play our instruments and write music together was improving.

But it wasn't quite working - we were limited by two of our members. One (the bassist) wasn't committed, missed practices and was always late. Why? I'm not sure. He was what we referred to in CBE as the 'walking dead'. We tried to turn him around for about 6 months, but at that point, we could all see (systems thinking) he was holding us back. Moreover, he was rarely willing to compromise on his style to work for the benefit of us all. He had to go. Another (the drummer), maybe wasn't quite up to it. Again, his style conflicted with the rest of ours, and technically, he wasn't proficient enough for our purposes. To boot, he had a fear of playing live! While a keen member, he knew it wasn't working either, and chose to leave. There are no hard feelings between any of us, I still see them both around campus to this day. The drummer even helped us in another capacity - he later designed our logo.

So we were left with a big hole in Jan 2009 - ask anyone, a rock band with no rhythm section will struggle! Myself as lead guitarist, a very close friend as the vocalist and rhythm guitarist, and another on keyboard. I had always been the one playing the leader/facilitator role - I set out to head hunt some new musicians, with the benefit of now knowing a lot more people on the scene. We re-branded at this point, changing our name to what it now is.

I quickly found a new drummer, a fresher who'd been playing for 15 years (aged just 19!) and proved to be a whirlwind behind a drum kit. It took a lot longer to find a bassist, but through contacts, I eventually managed to do it. We all got together and jammed, and it seemed promising - the new guys clicked well with us, their influences and styles were so much more similar. I can now see that our mental models were better matched, not just musically, but also in what we wanted out of the experience.

As a band, when they joined, we had two songs complete, after a year. Within the next three weeks, we had another two complete, and had booked in for our first gig, as well as entering the university's Battle Of The Bands competition. Talk about transformation! What happened in that time you ask? I can barely explain it, everything just started to work. We met regularly, whether to practice, or to socialise and plot our domination. As I mentioned, our mental models matched closely, and with some further surfacing and improvement, we were able to align them even better. Our influences narrowed from what they were initially to something new, a compromise that worked for us. We had broken down barriers between our mental models and created something new - a shared vision, built together, that we were all serious out succeeding in.

And, oh the fun we had. I can't explain it really, but in and out of the practice room, we just clicked. We had worked out what our system needed to thrive, found it in the right people who gave us the foundation for our ballsy, bluesy, folk rock. Jamie and Nick (the newbies) could lay down a groove together, to match something Pem had written. Pem, Nick and myself could adjust the rhythm and melody to fit the song. Dan and myself could then embellish with lead parts, onto which Pem projected his fantastically strong voice. The result, an adding of value on a remarkable scale, from the sum of our instuments and skills to music that meant something to us (and others) on an emotional level. It felt good!

That year, we went from nothing to reaching the semi-finals of the Battle Of The Bands competition. We also made a name for ourselves and were invited to play many more gigs. That was repeated last year, although we reached the finals of the competition instead.

My overall experience. We went from something I had dreamt about as a teenager to one of the more popular and successful bands at Warwick last year (I know, it's a small pond!). I never really had the knowledge and awareness of terminology to understand what had transpired naturally there, until now. If you like, you can listen here: http://www.myspace.com/theblackdogswarwick

I recommend you turn the volume up.

Have any of you ever been part of an LO? Are you often hoping to be again, or wondering how you might re-create those conditions? Tell me your story! And thanks for reading this epic!


December 04, 2010

Finding your own way

The time is nearing for submission of the first PMA. I am a little worried - I lost about 2.5 days of work this week due to illness, which has left me with a lot more to do this weekend than just the final editing, formatting and reflection writing I had planned. Still, it's coming along.

One thing I have found time and again with this topic is that there are so many potential definitions of what Learning Organisations and organisational learning. Every time I come across a new one, I start questioning what I previously read on the subject. While this is a good thing, it is also extremely annoying! It has lead to a lot of false starts, and the need to find new information to back up new ideas I have found. Also, it becomes ever-more clear that perhaps the reason for this is because no Learning Organisation is ever the same - they are all unique, so what applies to one will have very little to do with another, for the same reason that TPS only really works for Toyota.

So, to become one, and pursue excellence through the various possible frameworks, possibly the biggest challenge during the self-assessment process is working out what separates your company from others. Understanding those differences might be the key to transforming successfully. You have to trust yourself to find your own way to excellence, if you ask for the directions someone else took, you'll almost certainly end up in the wrong place and lost. There is no real prescriptive approach.


October 28, 2010

A Reflection On CBE

I really enjoyed the module - from the Vineet Nayar podcast to the module evaluations, I always felt challenged and interested to know more. This is the first time in a long time I've really felt like this, at least for such an extended period of time. It HAS to be to do with the learning and class environment, which is so utterly different to most of the rest of my education. I wonder if others have found this to be the case too?

Speaking of Vineet Nayar, I was tidying up all my materials from the course, and decided to replay the podcast. If you havn't listened to it since the first day, please do. You won't learn anything new - but it's a nice reminder. Then, go here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/business/14cornerweb.html?_r=1I felt inspired to know more about HCL Technologies and Mr. Nayar, and this transcribed interview (linked from the HCL homepage) is fantastic!

I get the feeling that we're all very much still in the 'learning how to learn' stage, and I'm sure we all will be for a while (maybe forever...). I'm enjoying it, but looking forward to the point where it becomes second nature. For example, I'd like to be able to create a reference without feeling the need to check it using the APA format page (although, what a great learning tool!) - it sort of gets in the way of the learning process a bit. I could say similar things about finding journal articles or the critical thinking process. Practice will inevitably make perfect in this case, and being able to automatically apply what we learn through PMA's and projects to real-life situations in a year's time could have huge effects on the path of our careers.

On the subject of becoming unconsciously competent at things, whenever class discussion turned to this, I couldn't help sniggering and thinking of that old Donald Rumsfeld quote. At the time it came out, I thought it was hilarious and somewhat stupid, I didn't gain a true appreciation of it till last week, but what a way to summarize! Here it is:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - - the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones."

Anyway, a final thought - CBE, and perhaps MBE altogether (although it's early to tell) is in my opinion, EFQM Excellence principles applied to the classroom. Graeme (Knowles) alluded to this during my group's presentation on Organisational Learning last week. Effectively, our tutors are CEO's, and we ARE their Learning Organisation. Continuously self-assessing, learning from mistakes to improve ourselves and thus our results, all in a process lead by our seniors, but relying on our willingness to partake, all within an atmosphere of curiosity, trust (assessing our own projects) and forgiveness (when we make a mess of a task, as MBE-A did with the comparison of excellence models). Looking back, it's hitting home just how much of that was going on. I look forward to a day when it's my turn to put this into practice.


October 18, 2010

Seminar 1 – Motivating Employees

How would you handle employees who are dormant and passive or active and negative?

I think motivating people can be achieved in two main ways: rewards, or inducing fear. I personally prefer the first approach.

Having worked with children quite a lot, I always found that encouraging them to do something they didn't want to do suddenly became a lot easier when they might get a treat out of it. They would turn their attitude around, as they had a goal to aim for. They really wanted the sweets/ice cream, and they'd try their hardest in order to get it. And they'd do it again, in the hope they might be rewarded again. But if you tried the opposite approach, i.e. you told them to do something, or they'd be punished, you might get a response out of them, but it wouldn't ever be enthusiastic, neither would they care too much how great the result was. They would want to avoid punishment, which became their main goal, but they resented being cajoled and bullied into doing something they didn't want to do.

I'm not saying employees are like children who most be guided; that would be patronising. But the example is a microcosm of human behaviour, and good managers must be able to guide employees to get the best out of them, particularly in the identified situations. The pessimistic approach effectively assumes the worst of people, and only recognises people's basic motivational needs (as per Maslow's Hierarchy). I think that generally, better managers would take the positive approach, and target the higher end needs as well, such as self esteem, as these will lead to a far more fulfilled workforce.

So, once the approach has been decided, how do you tackle the two groups in question? For the first, I think you have to excite them about what they are doing, show how they can be involved and are important. By raising their energy and passion, their willingness to get more unto it may also increase. Arguably, the second group is harder. If people are actively negative, they have energy, but are directing it the wrong way. Turning that around would involve very careful management, and I think you'd have to talk to them to get to the root of the problem.

I think ultimately, you can't allow individuals to bring down the organisation, and if people are unresponsive in the long term, and not good at their work, you might have to fire them. But I don't think that threat should ever really be used as a motivational tool!


October 11, 2010

And so it (really) begins…

Quite an interesting day today. I'm not surprised by that, if that's what you were thinking, just commenting. I imagine there'll be many more like it to come with this course. Paul is better than most previous 'lecturers' or even teachers that I've ever had, at keeping my attention (especially considering I was somewhat sleep-deprived!). I suppose that's partly because the classes aren't exactly conventional. We're free to speak up and make a point at any time, or ask a question, and if no-one does, we're usually prompted to at regular intervals anyway. I much prefer this more interactive method of learning to being talked 'at' as I have been for most of the rest of my time in university.

Of course, this is one of the reasons I chose MBE - I was hoping for something genuinely quite different. To digress from talking about the module for a moment, I want to say that I think the way my generation takes in their information has changed from what might have been the case with our parents, or even 5-10 years ago. We've grown up with a rich, interactive tool - the internet - which allows us to find information almost instantly, on almost any topic. This has allowed us to indulge in idle curiousity, but also reduced the need for a long attention span in some respects. For me, and certainly many of my peers, but not all, it is pretty hard to successfully take in information in a lecture situation. The problem might not lie with us - there's a great Confucius quote that springs to mind: "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." That pretty much sums it up for me anyway, and the interactivity of MBE really appeals to me for that reason. The 'doing' - in this case, always having the opportunity to engage in active discussion helps me to remember and understand.

Then again, some of the viewpoints that came across during the post-video discussion grated with me a little. To catch you up, we began looking at Creating Business Excellence today. We watched a great and inspirational video about W. Edwards Deming, a man whose work I've come across before, but never really looked at in depth. It seems he was the father of modern-day quality management theory. Clearly, he's been an inspiration to Paul, who's been showing that video for 20-odd years (along, perhaps, with adopting his haircut :P). It invoked a lively debate about the merits of trying to get the best out of workers by empowering them, versus treating them as drones doing extremely specialised tasks. Perhaps you can tell which side of the argument I fall on? I've always been somewhat socialist in my tendencies, and I'm sure I might get accused of it here (if anyone is actually bothering to trudge through all this drivel...;-)), but it seems to me, that following the Google model of engaging as many brains as possible is bound to lead to greater overall success than leaving all the decisions up to a few elite managers who dictate how everything else should run, when they are not experiencing the difficulties of workers, and are therefore clueless as to how to truly improve processes, but merely spend their time running 'quality' tests as per Deming's red-bead experiment.

To the gentleman from India who considered workers to be disposable, or "a dime a dozen", I couldn't disagree with you more. In my opinion, you're gonna get a lot more out of happy people who enjoy working for you, who like the challenges they face every day, and are well-renumerated, than you ever will from those who are nervous about being fired for having an opinion or getting out of line, etc, just because everyone knows someone else could do it for cheaper or in worse conditions. The whole point we are discussing is EXCELLENCE. You're never going to achieve it, if your favourite practice exists in a race to the bottom, where low labour costs are your goal. Karthik raised the point that it IS about low costs - people want cheap t-shirts, and giving workers the time to think lowers their productivity. That's true, but they know their process better than anyone. If you gave them the time to think, and empowered them to the point that they'd express that opinion to you, don't you think a few of them might occasionally come up with something that could save you a whole lot of money anyway, and give you a happier, better workforce in the process. Everybody wins. Kind of.

Someone else asked if Paul thought this utopian organisation existed, where everything was just as he described it should be. To that person, I think you were missing the point. Perfection, or the ideal, is of course, unattainable. The process to find it, and get close to it, is why you're doing this degree, and a worthwhile goal itself.

Finally, just a quick word about my group for the tasks ahead. We met briefly earlier, and laid out a plan of attack for the next few days. I think we'll work well together - everyone is nice and friendly, and pretty onboard with the idea of working co-operatively. At this point, I couldn't ask for much more :-)


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