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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.


April 28, 2011

Variation in Decision–Making

Here is a link to an interesting BBC News Magazine article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13213667

I think, by now, we are all quite familiar with the concept of variation, and how you need to get a system into a control before you start thinking about making changes to it (;-), so the material will not be new, and does not need to be explained. I do, however, want to think about the applications to decision-making. It is essential to be aware of natural variation, even with our intuitive System 1 decisions, or representativeness bias can come into play, and cause havoc. It can cause further problems through anchoring if later decisions are built on this.

The article cites the example of the movie boss who was fired after some poor films, only for the ones that came out soon after (which she had started) to do really well. Had her manager understood variation better, he would not have made the terrible decision to throw away a STAR, for pretty much no reason.

I'm glad we had the benefit of PIUSS (and pretty much all of the other modules) when we took RDM. Doing it this way allowed us to take advantage of what we have learned to date to understand the impact some of the heuristics and associated bias can have, and highlights the importance of knowledge in the decision making process. This links even further with the way we approached the KBAM in-module work. Coming back to RDM, I don't think that understanding of variation was particularly relevant to the decisions we actually had to make, especially since there was so little data, but the principle that you really need to understand something before you can do something about it carries over. Our approach to analysing the situation mainly involved TOWS analysis and the BCG Matrix, which may have had a strong impact on the systemic way we framed the three decisions.


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 18, 2011

The end of KBAM (and MBE… kind of)

That's seven modules done now, and the last core MBE one as well. It seems amazing that we've done so much, and gone through so much, already. Where has the time gone? It was quite sad leaving the classroom after the presentations, knowing that there's a decent chance that all of us may never be in the same room again. I will definitely miss a lot of my MBE brothers and sisters - I'm a lot closer to you than I was to most people I did my undergrad with.

KBAM was easily the toughest challenge we've faced. From the start, when we clueless, right up until now, when we know just how clueless we really are! I enjoyed the leadership role that I got to play - frustrating as it was at times. I think I fostered a good working environment for the team, and the team paid me back big-time, with a lot of commitment, energy and enthusiasm when it was required. Thank you guys, it was a pleasure to work with you all!

As for the presentations - well, as would be expected with such a wide topic, different leadership styles in the mix, and everybody making wildly different assumptions, the variation in approach of each team was huge. Ede's team did a great job in terms of bringing linked solutions to the board, rather than just recommendations. Janet's team covered some content in great depth. Awal's team had a really nice approach, considering assets from the point of the view of those working in the company, as oppose to within the asset management areas. And we had a fine balance between theory, and practical suggestions, as well as a really dynamic vehicle for it, courtesy of Prezi (which I will be using almost exclusively as of now). We were lacking in having an integrated recommendation, and I think all but one of the teams struggled to fit their presentation in the time allocated, which is not something we've had a problem with before! I guess that gives some scope as to just how much there was to cover.

The feeling I have coming out of the module is one similar to that which I had at the end of LE. I couldn't possibly say what individual things I have learned - but instead, I have a profound sense of something having shifted in me. I'm not looking forward to the PMA - it's going to be LE all over again ;-)


April 14, 2011

Communication is key to teamwork

The title might sound trite, and obvious, but it has been an interesting cognitive realisation for me the last few days, working on the KBAM task. We were having real trouble for a while. We had all been working on the different parts, but when it came to linking it all together, there was a sense that we were utterly lost. How do you about combatting this, with such a huge task in front of you?

Happily, our approach soon became obvious to us. We really needed to TALK to each other. Like I said, that sounds obvious, but it can be really hard to do when everyone has different areas of expertise, and everybody is mainly interested in their own work. Once this became clear to me, I realised we were committing the ultimate sin - there was no systems thinking going on! We were going to end up with sub-optimised output.

Well, I'm the leader, so this was my fault, and I tried to set about correcting it. We wrote all the different areas that we were working on, on the board at once, so everybody in the team could see every area that we were trying to cover as part of our presentation to the board. At this stage, I told everybody to forget their sections, but look at the areas that everyone else was working on, and spend a few minutes asking each other person questions about what they were working on, and about areas of intersection between topics. In this way, we started to build up a picture of the system as a whole, and we could start making higher quality assumptions and deciding on plans together. The task became about the imagined reality of WaveRiders, and no longer about underlying theory. I feel like this was an important breakthrough, without which you would all have been facing a pretty disjointed presentation on Friday.

It is an important reflection for me. A criticism I have of LE is that every leadership opportunity was short-term, even in the mini-projects, because everyone was leading a project, and we switched between them quickly. This was why I was keen to take the role in KBAM - it's an extended, much more challenging test for me. You feel real elements of pressure when things are not going well, and as much as you might try to distribute leadership, you always feel the weight that little bit more.

So, in summary, goodbye Point 9, hello Point 14. If you're as much of an MBE geek as me, that will make perfect sense to you...:P


April 13, 2011

Asset Management and Lean

I was thinking earlier, that asset management is effectively everything you have to do in business, that isn't directly what you are trying to do in business! What I mean is, it is everything but the product or service that you offer, and the processes or functions that support it. It is one of the most important business enablers, and to do it well is something of a skill. In fact, the Institute of Asset Management has this to say:

"Asset Management is the art and science of making the right decisions and optimising these processes."

Also, "the management of physical assets (their selection, maintenance, inspection and renewal) plays a key role in determining the operational performance and profitability of industries that operate assets as part of their core business."

So with all this in mind, I started thinking about all this in the context of lean, which admittedly I don't know much about. The way I understand it, the purpose of lean is to minimise waste in the system, such that anything that is not directly adding value to your product in the eyes of the product should be avoided. My question is, does this have implications for excellent asset management, or are you having to compromise on an excellent approach because it is not directly improving products for the customer? If this is the case, what is the point of expending money on things like health and safety, or better security, which I happen to think ARE necessary, but don't seem to add value.

Maybe I have some misunderstandings about lean, but it seems like an interesting area of conflict. I feel like I must be wrong, because Toyota seem like a pretty excellent company to me, and were also of course the creators of lean production. But, I bet there are also plenty out there who are actually reducing their own capabilities too.


Situationally–aware leaders, and the reason I'm always late.

Yesterday's session made me feel a little uneasy about being a leader in the future. We all saw some of the terrible things that happened when people are not properly aware of their surroundings, and the bad decisions or poor judgement that this can result in. Obviously, these people are responsible for their own actions. However, we also discussed that leaders hold a great level of responsibility for the working environment they create. If the team fails from a business perspective, that is likely to be down to them to some degree. But, imagine if you were a leader, and someone working for you died on the job. How terrible would you feel? How scary a thought is that. That makes me question whether I want the responsibility of leadership. I know it's an extreme case, but we saw over and over again that these things can happen. What are your thoughts on this? I'm really curious.

Also, we spoke about the errors people can make, relating to: information gathering, interpretation, and anticipation. I wanted to apply this to myself, and decided to analyse why I am so often late by just a few minutes. There are probably a lot of reasons, and this is likely just a simplification, using this model, but I figure it's worth a shot! Is it about gathering of information? No, I don't think so - I'm quite organised, and I pretty much always know what time I am meant to be somewhere, or what time the train leaves, etc. Is it about interpretation? Well, no I don't think so, I always think about what I have to do, how it all fits together, what time I have to leave in order to be somewhere, etc. I think my problem is anticipation - not just for this, but for a lot of errors I make, I tend to be an optimist, and rarely think about the worse case scenario. This results in leaving things to the last minute, assuming things will take the minimum amount of time that they could, not being able to think ahead about sources of so-called 'randomness' in my day, like stopping to talk to someone on the street, or getting an important email, or the air in my bike wheels being low and requiring pumping, etc.

So why am I unable to learn this? To understand the upper and lower limits properly, rather than just assuming the lower limits will apply to me. I think it comes down to poor judgement, and there are perhaps a lot of different internal biases I can use to explain. For example, the representativeness heuristic - I don't seem to understand the underlying statistics, and always assume that lower limits apply to me. This could be due to overconfidence bias. I also seem to have a short memory when it comes to being late - I think that I'll learn, it won't happen again, and I make the same old estimates about how long things take. This is anchoring at play. And why don't I ever learn? Perhaps it is the curse of knowledge - maybe I tend to think looking back that it was a simple certain reason, that I won't make the mistake again, and that I don't need to change approach. Hopefully, developing this thought on the blog will help...

Linking back to leaders and situational awareness - I think that bias can play a part in all three types of error. I have only shown the ones that apply to me, and for anticipation at that.


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  • 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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