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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 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.


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 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.


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.


March 31, 2011

To manage assets, you must manage knowledge.

I stumbled across one of the major links between knowledge and asset management today. It might sound really obvious, but assets generate information! To effectively manage assets, be they property, machines, people, etc, you need to have a way of dealing with the flows of important information surrounding them, and of converting that into knowledge that is useful, and an aid to your decision-making processes. This is where the Knowledge Management comes in.

It's not just that you're managing assets based on knowledge and theory (which you should be anyway of course - theory is the basis for action), it's that the assets themselves need continuous monitoring/maintenance/support and all of this generates information that must be handled appropriately for effective use later. For example, for a single component of a machine you own, you must: record the decision-making process that led to purchase, the cost, market and book value, likely depreciation values, how often it needs maintaining, what kind of maintenance is required, its productivity, etc. Now, if you scale that up, that needs to be repeated for every machine you have. In every factory you own... that's a LOT of information, and this is just one small area of asset management!

Even then, as we have previously discussed, that's a small part of the battle. It's fair to assume that you require more than just one person's input in your asset management. If you had a small operation and you didn't, life might be a little easier. But, assuming you do, because the operation is big and there is too much for one person to consider, then you have fresh problems, because it is no longer just about making sure the information is collected and occasionally used; no, you have to get past communication barriers. And we know that while this isn't too tough with explicit information, it's much tougher with tacit information. Even with just two people managing all assets, an incredibly high level of communication would be required for effectiveness, and with every extra person involved in the process, it becomes even harder to sustain!

And yet it is vital that you do have a lot of people involved, or else, you completely lose access to the huge volumes of tacit information within them, as well as their buy-in and consequent compliance or interest in 'your' (not 'their'/'the company's') asset management policies.

So it appears this is the challenge: Knowledge and Assets are inextricably linked in this way, and you need to manage both effectively to succeed. Wow... good luck to us all... no wonder KBAM seems so big!


March 29, 2011

It feels different this time…

Group work for the KBAM project has begun... and it is daunting. Asset management is HUGE! Knowledge management is also a vast topic, but I haven't quite got there yet ;-) Of course, we know that this is like a PMA; with 40 hours each (so, 200 as a group), you can only go to a certain level of depth. It is clear though, that you could easily make a full-time job out of any of the aspects we have discussed briefly today.

As for the task itself, well I think I have a bit of a Leadership hangover. Volunteering for leadership of this task may prove to be a great decision, it may prove to be a bad one if I can't cope with everything and let the team down. That is unlikely - I think I am stronger than that, but something about this module feels different to previous ones. I don't know what it is. Perhaps the positional power that comes with the task, and has my team members looking to me for direction (which I like), or perhaps it's the extra responsibility I feel for the overall outcomes that we have to deliver in a few weeks (which I also like, and in fact, I thrive on). Perhaps it is the fact that the scope of the task is just so much greater than anything else we have come across on this journey to critical autonomy. By the way, with this task, and how most of us have dealt with such an open-ended, real-life parallel, situation, it is clear that we are well on our way to having developed this responsibility. I'm reminded of what Paul told us yesterday - last year, this is where the students found everything coming together.

So far, it is going well. We have discussed the background of our company, and almost all of us have now directed ourselves to areas of interest, for further work. We have briefed each other on our achievements, and we seem to have developed a good working structure - I think this will be of great benefit to us as time elapses. I'm relaltively pleased with my role in that so far - I learned a lot from LE, and am trying to put it into practice. I've made a point of planning our time, short and long-term, and I've done my best to make sure everyone understands what we have to do (vision), and is happy about how we are going about it, through asserting my timings, but giving everyone the freedom to work in a way that is best for them. 

I am also really pleased with our team - it is solid, we have a good work-ethic, and I already feel confident that we will be pleased with the effort we've put in, and the results we've achieved, when the time comes to self-assess.

One thing I have really been trying to push is our wiki-usage. I think, this task, there is no way we can be successful without excellent knowledge management of our own. There is just too much information to handle otherwise. And the irony of the challenge is not lost on me; we only have to communicate and keep control of this vast amount of information for three weeks. Real organisations have to do it for as long as they plan to operate... and there is a lot more at stake there too!


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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
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