All 3 entries tagged Organisation
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May 29, 2011
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.
December 07, 2010
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
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.