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March 10, 2008

A bit feeling

Today I get the mark of the LE' PMA, it is a bit better than the PMA of PPE if it was not reduce the mark for the delay submiting. But actually I was feeling the LE' PMA is better than PPE's.  In the PMA of LE I was using lots of original centense which directly citing from the book or journal. So in the LE's PMA, I was avoiding do this as possible as I can. I do like the Paul said, read the paragraph what I need, think it and close the book, then write what I remmember, what I understand.  But I forget to write where I cite or which book inspire me, I also need to write the author and year behind this centense. I still lose some chance to improve my assignment of LE, and actually it is not difficult to do it. I can not say anything by myself.  Maybe this is a self- assessment process. But this process goes so slowly. I should hurry up.

How to Manage Knowledge

Karl Wiig described three "pillars" for knowledge management: survey and categorise knowledge; appraise and evaluate value of knowledge; and synthesise knowledge related activities. Recent work from the University of Amsterdam (Robert van der Speck and Robert de Hoog) increased this to four, focusing on the activities of conceptualising, reflecting, specifying and reviewing.

Knowledge management covers the following:

  • identifying what knowledge assets a company possesses
    • Where is the knowledge asset?
    • What does it contain?
    • What is its use?
    • What form is it in?
    • How accessible is it?
  • analysing how the knowledge can add value
    • What are the opportunities for using the knowledge asset?
    • What would be the effect of its use?
    • What are the current obstacles to its use?
    • What would be its increased value to the company?
  • specifying what actions are necessary to achieve better usability & added value
    • How to plan the actions to use the knowledge asset?
    • How to enact actions?
    • How to monitor actions?
  • reviewing the use of the knowledge to ensure added value
    • Did the use of it produce the desired added value?
    • How can the knowledge asset be maintained for this use?
    • Did the use create new opportunities?

Life Cycle Performance

To improve total life cycle performance, this is one of the elaborations in EFQM regarding asset management. It is a very interesting and yet familiar idea. I often hear company put a lot of focus on product life cycle management, but less on the life cycle performance of their asset.

The two concepts both have life cycle in them, however I find the perspective is rather different. Frequently, product life cycle is taught in the way of 4 stages of introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.  Yet, it is infrequent to mention product recycling with the stage of decline. Most frequent, it is new technology, new innovation, and the introduction of a next generation product being associated with. I wonder if it is this model gave the proper reason for buying or upgrading to the new and the latest.

On the other hand, management of life cycle performance through maintenance and utilisation, and the consideration of life cycle cost prolongs the usage, conserve the energy, and protect the environment.

Maybe organisations should consider more life cycle costs when developing new products as environmental friendly can also be revenue generating. It doesn't have to be new! 

March 09, 2008

Why Asset Management Is More Critically Important Than Ever Before

Why Asset Management Is More Critically Important Than Ever Before

by Anthony R. Kane

The following article was adapted from Tony Kane's speech to the Asset Management Peer Exchange, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration, in Scottsdale, Ariz., Dec. 1 through 3, 1999.

Why is asset management important? Why is it more important than it has ever been before? What's new about it? What is different? Why do we need to focus on it?

My premise is that we are in a rapid period of change. Change is all around us -- in our political system, in our economic system, in our institutional relationships, in technology, in public attitudes, in our customers' expectations. We not only need to be a part of change; we better be leading the change. Otherwise, we will be following; we will be falling behind; and we will not have the support that we need for highway programs in the future.

We must establish a sense of urgency. In his book Leading Change, John Kotter from Harvard talks about a series of steps that are important in focusing on change, dealing with it, and managing it. The first step is coming to grips with the importance of change and realizing that there is a need for urgency. I say that now is the time because we have a real need and a real a sense of urgency about asset management.

We in federal and state highway agencies must now think about ourselves a little differently. In this workshop, we heard a presentation about a program (six-sigma) that has never been used in the public sector, but it is used in the private sector because they worry about the bottom line, they worry about margins, they worry about how much money they have to run their business, and they worry about how much profit they are going to make.

Well, we have businesses too. We have invested a trillion dollars in the highway system. Think of yourselves with a multibillion-dollar balance sheet. Even the smallest state has that. The largest state probably has a balance sheet that is at least $100 billion.

Well, do you think we ought to be responsible for that? Do you think we ought to be checking how well we are doing? What kind of rate of return are we getting? Should we report to our stockholders -- the drivers in our states and those who pay for some of our services as they pass through.

Well, it's time! It is time for all of us to look at the assets we have in a different way. We should look at ourselves as a business, responsible for billions of dollars of assets. What is your corporate report each year in terms of how well you are serving your customers with those billions of dollars of assets?


Maintaining and operating the existing highway system

with its more than 6.4 million kilometers of roads and

about 500,000 bridges is the focus of asset management.

Asset Management Is Quality Management
Truly, to me asset management and quality are two sides of the same coin. For example, quality awards, such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, are based on quality in leadership, strategic planning, information systems, process improvements, management and development of your human resources, focus on customers, and bottom-line business results. These same "qualities" are required for effective asset management.

To have effective asset management, the top leaders are going to have to be focused on it. You are going to have to be committed to it. You are clearly going to have to have good information systems. You are going to have to understand all the processes that you have. It requires a thorough examination of what you are doing, what you are managing, what you want to get out of all your assets, and how well are you serving your customers. This is clearly the quality framework.

A very fascinating and intriguing aspect of asset management is its multidisciplinary approach. We are finally blending our economic skills and our engineering skills to work effectively across multiple disciplinary boundaries within our own organizations. It is having our finance people and our budget people and our planning people talking to our pavement management and bridge management staffs so that what evolves into multiyear programs emanates from sound asset management considerations and trade-offs. Information that comes from a variety of management systems is integrated across the disciplines, and the finance and budget people and the planners are working in sync with the asset managers.

Fortunately, the tools of our information age help us to coordinate and cooperate more easily than we could in the past, and that makes it easier for us to adopt and embrace the concepts of asset management.

The Dynamics of Our Highway System
If we look at the highway program itself, there are two general areas that influence our discussions on asset management. The first area is our evolution from building the system to maintaining and operating what we have, and we have a very large system -- more than 6.4 million kilometers of roads with about 500,000 bridges as part of an investment of more than $1 trillion. Second, we also have had changes in our institutional governance. Let me focus on both of those dimensions.

Clearly, as we take a look at changing from expansion to preservation and operation, it is a new ball game. Asset management clearly covers the full gamut of preservation and operation of the system -- the whole range from preventative maintenance to reconstructing the system while placing a strengthened emphasis on operations, including traffic control operations, freight operations, and customer service.

Asset management truly embraces myriad considerations. For example, think about how long and frequently your highway system is "open for use" so you can focus on whether your incident management system is working well, whether your snow removal is working well, whether your construction processes avoid tying up the traffic lanes as much as possible, and whether your traditional congestion-relief measures are really working well. What processes are involved in the operation of your system, and how well is it operating?

AASHTO and FHWA are not establishing any mandates. We will work on technical products. Your shareholders and customers are the ones who are going to demand that you focus on asset management.

Obviously, these and similar issues are very important, and we can see that national expenditures are moving toward more efficient operation and preservation of the existing system rather than simply expanding capacity.

Another major influence is the change in transportation roles for the state and federal governments and for the private sector. A recent report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) explains how state departments of transportation (DOTs) are altering the size of their operations and the way they are structured. They are decentralizing programs and project management. They are coalescing some support service functions. They are streamlining operations and moving more toward performance-based operations -- not only in specifications, but in the way they do business and manage their own resources. And there are a whole range of public/private ventures, including a general trend toward increased privatization. Outsourcing is becoming much more common; many states contract for more than 90 percent of their design work. Several states have performance-based maintenance contracts and management contracts; as an example, the District of Columbia has a contract to have the private sector manage their entire portion of the National Highway System. So, the evolving roles of the public and private sectors are influencing our view of asset management by redefining the way the assets are going to be managed and who is going to be managing them.

This evolution of roles is going to continue, and asset management is clearly not a stagnant endeavor. We must embrace it, understand it, and commit to using asset management.

A Historical Perspective
As we ponder the changes occurring now and in the future, it is worthwhile to remember that these kinds of changes in highway management and operations are not a recent phenomenon.

At the end of the 19th century, the Good Roads Movement was started by the American Wheelmen, and they were not men who drove cars. They were bicyclists. They were the ones who got to their state legislators and asked for better roads. So, remember them and what they accomplished as you think "back to the future."

The 1920s were a golden age. The rallying cry at that time was "move the farmers out of the mud." You have all seen a picture in which the road was nothing more than a muddy path with a car or truck stuck in mud up to its axles.

In the 1950s, with the initiation of the interstate system and the federal highway trust fund, there was a focus on construction and new ways of doing business.

The 1960s and 1970s saw everything from the environmental movements to a change in focus on resources. Governments around the world began switching from Keynesian economics with its emphasis on employment and government spending to influence aggregate demand to being more worried about balanced budgets and deficits. They became more focused on paying for what you get, on managing systems better, and being more responsive.

As we jumped into the '90s with new emphases on intermodalism and comprehensive planning, we also evolved into the preservation era.

As we look out to 2050, what might we see? I do not know, but think about our history of evolving public/private partnerships and changes in the way we manage our systems. We may or may not endorse the evolving, possible New Zealand model with a couple of private, competing road companies owning and managing our roads, but who knows? It is going to be a very different game, and we need to be ready for it. We need to be nimble. We need to adjust. We need to adapt.


Changes in highway management are

not a recent phenomenon. For example,

at the end of the 19th century, the Good

Roads Movement was started by the

American Wheelmen, who were bicyclists.

I contend that a good asset management framework is understanding what you have, its value, what you need to do to make improvements, the marginal gains from different investments and from different things you do to that system, and the whole host of players who are involved in managing the system. You need to have an integrated focus. You need to have a database system. You need to have the engineering and economic analytical tools. You need to have the methodology to understand that system.

As we move into the 21st century, think of your organization as a multibillion-dollar corporation. Your stockholders are going to ask: What have you done with those assets? What is your rate of return? What have you gotten? What kind of marginal gains have you made with those assets? What will they be worth next year versus this year? How much have they depreciated? What is their value now? What have you done to enhance the value of your assets? What is the economic value of that system?

Now is the right time to think about it, to focus on it, to work on it.

We are working hand-in-hand with AASHTO. They have asked us to be partners. As we looked at our own organization and reorganized in January 1999, we created an infrastructure core business unit (CBU). Vince Schimmoller heads that CBU, and within that CBU, we created the Office of Asset Management, headed by Madeleine Bloom. We pulled together our economists, our engineers, and our pavement and bridge management system folks into a unit that can hopefully help the state DOTs to develop new concepts and provide technical assistance in the areas of system management and preservation.

AASHTO and FHWA are not establishing any mandates. We will work on technical products. Your shareholders and customers are the ones who are going to demand that you focus on asset management.

The shift in emphasis from "building" to "operating" systems is entirely in sync with the concept of asset management. FHWA was originally organized in the era when we were building the highway system, but now we need a stronger focus on operations. So, we pulled together our traffic management folks and our intelligent transportation systems (ITS) staff to form a new Operations Core Business Unit, headed by Christine Johnson. Within that core business unit, we created a new Office of Freight Management and Operations.

Today, a good asset management system is more important than ever before because there are more players involved in that management and we have to have the right tools. We must understand everything about our assets. We must communicate effectively because government is no longer alone in the management of public assets; we have a lot of private partners as well.

"The times, they are a-changing." It is time for asset management to be a significant part of the changing nature of state DOTs. The bottom line is that you can either be part of the change -- lead and shape it -- or follow it and perhaps be forced to live with something that will not meet your needs. The choice is yours!

Anthony R. Kane was the executive director of the Federal Highway Administration. He is a long-time advocate of integrating economic and engineering disciplines for effective asset management. He has a bachelor's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in civil engineering, a master's degree from Northwestern University in transportation, and a doctorate of business administration from George Washington University.

Knowledge as Asset?

Asset management is a broad topic, especially when asset is no longer a term only limited to physical asset. People more and more frequently using the term like Intellectual Asset Management, Intangible Asset, and Intellectual Capital.

This new trend, new economy, or even new value creation, has recognised by many intellectuals such as Peter Drunker who frequently used the term knowledge workers, knowledge organisations, and knowledge economy. The landscape also dramatically changed, since the proliferation of technology in particular information technology. According to research, prior to 90s 70% of U.S.A.'s investment went to tangible goods and some 30% went to intangibles. However, today the portion has inverted.

It is perhaps most noticeable in the stock prices,  the relationship of market value and book value was more than 6 times by the end of 90s in comparison with 1 time in the 70s. For some companies, especially IT firms, about 90% of their market capitalisation was in intangibles. Some, such like Skandia tried to visualise this change of value creation, and made an attempt to give a sounding explanation to their shareholders and the public at large. Skandia has included a series of supplement to accompany their interim and annual report through out the late 90s.

Skandia Market Value Scheme

However, since bust of dot com bubble in 2001, and the late crisis in financial industry, how much does the intellectual asset and capital contribute to the creation of value is remain to be justified. (Surely, such asset/capital is an very important and critical factor for any business. ) 

March 08, 2008

Benefits of Outsourcing Facilities Management

Outsourcing is transferring business processes from one company to another. The concept is to have the management or day-to-day execution of one or more business functions performed by a third-party service provider who is already in sourcing those same business processes. A parent company uses the outside firm to provide a business function that could have been done in-house. The aim of outsourcing is to make the business or organization more competitive by staying focused on its core competencies.

Benefits of outsourcing:

• The company functions on a continuous or ongoing basis rather than on any specific single project.
• It enables companies to focus on their core business function. Outsourcing takes care of ancillary functions in part or in totality. This optimizes the company¡¯s growth based on its core or specific business.
• Reduces operating costs by focusing on major business area. This way, the capital funds always remain available for the core business instead of being diverted to other supporting portions of the business.
• Improves productivity and service by standardizing all operations and processes across your global portfolio. The outsourcing vendor manages your global portfolio comprehensively, thus increasing the lifespan of your portfolio.
• Outsourcing when taken off shore gives you access to world-class capabilities. You can leverage global resource networks to support your business. It gives you another perspective or dimension to the existing business for more efficiency.
• With the shrinking world and cross-culture across the world, it helps employees to assimilate efficiently in changing the working environment.
• It fosters and sustains an exceptional safety culture, emphasizing training and employee morale.
• If done on same premises/country, it provides an alternate career option to employees.
• Creates flexibility with the facilities to even provide support in times of industry uncertainty.
• Speeds up work, shares innovations for best practices. You can maintain competitive edge with new ideas.
• Reduces risk and increases productivity.
• Frees many resources for other purposes for enhancing or expanding your business in other directions.
• Companies can save 10-20% cost on an average with outsourcing.

Additional Benefits of outsourcing:

• Renewed focus on core business.
• Improved customer satisfaction with improved processes.
• Risk reduction due to reliance on experts and infusion of new technology.
• Project enhancement and effective cost management through financial engineering.
• Renewed opportunities for employees with skill upgrade and access to newer skills.
• Visible cost reduction and avoidance of capital investment.
• Asset conversion.

Value derived from outsourcing facility management

• Value and savings gained. This occurs during initial transfer from in- to outsource as they do the job much more cheaply because of the availability of huge manpower and similarly larger global business.
• Increased focus. The management time and resources previously used on managing the facility can be used for research and development projects.
• Increased flexibility. It can eliminate fixed overheads and physical plant ownership, thus cutting costs.

Outsourcing, besides cutting costs, can build a virtual large company with a large work base with the entrepreneur as the sole employee.

the power of writing

There was again some discussion on reflection and blogging. Paul used the words "the power of writing", which I liked very much.

There was an Chinese idiom or phrase, which can be loosely translated as "half understanding of a subject" or some times as sciolism(which I doubt if it is the suitable translation). This happen to me very frequent, especially when I first learn something. Some times I wonder if this perhaps has something to do with my nature, as it can be impatient.

To overcome this, Paul has encouraged us to reflect on what we have learned during the day (or night). Use the form of writing blogs to let the writing to inform the thinking. I do fully agree his point of view and perhaps I can think of some reasons why I was not so diligent on this practise.

      • maybe somewhere down there, I still treated it like a chore thus delay and completing it until the last minute.
        • I felt like to write up some elementary school's homework or a pupil essay, which developed no deep reflection into the subject
          • did not habituate myself to blogging as a daily practise
            • sometimes certain topics require some effort and time to digest and decomposite before writing anything 

            Seems, the first 3 are some sort of attitude problems, and actually the last one makes blogging and reflection as an effective technique to support the process of comprehension.

            One of the two things my grandma tried to get me started as a child were: making notes/comments while reading, and write a journal or diary. I didn't seem to make any of those two. Hopefully, it is not too late to start on reflective blogging. (which can be sort of a combination of both and more)

            March 07, 2008

            having a plan

            This seem to be one of the central theme of asset & knowledge management. I suppose it is true for any managerial topics. It is clear without a plan, how can you waste resources in such magnitude. Watched the documentary "No End in Sight", the coalition force went to Iraq without a plan(or having a plan but without execution). The result is devastating.

            On the other hands, there is comparison being made regards to the speed, scale, and cost of construction between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Beijing Terminal 3. BAA definitely used much longer time to plan. Was this effort worthwhile? Maybe it will be more clear after 2008 Olympics?

            The new chief economist and vice president of world bank, Mr. Lin is also advocating "Crossing the River by Groping the Stones" which means less planning to some extend. However this is based on the assumption, that there is almost none or very limited experiences.

            Perhaps the PDCA cycle, in fact should be starting with a DCA and than followed by a continuous PDCA. Either way when experiences is acquired, without studying and planning, these experiences are wasted. An inadequate management of knowledge resources.

            March 05, 2008

            People & Knowledge Managment

            There are two views or perspective of knowledge. One view it as a entity, the other sees it as an integral part of people. I think both are valid, and there is hardly any clear line of it.

            I suspect the context of KM in this module meant both. However EFQM 4e perhaps meant the management of knowledge as a entity, since EFQM 3b covers the management of knowledge as an integral part of people.

            Interestingly, with different perspective, different courses also being developed on knowledge management. There are university which taught it as more of a extension of IT (Cranfield?, Middlesex, Westminster, Southampton), and there are some taught it more as a extension of HR (Lancaster).

            I think both approach are valid, but when organisations think about knowledge management, may be they need to consider the following:

                • Volume or Scale
                  • Efficacy & Efficiency
                    • Complexity
                      • Knowledge Life Cycle

                      March 03, 2008

                      Partnerships and Resources

                      Paul gave some example of how each module covers all the sub criteria of partnerships & resources. It really made me wonder for a while, if this is the case. Maybe when EFQM developed, they used boxes to help illustration. However, the more I know it, the more it sounds like a black box for me. For each, so much is covered and contained, and every parts is inter linked and even overlapped. It is always clear when you look at the model, which seems so simple. Yet when you read into the elaborations of each sub criteria, there is always something more perhaps can be included.

                      Luckily, only the asset, information & knowledge part will be covered. They are all seen as part of resources, one way of categorising them. For the company I worked for, it was very much event driven kind of business. Most of the resources were simply consumed and than acquired. I wonder for the company lives in patterns of behaviour or systemic structure, would they be more proactively managing the resources and even developing the resources?

                      (Maybe I wasn't being fair, to a extend we did manage or develop our resources from time to time. However that is only in the case where is an top-down initiative or external demand such as inspection visit.) 

                      February 05, 2008

                      a thought derived from model of deployment

                      I remember guest speaker Mr. Goodsell from PPE, matched CMMI to the process box of the EFQM model in his presentation. I didn't think about it too much at that time, as CMMI is process oriented. However, Mr. Higgis's model of deployment for six sigma gave me another thought on this.

                      In the model of deployment, he said six sigma only provides a measurement, and it is other success factors which provides the change. He mapped all these success factors as the enablers of excellence. It reminded of me something, CMMI perhaps is a bit more than a process. 8 out 22 CMMI process can be matched to policy and strategy, people, partnerships & resources. Perhaps this should not comes out as a surprise for me, since CMMI is intended to improve the capability of the organisation. Interesting to note, there are some studies on how to use CMMI as framework to improve capability and use six sigma (actually statistical analytic tools) to measure it. (many are software companies)

                      activity substituting for achievement

                      Follow-up to Mao Tse–tung from Luo's blog

                      A recent conversation with former colleagues made me realised why many improvement projects are destined to fail from day one.

                      It is said there are two ways of keeping yourself in the job as a manager.

                      • consistently showing excellent performance
                      • or constantly having troubles

                      First case, is easy to understand. Second case, the reason behind is that: so nobody wants anything to do with the mess, and in turn you keep yourself safe.

                      Another thought would be, the second case is perhaps more likely to keep yourself in the job  than the first one. It is much easier to keep yourself look busy for many good reasons. So in turn, we see many initiatives. For many, activity substituting for achievement becomes the key for survival.

                      Perhaps now I know why they say six sigma is a old wine with new bottle, simply because the demand by the management at large. They need something new, something fresh, which can solve all the problems they have. Sadly what they really don't want is having all of their problem solved (If we assume that there is a tool, technique or methodology which can solve all of our problems), because for some this is why they exist at the first place. And you can hardly blame them, can you? They are always seeking for improvement, ain't they? It is only bad luck that they did not succeed in any of them.

                      Many problems can trace their root back to the management, can't they? 

                      people vs. process

                      Dr. Deming once estimated  that about 94% troubles belong to the system which is management responsibility, and 6% troubles are special causes which can be attributed to people.

                      Interestingly, the guest speaker Mr. Williams said sometimes in certain industries when they are doing good, they think they are smarter than the others. I was not too sure he was trying to imply the aerospace industry or the financial industry.

                      However, one of my friend, she graduated from Warwick with top grades a few years back. Naturally, she joined one of the biggest investment bank which always ask the best people.  She was assigned to Asset Based Security, as they demanded the best out of the best. Just before the subprime mortgage are making a crack in the industry, she moved from the London office to Hong Kong, but a different bank. Friends asked why, she replied, limited opportunities in mature markets and too much pressure from the top. Recently, thru her blog I read, her boss told her the following "we demand more from you".

                      If I was told the same thing a few years ago, I would agree with her boss. However, now I take it from a different view. What her boss might not know is the level of significance of individual effort under the current circumstances. (Sure, she might be slacking a bit, which is unlikely based on what I knew her from the past.) You do not need to be an expert to realise the situation with the financial industry is rather caused by the system than any specific reason, do you? However, it seems people who have been there and had their own merit bet on the line, are often trying to think otherwise.

                      January 31, 2008

                      paper helicopter

                      seems all our experiment are somehow related to aviation. this time paper helicopters. was to keen on the factors, and i guess the ratio approach sort of made the problem more complicated. didn't quite get the matrix right, however we were lucky that this effect was rather limited, since the interaction did not significantly change the result predicted. perhaps should sort out ABC first in the right order next time instead of jumping into calculations.

                      robustness, i think i must didn't quite understand the word before. lots of things became more clearer today for me. why the products of the company we worked for was performing fantastically in Germany, but failing at a crazy rate in china. my initial thought was that the product was not that stable, and it is perhaps the MD covered something up to save faces. on the contrary, the product was really good on the other side of the world. what I assumed wrong was they are performing under the same sort of condition, which is not. this difference had a great impact. the noise produced by the environment must had significant impact on the product at the tuning stage, as the product is constantly adjust towards that environment, and made it less robust. I think we must had a wide variation as well, that's perhaps was the reason why we need to adjust the product to fit the specification under certain environmental conditions.

                      January 30, 2008

                      contingency theory

                      Rather a backtrack, I guess I spent too much time on contingency theory in the leadership PMA. (Or maybe in fact, I have spent too much reading things, 14 books in total was taken out of the library. Now it seemed to be a very unwise decision) Could not use it after all, don't know that is a side effect when you read too much or too less. The opinions on Fiedler's contingency theory is largely divided. Some says there is a number of studies that have failed to find support for the model. There seems to be also frequent changes and uncertainties in theoretical positions during the early years. Even after applying meta-analysis which rescues the theory in the 1980s, some part (octant 2) still presents potential problems. support for the theory is considerably stronger when laboratory studies are used than from field studies. The explanation given by Fiedler himself also sounds like a post hoc adjustment in the theory to make it fit the data approach. I guess it is fair to say that there are remaining problems with contingency theory and further adjustments and elaborations are needed.

                      January 26, 2008

                      12 Lessons from Business Masters

                      Stumbled upon this article a few days ago. I think it is really useful so here I am sharing it.

                      12 Lessons from Famous Business Masters

                      January 23, 2008

                      Variation is everywhere

                      In our first class of the 6Sigma module, we talked about variation, which is present everywhere. We can define variation as the extent or degree to which something changes, that may or not be controllable or predictable.

                      I would say that if variation would not exist, life would be so boring. Just imagine, in our example of getting to work in the morning, if there was no variation: The way would be the same everyday, nothing new to see, nothing exciting, in a word: monotonous.

                      That’s ok for life, but in business?

                      Business has nothing to do with adrenaline or enjoying changes, because everything have consequences on costs, instead we have to know the natural variation of a process and strive for keeping it under control, or with low variation. As Deming says, "If I had to reduce my message for management to just a few words, I'd say it all had to do with reducing variation."


                      The key task for us is to make people in the organisation understand that it is normal that a process varies but in some extent and also that there are natural and special causes for variation. The job for engineers is to control the processes and to identify the causes that are generating such behaviour, but without blaming someone. We have to focus on the process not on the people.

                      December 02, 2007

                      The practice of Excellence Models in multi–national companies(?)


                      World map with the sizes of land area relative to the country's GDP wealth - from Worldmapper

                      Apparently, I put a question mark there in the title because I am not really sure myself. And I just don't seem to be able to find the answer to that.

                      This question came up to me as I was pondering about in the EFQM manual and how it can be applicable in my home country (Thailand) a few days ago. To my knowledge and what we have concluded in one of our PPE seminars back a few weeks ago, I gathered that probably the most influential factor in the selection of an excellence model to use as a guideline is a geographical one.That seemed logical to me at the time but what about those multi-national companies that have their branches operating pretty much in every corner of the globe?

                      Is it possible that they practise different models accordingly to their geographical location? If so, then how would they have a shared vision of the future - because I believe that even though every excellence model are very similar at the core of their principles, "similar" means that there are still differences and these difference (though it can be ridiculously small) will result in a different vision. To some companies this may not be a problem but big companies just cannot stand to risk anything just because it is regarded as insignificant due to the multitude of money associated with the operations of these companies.

                      Now, to hypothesise from the other side of the possibilities, it may be that these companies stick to just "one" model and use it regardless of where the branch is located. While this may solve the above mentioned problem, another one arises. How would the company comply with the model that the particular country - where the company's branch is located in  - is using? I have a feeling that there is probably a simple answer to it but I just cannot come up with any - gotta blame the gloomy Sunday morning.

                      November 29, 2007

                      RE < C


                      Yesterday Google announced RE<C (Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal) which is its initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources wherein the aim is to make it cheaper than coal. I am happy to see big companies jumping on the green bandwagon since, considering the level of damage we are doing to this planet, every little bit helps. And considering the size of Google, its claim of pouring tens of million into R&D and possibly hundreds of million on investment to follow up doesn't seem too far fetched at all. However one would have to understand that even though Google's motto is "Don't Be Evil", there is just no way that it would be doing anything feel-good whilst not making tons of money from it. This is not to say that Google is not doing "good", in contrary, it is doing good and and the same time taking care of its "society results" with the image boost that will definitely come with this - What's not to like there?

                      So, in relations to academic matters, I believe Google will contribute a large chunk of case studies for my dissertation project which, apparently, is about renewable energy and its effect on the use of EFQM. It may not seem very clear at the very start how this will link to other elements in EFQM apart from "society results" but I hope it will be come clear as I dig deeper into the subject matter.

                      PS. Want to save the earth the easy way? Try Blackoogle. Blackoogle saves energy due to its prodominantly black screen. An all white web page uses about 74 watts to display, while an all black page uses only 59 watts. Taking that Google has roughly  200 million queries a day and the page is displayed for 10 seconds,  we are talking about a power saving of 8.3 Megawatt-hours per day. Talk about little things in life!

                      November 27, 2007

                      Here's To The Crazy Ones

                      Here’s to the crazy ones.
                      The misfits.
                      The rebels.
                      The troublemakers.
                      The round pegs in the square holes.
                      The ones who see things differently.
                      They’re not fond of rules.
                      And they have no respect for the status quo.
                      You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
                      About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
                      Because they change things.
                      They push the human race forward.
                      And while some see them as the crazy ones,
                      We see genius.
                      Because the people who are crazy enough to think
                      they can change the world,
                      Are the ones who do.

                      (Apple's Think Different campaign in 1997)

                      This inspirational advertisement always pops up in my head eveytime I think about anything related to leadership. Maybe it is just because I am just an Apple fanboy wannabe who is under the influence of His Highness Steve Jobs' RDF - for those not in the know it stands for "Reality Distortion Field" - but I really believe he is an epitome of an excellent leader and his contribution to the company's success is evident throughout the world. This ad was a part of Jobs' campaign to resurrect Apple from its financial oblivian at the time of his second coming in 1997; Jobs founded Apple but later on was forced to leave his own company by the board of directors - read more about it here. Having gone from hero to zero in the early stage of his life and to actually come back and bring the company to where it is today is just remarkable. With regards to Paul's water bucket - Steve Jobs, in my humble opinion, has got one really big hand.

                      November 26, 2007

                      Leadership and The Art of Delegations

                      The CEO from Thailand that Paul mentioned about this morning reminds me of Cao Cao - one of the warlords in China's Three Kingdom era.

                      The art of using people, in my humble opinion, is at the core of leadership by any definition and Cao Cao's stance towards his men examplifies how it influences effective leadership.

                      Eagle and Tiger

                      "It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice." (Deng Hsaio P'ing)

                      This quote effectively summarises Cao Cao's delegations of his people where his view is that it matters not whether a person is a theif, a  disabled or even a murderer - as long as the person can help him archive his goal the person is worth using. Also worth mentioning is his analogy on different ways to treat different people. He ultimately compared his workforce into 2 distinct types - tiger and eagle. Cao Cao said that a tiger needs to be well fed and always have full stomach so that it will not turn against the owner while an eagle is to be fed scarcely so that they will always obey and return to the owner and not fly away with full stomach. This idea may seems very simple but in practice it is very complex since human is neither eagle nor tiger. The key to this is to be able to determine whether a person is full or not.

                      November 11, 2007

                      That happens in Columbia…

                      Maybe you’ve heard of a country called Columbia, which is all about drugs and illiterate people who live on the mountains… well, that’s Columbia, a place that doesn’t exist in real life! Colombia is a completely different country, is amazingly beautiful, and diverse. If you want to know about this place, watch this video, where you can see real people and images of Colombia.

                      October 21, 2007

                      The Wind

                      Saw this clip in the morning and fell in love with it. Very heart warming and at the same time it is about   something I am really interested in - renewable energy. I believe that renewable energy is the way of the future that is, unfortunately, underappreciated in most parts of the world. Having watched the clip I then looked up the company's website and found out that the company not only deals with the wind but also many other renweable energy sources such as photovoltaics and bioenergy.

                      THIS IS MY DREAM COMPANY!!! 

                      Digging deeper into the site I noticed that the company's philosophy consists of many elements which I have become famaliar with in this past two weeks  such as trust, innovation, commitment to the environment and entrepreneurial spirit. I then begin to wonder if the company follows any of the excellence models or not and since the company is based in germany I suspect the model would be EFQM. After about an hour of searching the best I could come up with is an article written in German that contains the words EFQM and Voltwerk AG (the company's recently changed its name a few years back) and I do not think that is helping much.

                      I  really feel strongly about working in this field and I hope I can bring "excellence" into the mix. (hmm...why do I suddenly sound like I'm writing a CV or something but anyways...)

                      Let's just hope it's not too late to cure mother earth.

                      October 17, 2007

                      Saved By The Bell (literally)


                      Quite funny, wasn't it? That while we were amidst our catastrophic start of the first of our presentations this morning the fire alarm went off and saved us from humiliating ourselves - literally saved by the bell. It feels somewhat let down to face the fact we have a very very long way to go to even achieve an acceptable presentation, let alone a decent one. I guess this is what one has got to go through on their way to excellence so I'll just need to keep my head up and see it through.

                      One point I noticed about myself after having gone through quite a considerable amount of seminars and presentations is that I am quite incapable of following through the points I have made. I believe that I am a quick thinker (this may come out as if I'm full of myself but I hope you understand what I mean) but, after having expressed my opinion, I usually fail to come up with an elaboration to help clarify the point I have just made and I would just go with the usual "hmm, uh,.....yeah". Will a year at Warwick help me me find my voice? That we'll have to wait and see.

                      October 15, 2007

                      Traffic Tracking, Presentation and Procrastination


                      Thanks to Hiren I have somehow managed to embed google analytics' traffic tracking HTML code into this blog. Hopefully, this will motivate me to blog more frequently (apart from those 10 marks from Paul ;-)   ) since I will be able to see the popularity (or a lack thereof) of my blog and know where in the globe people are reading my blog from. 

                      On to the topic of our presentation last Wednesday, I believe that we performed quite well for the given time frame and I am really proud of the fact that we are the only team that includes real world examples and referenced our sources - even though most of them are from the internet. That being well and good I think our major let down is that we did not look close enough into the comparison of excellence models. Looking on the bright side we did not crash and burn (or did we? :D ) and many thanks to Paul for being so generous and hanging in there with us.

                      Last thing I want to mention today is that I passionately loathe procrastination for I have been, all my life, haunted by this procrastinative habit of mine. THIS HAVE GOT TO STOP!   I know changing a life long habit is not going to happen overnight, or even a month, and it will not be easy. But as it was once said by M. Kathleen Casey , and I quote, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."