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April 27, 2008

Cat

Visited Caterpillar yesterday, my feelings is somewhat strange. Tom Peters said he can get a sense of the corporate culture within 30 seconds or so after entering the reception area.

There are two things on the wall caught me when I was there. One is six sigma, the other is their run charts. The six sigma  part is quite interesting, they put up all the black belts profile, their projects, and how much is saved by each of these projects. They also put up the DMAIC process with some brief explanations. All these are in the centre of the wall, where people can see it. On the same wall, in the corner, there are some other posters about something called RPI, Rapid Process Improvement, or something like that. I cannot exactly figure out if they mean something similar to Business Process Engineering. What interesting is, there is also an memo from CEO to all the employees to reassure them six sigma is still one of Cat's fundamental business strategies. What more interesting is on the opposite wall, there are a dozen of run charts of things like accidents, accuracy of logistic delivery to storage location, absence from work, stuff like that. All of them are without control limits, and some have a target. I am than in pondering of perhaps what Deming would asked, what are they supposed to mean?


April 25, 2008

semi column?

We finished off with the last day of sitting in classrooms for lectures, seminars, or team projects. We actually only started about 6 months ago, but it seemed to me it felt like for a long time. When looking back all the notes in paper or electronic forms we had, I am a bit astonished how much stuff we have covered. Some of them I would consider very useful, especially in the case of "management of change". Frankly, when Paul recommended this elective to me, I had really not much idea of what to expect. After the module, I gained not only some understanding of what change means but also got a new perspective of how I see myself. I would strongly recommend it to other students as well just like Paul recommended to me.

Generally speaking, I find the way WMG deliver their module contents quite refreshing with perhaps a few exceptions. It is quite different from my previous experience with Warwick where I attended a handful modules delivered by the department of computer science, engineering, business schools, and philosophy. Where lectures can mean dull, or even lifeless. Maybe, my attitudes towards learning also slightly changed? Since last time, it is only after leaving the universities, I suddenly found some of the materials I did not pay much attention to could be quite useful.

Anyways, still have a few PMA to complete and finish off the project where suppose to be the other half of the major learning points:)



April 22, 2008

arguments

In one of the OPP lectures, I guess I was being a bit to argumentative. However, there is some perspective towards the questions I never thought of. The thing interested me is the learning generated from the discourse. Discourse is one of the instruments to explore knowledge in some social science. I guess this is somewhat similar to the notion Paul used, "constructive critique". Some people also believe diversity is a key to create innovation, creativity, and competitive advantages. I suppose, diversity certainly will make certain scope of discourse rather than simply compliance. In the discourse, different perspective can be explored, a deeper understanding will be formed, hence more structure or insight of knowledge is built.


April 21, 2008

blogging

Just noticed that one of Warwick blog banners said "do it, think it, blog it". I guess this coincide with the point where Paul wanted us to write blogs for reflections. I had a look of what I have blogged so far, there are times, I had some interesting thought or question and trying to develop them further, but there are also times that I just simply write down stuff with less meanings and trying to sneak it before the closing gate of blog deadlines. Clearly, what you get from different practises is very noticeable. We are motivated to blog because there are marks tight to it. It makes sense to help us to gain a deeper understanding of what we've learned during lectures, seminars, self-reading and so on. There are also companies using the same tactics to encourage their employees for learn more. I've heard that GE give their employee book money and ask them to write something like a review essay, where more rewards will be given. Sure, any learning is good on individual bases and it will certainly create some positive learning environment for the organisation. Maybe I am a bit conservative on this, but I wonder how tightly this is in alignment with their business strategy. Sure today we value high on innovation and creativity, and the same with knowledge. Knowledge renew perhaps is always an important policy of any organisational HR policy. Hence it is important to create a learning environment. But the point is the policies needs to build up towards the business strategy as it is necessary to cascade it down. The question of GE would be what HR policy they need to have to ensure the individual learning can be consolidated into actions, and how can this be evaluated?


April 02, 2008

Learning & Creativity

Whether knowledge management or organisational learning, much is focused on the learning experiences or gaining new knowledge. Surely, these two topics make us more knowledgeable in many ways. But I still feel there are some gap between knowledgeable and be able to create things. One thing is be able to recite and reuse knowledge does not necessarily mean creation of something new.  Maybe that is why when it comes to the definition of knowledge, some have defined a higher level called wisdom. But I remain puzzled, how do people create things? Surely, knowledge forms a solid foundation for any innovative or creative activities. But this does not directly leads to create something new. Perhaps this gives the explanation why the organisational and ecological is much more powerful than the techno centric approach of knowledge management?


March 17, 2008

Is it about Knowledge?

I have known the term knowledge management for sometime, maybe a bit longer than some of my classmates. However, I often feels that the more I read in this topic, the less I truly know and understand about some of its points. I also wonder if it is still simply about knowledge management any more. There are times we talk about many things I would categorise them under organisational behaviour or psychology. Surely, it is very useful to gain some insights on how people connects with what they know. Maybe this is how we see the connection between our mind and heart? There are also times we talk more about technology. Surely, it is useful to deploy technology and maximise the usability and efficiency gained. But again, it seems people often talks about the acquisition of knowledge but less about the creation of knowledge. How to create knowledge efficiently? Again, this depends upon the definition of knowledge, i.e. whether if there is another layer called wisdom where we explore and create new things in a mysterious way and knowledge is simply some re-usage of the existing. What's next than? Wisdom management, I wonder.

March 16, 2008

Knowledge

The centre topics of knowledge management is about knowledge. Often we ask the question like the following: where does knowledge comes from and how is knowledge acquired? Interestingly, epistemology or theory of knowledge concerns some similar questions, in particular of the nature and scope of knowledge.

According to Plato, knowledge is somewhere between truth and belief. Some say it may be produced through discourse. This is a bit different than knowledge management, as the accessibility of knowledge is not one of the primary concern. But rather it cares more about the generation of the knowledge. Some times, I wonder if this is where actually the creativity comes from? Knowledge management is important because we need to maintain the existing in such information exploded age, but maintaining the old does not give us something new.


March 15, 2008

Time Managment

You never know who has the most interesting insight. Ting said something made me rethink why time management is so important. I cannot exactly recall her original wording, but basically the time management is important in two folds (she was talking it in a context of PMA). Not being on time naturally means whatever you delivered will be penalised, whether it is some marks being deducted, a bad impression, or commercial consequences like money. The other thing is, if you are not on time, it usually means you need to pull it through until the very last minute. This naturally indicates you are working under immense pressure. The quality of such would not be very good in most cases, at least it would hardly be anywhere close to excellence.

I never thought in the second way. When I consider all the cases where my time management is poor, it seems that she is right mostly. Time managed remains to be a critical success factor for me, and there are at least 2 instant solutions when your time managed went disastrous downhill. However, it seems neither would be what we initially set to achieve.


March 11, 2008

Knowledge Transfer

Recently talked to a former colleague, it was interesting to find out the slight different attitude towards knowledge and technology between Indian TATA and Chinese SAIC. TATA is in the process of acquiring Land Rover and Jaguar from Ford, and SAIC have already merged with NAC which acquired MG-Rover sometimes ago.

TATA has set up a European technical centre based in Warwick for a few years now. It is already in operation, and is constantly contributing towards the new product development back in India. In contrast, it seems besides changing the logo MG-Rover to NAC-MG. (and perhaps now to SAIC-MG) There is not much going on in the European technical centre of SAIC based in Leamington Spa. Actually this SAIC technical centre is largely based on Ricardo, and it is believed there still a lot of collaboration. This does not surprise me, as many Chinese domestic auto manufactures have to heavily rely on the technical know-how especially in the R&D area. However what surprise me is the strategy TATA took. Instead of collaborating with engineering consultancy, TATA chosen to collaborate with university. One of the goals set by the MD of TATA Motors European Technical Centre is to transform from acquiring know-hows to also know-whys. TATA choose the long-term goal of acquiring the capabilities of R&D instead of the obvious short-gains of specific technology. In a few years time, we probably would see how different strategies work out for each of them in products.

P.S. my ignorance, I didn't know CityRover was actually based on TATA Indica. There's already a difference shown in the strategy between TATA and SAIC/NAC back then.


March 10, 2008

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

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

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.