Slamet Hendry

learningorg

08 Oct 1997

Job rotation

I believe job rotation is an effective technique, albeit slow, to achieve the following.

  1. Shared understanding. “I know what you mean, I experienced it too.”

  2. Transfer of tacit knowledge. “I read the well written instruction many times, but I could only do it well after a lot of practice.” (Refer to Nonaka and Takeuchi's book: Knowledge Creating Companies.)

  3. Corporate memory. Have you ever had your colleague, who is a specialist, leave the firm? Or an account executive who's been managing a customer account for years?

  4. Process enrichment. Job rotation also implies that more people will hold the same job, over time, compared to non job-rotation system. Each person usually brings in his/her flavour of doing things, and thus he/she will enrich the way the process is performed.

  5. Critical mass. Theoretically, with job rotation, a 10-person firm can consist of 10 programmers, 10 accountants, and 10 environmental engineers, etc. (Getting the same depth for all 10 would be difficult, though.) This may lead to flexibility on the type of work the firm can do, for example. (Consulting firms come to mind.)

Point 1 through 4 are especially valid for org learning, I think.

www.learning-org.com/97.10/0091.html

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01 Oct 1997

Reorganisation

To my understanding, anytime a big organisation has a major re-org, it will meet plenty of resistance, especially when there is turf war to begin with. It may also cause temporary performance setbacks due to the change in the way people work.

Executing the re-org itself will not happen overnight, and fire-fighting the implications may take them more than a year.

www.learning-org.com/97.09/0344.html (Referring to www.learning-org.com/97.10/0028.html)

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22 Sep 1997

Not your typical mission statement

“The mission of a manufacturer should be to overcome poverty, to relieve society as a whole from misery, and bring it wealth.” Konosuke Matsushita

He used tap water as an example. Here, he said, is a vital product that is produced and distributed so cheaply that virtually anyone can afford it.

“This is what the entrepreneur and the manufacturer should aim at: to make all products as inexhaustible and as cheap as tap water. When this is realized, poverty will vanish from the earth.” Konosuke Matsushita, May 05, 1932.

However he did not plan Matsushita Electric to be a non-profit organisation, either.

“If we cannot make a good profit, that means we are committing a sort of crime against society. We take society's capital, we take their people, we take their materials, yet without good profit, we are using precious resources that could be better used elsewhere ... If many people do not make a profit, the country will grow poor quickly.”

“Don't sell customers goods that they are attracted to, sell them goods that will benefit them.” #quotes

Taken from John Kotter's book – Matsushita Leadership. (I highly recommend this book.)

Matsushita is better known for the brand Panasonic and National. Matsushita Electric 1996 sales was about 65 billion US dollar.

www.learning-org.com/97.09/0263.html

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22 Sep 1997

Compassion and sense of beauty

The following story is about compassion that flowed out naturally. Taken from John Kotter's book – Matsushita Leadership.

Matsushita is better known for the brand Panasonic and National. Matsushita Electric 1996 sales was about 65 billion US dollar.

The setting was a restaurant in Osaka in 1975. Matsushita met w/ five of his managers. When all six finished the main course, Matsushita leaned over to one of his manager, Ogawa, and asked him to find the chef who cooked his steak. “Not the manager, the chef.” Ogawa then noticed that Matsushita had only eaten half of his entree.

Preparing himself for what could be an extremely awkward scene, Ogawa found the chef and brought him to the table. The cook arrived looking distressed, for he knew that the customer who had summoned him was an exceptionally important person.

“Is there anything wrong?” asks a nervous chef.

“You've gone to all the trouble of broiling the steak,” says Matsushita, “but I could eat only half of it. It's not because it's not good. It's quite delicious. But you see, I'm eighty years old and my appetite isn't what it once was.”

The chef and five other diners exchange confused expressions. It takes everyone a few seconds to realise what is happening.

“I asked to talk to you,” Matsushita continues, “because I was afraid you might feel bad if you saw the half-eaten steak back in the kitchen.

www.learning-org.com/97.09/0262.html

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01 Jun 1997

Training vs learning

I recently glued the following quote in my cubicle.

“The false correlation of learning with training or education is one of the most common and costly errors in corporation management today.” (John Seely Brown, Xerox Research Center) #quotes

Then a colleague of mine asked “why is that so?”

It didn't occur to me that people unfamiliar with LO concepts could ask such a question. Frankly, I was having a hard time explaining it to him. The line that I tried was as follows.

“To be feasible, training typically deliver less than the amount of knowledge/skill that the trainees need. The trainee will then understand only a certain percentage, and even less will be absorbed and retained. Therefore, “learning” outside of trg is different & important.”

I know this explanation is simplifying a bit, but I viewed it as the easiest to understand for my colleague, with his particular background.

My question is, how would you explain it to your colleagues of differing backgrounds?

www.learning-org.com/97.06/0116.html

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18 May 1997

Systems thinking ROI

Replying to LO13601 —

But lately we have begun to get questions along the lines of, 'Well, this was certainly enjoyable but my manager will never buy this unless I can show some hard dollar returns. I have to show some tangible benefit.

Have you got any examples where you can demonstrate that engaging in a systems thinking effort to examine a complex problem has resulted in clear dollar savings?'

“What catastrophe happened that could otherwise be avoided altogether had systems thinking was in place?” I.e. the cost of not implementing system thinking.

This is the kind of answer that you can research and make a business case for your conference attendees. The attendees can then present it to their mgrs, or they can even do better. They can find an analogy to their own companies past experience regarding the cost of not implementing system thinking in their companies.

www.learning-org.com/97.05/0246.html

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06 Apr 1997

Social system

Here is a relevant interview by Fast Company magazine with Hatim Tyabji of VeriFone.

Fast Company: People look to VeriFone as a model of global competition and the “virtual” organization. Yet you worry that they draw the wrong lessons. What don't they understand?

Hatim Tyabji: Much of the stuff that has been written focuses on the form — e-mail, information systems — and not on the substance. The true power of running a company, the true power of growing any enterprise, is 5% technology and 95% psychology. With all this technology, you run the risk of becoming a robot. Leadership is not robotics. Leadership is human. Leadership is looking people in the eye, pumping the flesh, getting them excited, caring about their families.

It's so easy to worship technology or to blame technology for problems that are human in nature: “Our e-mail system isn't good enough.” Bullshit! The e-mail system has nothing to do with anything. Companies have this funny idea — they forget that human beings are human beings.

...

Fast Company: What you're saying is that e-mail is not just an information system, it's a social system. It transmits the values of the company.

Hatim Tyabji: Exactly! Not many people think of it that way, but that's exactly what it is. I resonate with that big time.

www.learning-org.com/97.04/0050.html

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09 Feb 1997

Broadbanding

From: Phil Potter

The Information Technology Systems group at the University of Iowa is looking into the concept of broadbanding. As we understand the term, it entails moving from many job classifications (over 100 at UI) to three or four broad career bands. Within those bands, staff members would progress by increasing their competencies, rather than by changing job classifications.

If I understand your def of broadbanding correctly, you may be interested to look into competency-based HR mgmt. I happen to have a book list that list the following book; I hope this can help.

Competency Based Performance Improvement: A Strategy for Organizational Change. Author: David Dubois.

This allows, as we envision the process, a lot more flexibility for the “flatter,” team-driven organization in a rapidly changing environment, and for the staff member, who wants to make him(her)self more employable by increasing job competencies.

IMHO, competency based HRM will support nicely a flat org, but it is not a tool to flatten an org. I hope you're not looking for the latter.

world.std.com/~lo/97.02/0116.html

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29 Jan 1997

Organisational artistry

From: JC Howell

An artist seeks to gain conceptual mastery, not just technical mastery. In fact, technical mastery may not be desired, just technical competence.

Once conceptual mastery has been achieved, those concepts go on to become a part of that person's essence. They process these concepts without conscious effort. They begin to create and innovate. They express their innermost ideas and ideals through this medium. They also continue to grow and develop in that area ... because they have to. This continues regardless of the vocational context they encounter.

We usually think of an artist as one who draws, or sculpts, or plays music. I think the term artist can also be applied to managers, technicians, professionals, secretaries and office managers.

What do you think? Am I out in left field here? Is there room in the typical organization for artistry? In a Learning Organization? Is artistry desirable?

Max DePree wrote a book called “Leadership is an Art” and “Leadership Jazz.” Both are excellent books, although I prefer Jazz.

I think the higher we go up the management ladder, the more conceptual “things” become. We will find less and less hard and fast rules. So we need to “improvise.” A lot. Just like a typical artist, organisational leaders adapts and “improvises” their knowledge to manage whatever comes their way.

Successful artists, in general, are those who can express their improvisation / creativity well. In organisation, leaders who fails, generally, are those who cannot “improvise/innovate” creatively enough and/or fast enough.

Much like a Jazz musician, an “organisational artist” need to know enough of the basics to be able to “improvise/innovate.” The talented ones can reach mastery without much effort, while others may struggle through years of mixed success, which people usually label “practice” in art world, or “experience” in organisations. Which why it is hard, bec you either need to be talented or experienced or both to be “successful” in this age.

(Notice I use quotes for the word “improvise.” That is because I hope the readers would not interpret it narrowly, but creatively to suit the more applicable expression for your organisation.)

“Organisational artists.” I like that idea.

world.std.com/~lo/97.01/0642.html

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26 Jan 1997

Performance measures and learning

From: “John Zavacki”

Ethan J. Mings, Replying to LO12140 —

I often wonder if managers really understand the linkage between systems, measures and generating results? Just an outloud questions.

Even “enlightened” organizations could use some help on this one. Metrics are established to gauge performance to customer requirements, stakeholder requirements, standards, award criteria, business plans, strategic plans, and more. As the system changes, some of these metrics become counter-productive. That is, they consume resources to produce information which is of no value to the organization.

Sometimes, a few of these measures conflict, e.g. improving A may hinder other effort at improving B. This is not surprising, since we live in a “systemic” world. But when A and B are deemed crucial for the organisation, what do we do?

Do we prioritise such conflicting measures? B is more important than A.

Or the fact that A and B conflict says that there is an incoherent vision or strategy that needs to be revisited?

IMHO, both are valid and applicable. Sometimes we need to prioritise, sometimes we need to revisit, and sometimes both. :–) I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this one.

world.std.com/~lo/97.01/0579.html

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