B628 Week Six – TMA 01 is done!

Well actually it was done over a week ago. I’m still managing to stay two weeks ahead, which is good for the holiday I have coming up. My only concern is that if I go away for two weeks and don’t even look at my coursebook, I’ll come back so demotivated that I’ll struggle to get into my studies and will fall behind. I know what I’m like!

The report

Anyway, I chose the management information option for my TMA, simply because I felt that the management information problem activity I completed as part of week five was stronger than the one I completed as part of week four, when I looked at a management control problem.

The TMA wasn’t that hard to do, but it did involve a lot of study of the assessment booklet, and checking off of requirements that I needed to fulfill. I can see how so many people get this wrong, and miss things. Thankfully, my experience as a tester, and dealing with complex requirements paid off, and I think I’ve put together a good TMA.

One of the hardest things at first was padding out the exercise I did as part of week five. There weren’t enough words in there, and I knew it wasn’t enough as it stood. The solution was to work through the requirements and make sure everything was fulfilled. This pretty much padded out the assignment length to the required 1400 words for the report.

Statement on practice

The statement on practice was eye-opening, because it required a little soul-searching to complete.

I very nearly messed the statement on practice up because I missed a critical requirement specified in the assessment booklet – that is to only consider improvements I have made that had corresponding activities from one of the preceding weeks. I very nearly wrote about potential problem analysis, but then spotted this little requirement, and changed to writing about general management control loop improvements – part of which was implementing potential problem analysis.

The activities

One of the biggest pains about the TMA was putting all the activities together into one document. This isn’t technically a requirement for the TMA submission, but our tutor asked us to do it during the day school, so I did it to keep him sweet.

B628 Week Five

Week five was all about managing information. Again, this is something I’m pretty much used to doing, but it was nice to get a stronger theoretical understanding of my day-to-day duties.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to learn much this week, but I ended being surprised.

First of all, I learnt about the difference between data and information. A fundamental concept, and an obvious one when pointed out, but one I wasn’t aware of!

Learning all about information flows was interesting. I liked the diagram that gave a visual representation of information flows up, down, and laterally across the hierarchy of an organisation. I also found it useful to consider the types of information I might need to obtain from others and disseminate to others, and how my effectiveness in managing this information can be critical to the team.

The explanation of how different people can have different perspectives of information was particularly enlightening. The different between the technician’s view and the general manager’s view was astonishing!

I learnt about hard and soft information, and looked in detail at the 10 criteria we can use to determine the quality of information for decision-making:

  1. Its relevance
  2. Its clarity
  3. Its accuracy
  4. Its completeness
  5. Its trustworthiness
  6. Its conciseness
  7. Its timeliness
  8. Communication to the right person
  9. Communicated via the right channel
  10. Less costly than the benefit it provides

The chapter then moved into management information systems. I was intrigued to note that this isn’t necessary a description of computer-based solutions! Components of a management information system can be manual involving paper, or even purely verbal.

One of the most important ideas was that the collection and processing of management information should to some degree happen as a by-product of everyday work.

I then looked at how to represent a management information system in a diagram, including feedback loops.  People factors were also considered, in particular how the effectiveness of a management information system depends on whether the staff producing the information are aware of and understand its relevance and importance to the organisation.

A 7-step framework for improving information management was then presented, and as part of the weekly activities, I looked at how I could improve an information management problem I was experiencing. This became my TMA 01.

Finally, the chapter ended with a look at information overload, and some techniques for dealing with information addiction.

B628 Week Four

Planning and control is the theme of week four. Something I’m quite familiar with already to be honest. However, it doesn’t hurt to get a theoretical understanding of what I do on an almost daily basis as part of my job.

I learnt about the transformation model this week, and how it applies at both a macro and micro level. I also learned about performance indicators, and how they can give a measure of performance in different ways.

On the subject of planning, I learnt about the management control loop:

  1. Set objectives
  2. Plan, identify markers and carry out tasks
  3. Monitor progress
  4. Act on results of monitoring

Each of these stages were examined in detail, and it was explained how the process is an iterative one, a continuous learning opportunity.

I then learnt about how to deal with complexity, including potential problem analysis and contingency planning, two amazing techniques I now use regularly at work.

The importance of getting people’s agreement during planning was described. This is something that makes sense, but isn’t necessarily considered when preparing plans. Too many people draw up their plans without consulting stakeholders, which results in opposition later, often when plans are already well under way.

The rest of the chapter looked at evaluations, and how they too are an iterative process involving the following steps:

  1. Asking questions
  2. Answering questions
  3. Drawing conclusions
  4. Making necessary changes

Various types of evaluation were explored, including strategic, impact, performance, process, and composite evaluations. A framework for designing an evaluation was then set out, together with some potential issues often encountered during evaluations.

All in all, an enjoyable chapter with some material that’s highly useful in the real world!

Ahead with studies, behind with the diary

I’m seriously behind with my learning diary. This is quite ironic, because I’m still two weeks ahead with my studies. I suppose the latter is most important, but I really need to start keeping up with this learning diary. I’m not altogether sure of the value of it yet, but it may turn out to be unexpectedly useful.

So, the next few posts will be backtracking – I need to cover what I learnt in weeks four and five, my experiences of writing the TMA in week six, and what I learnt in week seven, which I’ve just completed.

I’m also a little behind with my lists and mind maps, which I like to do to help commit my learning to memory. This could be a busy weekend…

B628 Week Three

Week three was another interesting one, although to be honest, I’m already familiar with a lot of the concepts.

It’s been all about problem solving, and by the end of it apparently I should be able to understand the problem solving process, understand the decision-making process and how to decide between options, identify the effectiveness of my approach to problem-solving/decision-making and understand how to make improvements, and understand the organisation context in which problems are solved and why solutions are often less than ideal.

I’d say I’m pretty au fait with all that. I’ve already done a lot of problem solving and decision making during my career, but it was interesting to see the process documented, and I’ve identified some ways I can improve, namely:

  • Considering my assumptions when analysing the problem
  • Making SMART recommendations
  • Considering implications/advantages/disadvantages
  • The importance of communicating with, and involving others
  • Setting decision criteria before coming comparing options and coming to a decision

So this week I’ve covered:

  • The concept of bounded and unbounded problems
  • The problem solving matrix (known problem/known solution, etc.)
  • A framework for problem-solving (analyse the problem, consider assumptions, draw conclusions, set the criteria for a solution, identify appropriate solution via SMART recommendations, develop an action plan, consider implications/advantages/disadvantages)
  • The importance of communicating with others to gain cooperation and avoid opposition
  • A framework for decision-making (set objectives, set SMART decision criteria, compare the options, select the preferred option, plan a SMART implementation, consider the limitations of deciding between options)
  • The ‘less than ideal’, ‘intuitive’, ‘negative’, and ‘changing circumstances’ approaches to problem solving.
  • Problems with problem-solving and decision-making (bounded rationality, satisficing, decisional bias, organisational culture)