The workplace has changed and it is still changing (Weiss p.17, 2006). As I approach my final year of undergraduate study, I am constantly reminded of this because the development of one’s “work self” is so important in an environment that continues to evolve. Management 300 has been a unique experience that has really spoken to the latent desire I have of becoming an adaptable manager. Therefore, it is important that I use what I have learnt in the bigger picture that Kim & Mauborgne (2002) speak of, known as “my future”. I mentioned in my first journal that my goal for this course was to explore my true professional identity (Ioane, 2014a), so three questions I have continued to ask myself is ‘Who am I as a “worker”?’; ‘Why am I studying Management?’; ‘What is the purpose of the knowledge I have acquired?’ The most powerful answers have come from how I have made a connection between study and life. This journal will explicitly discuss how Daudelin’s four stages of reflection (1996) helped to create meaningful knowledge. At the same time, other theories will be used to support my transformation. I will also show my progression in terms of applying my knowledge and how Management 300 has altered how I behave, think and communicate all while trying to answer the former questions.
Over the years, I had become an auditory learner who learnt best through listening (Brandsford et al.), so breaking this fixed characteristic was a change that happened gradually. I had to learn through application but I was already comfortable and reliant on the regular structure of teach material, memorize material and regurgitate material. However, there was no clear link between ‘knowledge’ and ‘practice in future’. So, when it was announced that after the second week of semester, lectures were optional and groups were given the independence to arrange their own schedules, I was anxious about how this would affect how I learn. Therefore, I began the course with a crucial problem; my preferred sources of learning (set lessons, lectures, etc.) were now gone and I needed to adapt to a new way of learning. This included weekly learning journals, feedback and a virtual business simulation (MikesBikes).
As I reviewed my journals, I noticed that great emphasis had been placed on trying to link theory with real-life examples of past and current occurrences. What I fail to discuss in-depth is how my newly found knowledge can help me beyond the course; this is crucial for my future in the workforce. Perhaps it was because I never truly learnt how to reflect. To me, this merely meant thinking about your actions without absorbing the lessons behind them. After being introduced to Daudelin’s (1996) stages of reflection, I found that it enabled me to delve deeper in to what had happened, come up with insights that may have not been so apparent initially and evaluate what I could have done better or what I can do to move forward. In my week 5 journal I briefly touch on this point by stating that a focus on three factors – consistency, discipline and continuous weekly reflection of the week’s content – will ensure that I am looking beyond current circumstances and preparing for the future (Ioane, 2014b). So I explore this further through how my behaviour changed by using each stage of reflection.
The following paragraphs will be split in to two sections. I will discuss the first two stages of reflection followed by an insightful takeaway that I have derived from what I have learnt. I will then complete the analysis of the remaining two stages with a final takeout from the course.
Stage 1. As a diverger who is able to view concrete situations from many perspectives (Kolb, 1976), I was more suited for generating ideas for peoples given problems rather than identifying the problem first myself. Therefore, the more I was bombarded by problems, the less focused my approach was in solving them. As I used Daudelin’s structure to articulate a problem each week, I found that defining an issue helped to organise my thoughts and specify exactly what I was going to work on. Problem identification has allowed me to target the true underlying perplexities that I am faced with. For example, instead of saying the problem is “I do not understand the course content”, I would consider emotions and personal values to form a more perceptive issue. The concern was now “feelings of anxiety arose because I value learning but not understanding the content makes it difficult for me to progress”. This same mentality can be transferred to a work environment because targeting the exact issues of an organisation is crucial in future success. How managers identify problems stem from the knowledge they have acquired about what works, what fails and comprehension of the status of their organisation and how it has been created (Nentl & Zietlow, 2008). As explained in my week five journal, prevention is better than cure to avoid any negative backlashes (Ioane, 2014b) and as managers continue to adapt to a changing world, it is important that they can not only identify existing troubles but also be able to foresee any unwelcome complications. In my weekly learning journals, this first stage was highly emphasized and because of this, I have become more invested in pinpointing significant issues. This created meaning for my future as I was able to link it to how the work environment may operate. This stage will help me effectively evaluate what I need to work on in future, instead of being overwhelmed by a cluster of issues. This stage then allowed me to advance on to the next step of analysing the problem.
Stage 2. Many scholarly articles discuss the analysis of a problem. Firstly, Daudelin (1996) speaks of hunting to find material that will dispose of the perplexity. Much like a problem tree analysis, there is a heavy focus here on identifying, prioritizing and visualizing relevant past behaviour and memory to find the cause of the negative outcome and the effects it presents (Veselý, 2008). Management 300 has allowed me to take a phenomelogical data analysis approach which utilizes the investigation of specific statements (problem identified in stage 1) and themes, and a search for all possible meanings (Creswell, 1998). As I reviewed my learning journals I found that this stage inherited an intense focus on cause and effect. If I link to the insightful problem stated earlier, questions I asked myself for analysis included: Why was I feeling anxious? Why do you value learning? What past events have contributed to making the content difficult to understand? The answers to these questions merged to reveal in-depth contributions, some of them targeting untouched territory. In my first learning journal I explained how I was an aspiring assimilator (Ioane, 2014a), who hoped to form an integrated explanation for disparate observations (Kolb et al.). In the process of analysis, I was doing so by making reflective observations, i.e. observing my experiences from many perspectives (Kolb et al.). Therefore, weekly participation in analysing my problems, helped to familiarize me with the process that businesses may use. A theory that businesses use to reach targets (which also relates very much to this stage of reflection) is root cause analysis. This identifies the contributing and non-contributing reasons that resulted in the undesirable situation and the actions necessary to eliminate it (Cromar, 2013). Managers must understand how to thoroughly analyse problems because from here, the organisation can eliminate any under or over utilisation of resources, re-structure efficiency models and identify improvements. This stage has helped me to understand the importance of critically evaluating my behaviour so that I can change it for a better result. This has allowed me to break down complex problems into different parts so that I can determine the relationships between them, something I was unaware of how to do before this course. This is a life-long skill I can use especially when entering the workforce.
Although the concepts of problem identification and analysis seem simple if we considered its theoretical explanations, I have truly been influenced by the level of relevance it has presented for my learning. My behaviour and thinking has changed. I used to see business as an invincible part of society that holds the upper hand in determining my future. This is no longer the case. Instead of allowing the values of businesses to dictate who I should be to fit in to a particular “world”, Management 300 has strengthened my ability to self-direct my learning. I am able to form values and qualities that I deem to be significant. How? I will identify the underlying issues that I need to resolve within my abilities so that I can maximize my best self. From this, I will analyse the causes of this problem and its effects on my progress so that I can work towards a solution. I have recently found myself working through these stages in daily activities and it has impacted on the quality of my perspective on situations. However, when answering the question ‘Who am I as a worker?’ I reply with the same uncertainty I had in the first learning journal – “I do not know…yet”. The reason for this is that I am growing and will continue to grow so my true professional identity is yet to be discovered but Management 300 has given me the skills to remain curious in finding the answers. Therefore, the first insightful takeaway I have derived from all of this is that only I know what I am capable of and through recognizing (stage 1) and working through (stage 2) my flaws, I choose the type of work I will be affiliated with, I will not let any business choose me – I control how I get to my future.
Stage 3. Learning how to formulate and test a tentative theory to explain the problem is probably one of the most useful skills that I have developed. Before Management 300, I did not know how to tie the things I had learnt together to form a hypothesis to explain the problem. An instance where this stage was helpful can be applied to our group dynamics. I am grateful to have been part of an amazing team this semester and it is also evident through each member’s response. For example, a member states in his journal that our group was one of the best functioning groups he has ever been put in to (Howlett, 2014). However, our group was one of the lowest scoring overall. I felt a discrepancy between the effort we invested in the simulation and our smooth interaction with the results we were receiving. What were we doing wrong? After the first half of the semester, our CEO asked us to provide honest feedback on our progress. It was then that I considered how peer reviews influenced my long term behaviour (Ioane, 2014c). Our CEO made it clear to be open about our thoughts. Agreements we made to mitigate the negative effects of the paradoxes included: (1) we would not let the feedback strain established relationships (paradox of roles); (2) decisions were finalized collectively so that we continued to work towards improving collective ties (paradox of group performance); (3) qualitative feedback is preferred (measurement paradox) and (4) the rewards would come through group improvement (paradox of rewards) – (Peiperl, 2001). Therefore, through this feedback, my tentative theory was that because we had formed great working relations, fun overrode our technical objectives. It relates to business operations too. Creating and testing a theory about why problems exist can support the cause and effect models explained in stage 2. This stage lets us as “managers” analyse how we might do things differently next time. This stage too will help me clear the complexity that results from having too many problems.
Stage 4. Like Peter said in the closing lecture, “there is no such thing as a great strategy. You can only have a good strategy, but it is your actions that make it great”. I agree. It is only in this stage that true learning occurs (Daudelin, 1996). Daudelin (1996) continues to support this by saying that learning is the creation of meaning from past or current events that serve as a guide for future behaviour. As opposed to teach material, memorize material and regurgitate material explained above, this course operated like this: provide material, apply material and reflect on the material. Is this not how the “real world” operates? In first year study, core papers like economics and accounting had a specific answer. If there was a meaning behind all of those numbers to my future, it was not taught. Perhaps it catered to a particular student with particular goals to enter a particular career path. The logic was simple – study the relevant material and get the right answer. This same action plan would fail in real life business because although one may try their best to calculate accurate figures and assumptions, the way the industry responds is unpredictable. This was evident in our MikesBikes simulation where one great decision did not necessarily equal a great result. Therefore, careful action is key to bring closure to the cycle and to articulate a new way of behaving in future. For managers especially, the idea of action can determine the meaning created from decisions.
Through forming tentative theories and investing in implementation of careful action, I have been able to answer these questions: ‘Why am I studying Management?’; ‘What is the purpose of the knowledge I have acquired?’ I found my answer in Christensen’s (2010) writing where he says that as a manager, understanding the influence that my actions may have on others is important. “Management is the most noble of professions if it is practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team” (Christensen, 2010). Yes. Profound. I had spent the whole semester trying to understand my professional identity and ironically enough, it was not until the last reading of the semester that my answer presented itself. By learning how to analyse what we might do differently and through careful action, Management 300 has presented an underlying message and key takeaway, i.e. I cannot predict the future, whether it be personal or work-related so it is important to expect the unexpected. I do not need to be prepared for the surprises, but I should be prepared for how I will deal with them. Through the help of Management 300, I can confidently say that the knowledge I have learnt will enable me to be an adaptable future manager; one who is able to cope with different scenarios through the creation and testing of tentative theories and effective action.
Believe me when I say that Management 300 has been one of the best courses I have ever taken. Not only has it fostered a new way of learning for me, it has also changed how I think about business and how I behave. Yes, it has destroyed all preconceived ideas I had about how learning should happen. I am no longer an auditory learner and this journal walks through the process of how this change has occurred. I have explained the influence that Daudelin’s stages of reflection have had on my learning. In the first stage, I highlight how identifying a problem has narrowed down the clutter of issues in to one problem with the most impact on results. The second stage has taught me how I can use the theory behind analysing a problem to break down the complex perplexities I experience and identify relationships between them. This leads to the third stage where I was made aware of how I can sum my situation up in to a theory I can test, to see how I might do things differently next time. Finally, understanding how to implement effectively has brought closure to the cycle and given me a new way to articulate my future behaviour. Through incremental realisations along the way, I walk away with two major insights/takeaways from the course: (1) Only I know what I am capable of and through recognizing (stage 1) and working through (stage 2) my flaws, I choose the type of work I will be affiliated with, I will not let any business choose me – I control how I get to my future; (2) Life does not provide specific guidelines with specific results. Surprise is inevitable. I do not need to be prepared for the surprises, but I should be prepared for how I will deal with them.
In conclusion, my thinking and behaviour has been transformed. The workplace is definitely changing and always will but Management 300 has given me the ability to adapt to uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. I am a better management student because of what I have learnt. This knowledge has helped me to understand what the effects of my short-term actions are in the long-term. I am on my way to understanding who I am as a worker, and I now know why I am studying management and the purpose of the knowledge I have acquired. So, there is only one thing left to say – “I am ready for the future”.
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