STIMS Strategy for life long learning for intrepreneurship

Professionals in every field must constantly equip themselves with the latest skills to achieve new solutions for process problems.

Being adept at ‘Transformational skills’ and ‘system thinking’ constitutes a lifelong learning strategy required to develop a stream of New Solutions, a must to survive and succeed in the 21st century economy

MMI Cover story image

Who exactly are ‘intrepreneurs’?
We hear a constant drum beat for professionals to be entrepreneurial, capable of handling a variety of jobs and problems. This is in total contrast to the standardized
and de-skilled task-oriented replication activities. There are many opportunities to integrate knowledge from various sources – from other workers, knowledge available across departments, with the suppliers as well as with the customers or end-users. The advent of smart phones, Facebook, Google and other search engines also augment this ability to aggregate information from across the globe and convert them into new knowledge. The result is a “new solution” of high added value. They are heralded as “entrepreneurial”. The new term used for such entrepreneur working inside a company – as opposed to a startup operation – is “Intrepreneur”.

Life Long Learning Strategy:

Modern Manufacturing India, a Publication of the Indian Machine Tool Manufactusers  Association (IMTMA) carries the cover page article authored by STIMS Institute. This article provides a strategy for life long learning for entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs.

STIMS Cover story MMI Jan. 2018 issue

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The MMI magazine January issue can be accessed at: http://www.mmindia.co.in/flipbook/jan2018/

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Transformational Skills and their application as Leadership Imperatives

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Recently replying to a Linkedin discussion group under the heading: What are your four timeless key leadership imperatives? , we posted the following as the timeless leadership imperatives:

— Help others so that they can help themselves.

— Always keep an eye on the “stake holders” and their needs.

— Use what you have learned and learn what you need to know.

— Everyone is a leader; your role is transient until someone else takes that role!

Here we discuss how these leadership imperatives are linked to the Transformational Skills:

  1. Help others so that they can help themselves

Words do have meaning. But, if the same word has different meanings between the leader and the team, then there is no common language. Words which are frequently used such as Product, Process, Application, Manufacturing, Science, System, Output, etc. need to have the same meaning between the leader and the team. Ensuring the Common Language is an important Transformational Skill.

While every leader has the instinct to help, it is not often possible (a) due to a lack of role clarity (b) Expectations are mismatched and /or (c) delegation is absent. But, frequently all of these are evidences of a more fundamental problem (i.e.) Absence of a common language!

2. Always keep an eye on the “stake holders” and their needs.

Stake holders are not synonymous with Shareholders. This is the frequent folly of many leaders. To recognize the Stake Holders, the leader will need system thinking, the perspective of a larger picture. Stake Holders are all those who contribute their inputs to the leader’s role viewed as an Input/Transformation/Output system. Every input is a cog in the wheel! Any cog that is ignored and hence becomes weak will in due course render the wheel dis-functional!

3. Use what you have learned and learn what you need to know:

Individual core capabilities are: Knowledge, Experience and People Skills. Core capabilities of any team are: Science, Engineering and Management (Strategy and operations). Core Capabilities of any enterprise are: Finance, Technology (not limited to Digital Technology) and Market drivers. Any leadership effort involves manipulating the Core Capabilities at three levels: Individuals, Team and the Enterprise.

Ultimately the role of the leader is one of a watchman who is fully aware of these core capabilities at each level and deploys them to the fullest extent. It is equally the role of the leader to look for and learn about the holes in the core capabilities and fill them systematically

4. Everyone is a leader; your role is transient until someone else takes that role!

We call this emotional intelligence for leadership. Leader is always one who helps others who in turn can help themselves. This self-help will be fully evident, when the leader’s role is no longer required. That does not imply that the leader himself is not required or useful any longer. Through his/her knowledge of the three dimensions of core capabilities, the leader would have already transitioned to new efforts and initiatives. This of course will also depend on the culture cultivated in the team!

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What do you need to create good jobs? The answer is not “more of the same” education

Different educationIn a recent article, with the by-line, “What happens when good jobs disappear? It’s a question that has been asked for centuries”, Dr. Paul Krugman states, “Today, a much darker picture of the effects of technology on the labor is emerging. In this picture, highly educated workers are as likely as less educated workers to find themselves displaced and devalued, and pushing for more education may create as many problems as it solves”.  “Sympathy for Luddites”, Paul Krugman, The Global Edition of New York Times, Page 9, Saturday-Sunday, June 15-16, 2013,

In this description Dr. Krugman uses the commonly used version of “technology” (i.e) Digital Technology. The real world of technology is far larger than mere limitations and constraints of DT. The industrial society has to come to the realization that Technology in its broader context is an integration of Science, Engineering and Management of any phenomena of nature. This broader view of technology opens limitless possibilities for the educated work force. Absent such Transformation in their learning and thought process the broader range of educated work force – and their educators  and the society at large – will not be served well by the constant evolutions in DT. This is not to suggest that DT is a detriment. Instead it has to be used wisely and prudently with technology pertaining to other fields to create a stream of new solutions.

We agree with Dr. Krugman in that the opportunities even for the highly educated is limited to a narrow set of jobs, where knowledge is integrated from everywhere across the globe (using DT as an enabler for such integration) and hence create a constant stream of “New” solutions. There will also be a large range of low wage jobs, where the skills of educated work force is not much needed, thanks to standardization and de-skilling of the work and as a result automation and outsourcing of the jobs. Most others – in the middle – will find uncertainty and loss of economic competitiveness as the norm, which we have come to accept as the crisis of the middle class. For details on this emerging Binary Economy and the Transformational Skills to cope with that please see:

https://stimsinstitute.com/2013/06/19/new-book-authored-by-dr-subramanian-and-prof-rangan-has-been-published-by-asme-press/

New book authored by Dr. Subramanian and Prof. Rangan has been published by ASME Press.

Thriving in the 21st Century Economy:
Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals

By
Dr. K. Subramanian and Prof. U. Srinivasa Rangan

Subbu Book 2Thriving in the 21st Century Economy: Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals, co-authored by Dr K. Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute Inc., USA and Professor U. Srinivasa Rangan, Luksic Chair Professor of Global Studies, at Babson College has been published by the ASME Press. Copies of this book can be accessed at any of the following links:
http://www.amazon.com/Thriving-Century-Transformational-Technical-Professionals/dp/0791860167/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371673516&sr=1-1&keywords=Transformational+Skills+Subramanian

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thriving-in-the-21st-century-economy-k-subramanian/1115191210?ean=9780791860168

https://www.asme.org/products/books/thriving-21st-century-economy-transformational

Below is the link for the image of the cover of the book along with reviewer’s comments:

ASME_Subbu_Cover_FINAL5

The following is a short summary of the book:
Technical professionals, represented by the short hand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), face a crisis, especially in the United States. Fewer American students are interested in pursuing these disciplines in college. Even many professionals currently working in these areas discourage their children from following them into their profession, since they see few attractive and financially rewarding jobs and careers when compared to the IT or financial sector. As research budgets shrink in the public and private sectors, many professionals feel that their contributions are not valued. Some blame the outsourcing fad for this and some others believe that foreign professionals are taking their jobs. Amidst all this, senior managers in major industrial and technology firms expect technical professionals to manage their own careers rather than help the professionals to develop their abilities for such career management.
Drs. Subbu Subramanian and Srinivasa Rangan address these concerns through three critical and related questions:
1. What is the nature of the challenge facing STEM professionals in the twenty-first century global economy?
2. What are the reasons for it?
3. How should STEM professionals manage their careers in the future if they want to lead a professionally fulfilling and productive life?

At the outset, Subramanian and Rangan assert that, since the 1980s, the workplace in most industrial companies has been undergoing a rapid transformation largely due to two factors: globalization and business model revolution. Globalization is described as the outcome of Global Capitalism combined with evolutions in Digital Technology. The business model revolution is seen as the result of disaggregation of the value chain and its disbursement across the world. These new business models require a new type of professional skillset. The result of these two trends are pushing more firms to rely on a small cadre of high quality professionals to be problem solvers or solution providers and a much larger group of professionals (even with lower levels of technical skills as required), to be replicators of those solutions across the globe. As more firms across the world adopt this new model of workforce deployment, a binary labor force is emerging. The first part, consisting of leading technology professionals, specializes in creating and implementing new solutions. This is enhanced through the use of DT solutions, which aggregates information from across the globe. The other part of the labor force, required for lower skilled jobs, is finding their functions further de-skilled and de-localized because of DT driven automation and off-shoring. There appears to be no middle ground, which in the past employed a large number of technical professionals. All STEM professionals now face the challenge of adapting to this binary economy that is becoming the hallmark of the twenty-first century.

STEM professionals are experiencing angst because of their transition to new roles in this binary economy. Many who have invested years getting trained at advanced levels and acquiring specialized skills suddenly feel unable to create new solutions that are considered valuable.
Subramanian and Rangan argue that STEM professionals need to become exceptional and relentless solution providers. They must be able to identify new opportunities, convert such opportunities into complete and integrated solutions, and maximize the benefits from these solutions. These skills are not purely technical or managerial. Instead they are a combination of skills pertaining to Science, Engineering and Management. These Transformational Skills are:

• Identify a problem or opportunity and frame it as a “need”:
• Develop a Common Language
• Three Dimensional view of Core Capabilities and their deployment:
— As an individual
— As part or member of a team
— As part of the company or enterprise
— As part of the industry/community
• Develop the need into a “Solution”:
• Integrate Knowledge from all available sources (across the globe)
• Place emphasis on “Science”; Relentlessly use Portable Diagnostic Tools and methods, Analysis
techniques and Analytics
• “System Thinking”: Focus on the big picture and not merely on the pixels;
• Deploy the Science/Engineering/Management pertinent to the “solution” simultaneously (The
System Approach); Emphasize on mobile/portable diagnostic tools.
• Synthesize: Connect the dots leading to the “Solution”; Emphasis on Core Technology driven
ecosystems.
• Exploit the “Solution” and maximize the benefits:
• Focus on “End to End Innovation” = Idea X Use X Impact
Measure innovation in a scale of 1 to 125 (= 5X5X5 and not 1 to 5 scale in isolated silos). “Branding” as an outcome of End to End innovation
• “Emotional Intelligence”:
Find ways to be useful to others, which in turn benefits you.
Co-create value; I open the door for you, and you let me in as well.
Focus on end user (Customer) benefits as the primary goal and driver for innovation and entrepreneurships.

The authors then describe the roles of individual professionals, organizations, management, the Government and the educators. Each player is called upon to understand these Transformational Skills and integrate them into education as part of a Life Long Learning strategy. The authors conclude that this education is the only reliable pathway enabling technical professionals to thrive in the 21st Century economy.

System Approach for Engineers – a new course developed and being offered at Thyagaraja College of Engineering in Collaboration with TVS Co., India.

Madurai Temple 2                      How do you promote system thinking and why is it necessary?

This subject was discussed in depth recently by Dr. K. (Subbu) Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute, with a large manufacturing company and a well renowned College of Engineering in India recently. As a result it was concluded that while system engineering and the structures and techniques related to that are well established, System Thinking is not a natural part of working for practicing engineers. It was noted that, while there is a lot of discussion on Cross functional teams and concurrent engineering, there is little in terms of education and practice that promotes concurrency in thought process that brings together the Science, Engineering and Management disciplines pertaining to any problem or solution. While we see every medical professional with a Stethoscope, thermometer and blood pressure monitor, practicing engineers rarely resort to active diagnostic tools to obtain the “Vital signs” of the process or solution they deal with. There is also a tendency to execute whatever they are asked to do or assigned, rather than constantly ask the question “Why?”
With out a system thinking outlook, engineers tend to work in silos and stick to their cubicles. Knowledge, which is available from many sources – suppliers, inside the company, customers, … – is rarely integrated in a deliberate fashion, since there is no framework readily available for such frame work. While tools like Fishbone diagram look at the Cause and the effect, they rarely focus on the “phenomena” or the science that links the cause and the effect. The effect itself is seen only in technical terms (what is the solution) and rarely in terms of the “Why?” or benefits to stake holders and the order of priority.
To address the above needs, a new course is being developed to be offered as an optional course for the 7th semester students. While the initial plan was targeted the ME and EE students, the college has decided to offer this course for all majors. The expected outcome of this course are:

  • Definition of any solution as the System: Input/Transformation/Output Scheme
  • Distinction between:

—    System Thinking (which underlies the) System Engineering
—   Task Orientation Vs. Solution orientation (System Thinking)
—   Technical Output Vs. System Output

  • The four components of the Inputs categories of any system or solution
  • Definition and distinction between Science, Engineering and Management
  • The role of each of the above three pathways for critical thinking
  • Transformation — What does it mean?
  • How to identify the “transformation” behind any solution?
  • Ability to frame any assignment, job or problem as the system and its parts
  • Ability to recognize the need for diagnostic tools and their use to probe the “Transformation”
  • Principles of the System Approach (Captured in the books referenced below)
  • Comfort level to know who the stake holders are (who are also the sources for inputs)?
  • Ability to seek them out for help and collaboration from both inside as well as outside the company.

 

 

    1. Thriving in the 21st Century: Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals”, K. (Subbu) Subramanian, Srinivas U. Rangan, ASME Press, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-7918-6016-8

 

Education for “sustainable jobs and careers” – Why? What? How?

Over the past three decades, I have seen more individuals rise up to the top who are not the smartest (academically advanced in their education), or with extremely high industry/sector specific knowledge. Instead, I see those rise to the top, who have an uncanny ability to identify an “opportunity”, frame it as a problem in a broader context (as a system) and arrive at their solution using resources readily accessible near by or at far corners of the globe. They are also able to implement such solutions of benefit for those who have the capacity and influence to reward such solutions.

Those who are successful in any field today are all “IBMers” in our thoughts and action. This is what makes us connect and configure quickly and effectively on the problems we face in our jobs and careers. It is a passion to find a way to connect, define the “problem” and address it effectively, to make the world a “better place”!

Read more about transformational skills for the 21st century here.