Thursday, 14 April 2011

HND Personal Skills Development Assignment

Personal Skills Development

Question 1
Examine the importance of transferable and communication skills within organisations identifying different communication methods both verbal and non-verbal as well as transferable skills such as writing reports, memo etc.
Verbal Communication
Four methods of verbal communication are listed below. When we go out to communicate with people we have one of four things in mind and they are all explained below one by one:
1.    Inform: First one is to inform people. You would inform people on how your assignments or projects are going. You would sit down and give them a report. That is information.
2.    To make a request: If we are in a situation where we need a help, we make a request or just simply we ask help. Asking help is the most effective way of getting help. We all have a natural empathy for those in need. When we make a request we need to ask for people’s help. We need to state our request clearly. We need to make sure that people understand it and to make them commit whatever is requested.
3.    Influence: Third form of communication is influence. This is something politicians do well. They give a great attention to how they dress, the words they use. They pay attention how they are influencing the audience. They give an attention whether they are getting applause or not, whether people smile or respond in an expected way or not. So when we set out some influence on somebody we need to remember that we are communicating far more than just verbal terms.
4.    Entertain: And the forth method of verbal communication is entertaining. This is something comedians are good at. You are all the time calibrating or measuring what makes them smile and what doesn’t.
Non-verbal Communication
Communication is the transfer of information from one person to another. Most of us spend about 75 percent of our waking hours communicating our knowledge, thoughts, and ideas to others. However, most of us fail to realize that a great deal of our communication is of a non-verbal form as opposed to the oral and written forms. Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture and motions, and positioning within groups. It may also include the way we wear our clothes or the silence we keep.
In person-to-person communications our messages are sent on two levels simultaneously. If the nonverbal cues and the spoken message are incongruous, the flow of communication is hindered. Right or wrong, the receiver of the communication tends to base the intentions of the sender on the non- verbal cues he receives.
G. W. Porter divides non-verbal communication into four broad categories:
1.    Physical. This is the personal type of communication. It includes facial expressions, tone of voice, sense of touch, sense of smell, and body motions.
2.    Aesthetic. This is the type of communication that takes place through creative expressions: playing instrumental music, dancing, painting and sculpturing.
3.    Signs. This is the mechanical type of communication, which includes the use of signal flags, the 21-gun salute, horns, and sirens.
4.    Symbolic. This is the type of communication that makes use of religious, status, or ego-building symbols.
Importance of communication skills
Knowledge of non-verbal communication is important managers who serve as leaders of organizational "teams," for at least two reasons:
  • To function effectively as a team leader the manager must interact with the other members successfully. Non-verbal cues, when interpreted correctly, provide him with one means to do so.
  • The team members project attitudes and feelings through non-verbal communication. Some personal needs such as approval, growth, achievement, and recognition may be met in effective teams. The extent to which these needs are met is closely related to how perceptive the team leader and team members are to non-verbal communication in themselves and in others on the team.
If the team members show a true awareness to non-verbal cues, the organization will have a better chance to succeed, for it will be an open, honest, and confronting unit. 
What are transferable skills?
Generic (or general) transferable skills are those skills, abilities and personal attributes which you can use in a wide range of activities, both in and out of employment, and that are not specific to the subject you studied.
There exist many transferable skills, but most can be summarised under four main headings:
  • communication and presentation skills (oral, written and graphic);
  • teamwork or interpersonal skills (e.g. negotiating, listening, sharing, empathising);
  • management or organising and planning skills (including self management skills such as integrity, honesty and ethical behaviour); and
  • Intellectual and creative skills (such as problem solving and 'thinking beyond the square').
Skills that you have developed in a specific subject area at university (e.g. sociology, psychology, archaeology) may be transferred from that context into another (e.g. another topic or a community role or a employment-related task).
Let's discuss that more fully though the example of writing.
The ability to communicate effectively in writing is examples of a transferable skill area that you may have develop through different kinds of exercise at university. These could include those assignments that require you to write essays, fieldwork reports, laboratory reports, or text for posters. Whilst you may develop your ability to communicate in writing in a particular context (for example, within your particular disciplinary area or within the context of university assignments) your various abilities can be transferred across (used in) several contexts. You will probably find that you need to, or will, develop these skills to progressively higher levels in your work and community life to produce, for example, policy papers, annual reports, published articles, or books and to present your ideas at conferences, board meetings or public forums.
Why are they important?
  1. Transferable skills empower you to use and effectively apply the specific knowledge you develop through higher education. For example, expertise with 'MS-Excel' or 'SPSS' enables you to use and present discipline-specific data effectively.
  2. Transferable skills enable you to perform different work or professional roles from those for which you have been educated. For example, well-developed transferable skills might allow the social work professional to move from social work practice into hospital policy.
  3. Transferable skills are mutually supportive. For example, interpersonal skills (such as how well you listen) are often closely connected to your ability to communicate effectively (such as how much impact your written or spoken word has on others).
For these reasons, transferable skills are valued highly by universities and by the communities of which you will be a part. They are among the qualities and attributes treasured by an educational tradition which endeavours to provide a broadening of horizons, preparing graduates for a critical, aware and responsible appreciation of the world.
Question 2
Explain the concept of group dynamics and teamwork addressing issues such as group formation, Belbin’s team roles, and Honey Mumford’s learning styles before identifying and explaining which team role and learning style best suit you.
The Concept of Group Dynamics

The term “group dynamics” refers to the structures and processes by which groups form and function. The study of the dynamics of a group includes questions such as: How is the group formed? Why is the group formed? How is the group structured? How does the group operate? How does the group affect individual members, other groups and the organization? Healthy and confident group dynamics require the participation of group members, participatory leadership, motivation, effective communication and productive conflict resolution.
Groups must be managed and maintained. Managing the group should be undertaken by the group, and be a normal part of group activities.

Group Formation
Tuckman and Jensen draw on the movement known as group dynamics, which is concerned with why groups behave in particular ways. This offers various suggestions for how groups are formed and how they develop over time. The formation of some groups can be represented as a spiral; other groups form with sudden movements forward and then have periods with no change. Whatever variant of formation each group exhibits, they suggest that all groups pass through six sequential stages of development. These stages may be longer or shorter for each group, or for individual members of the group, but all groups will need to experience them. They are forming, storming, norming, performing, mourning and retiring.
The terms are pretty self explanatory. When a group is forming, participants can feel anxious not knowing how the group will work or what exactly will be required of them. Storming, as the word suggests, is when things may get stormy. Conflict can emerge, individual differences are expressed and the leader's role may be challenged. The value and the feasibility of the task may also be challenged. After the storm comes the calm of norming, where the group starts to function harmoniously and where participants co-operate and mutual support develops. This enables the performing stage to occur where the work really takes off and the group accepts a structure and method for achieving the common task. When the group retires or adjourns, much learning happens through informal chat and feedback about the group performance. Tuckman and Jenson recognise that when groups dismantle themselves and the loose ends are all tied up, participants often go through a stage of mourning or grieving.
This model is useful to know, so that when your group appears to be going nowhere or perhaps members are arguing so much that no work can be started, you understand that this is normal! Most groups go through these phases. Understanding this pattern empowers you to work towards moving the group onto the next phase.
1.  Forming
What was the task? 
Did you all share the same expectations of the task? 
Did you all have the same attitude to working in a group? 
Did you feel any anxiety at the outset of the activity?
2.  Storming
Was there any conflict in the group? 
Did you all agree on the means of carrying out the task? 
Did you have a leader and was his/her authority challenged? 
Did any group members withdraw from the group?
3.  Norming
Did you move on to agree methods of working? 
Did you have a common goal? 
Did you cooperate with each other? 
Did you work out how to proceed at all? (If not, you were probably still storming.)
4.  Performing
Did everyone take on a functional role to achieve the task? 
Did you work constructively and efficiently? 
Did the group's activity focus on fulfilling the task? 
Did you experience a sense of achievement?
5.  Retiring/Adjourning
Did you stop abruptly and all go your separate ways or did you finish the task and then go off together and socialize? 
Did you talk about the group and your experience of it? 
What sort of issues did you discuss or think about after the group activity? 
Was it more or less acceptable to give and receive feedback in a relaxed atmosphere when adjourning?
6.  Mourning/Grieving
Have you experienced the mourning stage following the completion of a show or project? 
Have you ever felt empty or sad when a group activity has finished? 
Why might some people feel the mourning stage more acutely than others? 
How do you deal with your own feelings after the project or show?

 According to the quantitative survey done by University of Leicester the success or failure of group work often depended on how the group was formed at the start of the project/teamwork. The most favoured formation method was where students are grouped according to a shared interest (44.4%), followed, at some distance, by the tutor selecting the group (31.3%). The students in the sample rejected self selecting group formation (a common means of achieving groups in many departments) and also randomised group formation (9% and 12.5 percent respectively).

Belbin’s Team Roles

These types (or 'roles') were defined by Dr. R. Meredith Belbin after studying teams at Henley Management College. Meredith’s work at Henley Management College identified nine clusters of behaviour, termed Team Roles. Each Team Role has its particular strengths and allowable weaknesses, and each has an important contribution to make to a team.

Belbin roles
Doing / acting
Well-organized and predictable. Takes basic ideas and makes them work in practice. Can be slow.
Lots of energy and action, challenging others to move forwards. Can be insensitive.
Reliably sees things through to the end, ironing out the wrinkles and ensuring everything works well. Can worry too much and not trust others.
Thinking / problem-solving
Solves difficult problems with original and creative ideas. Can be poor communicator and may ignore the details.
Sees the big picture. Thinks carefully and accurately about things. May lack energy or ability to inspire others.
Has expert knowledge/skills in key areas and will solve many problems here. Can be disinterested in all other areas.
People / feelings
Respected leader who helps everyone focus on their task. Can be seen as excessively controlling.
Team worker
Cares for individuals and the team. Good listener and works to resolve social problems. Can have problems making difficult decisions.
Explores new ideas and possibilities with energy and with others. Good networker. Can be too optimistic and lose energy after the initial flush.

Another way of dividing them is:

Belbin role
Team Worker
Balanced teams
Teams work best when there is a balance of primary roles and when team members know their roles, work to their strengths and actively manage weaknesses.
  • To achieve the best balance, there should be:
  • One Co-ordinator or Shaper (not both) for leader
  • A Plant to stimulate ideas
  • A Monitor/evaluator to maintain honesty and clarity
  • One or more Implementer, Team worker, Resource investigator or Completer/finisher to make things happen
Honey and Mumford’s Lerning Styles
In the mid 1970’s Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted David Kolb’s model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business. They published their version of the model in The Manual of Learning Styles (1982) and Using Your Learning Styles (1983).
Two adaptations were made to Kolb’s experiential model. Firstly, the stages in the cycle were renamed to accord with managerial experiences of decision making/problem solving. The Honey & Mumford stages are:
1.   Having an experience
2.   Reviewing the experience
3.   Concluding from the experience
4.   Planning the next steps.
Secondly, the styles were directly aligned to the stages in the cycle and named Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. These are assumed to be acquired preferences that are adaptable, either at will or through changed circumstances, rather than being fixed personality characteristics. The Honey & Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ) is a self-development tool and differs from Kolb’s Learning Style inventory by inviting managers to complete a checklist of work-related behaviours without directly asking managers how they learn. Having completed the self-assessment, managers are encouraged to focus on strengthening underutilised styles in order to become better equipped to learn from a wide range of everyday experiences.
Which team role and learning style best suit me?
Among Belbin’s Team Roles Plant suits me best. Under Thinking and Problem solving section, Plant explained as someone solves difficult problems with original and creative ideas. A person can be poor communicator and may ignore the details.
I generally focus on the main part of the task. I could come up with interesting and unusual solutions and always focus on taking care of the main task and always tend to leave the rest of the work or some details to the rest of the team.
Among Honey and Mumford’s learning styles Pragmatist suits me best. I dream about things but generally I keep my feet on ground. I am not much into flying high and then falling apart. I scale things carefully.

Question 3

You have just been appointed to the post of IT Manager. Your company is considering whether to implement a new computer-based contact management and sales processing system for the sales department. A department only has a few computers, and the salespeople are not computer literate. The computerized sales forces are able to contact more customers and give a higher quality of reliability of service for those customers. They are more able to meet commitments, and can work more efficiently with fulfilment and delivery staff. Using two appropriate problem solving techniques recommend a feasible solution to the problem.
In order to be able to offer a solution to this problem I chose these two problem solving techniques:
·         Critical Success Factors (CSF)
·         Marketing Mix and 4Ps
Critical Success Factors (CSF)
The idea of Critical Success Factors was first presented by D. Ronald Daniel in the 1960s. It was then built on and popularized a decade later by John F. Rockart, of MIT's Sloan School of Management, and has since been used extensively to help businesses implement their strategies and projects.
Rockart defined CSFs as:
"The limited number of areas in which results, if they are satisfactory, will ensure successful competitive performance for the organization. They are the few key areas where things must go right for the business to flourish. If results in these areas are not adequate, the organization's efforts for the period will be less than desired."
He also concluded that CSFs are "areas of activity that should receive constant and careful attention from management."
Critical Success Factors are strongly related to the mission and strategic goals of your business or project. Whereas the mission and goals focus on the aims and what is to be achieved, Critical Success Factors focus on the most important areas and get to the very heart of both what is to be achieved and how you will achieve it.
CSFs are the essential areas of activity that must be performed well if you are to achieve the mission, objectives or goals for your business or project.
By identifying your Critical Success Factors, you can create a common point of reference to help you direct and measure the success of your business or project.
As a common point of reference, CSFs help everyone in the team to know exactly what's most important. And this helps people perform their own work in the right context and so pull together towards the same overall aims.
In order to identify possible CSFs, we must examine the mission and objectives and see which areas of the business need attention so that they can be achieved. We can start by brainstorming what the Critical Success Factors might be (these are the "Candidate" CSFs.)
Candidate Critical Success Factors
To contact more customers and give a higher quality of reliability of service for the customers.
To buy sufficient amount of computers and implement a new computer-based contact management and sales processing system for the sales department.
To meet commitments.
To teach the computer illiterate staff the basic computer knowledge first that they will not have any problem in managing the computer and the software.
Could work more efficiently with fulfilment and delivery staff
To train the staff on a newly implemented system.
Once we have a list of Candidate CSFs, it's time to consider what is absolutely essential and so identify the truly Critical Success Factors. In our case, all the factors we listed above critically important, so we implement them all in order to achieve the goal.
Marketing Mix and 4Ps
The marketing mix and the 4 Ps of marketing are often used as synonyms for each other. In fact, they are not necessarily the same thing.
"Marketing mix" is a general phrase used to describe the different kinds of choices organizations have to make in the whole process of bringing a product or service to market. The 4 Ps is one way - probably the best-known way - of defining the marketing mix, and was first expressed in 1960 by E J McCarthy.
The 4Ps are:
  • Product (or Service)
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion
A good way to understand the 4 Ps is by the questions that you need to ask to define you marketing mix. Here are some questions that will help you understand and define each of the four elements:
  • What does the customer want from the product/service? What needs does it satisfy?
  • What features does it have to meet these needs?
    • Are there any features you've missed out? 
    • Are you including costly features that the customer won't actually use?
  • How and where will the customer use it?
  • What does it look like? How will customers experience it?
  • What size(s), color(s), and so on, should it be?
  • What is it to be called? 
  • How is it branded?
  • How is it differentiated versus your competitors?
  • What is the most it can cost to provide, and still be sold sufficiently profitably? (See also Price, below).
  • Where do buyers look for your product or service? 
  • If they look in a store, what kind? A specialist boutique or in a supermarket, or both? Or online? Or direct, via a catalogue? 
  • How can you access the right distribution channels? 
  • Do you need to use a sales force? Or attend trade fairs? Or make online submissions? Or send samples to catalogue companies?
  • What do you competitors do, and how can you learn from that and/or differentiate?

  • What is the value of the product or service to the buyer?
  • Are there established price points for products or services in this area?
  • Is the customer price sensitive? Will a small decrease in price gain you extra market share? Or will a small increase be indiscernible, and so gain you extra profit margin? 
  • What discounts should be offered to trade customers, or to other specific segments of your market?
  • How will your price compare with your competitors?
  • Where and when can you get across your marketing messages to your target market? 
  • Will you reach your audience by advertising in the press, or on TV, or radio, or on billboards? By using direct marketing mailshot? Through PR? On the Internet?
  • When is the best time to promote? Is there seasonality in the market? Are there any wider environmental issues that suggest or dictate the timing of your market launch, or the timing of subsequent promotions?
  • How do your competitors do their promotions? And how does that influence your choice of promotional activity?
As this problem solving technique suggests “Putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time”, we will have to asses some important factors in our business.
First and the most important thing is what customer wants. If we see that this system will bring us more customers and will make them happy, then we need to consider the implementation costs. If the whole system implementation and staff training is a reasonable, then the system could be implemented. As this solution technique suggests we need to consider timing, promotional techniques and costs, market knowledge, customer satisfaction and feedback, quality of the implemented system.

Question 4

Critically evaluate your learning experience including conducting a self-assessments, setting realistic and achievable targets using action plans/personal development plans; state any problems, limitations and advancements made during the period of learning; identify at least two personal development skills learned and explain how this may assist you in future employment.
Two personal development skills I learned during the period of learning:
·         Time Management: I found time management one of the most important factors in effective learning and being successful and achieving goals. Scheduling, prioritisation, goal setting,
o    Time management is an essential skill that helps you keep your work under control, at the same time that it helps you keep stress to a minimum.
o    We need to work smarter on things that have the highest priority, and then creating a schedule that reflects our work and personal priorities.
o    With this in place, we can work in a focused and effective way, and really start achieving those goals, dreams and ambitions we care so much about.
·         Project Management: I found this specific area very important in learning and in business as well. Because, good project management means thinking, researching, finding ideas, planning, developing, testing and implementing. While the very simplest projects can be managed easily by applying common sense and just getting on with things, projects that are more complex need a great deal of planning, and benefit from a formal, disciplined management approach. From making sure that activities will actually meet the specified need, to devising a workable schedule, developing systems for reporting progress, and managing requests for changes – all of these issues require thoughtful consideration. Managing projects well requires a great deal of time, skill, and finesse. There are many sides to project management and this is what makes it so interesting and demanding. Project managers are expected to take an uncertain event and make a certain promise to deliver. They are also expected to do this within a specified time and within a limited budget.


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