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Author: Manas Bhardwaj

Setup your SharePoint 2013 Farm in Microsoft Azure with just a few clicks

Windows Microsoft Azure recently announced the feature where they explained the ability to create a full blown SharePoint Farm environment for either development or actual production use.

With SharePoint Server Farm, the Microsoft Azure Preview Portal automatically creates a pre-configured SharePoint Server 2013 farm for you. This can save you a lot of time when you need a basic or high-availability SharePoint farm for a development and testing environment or if you are evaluating SharePoint Server 2013 as a collaboration solution for your organization.

Further documentation is available on Microsoft Azure site

SharePoint Farm in Azure (8)

Creating a SharePoint 2013 Farm in Microsoft Azure is literally a couple of clicks away. The new option provides a new template along with others (such as Ubuntu, SQL Server Standard 2014 etc.) for creating a SharePoint Server Farm.

SharePoint Farm in Azure (1)

The next step after selecting the SharePoint Server template is to provide the necessary mandatory fields such as Resource Group, Default User Name and Password.

SharePoint Farm in Azure_(2)

Azure Resource Manager allows you to group multiple resources as a logical group which serves as the lifecycle boundary for every resource contained within it. Typically a group will contain resources related to a specific application.

And that’s actually it. Literally and just two clicks in Azure Portal, you have a working SharePoint Server Farm ready for use. If you select the resource group in Azure Portal, you would see something like this and following resources (VMs, Virtual Network etc.) would have been created for you.

SharePoint Farm in Azure (9)

Optional

Of course, you can further fine tune the default setup by changing the default host name prefix, administrator account, passwords, MSDN Subscription for Azure or even the location of resources or affinity group.

Domain Controllers

SharePoint Farm in Azure (3)

SQL Servers

SharePoint Farm in Azure (4)

SharePoint Servers

SharePoint Farm in Azure (5)

Other Configuration

SharePoint Farm in Azure (6)

Location

SharePoint Farm in Azure (7)

Enjoy your new SharePoint Environment!

A beginner’s guide to Performance Control Systems

(Juran & Godfrey, 1999, p. 4.9) acknowledged that control subjects run to large numbers, but the number of “things” to be controlled is far larger. There is no possibility for upper managers to control huge numbers of control subjects. Instead, they divide up the work of control, using a plan of delegation somewhat as depicted in figure below. This division of work establishes three areas of responsibility for control: control by nonhuman means, control by the work force, and control by the managerial hierarchy.

Figure: The pyramid of control. Making Quality Happen, Juran Institute, Inc.

Various authors have tried to explain control in light of different meanings. (Tannenbaum, 1968, p. 239) referred it as any process in which a person or group of persons or organization of persons determines, i.e., intentionally affects, what another person or group or organization will do.

However, (Ouchi, 1979, p. 833) considers a more simple minded view of organizational control stated in the following two questions: What are the mechanisms through which an organization can be managed so that it moves towards its objective? How can the design of these mechanisms be improved, and what are the limits of each basic design?

(Tannenbaum, 1968, p. 246) noted that variations in control patterns within organizations have important and in some cases quite predictable effects on the reactions, satisfactions and frustrations, feelings of tension, self- actualization, or well-being of members.

(Ouchi, 1979, p. 834) classified that organizations have three control mechanisms:

Market control


Market control system focuses on output target as it is more effective to evaluate the work after it has been completed. In order to use a market control system effectively, there must be a certain level of information and clearly set targets to make it possible to evaluate the output.

Bureaucratic control

The fundamental mechanism of control involves close personal surveillance and direction of subordinate by supervisor. The information necessary for the completion is contained in rule; these may be rules concerning processes to be completed or rules which specify standards of output or quality.

Clan Control

The clan control system is based on cultural values, shared norms, informal relationships and beliefs that coordinate the behaviour to achieve organisational targets.

(Johnson, et al., 2008, p. 10) categorises controls as:

Strategic control

involves monitoring the extent to which the strategy is achieving the objectives and suggesting corrective action.

Operational control

is what managers are involved in for most of their time. It is vital to the success of strategy, but it is not the same as strategic management.

Performance Control Tools

“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.
If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” – Lord Kelvin

Benchmarking

(Slack, et al., 2010, p. 611) defined benchmarking as the process of learning from others and involves comparing one’s own performance or methods against other comparable operations. It is a broader issue than setting performance targets, and includes investigating other organizations’ operations practice in order to derive ideas that could contribute to performance improvement. Further, the stressed that Benchmarking is essentially about stimulating creativity in improvement practice.

(Spendolini, 1992) defined benchmarking as continuous, systematic process for evaluating the products, services, and work processes of organizations that are recognized as representing best practices for the purpose of organizational improvement.

(Camp, 1994) on the other hand described benchmarking as the continuous process of measuring products, services, and practices against the company’s toughest competitors or those companies renowned as industry leaders.

Benchmarking is not about imitating another organization. It is or should be more about innovation and improvements than about copying a competitor. Benchmarking should facilitate learning and understanding organizational processes and results.

There are various types of benchmarking, some of them are listed as follows. Organisations can decide to use one or a combination of different types to meet their goals.

  1. Internal benchmarking

    is a comparison between operations or parts of operations which are within the same total organization.

  2. External benchmarking

    is a comparison between an operation and other operations which are part of a different organization.

  3. Non-competitive benchmarking

    is benchmarking against external organizations which do not compete directly in the same markets.

  4. Competitive benchmarking

    is a comparison directly between competitors in the same, or similar, markets.

  5. Performance benchmarking

    is a comparison between the levels of achieved performance in different operations.

  6. Practice benchmarking

    is a comparison between an organization’s operations practices, or way of doing things, and those adopted by another operation.

(Spendolini, 1992) came up with a generic model for benchmarking with the following five steps being involved:

  1. Determine what to benchmark.
  2. Form a benchmarking team
  3. Identify benchmark partners.
  4. Collect and analyse benchmark information.
  5. Take action (and continue the process)

(Juran & Godfrey, 1999) presented the following 10-step process for conducting a benchmarking investigation consists of the following five essential phases:

  1. Planning
  2. Analysis
  3. Integration
  4. Analysis
  5. Maturity

Figure: The formal 10-step benchmarking process.

Balanced Scorecard

(Kaplan & Norton, 1992) suggested what you measure is what you get. They introduced the balanced scorecard in 1992 and believed that measurement was as fundamental to managers as it was for scientists. If companies were to improve the management of their intangible assets, they had to integrate the measurement of intangible assets into their management systems. While formulating the balanced scored, they emphasised on the aspect that the Balanced Scorecard does not become a benchmarking exercise. (Kaplan, 2010, p. 19) acknowledged that even high-performing companies succeeded with strategies that were quite different from each other.

 

Figure: Balanced scorecard developed by Kaplan and Norton (1992)

The figure above shows the original structure for the Balanced Scorecard which retains financial metrics as the ultimate outcome measures for company success, but supplements these with metrics from three additional perspectives – customer, internal process, and learning and growth – that we proposed as the drivers for creating long-term shareholder value.

(Lipe & Salterio, 2000) described the balanced scorecard as an integrated set of leading and lagging performance measures designed to capture the organisation’s strategy.

Various authors such as (Johnson, 1980) have argued that companies should focus on improving quality, reducing cycle times, and improving companies’ responsiveness to customers’ demands. Doing these activities well, they believed, would lead naturally to improved financial performance.

However, (Jensen, 2001) stated that Balanced Scorecard theory is flawed because it presents managers with a scorecard which gives no score – that is no single-valued measure how they have performed. Thus managers evaluated with such a system have no way to make principled or purposeful decisions.

(Bloomfield, 2002) noted that automation is essential in order to manage the vast amount of information related to a company’s mission and vision, strategic goals, objectives, perspectives, measures, causal relationships, and initiatives. The alternative is a manual process, which significantly increases the effort and cost of scorecard development and sets back progress in the early stages of the balanced scorecard development, when momentum is critical.

A beginner’s guide to diffusion of innovations

Introduction

(Johnson, et al., 2008 : 328) described that while Invention involves the conversion of new knowledge into a new product, process or service, Innovation adds the critical extra step of putting this new product, process or service into use, in the private sector typically via the marketplace and in the public sector through service delivery.

Types of innovation

Innovation is usually driven by the following two factors:

  • Technology Push: In this model, technologists or scientists drive the innovation by carrying out research and development to create new knowledge. This is used as an input to create further products or services which can be used to sell in the market.

     

  • Market Pull: In this model, the market represents the actual source of information about the usage of product or service. The lead or power users usually express the need of capabilities in the product which leads to the further innovation. Microsoft maintains a deep relation to its MVPs (Most Valuable professional) around the globe who are usually the biggest critic and source of suggestion while they introduce a new product in market.

Usually, organizations try to create balanced blend between the technology push and market pull. The balance can vary based on the geography, industry etc.

Another factor which is important is to decide between product or process innovation. Process innovators focus on changing how something is done and not what is done. New developing industries favour the product innovation compared to the process innovation as other competitors are still busy defining what needs to be done. On the other hand, mature industries favour process innovation as the basic rules of the game are already well defined and clear. Thus, it is important that focus is centred on how things can be improved and delivered. The new entrants in any business are the ones who usually focus on product innovation as they have less risk of anything to loose and if successful, the margins are very high. Large settled firms on the other hand have an advantage later as the design is established and they can further innovate the process to improve the efficiency and services.

A key question for innovators is the importance of new knowledge in the form of scientific or technological advances. Successful innovators don’t just rely of technical or scientific improvements but creating the whole new business models to bring consumers, suppliers and producers together with or without new technologies.

Diffusion of Innovations

Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. Given that decisions are not authoritative or collective, each member of the social system faces his/her own innovation-decision that follows a 5-step process (Rogers, 1995):

  • Knowledge – person becomes aware of an innovation and has some idea of how it functions,
  • Persuasion – person forms a favourable or unfavourable attitude toward the innovation,
  • Decision – person engages in activities that lead to a choice to adopt or reject the innovation,
  • Implementation – person puts an innovation into use,
  • Confirmation – person evaluates the results of an innovation-decision already made.

The pace of diffusion can vary according the nature of the product. It also depends a lot of the factors such as demand as supply rate.

The diffusion S-curve

The pace of diffusion is typically not steady. Successful innovations often diffuse according to an S-curve pattern. The shape of the S-curve reflects a process of slow adoption in the early stages, followed by a rapid acceleration in diffusion, and ending with a plateau representing the limit to demand. The height of the S-curve shows the extent of diffusion; the shape of the S-curve shows the speed.

Figure 1: The diffusion S-curve

 

Innovators and followers

When it comes to innovation, a big decision for managers to make is to lead or follow. The S-curve concept suggests that leaders in innovation have an advantage. Looking at the historic evidences, it is difficult to come up with one rule of thumb in this decision making process. Though it is evident in some cases that early adopters or leaders had significant advantage when innovating, there have been several cases where this position has resulted in failures.

First movers usually have the following advantages:

  • Rapid accumulation of experience compared to the late entrants who are not yet familiar with the process, product and the technology.
  • They can make an early start when it comes to bulk production or purchase.
  • They have the opportunity to pre-empt the resources as the late entrant would not have the same environment available with resources, skilled labour etc.
  • They can build up a reputation as the customer’s do not have many alternatives in mind.
  • They can exploit the customers with hefty switching costs which would make it difficult to move to the new entrants.

On the other hand, late adopters have the following advantages:

  • They can imitate the technology and other innovations at a far lesser cost than it was done by the first movers.
  • They can learn from the experiences of the first movers and thus have lesser chances of making mistakes.

Based on the advantages for both first and late movers, Managers should further consider the following factors when deciding whether to go first or move late:

  • It is unwise for companies to be first movers if the innovation can easily be imitated by the competition.
  • If there is an absence of necessary complementary resources, then the organizations should retrain in investing heavily being the early adopters.
  • In a slow moving market, it is easy to decide to be early adopter or not. In a fast moving market, managers need to duly pay attention whether the investment in being the fast mover would be beneficial or not.

Recommended Reading

http://www.stanford.edu/class/symbsys205/Diffusion%20of%20Innovations.htm

http://www.enablingchange.com.au/Summary_Diffusion_Theory.pdf

http://www.ted.com/conversations/3479/why_does_the_diffusion_of_inno.html

http://www.provenmodels.com/570

http://blog.thansys.com/2011/06/14/innovation-process-vs-product/

Lost SharePoint Admin Password?

Today, I faced a situation where I was given a SharePoint 2013 Environment to which none of my colleague seemed to have access. Well, the situation wasn’t too bad as it was just a development environment and not a real test/production SharePoint environment.

And it’s one of the common scenario’s which we see that even though you are a Local Administrator on the server, there is not direct way to add yourself as SharePoint Farm Administrator. I wrote another post sometime back on the same theme where I described how to add local administrator as SQL Server Administrator using a script.

Ivan Josipovic has written a PowerShell script which displays the SharePoint Managed Accounts password including the Farm Account, without requiring the current user to be a part of the SharePoint Farm Admin Group.

This script will retrieve the Farm Account credentials and show the passwords for all of the SharePoint Managed Accounts

Download Recover-SPManagedAccounts Script

Get SharePoint Managed Account Password

As you see in the screenshot above, the script would return all the managed accounts and their corresponding passwords from the Secure Service Store.

One of the managed account returned would be Farm Administrator account which is kind of ‘super user’ in SharePoint and you can use this account to log in to Central Administrator and grant yourself Farm Administrator Privileges.

As an alternate, you can run PowerShell with the above account and execute the following script which would serve the same purpose and grant a user Farm Administrator rights on your SharePoint Environment.


Add-PSSnapin Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShell -erroraction SilentlyContinue

# Creates a new Farm Administrator

$newFarmAdministrator = Read-Host -Prompt 'Please provide the name of the new Farm Administrator in the form of DOMAIN\Username'

$caWebApp = Get-SPWebApplication -IncludeCentralAdministration | where-object {$_.DisplayName -eq "SharePoint Central Administration v4"} 
$caSite = $caWebApp.Sites[0] 
$caWeb = $caSite.RootWeb

$farmAdministrators = $caWeb.SiteGroups["Farm Administrators"] 
$farmAdministrators.AddUser($newFarmAdministrator, "", $newFarmAdministrator, "Configured via PowerShell")

$caWeb.Dispose() 
$caSite.Dispose()

$caDB = Get-SPContentDatabase -WebApplication $caWebApp 
Add-SPShellAdmin -Database $caDB -Username $newFarmAdministrator

And the result is as follows. Even without having any access to the SharePoint environment, I could add myself as the SharePoint Farm Administrator.

SharePoint Farm Admins

How to create default groups in SharePoint 2013 Host-Name Site Collection?

What is Host-Named Site Collection?

Host-named site collections enable you to assign a unique DNS name to site collections. For example, you can address them as http://TeamA.contoso.com and http://TeamB.contoso.com. This enables you to deploy many sites with unique DNS names in the same web application. It also enables hosters to scale an environment to many customers. If you do not use host-named site collections, your SharePoint web application will contain many path-based site collections that share the same host name (DNS name). For example, Team A has a site collection at http://contoso.com/sites/teamA, and Team B has a site collection at http://contoso.com/sites/teamB.

You can read more about the Host-named site collection architecture and deployment in SharePoint 2013 here. This article has listed a very good comparison of host-name site collections to the path based site collections. However, one of the key advantage which host-named site collection offers is the transparent experience to the end users which was difficult to achieve in earlier versions of SharePoint. Till SharePoint 2010, the only way to have a dedicated URL mapping was on a Web Application level through alternate access mapping.

It should be noted that there is no user interface to create a host-named site collection from SharePoint 2013 Central administration and is possible only via PowerShell command, which is not very complex either. Below example shows how to create a host-name site collection which can be accessed via the DNS entry http://manasbhardwaj.net


Add-PSSnapin Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShell 

$currentUser = "$env:USERDOMAIN\$env:USERNAME" 
$siteCollectionUrl = "http://manasbhardwaj.net"
$siteCollectionName = "Manas Dev Site"
$webApplicationUrl = "http://manas"

New-SPSite -Url $siteCollectionUrl -OwnerAlias $currentUser -Name $siteCollectionName -Language 1033 -HostHeaderWebApplication $webApplicationUrl -Template sts#0

Create Default Groups in a Host-Named Site Collection

However, when you use the above script to create a host-named site collection it does not create the default groups (such as Owners, Members and Visitors) which are available if the site collection is created using the Central Administration user interface.

Host Named Site Collection

Look at the image above and you can see the groups are missing. But the good news is that it is still possible to create the default groups using a couple of lines of script.


Add-PSSnapin Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShell 

$currentUser = "$env:USERDOMAIN\$env:USERNAME" 
$siteCollectionUrl = "http://manasbhardwaj.net"
$siteCollectionName = "Manas Dev Site"
$webApplicationUrl = "http://manas"

New-SPSite -Url $siteCollectionUrl -OwnerAlias $currentUser -Name $siteCollectionName -Language 1033 -HostHeaderWebApplication $webApplicationUrl -Template sts#0

$web = Get-SPWeb $siteCollectionUrl
$web.EnsureUser($currentUser)
$web.CreateDefaultAssociatedGroups($currentUser, "", "")

What you need to do is call the CreateDefaultAssociatedGroups once your site collection has been created. And this will ensure that the default groups are created for the specified site collection.

Host Named Site Collection_With Groups

Update hosts file (on local Development Environment)

If you want to create a host-named site collection on your development environment, you might need to update your local host file to create an entry for the specified Url. In a real test or production environment, you would have a actual DNS VIP entry which you can use to redirect to your site collection. So, for e.g.


# localhost name resolution is handled within DNS itself.
#	127.0.0.1       localhost
#	::1             localhost

127.0.0.1 manasbhardwaj.net

SharePoint 2013 – Drives are running out of free space

Query all database sizes on SQL Server

On any SharePoint Environment, the SQL Server databases can take a lot of space. The space can be used by Usage Database or even the transaction logs. The below query returns the Database name and the file size used by data and log files receptively.

Shrink all databases on SQL Server

You can use the following query to basically shrink all databases on your SQL Server. However, read the blog post here to understand why you should not be doing this.


EXEC sp_MSForEachDB 'DBCC SHRINKDATABASE (''?'' , 0)'

Change the recovery model for all databases on SQL Server

Disable Configure usage and health data collection

On a development environment, you might consider to completely turn off the ‘Configure usage and health data collection’.

Configure Usage Analysis

Change Set-SPUsageDefinition for all events

Or use the following script to retain the events in usage to database for minimum time (for e.g. 1 day)


Get-SPUsageDefinition | ForEach-Object {Set-SPUsageDefinition -Identity $_.name -DaysRetained 1}

A beginner’s guide on Balanced Scorecard

Introduction

“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.
If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” – Lord Kelvin

Performance control has been thought-provoking topic which has been applied in many organizations around the globe. Due to the nature of all these different organizations, many types and forms of performance controls have been developed both by academics and practitioners.
Performance control or management systems are used by organizations to cater multidimensional roles:

  1. Communicate the company’s strategic objectives.
  2. Motivate employees to help the company achieve its strategic objectives.
  3. Evaluate the performance of managers, employees, and operating units.
  4. Help managers allocate resources to the most productive and profitable opportunities.
  5. Provide feedback on whether the company is making progress in improving processes and meeting the expectations of customers and shareholders.

Over the years, various frameworks have been proposed and implemented such as Balanced Scorecard, Total Quality Management, Shareholder value etc. Based on research by (Lawson, et al., 2008) balanced scorecard is the most popular and used among by 62% of organizations as a performance management system.

The Balanced Scorecard

(Kaplan & Norton, 1992) suggested what you measure is what you get. They introduced the balanced scorecard in 1992 and believed that measurement was as fundamental to managers as it was for scientists. If companies were to improve the management of their intangible assets, they had to integrate the measurement of intangible assets into their management systems. While formulating the balanced scored, they emphasized on the aspect that the Balanced Scorecard does not become a benchmarking exercise. They further acknowledged that even high-performing companies succeeded with strategies that were quite different from each other.

Figure 1: Balanced scorecard developed by Kaplan and Norton (1992)

The figure above shows the original structure for the Balanced Scorecard which retains financial metrics as the ultimate outcome measures for company success, but supplements these with metrics from three additional perspectives – customer, internal process, and learning and growth – that we proposed as the drivers for creating long-term shareholder value.
The balanced scorecard allows the organizations to measure their performance from different angles and incorporate the necessary key performance indicators. The four perspectives shown in the above figure can be summarised and explained as follows:

  1. Customer, how are we perceived by our customers?
  2. People/ growth assets/ innovation, what is the level of capacity for the organization to grow and learn?
  3. Financial, what is the impact of performance on shareholder value?
  4. Internal processes, what core competencies do we possess and what can we develop more?

The Balanced Scorecard retains financial metrics as the ultimate outcome measures for company success, but supplements these with metrics from three additional perspectives – customer, internal process, and learning and growth – that we proposed as the drivers for creating long-term shareholder value.
(Lipe & Salterio, 2000) described the balanced scorecard as an integrated set of leading and lagging performance measures designed to capture the organization’s strategy.
(Bloomfield, 2002) noted that automation is essential in order to manage the vast amount of information related to a company’s mission and vision, strategic goals, objectives, perspectives, measures, causal relationships, and initiatives. The alternative is a manual process, which significantly increases the effort and cost of scorecard development and sets back progress in the early stages of the balanced scorecard development, when momentum is critical.

Advantages of balanced scorecard

Apart from the fact that the balanced scorecard covers the for various performance indicators of an organization, there are other advantages associated as well.
By using the balanced scorecard approach, the organizations can make sure that it’s not only the current or short term future which is evaluated but the results can give the stakeholders an overview of the health of the organization at short, intermediate and long term.
By using a balanced scorecard, a company can be sure that any strategic action implemented matches the desired outcomes. It might, if the customer is satisfied with that product, or if the processes involved with creating that product make the product of a higher quality.

Disadvantages of balanced scorecard

While there a lot of advantages in balanced scorecard, there are certain disadvantages and limitations associated as well. One of limitation of using balanced scorecard is that it needs a proper forethought process before implementation. This means that it is not a tool which can be used to solve the problems in quick span of time without a proper plan. Various authors such as (Johnson, 1980) have supported this argument that companies should focus on improving quality, reducing cycle times, and improving companies’ responsiveness to customers’ demands. Doing these activities well, they believed, would lead naturally to improved financial performance.
It is recommended while implementing a balanced scorecard in an organization to hold a meeting plan to state all the objectives which are to be met. Once you have the clearly stated objectives, these can be broken down in to further smaller objectives which meets the planned outcome.
While balanced scorecard gives you a holistic view of the four dimensional factors, it is often not the complete picture what is happening within the organization. Thus, it is recommended that the balanced scorecard is treated at the organization’s strategy that includes multiple success factors.
Some authors such as (Jensen, 2001) have also stated that Balanced Scorecard theory is flawed because it presents managers with a scorecard which gives no score – that is no single-valued measure how they have performed. Thus managers evaluated with such a system have no way to make principled or purposeful decisions.

Summary

We live in a competitive world and organizations want to gain the advantage by transforming them based on the information available. The performance management systems are not only important and applicable to the organizations but they can be applied to human resources, products or even processes to measure their effectiveness and learn about the areas which needs attention. Balanced Scorecard is one of the most popular and effective measurement systems used by organizations. One of the primary reasons for its popularity is of course the reason that it not only limits the measurement in one area but also adds multiple side dimensions to get a more holistic view.

Further Reading

Using the Balanced Scorecard as a Strategic Management System

Balanced Scorecard: Panacea or poisoned chalice?

New Ways to Improve Communications and Risk Management

Using Balanced Scorecard to Measure Software Quality

Balanced Scorecard: 6 Ways to Turn Business Strategy Into Business Success

Challenges of Implementing Action Learning

In his book ‘ABC of Action Learning’, (Revans, 1983) discussed the essential logistics for implementing the action learning in an organization.

  1. Exchange Options
  2. Individual and Teams
  3. Sponsors, Clients, Client Groups and Participants
  4. Problems not Puzzles
  5. The Learning Equation
  6. The Essential Character of a Set
  7. Induction Exercises
  8. Programme Phases

Each of the individual logistic can pose a challenge while implementing the action learning in an organization. The concept can be strongly resisted by the community or the leadership. The training community can see it as threat to the existing defined learning methodologies. In my opinion, some basic challenges which can be faced while implementing action learning can be:

Defining a problem

Selecting a problem statement is one of the most important aspects in action learning and it needs to be done very carefully. The problem statement would also later lead to the formulation of participants who would a common goal to solve the problem. An incorrect or vague problem statement would lead to a group formed which is not in best capacity to solve the particular problem.

Set Formation

Composing a set or group to solve a problem is strategic decision. It cannot be done randomly as the group should be comprised of people with programmed knowledge and questioning insights. There can be an issue with the learning styles of different people. Another issue can be the diversity of the group. There can be people which are like minded or friends and will not really challenge each other while questioning.

(Cusins, 1996) outlines five anti-group behaviours which hinder effective action learning in a set:

  1. The bully (excessive threatening behaviour)
  2. The blocker (repeatedly blocking other people’s ideas)
  3. The joker (continually using jokes to avoid real issues)
  4. The cop-out (excessive withdrawal from discussion with implied disapproval)
  5. The rambler (talk on and on without getting to the point)

Facilitator Role

The facilitator or the learning coach is one of the key elements of the action learning process.  He or she can be a major factor deciding the direction of the action learning process. Though a learning coach is not a member of set, they have to control the set and make sure that the members of group/set ensure that action learning principles are followed during the exercise. One of challenge could be to ensure that the action learning team has one such coach available all the time. For the short term an option could be employ the external facilitators. But as the very core of action learning methodology suggests to solve the problem in own capacity, in my opinion it’s worth to consider if the organization’s own resources could be trained to fill the role of a facilitator.

Resistance to Change

As similar to implementing a new process or methodology in an organization, the action learning can as well face resistance from all the corners. Generally, it could be from the learning community, department and leadership to mention the few. Learning community may be threatened by the fact that introduction of action learning methodology can all of a sudden change the way learning has happened and thought of in the organization. This would be also mean that the employees need to be retrained to understand and follow the new approach.  Leadership also need to get educated and convinced with the action learning approach. For all those problems which were resolved by external consultants or parties can be very well solved within the organization and the local teams. To achieve this, leadership needs to build a trust on the methodology and its own employees that they are capable of programmed knowledge and questioning insights to solve the various problems within the organization.

Add Local Administrators as SQL Server Administrator using PowerShell

Ever faced a situation when you are stuck with a SQL Server when you don’t have access even though if you are the Local Administrator.

Luckily, there is a way to get yourself access in this situation and you can use the following script.

It uses the SQL Server Single-User Mode to start the SQL Server. Starting SQL Server in single-user mode enables any member of the computer’s local Administrators group to connect to the instance of SQL Server as a member of the sysadmin fixed server role. For more information, see Connect to SQL Server When System Administrators Are Locked Out.

Download Script


$ServiceName = "MSSQLSERVER" #Enter the service name for your SQL Server Instance (MSSQLSERVER by default)
$Server = "Manas" #Enter the name of SQL Server Instance

NET STOP $ServiceName 
NET START $ServiceName /mSQLCMD 

SQLCMD -S $Server -Q "if not exists(select * from sys.server_principals where name='BUILTIN\administrators') CREATE LOGIN [BUILTIN\administrators] FROM WINDOWS;EXEC master..sp_addsrvrolemember @loginame = N'BUILTIN\administrators', @rolename = N'sysadmin'" 

NET STOP $ServiceName 
NET START $ServiceName

SQLCMD -S $Server -Q "if exists( select * from fn_my_permissions(NULL, 'SERVER') where permission_name = 'CONTROL SERVER') print 'You are a sysadmin.'" 

An introduction to Action Learning Cycle

Conceptually, the action learning cycle (Figure: The action Learning Cycle) consists of four phases (Zuber-Skerritt, 2000).
051114_1205_Anintroduct1.png
The first phase of the cycle is to identify the problem which is relevant and is in the power of group to solve. It should be evident that the problem should be complex in nature and no opportunity for solution is readily available. Next, the group starts with the discussion with a intention to solve the problem. The questions rather than the individuals are given utmost importance, facilitating possible solution for the problem. Third, the group identifies the possible solution and implements it. In the final phase, the group looks back at the implemented solution and evaluates it.
(Marquardt, 1999) in his book ‘Action learning in action’, describes what he defines as the six key elements of action learning.

  1. A problem (project, challenge, opportunity, issue or task)
  2. An action learning group or team
  3. A process that emphasizes insightful questioning and reflective listening
  4. A resolution of taking action
  5. A commitment to learning
  6. A group facilitator

To fit the above elements in the action learning cycles, it could be considered that an action learning group/team tries to solve a problem (project, challenge) through a process of asking insightful questions and reflective listening. They identify an action and take a resolution to act upon it with a commitment to learning.
(Mumford, 1995) proposes the following essential elements for action learning:

  1. Learning should mean learning to take effective action
  2. Learning to take effective action involves actually taking action not just recommending action
  3. The action learning project must be significant to the learners themselves
  4. Learners learn best from one another