Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Slow Down Culture

After being lazy to post updates, I ve finally decided to be a little more hardworking :P
So here it is, an update - a forwarded email, which I find quite interesting
But pictures I add one, so must claim a little credit.

The Slow Down Culture

An interesting reflection : Slow Down Culture At Swedish company, Volvo any project here takes 2 years to be finalized, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It's a rule.Globalize processes have caused in us (all over the world) a general sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to possess a need to see immediate results.

This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold large quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme.
At the end, this always yields better results.
Said in another words:
1. Sweden is about the size of San Pablo, a state in Brazil.
2. Sweden has 2 million inhabitants.
3. Stockholm has 500,000 people.
4. Volvo, Scania, SAAB , Ericsson, Electrolux, are some of its renowned companies. Volvo supplies to NASA.

The first time I was in Sweden , one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance (2000 employees drive their car to work).

The first day, I didn't say anything, neither the second or third.

One morning I asked, "Do you have a fixed parking space? I've noticed we park far from the entrance even when thereare no other cars in the lot."

To which he replied, "Since we're here early we'll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need a place closer to the door. Don't you think?"

Imagine my face.

Nowadays, there's a movement in Europe named Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with the family, friends, without rushing. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week. Basically, the movement questions the sense of "hurry" and "craziness" generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of "having in quantity"(life status) versus "having with quality", "life quality" or the "quality of being".


French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British.
Germans have established 28.8 hourworkweeks and have seen their productivity been driven up by 20%.
This slow attitude has brought forth the US's attention, pupils of the fast and the "do it now!". This no-rush attitude doesn't represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means reestablishing family values, friends, free and leisure time. Taking the "now", present and concrete, versus the "global", undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans' essential values, the simplicity of living. It stands for a less coercive work environment, more happy, lighter and more productive where humans enjoy doing what they know best how to do.

It's time to stop and think on how companies need to develop serious quality with no-rush that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit.

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there's a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, "I can't, my boyfriend will be here any minute now".
To which Al responds, "A life is lived in an instant".
Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment.

As John Lennon said,"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

Congratulations for reading till the end of this message. There are many who will have stopped in the middle so as not to waste time in this globalized world.

Unknown writer.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sidetrack: Friendship

Have been busy for sometime. Hence the long pause in postings.
Anyways, here s one sidetrack away from World Class Mentality.
I have been tagged by a friend of my - Ven to post about friendship.
So here goes:

What is friendship anyway? God alone knows the answer. Having been through a roller coaster ride (or was it rides) I no longer place much faith in friendships. This much I admit. Why?

1. There are simply too many fair weather friends. When times are good, they re around. When times are bad, haha, try looking for them and you ll see what I mean.

"People do not appreciate what you did for them in the past.
They ll only appreciate what you can do for them in the future"
- A Don in one of Mario Puzo's books

2. Friendship and money is like oil and water - Michael Corleone Godfather III. Lets not even venture into money!!! To the end, we re all selfish people. If there are no gains to be made, forget it.

There is also an ancient story in China.
Once upon a time in China, the emperor was bored and decided to embark upon a journey to discover the ultimate wisdom in the world. He summonned all his advisors and told them their mission - to find the ultimate wisdom in the world.
His advisors immediately scrambled to find the ultimate wisdom as ordered.
A year later, the advisors compiled the "wisdoms" which they find very true during their era of time. The emperor was submitted with their findings. The emperor, being a light headed fellow with no patience of reading what was the sweat and hardwork of his advisors summonned his advisors again.
"Its too thick to read for my royal eyes. Summarised them" He ordered.
As it was the decree of His Royal Highness, his advisors once again scrambled to carried it out.

One month later, they summarised into a single page and was pretty satisfied with their work.
Yet, again, the Emperor was not satisfied. That Royal (feather-brained) Emperor decreed, "Summarise them yet again."
His advisors were aghast with the decree. How can that be possible!? How on earth!?
What an idiot, we have as an emperor!? I give up!
"But he IS the Emperor!!!"
And during the era, capital punishment of the whole clan was common.
Fearing such dreaded punishment, the advisors have no choice.
Yet, they have no idea or any clue how to carry out their latest decree.
They decided to have lunch in a nearby restaurant.
Then it struck them.
"There is NO free lunch in this world"
Hence it was presented to the Emperor and became the undisputed ULTIMATE wisdom in this world.

For friendship - it is the same. There is NO free lunch. A pure gift of beneficiary? Sorry, unheard of.

For employees of the World Class Mentality - Always ask the objective of the Bossman. This would avoid many unneccessary work (which may not be appreciated anyway)

For Bossman of the World Class Mentality - Be clear to your subordinates of the objective. This would avoid work being done and not meeting the objective. Ultimately, morale of the employees would be affected.

3. People are Superficial. This is a fact. You and I are included.

Imagine you ve found a project which you are 100% sure to yield enormous profits. You were estatic! Excitement rages and nothing else seemed to matter. All you wanted was to call upon your friends and family to share the good news. And everyone was overjoyed for your good fortune. But there was one idiot "friend" of yours that cautioned you on the risks. What would your reaction be? You ll probably defend the project and your "friend" would counter with anohter point of view. "Do not count the chickens before they hatch" he says. "Damn the green-eyed idiot. He doesn't know what he is talking about. He s just jealous he couldn't find a good deal like that himself" That, is the most common reaction.
So, as a friend, what should you have done?
Caution your friend and you ll be in the bad books.
Don't caution and pretend to be supportive of the new project and you ll be manipulative.

TO be popular is easy. Just follow Option 2.
TO be a real friend is difficult. FOllow Option 1 and you ll be in the bad books. But your conscience will be clear at the very least.

The reason is simple: People just want to hear what they wanted to hear.

P/S: The above scenario could also be applied on the new girlfriend or new boyfriend that is not accepted in the friends' clique.

4. Misuse of friendships

This is rampant in the MLM business. Join me in the MLM or we re no longer friends. If you re a real friend, you ll support me. Not morally, but with membership. Together we will be rich beyond our wildest dreams.
Furthermore, Kiyosaki says, "Write down 6 names of whom you spends the most time with. These 6 people are your future."
So now, if these 6 people are not the MLM members, then it is the wrong path!??? So forget it, no more friends if you do not join me.

I ll say, Screw you for trying that shit of a threat. Screw you for trying to manipulate me. Screw you for thinking I am such a stupid bastard to be manipulated and threatened in that fashion.

Screw the "friendship". Its simply not worth it.

This article is made from the negative point of view on friendship. There are however true friendships out there but they are RARE. Personally, I ve seen both sides before and when I was out on my own, I have a number of friends to thank for their support, either morally, or financially, or for their recommendations and hardwork in helping me to find investors and clients alike.

To my friends, Thank you for being a true friend. The above article has no relevance except that it makes me appreciate you better.

TO my other so-called friends, Thank you for showing me the real world or I would still be living in Fantasia. However, SCREW YOU for trying to SCREW ME.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Law of The Inner Circle

Written by John C Maxwell, the guru in Leadership Skills, The Law of Inner Circle teaches us that the leader's potential is determined by those closest to him, or her. I have always find this to be very true. Why? Simply because we can't be doing everything ourselves! Truly, no man is an island and we need to depend on others. No doubt many of us know this very fact. But what is strange and surprising to this day is that we still fail to develop people!
Not too long ago in Malaysia, there was a huge unemployment crisis. Fresh graduates from universities were unable to find jobs. Many reasons were sighted for this but that is not the point of this mini article. There was one Human Resource Manager of some bigshot company who publicly stated that the Company is looking for someone who can do the work, not someone who needs to be trained to do the work. What a wrong mentality!!! And to think it came from a Human Resource Manager!!! Absurdity to the fullest extent.
Emotionally, I remembered when I first started working. I couldn't tell which button to operate the high tech photocopier machine. I have no idea how to do my job. And there was no one to guide me until my first "sifu" (or mentor) came to my rescue. He built my foundation of knowledge. Had he not taught me, I would have stuck in the rot for years. His condition for mentoring me at that time was only one - to mentor others when my time to mentor arise. I am proud to say that today I am following his footsteps to mentor others while still in my apprenticeship.
Many who were forced to learn by themselves, not unlike the organisation which I am in now - a Multinational Company (MNC), have the mentality that if they needed to learn by themselves, so others need to do the same. They are not about to "spoonfeed" nor teach anyone. The selfish world has taught them to be selfish as well. They have forgotten how good it would have been if there was someone who are willing to train them.
Impact? These selfish people will go nowhere, or at least I believe so. There will be no more further promotion as the management would be able to see (hopefully) their selfish nature of not developing people. Furthermore, if these people are promoted, what example would it serve?
There are many other famous people who advocates the same notion - W Steven Brown, the author of 13 Fatal Errors Managers Make & How You Can Avoid Them, also the President of The Fortune Group talks about Failure to Develop People. Robert Kiyosaki or Rich Dad Poor Dad fame, never fails to ask participants of his seminar to list 6 people that are closest to them - these 6 people are the future of the person. Steven R Covey, author of the renowned classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People came with his sequel - The 8th Habit which is essentially talking about bringing the best in people.

I grew up watching Chinese Kung Fu movies. And in the movies, the master never, never ever teaches his apprentice all his techniques for fear the apprentice would betray him. And it is a true happening in China. What happened? Generation by generation, due to the selfishness of the masters, knowledge and skills dwindles. Forget about progress. Think going backwards.
Are you guilty of failing to develop your people?
Will you start developing them?
I certainly hope so...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The key is PLANNING dammit

Firstly, allow me to apologize for cursing outright in the title.
I am a little frusfrated at what happened. Let me tell you about it.
As usual I was consolidating the monthly results of my company (or rather the company I am working with). And the first thing that I saw was Overtime went up 5 times the usual. "Hmm thats weird" I thought. I quickly make a check on our production volume and what awaits me is our production volume actually shrunk by 40-50%! That does not make any sense! I scrambled an analysis of Overtime by Dept and found that 90% came from Production!!!
Okay, let me get this straight - Our production volume went down by 40-50% but our Overtime increased by 500%? Hmm, there is only one possible explanation I thought - Machine Breakdown. That must be it - so I check the Repair and Maintenance Account and the Spare Parts Usage Account. Normal expenditure. No major expenses.
I rang the production manager's extension and enquired about this anomality. He told me some bullshit story about overtime incurred for briefings and meetings. I went up to meet him and show him the figures. Then, after some rallying of excuses, he finally told me the real reason - A lot of his staff went on their annual leave. That imbecile! He approved more than 50% of his workforce to go on their annual leave without planning on who would be operating the machines!!! A big hoo-hah then ensued but that is another story.
My point was simply this, Planning Dammit. If you were to know that by approving all those annual leave would leave your workforce decimated to huge overruns in overtime, why approve them in the first place? Plan your workforce's annual leave. Approve their carrying forward of annual leave instead of threatening to enfore the forfeiture of their annual leave. Yeah, we have another dumb policy of forfeiting any outstanding annual leave unless approved to carrying forward after a year.

I am currently also deeply involved in our Budgeting for 2007 to 2009. It appears at first glance we were using Zero Based Budgeting which basically means Justify all the expenses required. However, some heroes in certain departments merely uses Incremental Budgeting which is basically adding a certain rate or amount to previous year's figures. E.g. 2005 we spent 100K. 2006 we re expecting to spend 110K due to 10% increase in expenditure/inflation. So for 2007, just add another 10% making the expenses expected to incur to be 121K. No rocket science here. Yeah a darn simple way to budget. Problem is, how do we control the expenses then? How are we to improve our spending?
I do agree that to a certain extent, inflation plays a big part. But I do believe that we have our current inefficiencies which led to the current state of expenditure. Now if we were to merely increase the budget by a certain percentage then how the hell are we supposed to improve? We are actually condoning all our current inefficiencies!!!
The government agencies may do this, we as a commercial organisation in a cutthroat competition industry should never never be near this method of budgeting. All expenses MUST BE JUSTIFIED and be PLANNED in advance. Yeah, in this fast changing world, nothing is going to happen as planned. But if it does not, then I have no qualms throwing the variances out and justify the reasons why the particular occurence is not foreseen or budgeted.
Also, show me your supporting documents or your justifications. Do not simply add a 10% or even 5% for the matter of fact. How would you be able to control your actual expenses if you do not even know what you're budgeting for!???
Plan them, monitor the results, then we can talk about what action plans needed to be taken to improve.
Over and out.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

To be or not to be - Candid

Finance Director (Asia Pacific Region) : “Max, basically I want a staff who is proactive and takes initiative in everything that he does. We have a lot of staff who is only concerned with routine jobs, making sure work is done without adding value to the company.”

Maxforce : Boss, I understand what kind of person that you want. However, our culture here, (pause), and I do not mean Asian culture, (pause), I am also not referring to the factory’s culture, (pause), but more like, our department’s culture, does not encourage people to be what you want them to be.


The above is based on a true story in a Multi-National Company (MNC) in Malaysia. The year was 2005. The exchange was between a three months old, lowly staff member of a finance function with one of the most influential high ranking executive in the Asia Pacific Region.

Let’s go back to the above scenario. Many would imagine, being in a multi national company, we would be practicing World Class Mentality. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, I have yet to see that happening. Maybe it is due to my limited working experience but I have worked in two multinational companies so far, and it has yet to change my perception.

Jack Welch of General Electric fame (and also notorious for his extra marital affair, but we shall separate the CEO from the man), stresses the importance of being candid. Now, how many of you would do what I have done?

Some may find it appalling – it challenges status quo and may sound disrespectful to some.
Some may find it amusing but will never do it themselves for fear of repercussions.
Some will do exactly what I did.
Of course, some would have gone overboard (hehe, I used to fall under this category).

Most people will fall under category 1 and 2. Why? Basic reasons are as follows:

We are raised to respect elders too much. Even if they are wrong, we must listen and never object.
We are often told that we are still new, young and do not understand how things are done.
If we come up with an ingenious idea, we would be challenged, “If the idea is so good, why didn’t the previous guy thought about it” (Because the predecessor was an idiot?)
After a while, our initiative is killed. We only want to be safe in our comfort zone. “Why fix it when it ain’t broken?”
We dislike taking risks. If the project works, we get a few lousy praises and there is always a possibility that the boss may take all the credit. If it fails, it would look really bad on us and we would get a bunch of I-told-you-so.
Then, we would reach this stage that we are beyond caring. We get these sorts of comment and practice to make such comments as well:
“Why are you so hardworking? Spoiling the marketlar bradder!”
“Eh, I didn’t know we have a new shareholder”
“As long as every month I get my paycheck”
*Shrugs* “I am just following orders”

What’s the impact on the organization?
The organization will lose out if no one dares to speak up. Ideas that may yield competitive advantage dismissed. For example, Sam Walton, founder of Wal-mart, spends time discussing and chatting with his delivery men. Ideas were highlighted. Observations made by the drivers were not lost to the organization.

Such culture would not encourage people to own up their own mistakes and learn from it. It merely encourages people to hide their mistakes and blame other. For example

Coca Cola’s problem in Belgium
When reports were received that Belgian school children gotten sick after drinking the cola, Coca Cola’s local managers reaction were to deny that the drink were responsible. Liability lawyers hired by the company then made a press release statements. No one in the senior management were notified until ten days later. By then, a small local problem had turned into an international crisis.

Ulu Kelang disaster
Back to our local scenes. Our dear MB’s reaction was that to blame everything to the contractor. Supposingly, letters were issued one year earlier requesting the contractor to build a suitable retainer wall to prevent landslides. Now, if the authorities had indeed issued such a letter and the contractor did not comply, should the government do nothing? Shouldn’t the authorities ensure that the contractor does their part, failing which fines and penalties come into play? And most importantly, build the retainer wall and bill the contractor via fines? Instead, our government chose to play “tai chi” and “CYA”.
View Patrick Teoh’s Blog on this issue at

Numbers game – New employees were hired to change the culture of the company. Supposingly, the new hires would be able to inject few approaches. Instead more often than not, the new employees get sucked into old culture of not speaking up after being influenced by the old employees. As the number of 3rd class mentality grows, a stronger “keep-your-mouth-shut” culture is ingrained in the organization. New employees either stayed on as a demotivated yes-man staff or leave for greener pastures.

So, why did I do what I did? Certainly I could have just keep quiet and be safe. Why take the risk?
Firstly, it is who I am. I just can’t keep my bloody mouth shut. I cannot imagine working in an environment where I am just the order taker, being a bootlicker or simply a yes-man.
I was also “testing water”. I needed to know if this is where I want to be. As at that date, I was still in my probationary period, meaning, shorter resignation notice. If it turns out that I was working for an idiot, I would leave the company. (My opinion is that an employment is basically an agreement between the employer and the employee. Both has equal rights and stand to gain or lose together. If our objectives are not the same, why torture ourselves?)
I have been accused of being different and unorthodox, because of my attitude to challenge the status quo. I am proud to say that I am guilty. And so it happens, this attitude is my competitive advantage over others who chooses to hide behind the status quo. By engaging in such a conversation with my boss, I have branded myself as a person who dares to speak up. It’s a gamble but if it works, I would be highly valued.

My boss reaction:
After 5 seconds of silence (which seemed like an eternity), he admitted that the culture of the department is as I mentioned. He added a few valuable comments, of which I have listed above. He also mentioned that he has to take responsibility for what has happened. Then, he asked me to be patient while changes are taking place and to continue to give him my insights and my utmost.
That moment I know I will be staying in the company for a while. I was surprised at his reaction as I was expecting the worst possible outcome (where I will just shut up and walk out of his room) but at the same time, I was extremely elated that my views were appreciated (finally?).

My conclusion:

A ship is safe in the harbour, but that is not what a ship is built for. Take risks. You may well be rewarded. Besides, if the outcome is unfavourable, then I would have known that the company is not where I belong. It is not a place I want to be anyway.

Take control – do not be dependent. Do not compromise your position. Firstly, acquire all necessary skills and knowledge. Make yourself marketable. If you are not dependant on your job, you’ll be less inclined to compromise your position. Know that if you have the substance, you need not worry about finding another job.

Spread and nurture a World Class Mentality. The world is a lonely place without a competitor. Competition will only make us stronger. E.g. Proton has been sheltered from competition via excessive import duty on foreign cars. Proton took it for granted and did not improve its efficiency and competitiveness. Just ask any Proton drivers and they will tell you what sort of quality we are getting. Proton still has a foothold locally because of the import duty. However, they have not done well in foreign countries like United Kingdom and Australia. Throughout my whole trip to Australia last year, I have only seen one Satria and one Waja. Yeah, just one of each. Why? They do not have the tariff protection overseas. Competition is based on cost efficiency and product quality.

Have an honest, open, candid relationship with your boss, co-workers and your subordinates.


This blog is inspired both by an internet friend of mine – Wedko and Mr Patrick Teoh.
I met Wedko at a forum called Recom where he has this vision to setup a virtual institution to teach, spread and instill a World Class Mentality.
I also have been following Patrick Teoh’s Blog for sometime now and he is by far the most assertive Malaysian I have ever met. Kudos Mr Patrick Teoh, we’re proud to have a fellow Malaysian like yourself! So when are you gonna run for MP? Seriously, you have my vote!

– Maxforce