Tuesday, January 20, 2009

...confidential notes by the ambassador?

I missed the 2009 Strategic Outlook Forum last week so I thought I must not miss the book launch above that took place this morning at 10 am, Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur, by HE the US Ambassador in the presence of HRH Raja Nazrin. The launch was put up by ASLI, the book was published by the Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) Singapore. I was amazed at the turnout (having been in publishing a long time ago, I sure do know how difficult it was to get people to attend book launches especially if its not a bestseller list). Many familiar faces were there, Datuk Prof Visu Sinnadurai former Dean UM Law faculty, Tan Sri Emeritus Professor Khoo Kay Kim, Tan Sri Kishu, Richard Tankesly of New Zealand but a malaysian resident (the first bumiputeh as he likes to introduce himself all the time...hahaha), Tan Sri Zaini Chairman of northern ECR and BERNAMA, Datuk Rafiah, Faris, James Beltram, Fung former vice president British Graduates Association of Malaysia (BGAM), members of the Royal Commonwealth Association, United Nations Association of Malaysia (UNMA), corporate chieftains, NGOs and of course HE ambassadors who were invited and came (hehe) etc etc etc...
In his forward, YBM Tengku Tan Sri Dato'Seri Ahmad Rithauddeen, former foreign minister of Malaysia described YAB Tun Dr Ismail as an astute diplomat and the formulator of foreign affairs who charted the nation's course in international relations in the early years of its independence. That he was amazed by Dr Ismail's ability to transform himself very confidently into a successful diplomat at the United Nations when he was there as our first Permanent Representative despite never being trained as a diplomat, and that he was a politician and a medical doctor by training.
I like to quote Dr Ismail's inaugural speech during the general debate at the 12th Session of the United Nation's General Assembly (678th Plenary Meeting), Tuesday, 17th September, 1957, at 3 PM, (President: Sir Leslie Munro, New Zealand) on Agenda Item 25 - Admission of New Members to the United Nations: Admission of the Federation of Malaya to Membership in the United Nations.
80. 'Although our material wealth and our standard of living compare very favourably with those of many nations in the world today, as a small nation, our basic strengths lies not in these material things, but in the moral character and purposes of our people. We have in Malaya three major racial groups: the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians, who have lived together for generations in peace and harmony, Neither the difference in religion and cultural background, nor the difference in their economic and social status, has created an insuperable barrier towards the national unity of these races. Our great desire is to have the right and the good fortune to live as a free, independent and united nation among free nations of the world. The achievement of this desire, through peaceful and constitutional means, through friendly negotiation and a spirit of compromise, is the result of the abiding moral strength inherent in each of the three racial communities living in Malaya today.' (Appendix 1 pages 103-105)

That was in 1957 and I was three years old...and as I read it again, and again, to my mind, the most important guiding light then and perhaps even more so now, is for all of us Malaysians to realise that our basic strength lies not in material things [but please don't ask me to hand over my nokia e90 and blackberry bold to you ok? (evil wink)] but in the moral character and purposes of our people. We did perhaps have just one or two 'commissions' at the time, life was much simpler, less complicated, there were no internet or facebook (hehe). And perhaps, like Obama, the first black US President, installed today, we too need to redefine and re-examine where we went wrong and how do we move forward without engaging a 'change' slogan or 'rebranding' (whatever that means..hehe) exercise (evil wink) or BOS or ROS ... hmmm. What say you, folks? and o ya...go pick a copy and read the book...

...a british obsession? hehe

High Table: (L t0 R) YH Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar (former Chief Minister of Selangor, Hull Alumni Malaysia past President & Patron), Guest of Honour YAB Tun Hanif Omar (former Inspector General of Police Malaysia), me, Hull Alumni Malaysia 2008/09 President, and YBhg Tan Sri Arshad Ayub (past OSA President, University of Wales at Aberystwyth, past president and patron Aberystwyth University Alumni Club in Msia)

The University of Hull Malaysia Alumni Association Annual Dinner and 2nd Distinguished lecture Series, held on Sunday 11 January, 2009 at the royal lake club, Kuala Lumpur. Some BW shots (photos courtesy of Tengku Jasshwa) of the 'touch of class' theme and you can come in anything (so long as not in your birthday suit...hahaha). I had to wear that silly penguin outfit and the hull pendant (much like the one the mayor of hull wears round his neck too..evil wink) cos I am president maa? (evil wink). There were moments I felt like Pierce Brosnan...but when I took out the bow immediately after the function, wow...I felt like Daniel Craig in Casino Royale....hahahaha ( you wish...).

Monday, January 19, 2009

...Roundtable on 'Current Issues and Challenges in Mindanao'

I mentioned briefly about the above dialogue in my last blogpost but I thought I would not do justice to the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) alumni Malaysia (especially the untiring passion of Tuan Haji Zul Baharom) and INSPAG-UiTM Director/Senior Fellow HE Dato 'Dr Mohd Yusof Ahmad for their efforts at helping advance the peace process that would bring new hope and sustainable economic development to this autonomous region in Southern Philippines. YBhg Dato' Syed Ahmad Idid former CJ and also a AIM alumnus, provided positive inputs and commentaries and hoped that the roundtable would escalate into a much more serious outcome in tourism, business development and investment opportunities benefiting both Malaysia and Mindanao.
Perhaps for those of you who may have not the faintest idea of what I am talking about or never understood what the problems are in Mindanao, should read this book above, that had been in my collection for more than 30 years ago. It was published in 1980 (3 years after I joined OUP) and I have the special boxed bound edition. It was written by TJS George (Editor of the now defunct magazine ASIAWEEK, in Hong Kong). It is a definitive book, written not only from an Asian perspective, but with wit and sympathy. It is a comprehensive history of the subject, written for the firs time (1980) in a readable and non-academic yet thought-provoking style. The Muslim separatist movement in Southern Philippines had claimed (in 1980), by official estimate, more than 5000 lives and it continued to ravage the country then. It had become an international issue in part through the resurgence sweeping the Islamic World at the time. The root of the problem lie embedded in the history of the Philippines, but the author contends that the schisms within the Muslims themselves and the cleavage between Christian and Muslim Filipinos can still be resolved. Different aspects of the overall problem have been studied by scholars, mostly in the form of treaties. The book draws a striking parallel between Spain and the United States as colonial masters, finds early Philippine leaders lacking in understanding of Islam, and accuses Mindanao's traditional Muslim leaders (at the time) of self-aggrandisement. It examines in colourful detail some bizarre episodes of contemporary history: a politician's plan to establish a new sultanate in Sabah, A Christian army officer's escapade as a Muslim in Sulu that ended up in the 'Jabidah Massacre'. It also analyses the role of the Arabs in Mindanao. Throughout the book the author argues that the opportunity to settle the problem to the advantage of Mindanao's Muslims still exist (in 1980)then and I believe there is never a better time than now. This book should be an interesting read indeed. Mind you, it was written 30 years ago! Go read it...I can lend you my copy (evil wink) at prevailing daily rates of course...haha.

Friday, January 16, 2009

...the week that was...

Ya ya I have not been blogging. The last posting was last saturday the 10th. Much has happened during the week. last Sunday January 11, we had our Hull University Alumni Malaysia Annual Dinner and a keynote address by YAB Tun Hanif (former IGP). I like to call it the 2nd Hull Malaysia Distinguished Lecture Series. Tun spoke on "Unity in Diversity: The Malaysian Approach" to about a 100 alumnus and guests at the Royal Lake Club (RLC), KL. The inaugural distinguished lecture was delivered by Hull's VC Professor Dr David Drewry a few years ago at Pusat Sains Negara (National Science Centre). Being a glaciologist, Professor Drewry spoke on "Effects of Climate Change on the two Poles". I am waiting for some awesome shots of the RLC dinner from my personal photographer and 'spin doctor' to email me the fotos (hehe). On friday morning, I was invited to a roundtable discussion with a delegation of Leaders from Mindanao at the Senate Hall, Chancellery, UiTM hosted by the Institute of ASEAN and International Affairs, courtesy of Senior Fellow, His Excellency (retired) Malaysian Ambassador to Spain. The dialogue was illuminating. I was a guest of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Alumni Club in Malaysia. Zamboanga City, Mindanao is a nice place. Very spanish and it has its own unique identity. I was there twice, to deliver a public lecture ( on Leadership in 2005 and on Human Competency and Corporate Governance in 2006) on the invitation of the College of Education, West Mindanao State University.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

..of financal arrogance, material supremacy and future predictability? (evil wink)

I was at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital earlier around lunchtime today. Visiting someone ill of course (whatever else could I be doing there, right?). A benevolent, giving and caring mood (hehe..ya rite) suddenly turned into a moody, disgusting and madness actually...when someone was very loud bragging about how filthy rich he had become and began making disparaging remarks about government doctors (well public services actually), demeaning and ridiculing them of the meagre salaries they are getting and comparing with private sector doctors. Gawd, I was fuming mad, had I stayed a minute longer, I just might have strangled his already walloppy jallopy neck (hahaha). Eh hello wake up man, does he not know that the civil service is so much more attractive these days? oi..where have you been? I should nominate him for 2009 monkey of the year award (evil wink). Owh ok, forget about him. This latest article by my gudfren Moje Aquino Ramos in The Manila Times here is an interesting read. Please check it out and enjoy.

Friday, January 09, 2009

...when HR chaps gets the slam dunk or plonk u mean? hahaha

Associated Press(AP) reported unemployment rate in the US bolted to 7.2 percent in December 2008, the highest level in 16 years, as nervous employers slashed 524,000 jobs. The labour market (US) is expected to remain weak as mass layoffs continue. At the same time, top Democrats, as reported by AP, disliked key provisions, especially the designs of Obama's tax cuts! Obama Oh Obama...and if that's not enuf, the whole world it seems, is putting pressure on the US over the Gaza Siege. And then, in today's NST plax, a report of the Satyam Scandal dubbed as 'India's Enron'. But of course, despite all of these gloom & grim, confidence-shaking headlines, there is this news that's equally of world class standards.. hahahaha(evil wink). Hah, u guess right: the prez conference to say they are ok...sape lagi? kesah Datuk Siti and Datuk K ler..hehe. Takyahler buat prez conference. Bimbang nanti kok kok akan lebih hangat, lebih sensasi plax... ish (hehe). Kita doakanlah yerk...semoga ianya hanya tinggal gosip sahaja k?
Ok ok, on a much much more serious note, this is a time when HR chaps get the plonk, the dirty looks, the kick (in the you-know-what-where-lah hehe). Its performance management, review, evaluation, salary increment, bonus and whatever else lah time, fellas ... hahaha. Kesian HR kan? They always get the blame. But they have always been the punching bag, record-keeper lah, clerk-of-work lah, policeman lah, spy management lah...ish dan bermacam2 lagiek (evil wink). They are, like the shock absorbers of a car. If you go on a smooth first-class highway...the ride will of course be smooth. Even if you put a monkey as your HR chief, the organization will sail purrfectly (wink). BUT, if you masuk jalan kampong, hah...that's when you really know the condition of your car... err I mean your organization aah (need I explain more? heehee). All kinds of intervention has been offered. Balanced Score Cards (BSC) have been around since 1995 but somehow or rather it has not really taken off. Some elements of it in the HR domain perhaps merit some serious re-look, by both HR and non-HR people so that there will be a much better understanding that can assist in real transformation (corporate) exercises that puts HR's role in a much more strategic a position even though it is a universally accepted fact that there are no full proof PMS (not pre-menstrual pains ok? but acronym for Performance Management System hehe).
Here goes: in HR Performance Management, there are 2 things: one is HR Performance Driver (HRPD) and the other is HR Enabler. Example of HRPD is employee productivity and example of enabler is 're-skilling'. There are plenty of examples of disconnect between HR enablers and HR Performance Drivers in the broader organization. You can find them in your own organization, I am sure (wink). Ok, lets take an example from financial services (fictitious, no names please). Now this particular outfit has decided to do a strategic shift: i.e focus of retail business from service to sales. A set of performance drivers have also been identified as follows:
  1. increased cross-selling to existing customers
  2. teller product knowledge
  3. sales skills

but the HR enabler still emphasised SERVICE!

e.g the organisation continue to have the following:

  1. training programmes focus on service rather than sales
  2. performance appraisal and merit pay that reward service rather than sales
  3. recruitment practice based on service competencies rather than sales
  4. turnover rates that undermined relationship building between tellers and retail customers and;
  5. low pay and benefits for tellers, who were considered overheads rather than a source or revenue growth

Lesson learned?: HR SYSTEMS influences EMPLOYEE BEHAVIOUR from many points.

( adapted from pages 30-34, The HR Scorecard, Linking People, Strategy, Performance, Ulrich et al, Harvard Busniess School Press, 2001)

Employee behaviour is driven by value (personal and cultural) see here. Most organizational vision mission core values statements are quite generic and it seems to me, much of a cut&paste job...hehe using terms like our core values are honesty, integrity, commitment bla bla bla... what ever that means ish...ya what izzit? so nebulous so celestial one leh? Why not use simpler and something employees can relate to, quite ezily like the following value behaviours:

  • staying flexible
  • adaptable
  • taking initiative for one's own development
  • resolving issues in an objective manner

for example lah. You can then integrate into (directly) performance criteria with equal weightage to traditional performance measures ( half of bonus and merit pay for financial performance results, the other half to employee adherence to the value behaviours. There is a saying that illustrates the rationale for such consideration of balanced approach to performance management "You can't simply get results too often while leaving a pile of dead bodies behind you" hehehe.

Think about it folks, thanks for visiting and reading this far (hahaha) and please do have a great weekend....

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Andrea Hirata's Rainbow Soldiers, The Movie...

Ok ok enough of heavy stuff for awhile. I was tempted to make comments on what's going on, on the Gaza strip but that can wait heheh. The whole world's oredi talking soo much about it anyway, so let me share with you instead... something philsophical yet simple, powerful and is making lots of young people in Indonesia cry, when they watch it. Yes, I am talking about this new movie from Andrea Hirata's (see here) novel "Laskar Pelangi" (Rainbow Soldiers). I was introduced to it by one of my MBA students (Neneng Widaningrum Ema Rochima from Jogja... OMG such a long name..but one can trace her geneology from the name ... hehe) at Universitas Airlangga (UNAIR) Surabaya. She texted to wish me a happy new year and over yahoo messenger not so long ago, told me about Andrea Hirata. So I quickly googled, and checked out youtube and read the reviews and saw the trailer. Its an awesome movie. The DVD is not available yet, I was told. If you can spare the time, go read the novel and you'll come across lines like "...jangan pernah menyerah kalah...menggapai asa ditengah penderitaan..." and I like this one "...memberikan setitik cahaya ditengah kegelapan, dan secercah harapan, didalam keputus-asaan..." Go checkitout folks...hehe.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

...oh no..not economics & watchdogs again? hehe

Tan Sri Lin See Yan's (former BNM Deputy Governor) views in today's The Star, is interesting read. The old man is still sharp. I last chatted with him and YAB Tun Ahmad Sarji at the lounge of Manila Airport after attending the AIM Alumni Reunion year before last. We bumped occasionally at ASLI Summits or when I get invited to free dinners at Harvard Alumni-dos (heheh). Being an economist, his views do not depart much from the general concensus and the fact he reiterates that the economy is going to get worse... wah.... sends chills down my spine.. hahaha. I just hope the unit trust people did not wipe out too much of my EPF. To be fair, earlier on some of them did make some 40% profit (kata dier oranglah hehehe). Of course they didn't tell me they oredi deducted upfront their commission (evil wink).

As the new year begins (3rd day today) I spoke or texted a few close frens especially those that somehow or rather, seemed different, unmotivated, rather quiet. I was wondering why. Whoala, when I jolok, haha..keluar semua yang terbuku di hati. This particular fren (we always call each other cousin BL..haha) laments his frustration for not being made a full professor yet! Relax my fren...I am sure it's coming soon bro (wink). Then, another old fren leaves MSWG. Errol's comments (see below) also in the Star today... in some ways, gives tribute to my fren's contributions to the Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group (MSWG). Thanks for dropping by my blog folks, and do make sure you have got all your stuff for your school-going kids (if you still have lah...hahaha). My second daughter will be in Form 5 and my son (the youngest child) will be in Standard 6. Do make the most of the rest of the weekend!...

Friday, January 02, 2009

...of gulf, gaza, clash of civilisations, young facebookers and generation Y..hehe

2nd day of the new year. The biltz on the Gaza strip, reminds me of the Gulf War of the early 90s. I was sending (oh well, 'accompanying'...is a better word perhaps hehe) my wife to pursue her MA in publishing at Loughborough University of Technology then. That conflict made airlines re-route their usual flight path. On my way back I was on an American Airline that made a stopover at Belgrade (before the breakup of Yugoslavia) for 8 hours! Relatively cheap travel at the time, it costs me only about RM1600. Then I remembered reading the Far Eastern Economic Review, FEER (at the time) and there was this naughty anecdote making fun of the then prime minister of Thailand (Chartichai I think his name was...4th generation thai chinese). The joke it seemed was: a group of journalist were having a press conference after a meeting with the then British PM (now lady) Margaret Thatcher. One of the journalists asked Chartichai: Premier Chartichai, "what do you think of the gulf crisis?" and his response: "Ya ya ya...we will be praying golf with Margaret this afternoon" hahahaha. I dunno how true that was, but I know I read that from the FEER at that time.
The latest and most recent issues of the Economist are spewed with interesting reports and articles which I suggest you read here for a tribute to Samuel Huntington, the famous intellectual nobody misses to quote often, especially at conferences in the early part of the 21st century (The Clash of Civilisations..if you have not read the book..hehe), and here if you want to manage your old-school chappies with your young facebookers talents (hehe) and here if you want to know about the generation Y that's going to join the workspace...hehehe. I want to say TGIF but I thought I read somewhere that that is no longer fashionable (evil wink). It's now TGIM! (for THANK GAWD ITS MONDAY!) haha...as usual, have fun folks...and thank you for dropping by...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

...2009:between hype & reality?

Hah...I better believe it first...yes it is 1.1.2009 today. I was supposed to have joined my frens celebrating new year's eve at country heights damansara lastnite, but I didn't. Its a long story. No, seriously, I just felt like having a quiet dinner at home and just watch Astro movies. You know the clock has struck 12 midnite when you hear the fireworks all around hehehe. If you're lost for resolutions (mine is...as always, trying to fulfil previous years' wannados...hahaha) go read some interesting trends for 2009 here before you firm up yours (resolutions I mean hehe). Try to balance between hype and reality, ok folks?