Sunday, February 15, 2009

...of legacies and slogans? dot dot dot

I am a member of the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management (MIHRM) and was Founding Executive Board of the Malaysian Society for Training and Development (MSTD). Mine is a specialist MBA (Human Resource Development). Four general management modules including of course, strategy, marketing and finance. One of the fourteen core modules was educational management which explains my inclination towards human capital management and development and educational management. In 1994 while attending an education summit at Institut Aminudin Baki (IAB), I read Tan Sri Wan Zahid’s paper/keynote address (he was Director-General of Education at the time). And I noticed he propagated the concept of ‘zero defect’ popularised by Philip Baynard Crosby (a one time assembly line worker who became an entrepreneur spreading the gospel of quality control in manufacturing, died in 2001 at Asherville, NC at age 75. His zero defect concept emphasise customer satisfaction as a measure of quality control. Other Quality GURUS on same ranking as he is, include Armand V Feigenbaum, W Edward Demings and Joseph Juran). Tan Sri Dato' Dr Wan Zahid (Harvard trained) used the frog parable to drive the managerial imperative in shaping the future of education and the ministry of education during his regime. Essentially, the frog exemplifies adaptability. A creature that can live on land on in the water (amphibious) and can adapt to hot arid climates, cold climates, hot humid climates and cold humid climates. From the biological perspective, the frog has survived the ages because of its remarkable adaptability to the environment. However, in a laboratory experiment, frogs were placed in shallow pans of room temperature water and they were free to jump out of the pans at anytime, Under each pan was a bunsen burner, which heated the water gradually. As the temperature rose, degree by degree, the frog adapted to the new temperature. Unfortunately, regardless of how hot the water became, the frog never became uncomfortable enough to jump out of the pan. In fact it stayed right there until the heat was so intense that the frog died. Some of us are also incredibly adaptable. In fact, a major reason for our success as human beings is our ability to adapt. When we find ourselves, as individuals, mildly dissatisfied with our jobs, with our significant other (hehe), or with almost any other circumstance in our lives, we proceed to adapt. For many of us, the more our environment challenge us, the harder we try to adapt to those changes. Similarly, organizations too tend to replicate the frog’s approach to life. To cut a long story short, moral of story is: individuals and organizations must determine in a timely fashion when to quit adapting and to move into the unknown, to proceed with changing directions and finding environments more supportive to them. Uish panjangnyer! Dot dot dot…

Then after him came Datuk Dr Shukor (also Harvard trained). I had the privilege of chatting with him on a few occasion before he became Director-General of Education. He seems to like Carl Weick’s Organised Chaos Theory haha. After him came the late Tan Sri Rafaee who was at one time, Principal of Malacca High School and I didn’t realise that he was also from Port Dickson (where I grew up). Now, at one of ASLI’s National Education Summits at Sunway Resort I had a chance to chat with him for a few minutes and noticed that (I may be wrong ok) his style of leadership and management was based on ‘visibility’. Then came Tan Sri Datuk Dr Ahmad Sipon. Apparently, from what I gather, his style was based on the age old Javanese maxim of ‘Beras, Waras, Keras”. Something like that, that essentially discourages wastage. Encourages responsibility, prudence and perhaps humility too. A simple process I would also subject a young man would have to go through if he intends to have my daughter’s hand in marriage. I will explain that in detail in my next post, the beras, waras keras tingy (hahaha I need to check if I have not touched on that subject in my earlier blogposts). The current Director-General of Education has been heard (again correct me if I am wrong hehe) to mention about Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) as popularised by the Korean professor Kim and his French colleague. CIMB group is into BOS in big way, I think. Perhaps I may have missed something else? Balanced Score Card maybe? (BSC…not Bangsar Shopping Complex ok? Erk) which is again fashionable and flavour of the month, been around since 1995 (see my earlier posts) and I think the GLCs are using it of course modified into their own templates. So, my point? What am I getting at? Leaders like to leave a legacy and the use of slogans during their tenure oh well during their regime. Whether it’s appropriate, implemented or gets cascaded down the ranks, is another matter. Those legacies will remain. And people remember them for a particular slogan or management fad they propagate or tried to get implemented organization–wide. Heroic Leaders are out, Engaging Leaders are in says Professor Henry Mintzberg.

It is interesting to see how consultants influence the thinking of both the corporate and the public sectors. It is so alive and evolving. Some of these concepts are but regurgitation of old concepts rebranded or redefined…much like old wine in new bottles. But I am a great disciple of Danah Zohar. I had a chance to speak to her when she was here in 1997 during the International Federation of Training & Development (IFTDO) conference hosted by Malaysia. Danah Zohar, in her book Rewiring the Corporate Brain said, “Most transformation programs satisfy themselves with shifting the same old furniture about in the same old room. Some seek to throw some of the furniture away. But real transformation requires that we redesign the room itself. Perhaps even blow up the old room. It requires that we change the thinking behind our thinking – literally, that we learn to rewire our corporate brains”

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