Friday, June 26, 2009

Ahead of the Curve?...

Yup, you are right, I am not talking about 'The Curve' (in front of IKEA) at Damansara Intan..hehe. On the inside jacket backflip of the hardcover edition read 'published during the one hundredth anniversary of Harvard Business School, Ahead of the Curve, offers a rich detailed and revealing you-are-there account of the institution that has, for good or ill (evil is more like it , if you ask me..hehe), made American business what it is today.' Written by Philip Delves Broughton, a journalist who had served in New York and Paris as bureau chief of The Daily Telegraph of London, one can imagine the wordsmith skill, satire, wit, sarcasm and spin job, seasoned newspapermen are capable of delivering (wink). I was waiting for the book even before it was published. I was not disappointed. It has sixteen chapters beginning with 'Lets Get Retarded' and ends with the chapter on ' A Factory of Unhappy People'. Chapter Two (Starting Over) begins with a quote from the HBS Admissions website by Theodore Roosevelt - Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat...Chapter Five (Who am I) talks about personality tests candidates were required to take. One was Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the other was CareerLeader. Reminds me of that same MBTI we went through in great detail, when I did my MBA (HRD), not at HBS of course, but Hull is a fairly good European MBA school ok? (wink). I like the recommendation letter Philip's boss wrote (which reminds me of the recommendation letter I wrote for Wadi when he applied for the British Chevening Scholarship..hehe). Here goes:

From: Quentin Letts
Re: Philip Delves Broughton
Dear Professor,
Thank you for your email. You ask me to help my former colleague Philip Delves Broughton with his exercise for your course. I am naturally happy to do so, even though we emotionally restrained englishmen are generally hopeless at self-examination - for that matter, dwelling on the nitty-gritty character strengths of our confreres....

( didn't think I was going to reproduce the full letter, did you? c'mon, go buy the book and read it yourselves ok? hahaha). Ok ok let me give you a little bit more to tease and excite your interest. Chapter Sixteen: 'A Factory of Unhappy People' where Philip records some of the comments of his classmates and HBS alumnus, and about how to make the right choices coming out of HBS would require real intestinal fortitude,a real functioning moral compass, because the forces pushing you to pursue success in a very specific way were so overwhelming. Philip spoke to his classmate Justin. "If you want to change the world, get on the plane to f****** Darfur, he said tersely. "HBS is about making money. There are going to be a small handful of terrific people in our class who actually do good stuff, but most of us are like everyone else in business. We talk about it because it makes us feel better. How many people in our class wrote in their applications that they wanted an MBA so they could do micro-financing in Uganda and are now going into investment banking?"

In the century since its founding, Harvard Business School (HBS), has become the single most influential institution in global business. Its graduates are Fortune 500 CEOs, private equity titans, venture capitalists, even presidents of the USA! They include many of US's savviest entrepreneurs (eg Michael Bloomberg) and canniest felons (eg Jeffrey Skilling). Top investment banks and brokerage houses routinely send their brightest young stars to HBS to groom them for future power. To these people and many others, a Harvard MBA is a golden ticket to the Olympian heights of American Business... or is it still? (wink). Philip (the author) and his classmates over two years, were inundated with the best -and the rest - of American business culture that HBS epitomizes. The core of the school curriculum is the "case method" - an analysis of a real business situation from which the students must, with a professor's guidance, tease lessons. Over the years, the Harvard Case Method is not short of critics and detractors (we shall not go into that hehe). Philip in his account, also exposed the less savory trappings of b-school culture, from the 'booze luge' to the pandemic (no, not swine flu ok?) obsession with Powerpoint to the specter of depression, which stalks many overburden students. With acute and often uproarious candor, Philip assesses the school's success at teaching the traits it extols as most important in business - leadership, decisiveness, ethical behaviour, work/life balance. I most recently co-signed a cheque sending 3 of our chaps to attend the forthcoming ASEAN HBS Malaysian Alumni Senior Management Program at Awana Genting. Good luck and have fun guys (wink). So? there you are...Eddie Murphy - go get your own copy if you have been contemplating ya?....hehe

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full...-Henry Kissinger...

Last week I was up in Genting Highlands attending MARIM's Risk Management Conference 2009 with the theme: 'Building corporate Resilience via Effective ERM'. The conference began (after registrations et al) at 2 pm, June 15, 2009 monday with the Academic Track, with presentations of selected academic papers based on empirical research. Papers presented were: The Relationship Between Board of Directors and Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Practices (Assoc Prof Dr Ahmad Shukri Yazid of UDI et al; Philosophy and Practices of Risk Management in Malaysian Islamic Banks (Prof Dr Nor Hayati Ahmad UUM et al) and The Role of Chief Risk Officers in the Adoption of ERM (Assoc Prof Dr Shukri,(UDI) Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Rasid Hussin (UiTM) & Dr Wan Norhayate Wan Daud).

Me and the academics...hehe
(Assoc Prof Shukri UDI, Prof Nor Hayati UUM and
Assoc Prof Dr Rasid, UiTM (the first asian PHD holder in Risk Management)

One for the album with GOH YBhg Dato' Muhammad Hatta Ab Aziz, Secretary, National Security Council, Prime Minister's Department

Panel session with Tan Sri Lau, moderated by Director, The Malaysian Institute of Integrity on the topic: 'Global Financial Crisis: How Boards can pre-empt Future Shock'

All in all there were many very good papers both from practice and academia. Like other management functions, Risk Management joins the struggle and the bandwagon to get noticed by top management and oh well, the board! Its a tough battle especially in today's highly competitive evil knievel corporate scenario. To quote Dave Ulrich (one of my favourite HRM Gurus) : '.. being strategic and getting boardroom support means being at the table and not on the table'...haha. Tan Sri Lau encroached on my time as he passionately drowned himself with all the 'dark' corporate scenarios from Timbuktu to Kuala Lumpur (hehe). Good for me though, so I wouldn't have to say much. But as usual, I always like to go down the provocative 'devil's advocate' route with my ever so repetitive ' have been swindling other men on many occasions'...bla bla bla and asked delegates to google this article that appeared in the 7 August , 2008 issue of The economist entitled 'Risk and The Credit Crunch: Confessions of a Risk Manager' which essentially laments (as an insider) and explains why it is so hard to stop traders behaving recklessly. I then quoted a december 18, 2008 article by Theodore L Dysart and Neil S Novich's of Directorship, 5 critical areas that boards normally ask the one-year-hence question in virtually any area of their interest and responsibility. They are: 1. strategy 2.operations/organization 3. Balance Sheet/Liquidity 4. Compensation and 5. Enterprise Risk Management. No...yes no, I am not going any deeper than this..haha. I am sure you must have been bored enough by now (evil wink). Not easy to keep delegates awake and what made it worst was my bad throat was building up but strangely that night, during the Gala Awards Dinner, I was called up to give a song...and it (to my horror) went quite well, I must say..hehe. But this report (wink) would not be complete if I did not acknowledge the hard work of Puan Arpah Abu Bakar (MARIM manager and UUM Risk Management lecturer) and her team for a very succesful conference (especially in times when the training fraternity is experiencing a 42% drop in attendance!). Of course, the support from MARIM's management committee, I suspect, must have been immense and quite thankless too, I would imagine (heheh). Well done fellas!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Elephants can dance afterall huh? ...

Yes, my last blog was June 3, and I tell you it sure is helluva difficult to start writing again after that long spell. Trapped in a sort of writer's 'inertia' ( inertia is one of newton's laws that states the tendency of a body to stay at rest or continue its state of motion...). But I did some useful things ( I hope) like reading the above book that was re-published in paperpack edition in 2003. One of those interesting turnaround stories. I like Gerstner's style. Once duped as the biscuit salesman who turned around an IT giant. I like the memos he wrote, his management and leadership style. Especially his leadership style, and in his opinion, which I grossly agree, is the most important element of institutional transformation. He goes on to say that at the end of the day its all about culture and great institutions are the length and shadow of individuals. Great institutions are not managed, they are led he says. They are not administered; they are driven to ever increasing levels of accomplishment by individuals who are passionate about winning. The best leaders create high performance cultures, set demanding goals, measure results and hold people accountable. They are change agents, constantly driving their institutions to adapt and advance faster than their competitors do.

On personal leadership, he says its about visibility and about being both strategic and operational. Great CEOs roll up their sleeves and tackle problems personally, not hide behind staff, never simply preside over the work of others, visible everyday with customers, suppliers and business partners. Personal leadership to him is about communication, openness, and a willingness to speak often and honestly, and with respect for the intelligence of reader or listener. Leaders don't leave to others the delivery of bad news, don't hide behind corporate double-speak. They treat every employee as someone who deserves to understand what's going on in the organisation. Of course, passion....naaah I don't wanna bore you. Go read the book yourself, if you haven't... So, I have been keeping myself quite occupied actually. I also bought another book 'Ahead of the Curve' Two years at Harvard Business School by Philip Delves Broughton. I will write something about it as soon as I finish reading it... have a good rest folks and a great week ahead.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

to each his own, from each his power...

Inna lillahi wa inna lillahi rajiun... YBhg Datuk A kadir Jasin's dad passed away at age 85. See his bloglink (the scribe) on the right side of my blog. I spoke with my classmate awhile ago and we both agreed that something (not necessarily in a radical or revolutionary manner) need to be done to the way we think about accountability, responsibility and ethics as a nation, in our own little way. I remember our school motto: to each his own, from each his power...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...

The news one reads at is exciting at times, dull at times, worrying and a cause for concern too these days...not at all encouraging isn't it? No offence timesonline. Having said that, you're still my favourite read (hehe). For a while it was about British MPs making ridiculous claims (expenses) something like getting the govt to pay for the moat of his second home, then another making claims for his duck house (something like that lah haha). Then there were spates of resignations, and then the public outcry of public funds, taxpayers' money that these guys receive for their pension (as MPs). Then yesterday Air France Airbus A330-200 from Brazil enroute to Paris went missing. And they haven't found the wreakage (if any) yet. Today in our local mainstream New Straits Times, it seems CEO of AirAsia fainted. I hope it has nothing to do with the airbus he and AirAsia are awaiting delivery (hehe). No, no poor fellow, he was tired, had an executive burnout perhaps. Must be working very hard to close the deals, get landing rights, deal with various governments, perhaps put Malaysia Airlines out of business too in the not soo distant future? I hope not. They should both merge, evolve and become 1Malaysia Airline (don't you think so?). Ya ya ya I know there will definitely be lots of problems, easier said than done...hehehe. Then there was this dramatic 'escape' involving singapore police, embassies of indonesia and the US (as reported). I won't go into the details of the press conference. I am soo embarassed. Not sure who is right who is wrong or both are wrong perhaps? or there's much more (hidden sinister agenda perhaps?) than meets the eye perhaps? Then the ambalaat issue resurfaces. They say, when times are bad, when the economy is in the doldrums, social unrest accelerates, protectionism prevail...every man for himself kinda tingy...huhuhu. Then, as if we hadn't had enuf of international attention, the timesonline reports this... oh no....