Monday, 26 September 2011

Tom Sawyer The Maverick

“You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence - right here on the street, you know - but if it was the back fence, I wouldn’t mind, and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I recon there aren’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done” Tom Sawyer

When I just started my ACCA years ago, I got an opportunity to hear a talk from Dato’ Khalid Ahmad who was the President ACCA Malaysia Advisory Committee during that time. One of my favourite topics was about adding value and how he related it to Tom Sawyer story. He was fascinated by the story how Tom Sawyer adds value to painting the fences until his friends not only help him but “paid” him to do the “honour” of doing the work.  

Recently, I read about an article regarding creating world class organisation. The article stated that organisation can be successful when employee started each day with a sense of purpose and end the day with a sense of accomplishment.

Tom Sawyer is a maverick so is Ricardo Semler. He is a strong advocate of workplace democracy, and a true master of harnessing the wisdom of people to build a great company.
Semler discovered that work-life balance for his employees and improving his family fortune are not alternative goals. The more freedom he gave his staff to set their own schedules, the more versatile, productive and loyal they became, and the better Semco performed.

At Semco workers choose their managers by vote and evaluate them regularly, with the results posted publicly. A lot of leaders are sceptical about Semler’s approaches. But these are some facts. Semco has in reserve 2,000 resumes and hundreds of people want to work there at any position. When Semco prints a want ad, there are 1,400 responses.

Ricardo took over the relatively small manufacturing company from his father. Semco had peaked at $4 million in revenues during his father's tenure. Ricardo immediately began asking questions about how and why things were done a certain way, and completely shook things up over the next two decades. Not only did Semco average 40% growth per year in a very unstable Brazilian economy, but in 1993 Semco revenues grew to $212 million. And Semco still enjoys great success, while fiercely protecting a democratic work environment with less than 1% employee turnover. It is considered one of the best companies in the world to work for, with literally thousands of applicants at any one time.

In any sport related movie, coach always give an inspirational speech to motivate the team (usually underdog) that give them sense of purpose to win the before the final game. Manager should create sense of value and purpose for the employee so they are highly motivated in contributing their resources towards the company goal. Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them. 

Note:- Hoping someday working in Semco with all the Brazilian beauty.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Employee Glass Slipper

"If you sit up in your ivory tower and just look at financial reports, you're going to make some big mistakes." – Tony Fernandas CEO of Airasia Group 

Tony Fernandas adopts a 'walk around' management style, routinely he works as baggage handler, ticket clerk, or flight attendant, slipping into the shoes of his employees. He says he's learned a lot from working on the airline himself.

When Airasia moved from the 737 to the Airbus, the Airbus is slightly higher off the ground and the crew said they need belt loaders. It would have cost about a million US dollar  compare to used just manually put the bags into the cargo hold on a 737.

So Fernandes turned the idea down. But on his next stint working alongside staff, he says he almost 'broke his back' loading the plane. He made the decision instantaneously.  He says that without the experience he could have made a very wrong decision that damaged a lot of people and destroyed the morale of the organisation at that level.

I had the chance to watch Undercover Boss, CBS's new reality TV show about corporate  executives who go undercover to observe first-hand what's happening on the front lines of their businesses and find out how their almighty management decisions really get implemented.

All of the executives were amazed and humbled by the employees they met. The workers picking up trash, cleaning port-a-potties, brewing coffee, making pastry, managing a late-night convenience store, driving 18-wheelers, and serving burgers at a fast food joint knocked the executives' socks off.

I was struck by the heartfelt appreciation the bosses expressed to their employees for their hard work, dedication and positive attitudes, both while they were undercover and after revealing their true identities to the employees. The CEOs did more than just praise the employees: They acted on what they learned while undercover, too. And in many cases, they subsequently made process changes to improve employees' working conditions.

In other cases, employees received raises, promotions or new career opportunities inside their companies after the executives learned of their hard work, personal interests and career aspirations.

A lesson that Undercover Boss makes clear is the importance of listening. Each episode shows that employees want to be heard but have little opportunity to vent or share ideas that might improve their companies. When the bosses, while undercover, ask the employees about their jobs, challenges and personal lives, they receive an earful. The employees talk about their health problems, their financial difficulties, their children's disabilities, the stress of their jobs, their fears of being fired. It's as if the employees never had the chance to vent, and when the undercover bosses prompt them to talk, a dam breaks.

If senior leaders take the time to listen to their employees, their employees will speak frankly, and they'll get tangible ideas for improving their businesses. They'll also discover talent worth rewarding and cultivating.

Airasia is known for employs pilots who started out as baggage handlers and stewards.  This is because of their unique corporate culture that emphasises casual environment and lack of hierarchy means that any employee in the company has the ability to climb the ranks to the top.

Without the camera rolling, Tony Fernandes has shown that the fundamental of management is to roll up your Sleeves get down to the floor and see what's happening get in with your staff at all levels. This everyman CEO insists sometimes you can learn gets the best idea from the support staff and discovers the best out of them.

Even in old folktales, a king will dress as a commoner to understand the suffering of their people. Hope many more CEO willing to come down from Ivory tower and try to slip in the employee glass slipper

Note: - Hope that my CFO can work with me on my daily task trying to safe this company from Chapter 11

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Back to the Future

History is littered with those who made great discoveries; performed great deeds or just changed the World, but whose names do not crop up in the ordinary course of education and learning.

Why might this be? Did they break with convention? Did they offend the establishment? Did they not fit the paradigm? Possibly all of those things

The recent controversy over PAS Deputy President Mat Sabu’s statement on the Bukit Kepong incident dominated this year’s Syawal. Regarding Mat Sabu’s comments, it has to be said that historiography aside, it is only just to argue that all those who fought for our Independence should be acknowledged.

Winston Churchill once said that “history is written by the victors”. In the case of Malaysia, it is not just history but also contemporary news that is written and orchestrated by those in power.There was no escape from history and bizarre opinions from people who really should know better.But that should be left to the historians. Politicians should focus on the present and the future. Malaysia is facing enormous challenges in an uncertain time. Surely we ought to be working on how we are to face these challenges than debating historical technicalities?

It is crucial to note that the struggle for independence was not a singular effort by the Alliance. It was a struggle that took place on many different frontiers, spearheaded by many different personalities and through many different means. Surely the sacrifices undertaken by anti-Colonial champions such as Tok Janggut, Abdul Rahman Limbong and others should also be accorded its fair share of space?

Did anybody know that the first policeman kills in action (KIA) in Malaysia happen on 29 April 1915; Sergeant Sulaiman, better known as Sergeant Che Wan, whom try to arrest Tok Janggut for failing to pay the government tax. Tok Janggut agreed but refused to walk in front of them and a fight occurred, in which Tok Janggut manages to stab the sergeant and the rest was history.

“One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter” according to Ronald Reagan

Throughout history, we are often reminded of the people that have done heroic and outstanding deeds.  These people are often not even the ones responsible for the outcome of history, but they have been overlooked by the historians - or even writers who thought they just "didn't belong" in the list of great men and women.

We all know individuals--most of them unsung, unrecognized--who have, often in the most modest ways, spoken out or acted on their beliefs for a more egalitarian, more just, peace-loving society.

To ward off alienation and gloom, it is only necessary to remember the unremembered heroes of the past, and to look around us for the unnoticed heroes of the present.

Mark Twain quote: The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.