Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It May Not Work This time, Dr M

Mahathir’s shocking resignation as UMNO member shook the nation. The impact sent both the ruling party and opposition scrambling to regroup and re-strategise.

Even Bursa Malaysia was impacted by DrM’s decision, closing lower for 2 consecutive days. While the 2nd Finance Minister said that this has got nothing to do with Dr M’s departure from UMNO, investors remain confused and cautious about the unstable political scenario in the country.

This shows how much influential he still is in Malaysian politics, for someone whose opinion and comments were not taken seriously before the general elections.

Rumors and speculations are further confusing the public while PM Abdullah appears to be visibly worried for the first time since Dr M’s started to criticise him two years ago.

Some say that Dr M is trying to deflect public attention away from the Lingam Video scandal, it must be said that the investigation will still go on, regardless of current political scenario.

While in general, Dr M’s decision is not good for the whole country, changes are bound to happen. Current situation faced by PM Abdullah is precarious as compared to the situation faced by Dr M when Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussien Onn left UMNO during his (Dr M) leadership as Dr M had already established himself and was in a strong position, both in UMNO and as a PM. PM Abdullah, in contrast is facing is most difficult period in his political career.

I personally feel Dr M move will not work. He knows that since he had said during the press conference that UMNO members currently holding positions in the government and party are unlikely to abandon UMNO due to their greed for power and money.

Dr M also chose the wrong time of the year to do this. This is an UMNO election year, therefore, it is highly unlikely that anyone eyeing for position in UMNO to abandon the ship with polls to be held in less than 6 months. He could have waited for UMNO polls to be over.

Even his son Mukhriz decided not to quit, probably for the same reason.

The opposition parties are the ones who seem to be benefiting from the crisis in UMNO. They are closely watching the situation and if the crisis continues, it’s highly likely that much speculated crossovers will happen. BN MPs from east Malaysia are more likely to benefit from joining the opposition as compared to waiting for UMNO and BN struggle to rejuvenate from it’s current crisis.

Anwar Ibrahim’s claim of being ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ cannot be dismissed, although I still believe the public is not ready to accept him as PM.

In summary, Dr M challenge and subsequent actions are likely to fizzle out and he will now be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We Are Too KL Centric

During gatherings with family members and relatives, we tend to catch up with each other to find out more of the happenings in each others life, career, surrounding and also connected parties, i.e mutual friends or relatives who were not there.

With my hometown being Kluang, obliviously I would be more inclined to ask what is happening in Kluang touching on people and places of interest such as the famous Kluang Railway coffee.

On the other hand, relatives and friends who are residing in Kluang and surrounding areas do enquire about happenings in KL but they always have a upper hand in terms of information as KL is widely covered, be it in mainstream media, internet or blogs.

Kluangites usually tend to try to ascertain whether what they view, read or hear is in fact true. That much of trust they have nowadays on media. Naturally they also ask us about rumors and smses that they receive from time to time.

I also find a huge gap in terms of our (KLites) knowledge on small towns (also known as ‘cowboy town’ in Malaysia. KLites, especially those who were born in KL and those who have been residing in KL for a long time knows little about these towns except for towns which are already a popular tourism destination.

None of these town would have come about without its own piece of history. Although in the olden days, these town serves as the collection centre, train transit or ports for tin mines , rubber and cocoa estates, there are other towns existed for other reasons.

It would be interesting to know about small towns and its history. The information gap is certainly not helped by the fact that the media in the country are very much KL Centric. If you happen to scrutinize the papers, News on TV channels, little is mentioned about small towns unless something has happened there.

School history books, while does mention about some historically significant small towns, in my opinion, there are many historical events which are excluded due to space constraints and importance.

For example, a small town called Bekok bordering Kluang and Segamat district in Johor used to be a communist base during the 60’s. When were residing in estate (Chan Wing) near there, we used to visit a communist built bunkers. This piece of historically significant evidence has been left to rot. I believe that this is the case with many other structures built by the communist in the 50’s and 60’s as the government, at that time, did not want communists and their activities to be remembered.

Another significant point to note is that many other similar smaller towns, known to be a transit point within the national rail network, have now been sidelined due to development of more modern highways. In Johor, trains used to stop at Bekok,Jagoh, Paloh, Chamek, Nyior, in between Segamat and Kluang. I hear that stops at these towns are now limited to once a day.

I am quite sure that everyone has a similar tale to tell about other small ‘cowboy’ towns. It’s just that the whole media is very much KL centric that small towns are completely ignored. It may be due to the fact that media behaves to according to happenings in their own surroundings (many are based in KL), which is the power centre of the nation, be it business or politics.
Every town still has its history and relevance. It would be good if someone records all the information on small towns, its history and current development. It would be even better if each town has its own newspaper or blogs that would documents all the information about the town. Look forward to that day. Till then we will have to rely on gatherings.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Differences between Local Companies And MNCs

I am writing on this based on my experience working in a large MNC and later in also large (in the country, that is) local institution within the same industry.

I am prompted to write on this as comparisons are always made among job seekers as well as among those who are already with local companies or MNCs and also due the fact that I am also always asked to make comparisons.

It’s a fact in Malaysia that people working in MNC are always proud of their companies as they are seen to be International while employees in large local companies always brag about their company in the presence of those from other local companies.

From my observation, there are stark differences between the two, local companies and MNCs. Here are the glaring ones;

1. Communication

Communication between management and employees in MNCs are regular, clear, concise. Policy or procedures changes are clearly explained and employees are briefed properly most of the time. In local companies, communication is inconsistent, not timely, usually not documented and irregular. Local companies are also not that transparent when it involves certain information as they are deemed confidential while in MNCs the same information are readily available either in the circulars or intranet.

2. Whiteboard

I found this amusing when I first started in a local company. In all my years in MNC, I never really found a need to use whiteboard to explain something to the meeting audience. We only use that to place some important information or updates. In local companies, whiteboards are everywhere including boardrooms and deemed as important tool to communicate to the audience.

My further observation revealed that it was all due to an individual’s inability to convey his messages clearly as well the audiences inability to comprehend what was being said by the other party, hence a whiteboard was necessary to highlight, for example workflow etc.

It can be very frustrating as the whiteboard is used again and again in the same meeting to prove a point or clarifiy the presenters position. In one meeting, there would be few people getting up and going to the whiteboard. If one look at the whiteboard at the end of the meeting, it would appear as if there has been a meeting concluded with plans to send man to Mars, or

In summary, it is a clear issue of communication rather than whiteboards being a magic tool.

3. Meetings

The other frustrating experience with the local companies are meetings. Meetings where I conducted in MNCs are generally short with important ones going up to 3 hours. However, In local companies, believe it, meeting can last 6 hours without break.

But then why?. Are locals more hardworking and willing to sit in meetings for to find solutions and communicate important matters, seek clarifications etc. Again, there are many reasons. I find most of the meetings I attended not productive at all.

Meetings are also scheduled in the evening, after office hours, which I find baffling.

Reasons are many
- participants are usually not prepared,
- did not bring the necessary that they were advised to bring,
- Vague agendas,
- participants coming in late,
- lack of focus - Participants talking among themselves when others are presenting and when prompted, they asked for repeat of what was being briefed. It’s also common that people answer phone calls during meetings
- Out of topic conversations takes place.
- Participants going out of the meeting rooms and coming in later asking to repeat what went on during his/her absence.
- Participants not giving straight answers, they beat around the bush instead.

There are many more but in summary, it’s the people’s attitude, behaviour and inefficiency that leads to long and unnecessary meetings.

4. Long Hours

It’s also a norm for locals to stay on in the office until late hours. One of the reason for this is due to meetings. Other than this is also due to staff don’t dare to go home before their bosses. MNCs discourage this and many wants their staff have a good work/life balance. And people who work long hours, no matter how unproductive they are, are seen to be hardworking employee.

5. Off Days & Leaves

People in Local companies are fond of those who return to work on their off days or on leave. Those who return are seen to be a committed staff, no matter that the same person did not pass on his work properly or did not delegate his task to other before they go on leave.

6. Lack of Focus & Direction

Local companies only plan, strategise and act when something happens. Planning for the year only starts in the same year.

7. Paper, Paper, Paper….

Lots of things are still paper based. Approvals still need to be signed on paper while MNCs have for long embarked on electronic signatures.

8. Analogies

I also observed that Malaysians in local companies also fond of telling some old stories or analogies to prove a point.

9. Not customer Oriented.

Local companies also practices ‘end justifies means’ concept and generally don’t really care about customer or service.

In summary, Malaysian companies have long way to go before they can claim to be world class. I echo Dr M’s statement that ‘Malaysians have have first class facility but third world mentality’ . A great deal of mindset and workplace culture change is required before we even think of becoming world class organization.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Are We Really What We Claim to Be?

Recent 'Live' telecast of Parliament question and answer session has brought about the worst among the MPs. Public and prominent figures were outraged by the behaviour of the MPs, some of them who have been member of the August house for more than 2 decades.

I did watch the 'show', reality show to be more specific. While I was not that amused by their antics, it did force me to stop and think.

Aren't we the general public, adults to be more specific, the same. We are in a way acting all the time. The way we behave actually depends very much on the surroundings that we are at that point of time. We don't sit properly at home, we laze around and place out foot wherever we feel comfortable. We don't do this in the office. Aren't we acting then.

We dont eat the same way at home as compared to when we are with our friends, colleaques and even differently when were are in a hotel. Aren't we actually acting then.

The same goes on how we speak. We speak differently to different audience. Are we really being ourselves?

We dress differently according to functions that we go to.Are we really being ourselves?

We also like to do what the childrens do, like playing with some interesting toys or in my case, like to be with my teddy bear but we do it in private. Aren't we acting then.

We also complain about MPs talking nonsense/rubbish. Aren't we the same. We love rumours, some thrive on it. We talk nothing with facts, merely hearsay, half the time. We also love to speculate, trying hard to be Mr Right, some earn or lose money speculating.

We also love to speak highly of someone while deriding others. In Malaysia, we love to speak highly of someone succesful from the same race while deriding other races.

We also love to be in the limelight.

We abhor corruption, but at the same time don't mind paying off the policeman for traffic offence.

We talk about equality, justice and fairness but yet when someone we know or love breaks the law, we accuse the authorities of of bias.

We love alternative media although most of them publish half truths. Although however slanted they may be, mainstream media are quite accurate and responsible.

In summary, we are no different than those politicians in the RTM's "Parliament Reality Show".In fact, we could easily participate in the show. Why not try, the Lingam Video cameran tried and made it, so can we.

Let's looks at ourselves in the mirror, are we really what we claim or seen to be?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mahathir, Live And Direct On The Web

Mahathir, Live And Direct On The Web

Apologies for there have been no postings recently. My internet connection has been off for a while.
Recent development that caught everyone by surprise was Tun Dr Mahathir's (TDM) foray into blogging. While this may have been his reaction to his (own) accusation that he is denied access to the mainstream media, general public are excited to hear from him directly.

His first two postings were outright politics and looking at the response generated, this can be one of the sites with most hit's in recent times apart from those sites maintained by mostly anti-establishment groups. Perhaps Mahathir should open his sites for placement of advertisements; at least he could get some income since he is a pensioner now.

If you look at some of the comments posted, there are large numbers of admirers of this strongman as much as detractors. He still commands respect of even the opposition members eg Jeff Ooi still keeps up with whatever "Mahathir". Jeff claims that he still looks up to Mahathir as a great leader.

He has been said to be the person who destroyed the major institution such as the judiciary and police, caused upside of corruption, a dictator who abused the ISA (Operasi Lalang etc), saw the birth of cronyism, made the poor poorer but own a proton etc...
(eh….wasn’t Anwar Ibrahim there all the time) Many conveniently forget this.

Until today no one has come forward and successfully charged him for all his wrong doings and TDM is vehemently confident that he has done nothing wrong. Not even Anwar Ibrahim, who claimed to have boxes of evidence, had done anything.

While TDM’s postings have been largely predictable and consistent as he has been always, I personally want to hear more of his personal side rather than his political ramblings, at least once in a while. I'm also tired of waiting for his memoirs, which has been long time in the making.

It would be interesting to know his personal side. I have read many books on him, both by local observers/writers, even an interesting but difficult to read PHD thesis on him by an American, John Hilley (Malaysia: Mahathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition). Most of these authors quote various incidents, decisions and actions to define what TDM is, to the extend that they have coined 'Mahathirism' as how they see of him.

I have met, shook hands and spoke to him many times (lost count actually) during my stint in Carcosa Seri Negara. However that was more of a hotel employee and guest interactions. I have then noticed that there was always an aura surrounding him, a kind of respect mixed with fear, even among the senior cabinet members and his so-called close friends and cronies. Everyone tend to keep a distance and usually he will be left alone when he is waiting for someone, usually foreign head of state etc at Carcosa.

I was also amazed with his reading ability, he is able to read the NST, in broadsheet format those days in just over 20-30 minutes and later in the post-function press conference, able to clinically and at times, comically answer all questions, usually those arising from articles in the papers.

What I would like to see are; What is he, how do he think, how can he manage his time, what Mahathir wanted all his life, Why he made decisions the way he did, how did he take all the criticism, how much he likes glory, Anwar Ibrahim, or rather how did he managed to look young. etc.