Friday, January 29, 2010

The five balls in the air

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.

You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the Air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocable scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for it.” Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family, friends & have proper rest.

Bryan Dyson ~CEO of Coca Cola.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Six Ways To Beat Executive Job Stress by Sharon McDowell-Larson

Crushing economic pressure on your business, unrelenting competition, crazy work hours, downsizing, slashed budgets, uncertainty. Almost every organization has been trying to do more with less lately, and it's taking a toll.
Executives and middle managers alike are exhausted by their brutal schedules and the intense demands on them. Business leaders may be relieved to be working at all, but they're stressed out, anxious and sleep deprived. The result? Health problems, deteriorating relationships and weakened job performance.
When leaders are stressed, they usually don't treat themselves or others well. Many busy executives have been self-medicating, with coffee, colas and energy drinks by day and a couple of drinks and a sleep aid at night. They overeat, or they don't eat, or they eat the wrong things. Exercise quickly drops off their to-do list.
Stressed-out leaders take out their troubles on other people too. A quick temper at work or at home, angry or impatient responses, or an attitude of "If I'm suffering, everyone else suffers"--these are all too common.
To beat the negative side of stress, you have two choices: Reduce the strain or boost your ability to weather its effects. If you can find ways to cut down on the external pressures that cause your stress and overload, that's ideal. But meanwhile, focus on improving your mental and physical ability to process stress. Here's how:
Know your stress response. Pay attention to how your body reacts to stress. Do you feel your heart rate going up? Do you get hot? Do you clench your jaw? Do you get a headache or stomachache? The sooner you recognize that your body is responding to stress, the sooner you can do something about it.
Next, get a handle on your stress-induced patterns of behavior. Some people stick with their usual ways but do them louder, harder, faster or longer than is helpful. Others get unpredictable or act uncharacteristically when facing stress.
Do you know what you do when you're stressed? Start to pay attention and see the patterns. Do you get overly emotional? Do you bury yourself in the detail? Do you find yourself getting quieter, louder, meaner or more distant?
Also, think about the effect your stress response has on others. Does your team feel threatened, left in the dark or dumped on? Do you slow things down, or do you ratchet up the pressure? Do you break commitments or take your stress out on people at home?
Exercise. You've heard it before, but it's true. Regular exercise is the best way to stay physically healthy, and it also offers psychological benefits to counteract stress. Exercise can increase your sense of being in control, strengthen your self-esteem and help you regulate your emotions. It offers a healthy distraction from stressful situations while inducing the relaxation your body needs to dissipate its stress hormones.
Regular exercise also leads to improved effectiveness as a leader. In research involving executives around the world, we've found those who exercise regularly rate significantly higher on leadership effectiveness, as judged their bosses, peers and direct reports, than men and women who exercise only sporadically or not at all.
Get serious about fitness. If you've neglected your health, don't wait until you have "more time" or "less stress" to make a change. Studies of senior executives have shown that among them 79% of men and 62% of women have two or more of risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or too much body fat. See a doctor soon and start improving your eating practices by adding more fruits and vegetables and cutting down on added sugars, fats and sodium.
Build in stress breaks. More than 90% of leaders report that they manage stress by temporarily removing themselves, either physically or mentally, from the source of their stress. One way is by getting up from your desk and walking around or getting out for some fresh air every 90 minutes or so. Do some deep breathing or shoulder shrugs, or even just close your eyes for one minute.
Rethink the work. Look for ways to organize and streamline your tasks. Planning, organizing and prioritizing are effective stress managers. Other tactics include defining roles, clarifying expectations, managing project schedules and completing tasks ahead of deadline. Sharpening your focus is also helpful: Find ways to give the most effort and time to the most important tasks and priorities, in both your professional and personal lives.
Learn from professional athletes. You can actually do more in less time by practicing the art of recovery. Professional athletes understand that pushing themselves at 100% of their capacity 100% of the time results in little or no long-term performance gain. They build time to recharge into their training routines. You can do the same.
Do it by finding effective ways to set boundaries. Listen to music on your commute home. Turn off your cellphone and your e-mail during personal or family time. Take up a social activity or a hobby. Relaxing is critical for clear and creative thinking, strong relationships and good health. Know that the time and energy you spend away from work can enhance your productivity and your capacity to deal with things at work.
Breaking your habitual responses to stress isn't easy. You may feel you don't have time to exercise, eat right or reprogram your stress behaviors. But consider this: Your current high level of stress may be your new normal. That breakneck pace, that uncertainty, that increased responsibility--they may be yours to keep. If so, you must have good coping skills or trouble will find you sooner or later.
So begin with a small change (walking for 15 minutes each day) or a simple routine (counting to 10 when you're angry), and build on it. A little effort will improve your ability to manage stress and lead through the change and challenge that have become inevitable in the lives of leaders.
Sharon McDowell-Larsen is a senior associate and exercise physiologist with the Center for Creative Leadership and a former U.S. Olympic Committee researcher. She is co-author of the book Managing Leadership Stress.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Target setting- a tool for today's uncertainty

Corporate world today is best summarized with one single word~ uncertainty. Companies divesting non core business, aggressive corporate take over, demanding shareholders expecations, all would means that no job is secure today.

Since Sara Lee announced it's plan to divest the non core business, most of my colleagues have started to look for jobs. One interesting case was a close acquitant of mine whom is offered a job in a food company which now a target of take over by another global player.

Is she jumping out from a pot of hot soup and making her way to anothert? As i was listening to her concerns, i start to realize how important for every decision to be made based on a set of clear objective.

In management term, each action/ decision must be based made based on a a clear set of target.

As i recalled my decision to join Sara Lee few years back was based on 2 clear targets. To learn the latest ERP skill which is SAP and to practice and implement integrated supply chain in my new job. Holding both targets close to my heart, most of my actions and drives in my job were working towards achieving these targets. Even today i am facing job insecurity, i would still rate a 100% achievement and feel no regret in my decision to join this company.

I hope my close acquitant would able to clearly set her targets for joining the food company she so desired to join (that is before the news of take over). As circumstances change, having the clear target in mind would guild her to the right path. Good luck my dear friend!

Friday, May 8, 2009


We typically associate networking as politicing, asking for favours or (worse in the context of Malaysian politic) establishing cronyism.

As i observe around, there are various stages during our career which networking is a must.

A) Starting your career at the very first job
You are a nobody other than your academic credential. Unless you are the alumi of Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge, networking is needed to let people know about you, the new lad in town.

B) Springboard for the next job advancement
There is just one position ( the departmental head, the director post) but many candidates to fill up the role. How would the decision makers make the selection. My recruitment experience tells me that the refferal chat and a quick phone conversion with the previous employee or colleague of the same company will be the last check before making the decision to hire / promote or not.

C) Looking for a job after redundancy
Under this scenario, the person carry with him/her the 'pressure within'. Awkward to describe being unemployed, it is harder to breakout from the shell and start up any conversion.

At one stage of my career, i was offered a manager (regulator affairs position) which requires to be the advisor to the country presidents for the region. I was lucky enough to ask the predecessor about approaches when dealing with them. A mere manager, should i just be the soldier and only act upon when the commander instruct? The truth apparently was to treat them as just any friend whom can interact both ways. Typical icebreaker such as how does work his career to the position, how he or his family fits into the new country environment (as most of them are expats), etc. Once mindset change to a college with a expertise instead of boss-subordinate, even the presidents will refer to you as the person whom know better with regulatory matters.

A simple check before any networking is to ask the intention, who will be the person and do expect one time encounter will be sufficient.

From this article, STAR sharing (Situation, Task, Achievement, Result) is another great way to do soft selling of yourself.

End of the day, networking is just about social skill. Starts with hello and ends with thank you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Enterprise resource planning- tools for supply chain manager

Many people ask me what are the key skills required for a supply chain management personnel. My answers are:-
a) ability to establish process and system
b) good understanding of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system
c) and of course, excellent management skill

Supply chain is about physical and tangible stuff. The physical items that move around and eventually generate income for the company. The success of generation of recurring incomes is because there is clear process and good system for the physical movement.

For many companies, activities within the company which generate incomes are captured with a system, the ERP system. As a supply chain practitioner, knowledge and ability to work with an ERP system is essential. Within the EPR, is where all the data are kept. The secret of supply chain is making information visible and as simple as possible. ERP is the one and only tool designed for that. With all information happening with in company captured under one place, company is able to analyze and develop clear strategy for the competitive edge.

Here is a good write up on ERP, there are details on SAP which is the most popular ERP today (article extracted from Economist).

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the setting up of electronic information systems throughout an organisation in such a way that disparate parts of the organisation are brought together, parts that may rarely in the past have had access to information about each other—manufacturing, for instance, and customer relationship management (CRM).

ERP software, designed to implement this, acts as a sort of central nervous system for the corporation. It gathers information about the state and activity of different parts of the body corporate and conveys this information to parts elsewhere that can make fruitful use of it. The information is updated in real time by the users and is accessible to all those on the network at all times.

Just as the central nervous system’s capacity can at times seem to transcend the collective capacity of its individual parts (a phenomenon that we call consciousness), so too can that of ERP systems. They (as it were) make the corporation self-aware. In particular, ERP systems link together information about finance, human resources, production and distribution. They embrace stock-control systems, customer databases, order-tracking systems, accounts payable, and so on. They also interface when and where necessary with suppliers and customers.

The interlinking of ERP systems can be extraordinarily complex. Firms usually start with a pilot project before implementing a group-wide scheme.

The history of ERP is the history of SAP (System Analyse und Programmentwicklung), a German software company that in the 1990s established an extraordinary dominance in the market for ERP systems. SAP was set up by three engineers in Mannheim in 1972. Their aim was to help companies link their different business processes by correlating information from various functions and using it to run the whole business more smoothly.

SAP’s software was designed to be modular so that a company’s systems could be rapidly adapted to take account of growth and change. It was so successful in recognising and meeting business’s it needs that by the late 1990s SAP’s share of the market for ERP systems was greater than that of its five nearest rivals put together. Its systems were reckoned to be running in at least half of the world’s 500 largest companies.

Its extraordinarily rapid growth at the time (an annual average rate of increase in sales of over 40%) was backed by a marketing strategy that encouraged management consultants to implement SAP systems within client firms. Many consultants set up specialist SAP departments for the purpose. Without this support in implementation, there might have been a crippling bottleneck in the growth of SAP’s business.

The ERP systems market itself grew rapidly as firms saw the benefits to be gained from consolidating information about their geographically and functionally dispersed bits and pieces. ERP systems enabled them to have a view of their organisation as a whole that they had never previously enjoyed. It was a bit like seeing the early colour photographs of earth taken from outer space.

For a number of reasons, these systems were initially most popular with large multinationals:

• they had advanced it infrastructures on which they could run the systems;

• they were keen to standardise their diverse range of business processes;

• they had the staff necessary to manage the systems once they were up and running.

As this big-company market became saturated, ERP systems providers began to look at how they might adapt their products to suit smaller organisations.

Further reading
James, D. and Wolf, M.L., “A Second Wind for ERP”, McKinsey Quarterly, No. 2, 2000

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Getting a BlackBerry-On time management

A close of mine whom was just promoted to be the Sales Director of an advertising agency will be getting a Blackberry.

He is thrilled and excited. The new toy will enable him to reach the whole world and the world can keep sending sms, e-mails to him.

To me that is a daunting situation to be. How many times our discussion with colleagues are interrupted when the phone rings. With the Blackberry, there are influx of e-mails, sms, etc all demanding our attentions.

Perhaps is the age factor but i cannot but to notice the younger, tech-savvy new tends to believe the below statement:-

BlackBerry in one hand, phone in the other, eyes fixed on several of the 15 windows open on his laptop screen: today's high-performing manager owes his superior productivity to technology-enabled multitasking.

I beg to differ. And here are some good tips for the managers instead.

Maggie Jackson is the author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age:-

First, pay attention to your attention: be cognizant of when and where you are paying attention. Are you reacting to every ping? Notice when your responses to immediate calls on your attention squeeze out deeper relationships, fuller conversations, time to reflect. Notice when they keep you too rooted in the moment, and prevent you from taking time to think deeply and plan for the future.

Second, set aside slow time. I've become ferociously careful about setting aside time and space for quiet, deep reflection.

Personally, i am a strong follower who practices Covey's advise. His book First thing first guides each of us to align our day, week, month and year to focus on priorities of our life. Time management is not about doing more things in lesser time, but doing the important things with the right amount of time and priorities as we go through the day.

In summary technology must not be the distraction of our time and focus but be a useful tools to help us focus, organize and have some fun.

Good luck to my Sales Director pal!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back to Basic- on management theories

Being a manager need one to be pragmatic rather than theorist.

However some basic concepts and application of business or strategy models help in providing a quick understanding and overview of big picture.

In the challenging time, a quick review of the company positioning, the market environments and reviewing the direction or rather the strategy of the company help to reinforce the importance of getting the basic right.

Here is a good link to the tools and models developed since 1930 to 2000. There are good details on 9 matrix and others tools such as SCP, 7S ,etc.