Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cost-Cutting at Univeristy of Melbourne

The other day I brought up the topic of ‘execution’ in this blog. In fact, this is a subject that is familiar to my students, especially those taking my OL328 Leadership course this semester. We have learned about Jack Welch and the 4E’s. The discipline of the 4E’s in fact, has helped Welch to find and develop leaders who would fit into GE’s high-octane, performance-based culture. The fourth E is ‘execution’ (and the other 3 E’s are energy, energize, and edge). People who execute effectively understand that activity and productivity is not the same thing. The best leaders know how to convert energy and edge into action and results. In short, they know how to execute. That’s why execution is so vital to any organization that wants to succeed!

My students are well-advised to pay attention to the above...

Dr. Paul Chan highlighted news from the University of Melbourne regarding job cuts. This news is bound to hatch some anxiety because jobs in the education sector are supposedly recession-proof. I suppose in today’s world, everything has become unpredictable and volatile, and anything can happen. Given that this university is No. 38 in the THE.QS World University Rankings 2008, I was intrigued and even puzzled. And so I searched the Net to find out more about this cost-cutting exercise.

On webpage http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/melbourne-uni-to-cut-220-jobs-20090728-dzy1.html (accessed July 29, 2009), I was dismayed to read that the university remains in the black but because it does not want to compromise its long-term viability – whatever that means – Vice Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis announces that the axe is about to fall on 220 jobs through a voluntary redundancy program. The impending job losses, amounting to about three per cent of the university's 7,500 staff, are expected to cost around $15 million, and they are among a number of measures designed to save $30 million a year. Other measures include a senior staff wage freeze, a hiring freeze on non-academic staff, job sharing and cuts in travel. But of course, the university is executing this "with a heavy heart".

“We anticipate that if we are successful in holding down expenditure then we can come through this with no further loss of jobs and without having to go through a further round of voluntary redundancies," Prof Glyn told reporters.

"Most Australian universities have gone through a process like this, or are going through the process but we've decided to go public and be upfront about ours”.

This is plain horsefeathers. Still this is also today’s reality.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brandon's Question

Yesterday, Brandon posed this question: “Will we ever get over the fact that we're actually constantly being judged by others?” I will answer this question by posing another question: Does it matter? After all, we are constantly judging others also. Don’t we? Don’t you?

PM Najib Razak’s crime prevention KPI to reduce street crime by 20% in 2010 was slammed by DAP’s Lim Kit Siang as being four years too late, and demanded that the country’s top cop be held accountable for the soaring crime rate, according to The Malaysian Insider today. The Dzaiddin Police Royal Commission in its report in May 2005 had then proposed for the crime rate to be reduced by the same 20% margin in 12 months. Lim pointed out that from 2004, when the commission report was tabled to last year, the crime index has bolted, jumped and leapt to a massive 35.5% (Webpage
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/33548-to-reduce-crime-the-igp-must-go-kit-siang-demands, accessed July 28. 2009). Feedback from one Pak Din makes a lot of sense: “Should have thought of firing him long time back. If he had got off his butt, the crime stats would have come down. But one question, shouldn’t the target be zero crime…?”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Miss Piggy

Just two days ago, I had declared that Kermit the Frog was my favorite Muppet character. But if you are familiar with the Muppets, then you will know that Miss Piggy was smitten with Kermit, to the point that she had professed that she was mad about the frog! So, here’s Miss Piggy doing her thing…
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In The Malaysian Insider today, Selangor menteri besar, Khalid Ibrahim has ordered an internal audit on all PR lawmakers in order to clear the Pakatan Selangor government. He is really taking the bull by the horns – and this is obviously a very positive and pro-active move on his part. Kudos to Khalid for having the courage to call for this investigation. This order was made because of allegations of corruption that were targeted at some members of the Selangort state government.

And in another article, The Malaysian Insider opined that Malaysia’s much-hyped fight against graft is headed nowhere unless there is a seismic shift in the competence of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Attorney-General’s chambers. This observation was made in the light of acquittals of high-profile cases that included Ramli Yusoff, Eric Chia, Saidin Thamby, and Mohd Mirza Taiyub. Read today’s article at webpage http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/33480-in-anti-graft-fight-another-case-another-loss-. So besides this, government law-enforcement agencies – the MACC and the Royal Malaysian Police – were already alleged to be also engaged in selective prosecution. So what’s new?

Footballing Neighbors

I heard it over the radio this morning that Liverpool whipped Singapore 5-0. I cannot wait to hear from Arun personally how this could have happened. I thought Singapore sits higher in the ranking table as compared to Malaysia – so the question is, How come? For the record, Malaysia played two friendly matches against Man United, and the scores were 2-3 and 0-2 – which is not too bad a loss considering that our footballing reputation is almost non-existent.

Anyhow, I was determined to check the FIFA Ranking as at July 2009 to see how the two countries fared. And true enough, Singapore sat in position No. 127, and Malaysia hunkered down in position No. 157 (Webpage http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/ranking/lastranking/gender=m/fullranking.html#confederation=0&rank=183&page=3, accessed July 27, 2009).

Singapore's Straits Times today reported that Rafa Benitez is upbeat about the year ahead. “We have confidence that we can be at the top of table. It can happen”, he said. “The message is clear, we have to be contenders, we have to work harder than last year. We need to get to the top of the table and stay at top and be competitive for the whole season and hopefully win the trophy”.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Execution

One word that Dr. Paul Chan has invoked a lot recently is ‘execution’. But believe me, most of us, if asked what ‘execution’ means, will be bollixed and clueless. Simply put. when a company executes well, the company will do well. Therefore, execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing the hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability (Bossidy, Charan & Burck, 2002, p 22).

It is worth remembering that strategies most often fail because they aren’t properly executed. Things that are supposed to happen don’t happen. Either the organizations aren’t capable of making them happen, or the leaders of the business misjudge the challenges their companies face in the business environment, or both (ibid, p 15).

I highly recommend we purchase this book, so that we can learn from it. “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” is the book’s title, and it’s available at all MPH bookstores for only RM84.90. For your info, this book is a New York Times bestseller!

Of late, I have been talking a lot about the UK’s economic crisis. The UK economy contracted 0.8% between April and June, more than double the figure economists had expected, BBC News reported on July 24. The contraction was much less than the 2.4% seen in the first quarter but was still above analysts' 0.3% prediction. This latest figures take the annual rate of decline to 5.6%, the biggest fall since records began in 1955.

Governments everywhere are almost always overly optimistic, and the UK government is no exception. Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, had steadfastly maintained that he was cautious but confident that growth was going to return at the end of the year.

But outside of the government, there are plenty of misgivings.

The BBC's economic editor Stephanie Flanders was already less upbeat. "Anyone who was worried about the momentum of the recovery before will be that much more concerned now," she observed. "Not least, because the recovery has yet to actually show its face”.

Hetal Mehta, senior economic advisor to the Ernst & Young ITEM Club, put it bluntly when she said that hopes for a recovery had run ahead of reality.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gerrard is Cleared

This morning, HELP University College Toastmasters Club organized an Inter-college Joint Meeting 2009 – for a select group of Colleges and Universities that included UNITAR, Universiti Malaya, Nilai UC, and of course us (i.e. HICT) and HUC, at Wisma HELP, Bukit Damansara. The theme was very appropriate: Unity through Mission. Nope, I didn’t make a speech – although I would dearly love to – we were given only one speaking slot, and Mike Cheang wanted to be the chosen one! I had to be contented with being an evaluator for a speaker named Michael (from HUC) who did Project 9 in the Competent Communication Manual. With 5 speakers, this meeting was in effect, a speech marathon. What impressed me was the quality of the speeches and evaluations – they were all really good, and even the 'open' evaluations from amongst the audience. We were represented by Mathew, Shireen (our other role player - she did the Ah Counter), Wai How, Mike, Mehala, and myself.



There was a sense of relief when I read the papers today. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been cleared after the England midfielder admitted hitting Marcus McGee, in the Lounge Inn, Southport, UK in December last year. He had denied the charge of affray. The jury at Liverpool Crown Court agreed with Gerrard's assertion that he was acting in self-defense. Speaking after the hearing, the player said he had put it behind him and was looking forward to the season ahead. I am sure all Liverpool FC fans rejoice at this piece of good news!

Lady GaGa and Kermit the Frog

I don’t think anybody has not heard of Lady GaGa, more so when 'Poker Face' has been currently pounding our airwaves relentlessly.

Lady GaGa – real name Stephanie Germanotta – put her zany fashion sense on display when she donned an interesting coat made completely of Muppet Show character Kermit the Frog, while interviewing for a German television show on Monday, July 20. (The Muppet Show was a popular puppet themed show which was aired in the UK from 1976 to 1981).

The green furry creation by designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac was hung with dozens of the famous frog's head. I guess you could describe this outfit as wacky, weird, even bizarre.


A webpage
http://www.celebrity-gossip.net/celebrities/hollywood/lady-gaga-kermit-the-frog-cutie-215854/, accessed today, carried these remarks:

“My friends and I in New York dress this way because it’s the way we live,” Lady GaGa explains. “We believe in vanity”.

Continuing to explain her outlandish outfits and look, she tells, “I dress this way because my whole life is art, and my whole life is performance”.

And this 23-year-old singer adds for good measure, “You don’t need money to live the way I live. All you need is a good idea and creativity”. Really, when you come to think of it, who would disagree?

I don’t know about you but I actually love this guy – Kermit the Frog, I mean – and I remember this song which is so emo…

MKT222 Class

The MKT222 class today (I was referring to July 24 actually - one minute too late!) saw students acting seriously businesslike, and I must say, they were well-prepared and matter-of-factly organized. I must admit that overall, the quality of their presentations were anywhere between good and near excellent. My expectations were not misplaced after all. There were three groups in all, and each group offered fresh perspectives and rolled out business ideas that were imaginative and workable. To be sure, there is room for improvement and I said so, but it’s not often that I witnessed presentations that were proficient and polished. A sample of one group's powerpoint slides are shown here:



The other thing I enjoyed from this 3-hour session was the lively discussions that followed from each presentation. It’s unusual to see students so participative and so alive in the classroom, that I believe they all deserve full marks for class participation.

One of the 3 groups that presented: Chi Fu, me, Fu Hao, Shaun and Edric Ho

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Arun's Telltale Hint

I felt distress and even pain when Arun coolly reminded me yesterday that he was looking forward to the pre-season friendly between Liverpool and Singapore this Sunday – all I could do was to shrug it off nonchalantly and made him promise to get me an autograph of Rafa! If he can pull this off – and the skeptic in me doubted it – I will owe him big-time! Then this morning, hitz.FM made me feel worse when the Morning Crew (i.e. JJ and Ean) flippantly announced that in yesterday’s friendly, Liverpool drew 1`-1 with Thailand when they played in Bangkok. I mean, I would love to be able to go – it doesn’t really matter, whether Bangkok or Singapore – but regrettably, I just can’t.

Of course, even if Steven Gerrard wasn’t in the team that went on this Far East tour, it is still a rare opportunity to catch the Reds live in this part of the world. But when I read in today’s The Sun which had a “Stevie’s fist of fury” headline plastered on the back page, I am alarmed! The ongoing court case, particularly with regard to the CCTV footage that showed him to be more of a professional boxer than a footballer – as reported in the same paper – is not good news. Sigh. We can only hope for the best possible outcome that will not jeopardize Liverpool ‘s chances for the new season.

Tonight, Sheila Wong organized a simple dinner for those involved in the Sogo catwalk show. Hehe, I was invited too, and it was really nice of her to include me in. The venue was Pizza Hut in Subang Parade. Everybody was there, save for Sufiyan and Mizan, who's gone back home for the holidays. And yes, I even got Sheila's latest (her second) book called "Yes, You Can Look Slimmer: Size Doesn't Matter, Shape Does!" and which she personally autographed for me! Wow! Incidentally, the book is targeted to ladies wishing to look their best. It's a really good investment by the way.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Impress Me!

From yesterday’s posting, it is obvious that the UK is deep in recession. Yet, I remember wading deep into enthusiastic legions of eager shoppers in London when I was there only last month. Today’s BBC News confirmed it: “Retail figures show sales boost”. Although it refers to Scotland – “Good weather and clearance bargains in June helped boost shop takings, according to the figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium” – it could just as well be describing London. After all, “UK sales were 1.4% above their June 2008 levels”, according to this same news report. Well, I suppose it’s awfully hard to keep shoppers away from good bargains and summer sales.

That reminds me that this Friday, my MKT222 Principles of Retailing class will be submitting their projects and making their presentations. They are supposed to present a business plan that requires them to establish a new outlet in Sunway Pyramid – I sure hope these students can enthuse and excite and electrify me. I have been hearing remarks that in my classes, students are unlikely to fail, but don’t expect to get any A’s because I do not give them out that easily. So students who wish to excel or those who hope to improve or enhance their CGPA are better off taking other courses which I am not teaching. Now that is not a fair remark because if the work is really good, I will not hesitate to award an A – honest! Besides, this is not a big class, and if I am not mistaken, all of them are either juniors or seniors (Third or Fourth Year students) – so I am already filled with expectations that they will impress me! They’d better!

The Malaysian Insider in their July 21 posting had reported that “the Sultan of Perak, much criticized for his role in the state’s constitutional crisis, attempted (yesterday}, to revive his battered image as a jurist in calling for judges to be impartial, free and fair” (Webpage
http://themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/32933-remain-politically-impartial-sultan-azlan-shah-tells-judges, accessed July 22). Hmmn… what can I say? Well, perhaps, just one word. Laughable.

For those who have short memories about Perak, the state has been in constitutional limbo since February 6, 2009. On that day, Sultan Azlan Shah, the state’s monarch, ruled out fresh polls and recognized BN as the government after three oppositionists resigned from their respective parties to become “independents” supportive of the BN. The crossovers effectively toppled the opposition Pakatan government.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gloom in the UK

Okay, I (sorry, we) have finally completed the revised Blended Learning paper – it involves Sheila and Dr. Cho Cho too, and I have emailed the final copy to the University yesterday morning – although it’s 2 days past the deadline.

Just to illustrate how dreadfully bad the UK economic situation is, I scanned BBC News Online today, and discovered these alarming revelations:

The UK economy is set to shrink by 4.5% in this year, the biggest fall in a single year since 1945, according to an influential think tank, The Ernst & Young Item Club. The downbeat forecast is more pessimistic than the consensus view, and considerably worse than the 3.5% fall predicted by the government.

Total outstanding government debt in the UK has risen to a record £799 billion, or 56.6% of UK GDP – the highest since records began in 1974. The figures reflecting the state of public finances also include the cost of bank bail-outs and higher spending on social security benefits.

A National Audit Office report said that tax receipts fell by 10% in the past year – the biggest fall since 1923.

About 15% of High Street shops will be empty by the end of 2009, the British Retail Consortium has predicted. This would be more than double the 7% of stores which were vacant at the start of the year. And currently, about 12% of town centre shops were empty, the BRC said.

UK unemployment rose by a record 281,000 to 2.38 million in the three months to May, the Office for National Statistics has said. The jobless rate increased to 7.6%, the highest in more than 10 years. Young people – those up to 24 years old – have been particularly hard hit with unemployment leaping to a 16-year high of 726,000. And the number of those out of work for more than a year rose by 46,000 to 528,000, the highest for 11 years.

The Office for National Statistics said that in the three months to May 927,000 people said they were working part time because could not find a full-time job. The figure is a third more than a year ago and is the highest number since the ONS began collating the data in 1992.

If you are British, you can get really spooked today…

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Liverpool FC is Coming!

Belatedly, I came to know that Liverpool FC are visiting Bangkok and Singapore this month – Arun and his mom are heading to the latter destination on July 26 to watch the Reds play against a Singapore Selection. I was disappointed with myself that I didn’t know about this earlier – and if I did, I would have wanted to go and watch the match. I suppose it is too late now to even contemplate getting a ticket. Anyway, I told him to please let me know next year, if the Reds come a-visiting again, so that maybe we could organize ourselves – we, meaning the Liverpool FC supporters – to make a 2D/1N trip to wherever they are playing, and show our support for the Reds. And better still, be like typical British football fans – the whole idea is to enjoy the game and drink lots of beer in between. Is it any wonder that both Liverpool FC and Carlsberg have a long-established relationship? Now, you know why Carlsberg is my favorite juice!

Two-thirds of people across the UK know someone who has lost a job in the recession, a BBC survey suggests. And four in 10 fear losing their job in the current climate, the survey of 1,048 people by ComRes indicates. The BBC commissioned the survey to mark its Taking The Pulse day, which is looking at how the recession is taking effect across the country (BBC News on webpage
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8144841.stm, accessed July 20, 2009). Aren’t Malaysians so very fortunate? Our job losses are not even half as bad as those in the UK!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sheila's Farewell

I am finally announcing Sheila Cheng’s resignation – and I recognize that we will lose a very precious teaching asset, an extraordinary person who gave her all to her students. I can think of many adjectives to describe this teaching icon: caring, dedicated, dutiful, experienced, industrious, learned, selfless. I can tell you that she is irreplaceable, clich├ęd as it may sound. You can imagine that in my department, where I have 4 (full time) teaching staff (including my good self) – her departure would mean that my department would be 25% incapacitated by end August 2009. You can appreciate by now that I don’t simply take in lecturers just to fill up the vacant teaching slots – unless they are good! That’s why at HICT, my department has the fewest number of lecturers and the largest number of students.

Anyway, SNHU students and staff threw her a farewell lunch today at Denny’s, and even as we fill our stomachs, our hearts cried silently. There were students, both past and present, and colleagues, both academics and non-academics who came. Sheila Cheng is really special and she will be missed! And oh yes, special thanks to Nicola, Woon Shi and Shireen for putting this luncheon together.




Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Work Like a Horse

I received happy news this morning from Yoga, telling me that we have successfully earned full accreditation for our Diploma in Business program – finally! And two people were instrumental in making this possible – Yoga herself of course and Amutha, my DIB program coordinator. Great job!
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Still laboring on the Blended Learning paper – and rushing to finish it, hopefully by tomorrow.

Besides frantically working at a furious speed to finish my SNHU exam question papers.
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It’s times like these when I am reminded of what Socrates said: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life”. Okay...it's time to go get a chilled Carlsberg and relax?

A Challenging HR Issue

In less than 3 short months, HICT has seen a high rate of attrition because so many non-academic staff has thrown in the towel. Hardest hit are the Marketing and Registry departments – but we were fortunate because some of these employees were really ineffectual, if not inept. I am not going to speculate why people leave an organization such as HICT, but I look at this as something positive because organizations do need a regular infusion of new blood from time to time. To me, HICT is a very sick organization, and the sooner we do a major shake-out the better. On the other hand, thankfully, the academic staff is steadfast and intact. Still, what I am witnessing is an interesting phenomenon nonetheless. And a challenging HR issue anyway.

The organizers of the Blended Learning Conference have informed us that our paper which I had presented recently at the University of Hertfordshire, has now been accepted for publication, with the caveat that we undertake some revisions. We are working on this immediately, so that we can meet the deadline – which is tomorrow evening (Malaysian time).

If UMNO hopes for the Manek Urai vote to be a turning point – then they are sadly mistaken. In the Manek Urai by-election, PAS yesterday won the state seat by a 65-vote margin. This slender win for PAS should give some much-needed respite to the Pakatan Rakyat alliance wracked by in-fighting. Speaking as a non-member of any of the PR parties, I suppose this political partnership must go through a baptism of fire and the political newbies will have to learn the hard way to work together on a single, common platform, even when their respective parties are governed by different ideologies.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Michael


When the world mourned Michael Jackson, I was silent. It’s not because he doesn’t deserve mention in my blog – he does. But it took awhile for his untimely demise to sink in. I didn’t think he would leave this world so soon, y’see – someone as young as him – but I guess, death crept stealthily and pounced on him, sinking its teeth deep into his flesh and spiriting away all life from him. Simply put, his time had come. Still strangely enough, only by his death, did I begin to see him as a real person. It may be that I had always viewed him as being larger than life; he is a Rubik’s Cube that defies solving. To be sure, he was not unblemished – we are all fallible after all – but his talents shone through these imperfections, like icicles spearing the wintry night.

Michael Jackson once said: “And my goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance”. Well-said because he did fulfill his goal in life! Maya Angelou also said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. And Michael did make a whole world of people feel good, didn’t he? Michael Jackson (1958-2009), R.I.P.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lifebuoy Ad

This Lifebuoy Men Body Wash Superdad TVC has been screened in Indonesia, but one of the ‘biggie’ characters in the commercial is played by my Malaysian student currently in his final year on the SNHU program at HICT. Can you recognize him? Do you know who is he?

Nope, he is not the elephant lah. Anyway, the student is Edric Ho – cute, isn’t he?



Today The New Sunday Times (July 12, p 7) featured the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE), whose chairperson, Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim made an interesting proposal – that schools should be given the option to teach Science and Mathematics in Malay or English or in one’s mother tongue. I suppose this suggestion merits consideration, given that the pro-English and the anti-English blocs have articulated their positions in a free-spoken and at times, very vocal manner.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On Politicians

I read James Chin’s article “RM3.5 million or RM25 million. So what!” in The Malaysian Insider today, and had a good chuckle. As he says tongue-in-cheek: “What is wrong with owning a multi-million ringgit home if you can afford it? Is it a sin to own a piece of Bali in Shah Alam? We should honor this house by featuring it in an architecture or home decoration magazine. It may even win an award for a fellow Malaysian for having the best Bali-theme home outside the real Bali. You must remember who you are dealing with.…All you ordinary taxpayers must not be so jealous as to always question why big-shot politicians have big houses worth more than their total salaries and allowances. Successful politicians are not ordinary human beings like you and me.

These people have special genes. After all, look at the children of our ex-prime ministers. Three of the children of one of our most famous ex-prime ministers are millionaires. Another son of another ex-prime minister was named one of Malaysia’s richest people by Malaysian Business magazine when the father was in power. Over in Sabah and Sarawak, the family of one of the chief ministers is reputed to own so many businesses that it will take days to list all of them…”

And he concludes with this advice: “…do the right thing. Remember these business geniuses when the next general election comes around. Reflect on the size of their business before you cast your vote. Remember to vote for the one with the most successful business, including the family business. We need people like them to help bring development to Malaysia! We don’t need honest politicians who can’t make a buck…” To read the full article - i quite enjoyed the witty sarcasm, the derisive cynicism, and the mocking lampooning of politicians like Mohd Khir - kindly check it out at this webpage: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/opinion/jameschin/31897?task=view#pc_124615. It may be worth remembering what Bess Myerson once said: "The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference".

Friday, July 10, 2009

You Got Speaking English Ah?

The Cabinet has just announced that the teaching of Mathematics and Science in Malaysian schools will now revert to Malay (for the national-type schools, or the respective vernacular language, in the case of Chinese or Tamil schools), instead of staying the course, and teaching these subjects in English. Let me say that I am not at all surprised with this decision because you and I know this decision has everything to do with politics. Needless to say, English language mastery has gone downhill to a stage where many young Malaysians cannot string sentences in proper English, nor can they speak the language with even a modest degree of confidence. English-language newspapers continue to carry stories of parents’ concerns about this policy reversal, but besides parents, who really cares? But I am also painfully aware that there are parents who are indifferent or just simply unconcerned. Maybe, PTAs should take the lead and mobilize public opinion to tell the Government in no uncertain terms that this is a regressive policy. After all, PTAs promote parent involvement in school communities. Look at the U.S., where the Parent Teacher Association is a very influential nationwide organization with state and local affiliates throughout the country, advocating the teaching agenda on behalf of students and schools. Anyway, grassroots politics is something new in this country – so I am not even hopeful.

And today, the New Straits Times highlighted this report that the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) had conducted a survey in 1999 among its members where 43.6% of the respondents said they had staff with problems in written and communication skills. In 2003, another MEF survey indicated that the problem had deteriorated with 54% of the respondents complaining of the same (July 10, p 4).

In this same report, a JobStreet.com survey among 3,000 employers, more than a year ago revealed that 56% of those polled said the main stumbling block when hiring fresh graduates was their poor command of English. In contrast, only 0.7% cited poor command of Malay as difficulty in hiring (ibid).

Presently, as an academic tasked with teaching undergraduate students, I am embarrassed to admit that we Malaysians have really hit the skids insofar as English proficiency is concerned. Only a countable minority can still hold their heads up high with regard to their command of English – but the rest had better buck up or else, when they graduate, getting jobs can be not only effortful but worse, elusive! Why? Simply because in the workplace, English reigns supreme!

Today, I took a group of my MKT222 Principles of Retailing class to Sunway Pyramid for their class project. Thankfully, Ke Xin (who’s doing her internship at the A&P department there) was on hand to provide our students with invaluable insights into the mall’s retailing doctrine. An interesting afternoon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Next Level: ACB

Today at the D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club meeting, I started my first assignment from the Special Occasion manual, on “Mastering the Toast”. The toast is to honor Advanced Communicator Bronze & Competent Leader, Foong Weng Tuck on his (recent) installation as the 2009/2010 President of this said Club. My evaluator was Lim Lay Kun and her assessment was positive, i.e. that overall, it was “a good toast” although she did identify a few (four, actually) good suggestions for improvement.

Now that I have started this next stage of my Toastmasters journey, I must look at how to accelerate my progress – so that I can complete this Advanced Communicator Bronze level as soon as possible – dare I say, by the end of this year? To achieve this feat, I will have to make 2 speeches a month from August until November, and one speech in December! Now, this is really challenging! It took me quite awhile before I started on my CC speeches and I only completed the mandatory ten speeches in slightly over 200 days. But now that I have completed it and I am starting on my ACB speeches, I am beginning to feel really energized! I think I am starting to enjoy Toastmastering!

Dentistry is a lucrative profession

The “Istana Khir” saga continues. One report had Mohd Khir telling Sin Chew Daily that he had no problem in repaying the monthly sum of RM18,743, being now involved in “business” from which he makes RM50,000 a month! Wow, a dentist who became a politician who became a businessperson! In fact he had purportedly asked “I was a menteri besar for eight years; on top of it my businesses are expanding, would I not be able to afford the house?” And for good measure, he had added, “Before I became the MB, I was a dentist with a monthly income of RM60,000” (The Sun, July 09, p 7). Unless there is a typo error, it should be noted that he mentioned he has “businesses” (plural) – so it should not come as a surprise to anybody, that he can earn RM50k a month from his ventures, whatever they may be. And his bold statement about being a successful dentist is certainly very revealing, and I bet there will be many Malaysians who will now seriously want to study dentistry – after all, who doesn’t want to earn RM60k a month?!?!

Yesterday, there was a Dewan Negara (i.e. the Senate, the upper house of the Malaysian Parliament) report that our Government have set up two special units under both the Home and Information, Communications and Culture ministries to monitor blogs and ensure that their content adhere to local laws. Yet, Rais Yatim, the Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister was quoted to have also said that the Government adopts an “open approach” towards the new media (Star, July 08, p N21). Sounds like doublespeak to me!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Money, money, money

The University of Strathclyde Alumni Malaysia (USAM) – of which I am a member – is planning a Homecoming Trip to Glasgow next month (01-08 August 2009 to be exact). This coincides with the Homecoming Scotland 2009 celebration that is taking place in Scotland itself, and which is also the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth. Robert Burns, in case you didn’t know, is an 18th century poet known as the Bard of Scotland (Auld Lang Syne is one example of his many works!). This Homecoming Scotland 2009 means Scots will be toasting Scotland’s great contributions to the world: golf, whisky, great minds and innovations and Scotland’s rich culture and heritage.
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I wish I could be there in Scotland next month – but it will cost me a whopping RM10,000! Now, who says money is not important? Sigh, double sigh, triple sigh... Aaahhh, to have money, lots of money... say, RM10k right now would be my dream come true!

Sekinchan ADUN and PR assemblyman Ng Swee Lim who disclosed the “Istana Khir” story to the press, continued to turn the spotlight on Mohd Khir – the former had argued that it was not possible for the latter to even afford the RM3.5 million loan he claimed to have taken from HSBC to buy the said mansion. In fact, Ng alleged that Mohd Khir would have to pay RM16,000 a month to service the loan, while his allowance as the Selangor state opposition leader was just over RM8,000 a month (The Malaysian Insider, posted July 07 at webpage http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/31585-pakatan-rep-calls-khir-toyos-bluff). C’mon, Ng – times are really bad now. Maybe Mohd Khir is like everybody else – he’s moonlighting! As I have just said, we all need the money! Or maybe he can really afford! As an UMNO stalwart, he is likely to sit on the boards of many UMNO-linked companies, which means he has other sources of legitimate income apart from his allowance. It’s hard to believe that an UMNO politician cannot afford this class of luxury!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Speaking Again

Bernard Louis (from D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club) is encouraging me to resume my speechmaking this coming Thursday. I agreed because I didn’t want to lose my momentum and especially when my enthusiasm level is still very zealously intense.

After all, I am targeting to complete between 5 and 10 speeches for the remaining part of this year – and whether I can pull this off, requires some adroit planning and the goodwill of other Toastmasters clubs as well. See how lah. Alexander the Great did say, “There is nothing impossible to him who will try”. I am surely trying!


The Sun splashed the news about Mohd Khir Toyo (ex-Selangor Menteri Besar) on their front page today, talking about his sprawling Balinese-style double-storey mansion in an exclusive neighborhood, nestled among manicured lawns at the end of Jalan Suasa 7/1L, Section 7, Shah Alam that was purportedly worth RM24 million. Even The Star put the first photo on their front page and asked this simple question: "Can an MB afford this house?" The Malaysian Insider (Webpage
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/31489-khir-in-a-pickle-over-palatial-mansion, posted July 07) carried the headline “Khir in a pickle over palatial mansion” – although, Khir claimed that he had merely purchased the house worth RM3.5 million on two plots of land, with a bank loan from HSBC; that the house was already built on one of the plots and he merely spent a further RM500,000 to renovate the house and its roof. He emphasized that HSBC would not have approved the loan if it was not above board and also countered claims that he could not afford to purchase the house on what he was being paid as menteri besar at the time: “My loan is for 30 years and I only purchased the house after being MB for five years.” He is always in the limelight – this former dentist turned politician. Is it any wonder, politics is a lucrative and sought-after profession in Malaysia? Maybe, I should also go into politics?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sogo Sunday

All the evening drills have paid off, because yesterday, the Sogo show came and went, and Sheila Wong pronounced it a success. HICT models had performed to expectations. Although I was not there to be with them, I know they did me proud as they paraded down the catwalk with practiced poise and composed confidence!

Further to my posting the other day about British Airways, I had mentioned that their staff were asked to work for free, but I neglected to mention if this was agreed upon. We must be extra careful when we announce this, because otherwise, we give the impression that BA staff were complying. Nothing could be further from the truth. It turned out that BBC News (Webpage
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8136503.stm, posted today, i.e. July 06) has clarified that the airline had actually written to their 40,000 staff in the UK, asking for volunteers to work for nothing to help make savings – but that only 800 workers had positively responded. And the icing on the cake, or so it would seem was when BA chief Willie Walsh agreed to work unpaid in July, forgoing his month's salary of £61,000. If this is not tokenism, I don’t know what is.

HICT is also not spared of staff sacrificing part of their salaries in the interests of making savings – but perhaps the lesson is for our CEO/President to do what Willie did, if only for a month (Psst, we are in the month of July after all!), and show us staff that she is prepared to demonstrate leadership by example. After all, Albert Schweitzer did say, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing”.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Quiet Saturday

Today, I spent a very quiet July 04 at home doing the work that never finishes. I was invited to a B-B-Q this evening, and ‘clubbing’ after that, but sorry, guys, I will be taking a rain check, okay? Just don’t feel like celebrating…

I was surfing the Internet when I came across BBC News (Webpage http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8134123.stm, posted July 04) that reported BT’s innovative approach to managing costs during this difficult economic downturn by offering their staff the chance of long holidays in return for a big pay cut. One option available to staff is an up front sum of 25% of annual salary in return for taking the whole year off. Employees have also been offered a one-off payment of £1,000 if they agree to go part-time. And parents will have the opportunity to restrict their hours to school term times to allow them to spend time with their children.

A company spokesperson said: "BT is known for its progressive human resources policies with flexible working. Being one of the largest employers in the UK, I think this is an extremely progressive way of managing costs during a recession, rather than making redundancies."

The company claimed they had ‘a tradition of innovation for flexible working practices’, including home-working, sabbaticals and secondments. "These are innovative ways to help keep employees during these tough economic times," the company added.

Still the company has said they will cut about 15,000 jobs mostly in the UK this year, after losing a similar number of posts last year. BT, which has more than 100,000 employees, posted losses of £1.3bn for the first three months of the year.

No matter how innovative – the fact remains that employees are expected to make sacrifices. But at what personal cost to the affected employee?

Last month, British Airways asked their staff to work for nothing to help them cut costs.

Some 30,000 workers received an email appeal to take up to a month's unpaid leave, or work without salary, after the airline posted a record annual loss of £401m.

This gloomy news came months after Business minister Baroness Vadera made the astonishing claim on UK’s ITV News that she could see "a few green shoots" of economic recovery – as reported by BBC News (Webpage http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7828549.stm, posted on January 14, 2009). So, let’s try not to be a smart-aleck if we are really clueless!

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Limp July 04

Looks like this year’s July 04 celebration at HICT will be very low-key because of lack of interest and budget cuts – with the exception of a food fair (today). This is really a big climb-down from last year’s initiative, but I suppose I should be consoled by the fact that even in the US of A, the mood is austere, bleak and somber. The National Association of State Budget Officers says 42 states will be wrestling with budget deficits this July 04, the most since it began tracking budgets 30 years ago – in a Yahoo! news report titled “States set to ring in Independence Day sans budget” (Webpage http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090703/ap_on_bi_ge/us_state_budgets, posted July 03).

Crazy Weather, Crazy Life

According to BBC News (Webpage http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8128382.stm, accessed July 02), UK’s Met Office has raised its heatwave alert level in parts of England, as hot and humid conditions look set to prevail. And to think that I was talking about how great English weather was, just 2 weeks ago! London and the South East are now on Level 3 of four, with temperatures set to reach at least 32C (89.6F). And the Department of Health has even issued special advice for the elderly and other people at risk from the heat. It is the first time the Met Office has issued a Level 3 heatwave alert since June 2006. How unpredictable world weather has become…

This morning, I have just finished marking 74 Critical Thinking answer scripts, and completed 2 sets of examination question papers for the Diploma in Business courses that I am teaching this semester. And I am looking at additional work for 7 other courses that are in the queue too – not just examination questions, but assignments and projects. This semester is already a madhouse and August (i.e. the next semester) is not looking that good either! Sigh!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Mid-Year Review

Barack Obama was right when he said: "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential". Therefore, my 2009 resolutions reflect my own personal ambitions, my challenges – these are what I hope to achieve this year.

My second report-card as at end June 2009 shows these results:

Start writing my Marketing textbook – I must be more resolute and really start writing (0%)
Start my second Masters – I have already identified the Masters program and the University; all I need to do is to save first before I can enroll (0%)
Write a short story and get it published – My mind is barren but I am going to start this month; nothing like putting oneself under pressure to get the creative juices flowing (0%)
I have completed 6 Toastmasters speeches - I will resume my speechmaking again in August (25%)
I have finished 450 hours of teaching time (64%)
There are already 268 active SNHU students in the American Degree Program (54%)
I recorded 7,863 hits to my blog, beyond the targeted 5,000 (Already achieved 100%)
The 2 music CD projects look like they’re dead in the water (0%)

I must admit that this year, my teaching workload is exceptionally heavy – and this has hampered my own individual progress because it eats into my personal time. Never mind, I am not one to give up easily. I will just push myself harder!