Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Failed Leadership

I am teaching Leadership this semester. And I need not look far to find lessons in leadership because I can relate what I teach to what’s happening at HICT. I mean, I tell my class the importance of leadership, but here at HICT – local leadership is almost non-existent. Harry Truman had said, “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better”. Doesn’t this ring a bell? Will failed leaders find the courage to please stand aside and let others assume the mantle of leadership – so that we can make HICT a winner?

If we ourselves stubbornly resist, then we are surely doomed. Let’s hope the powers-that-be will wake up in double-quick time to intervene before it's too late...

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Look Like a Pufferfish

Today, in college – my students noticed the discolored half of my puffed-up face, and expressed concern. In fact, one student suggested that if anybody asked what happened to my face, to tell them that I was in a kickboxing competition, but since I am not Tony Jai (of Ong Bak fame), I took a direct kick in the face. But then this would have become a very tall tale indeed! Never mind, the fact of the matter is, I did fall down in an awkward fashion and come to think of it, it was both embarrassing and unfortunate. Didn't you read my blog posting yesterday?.

Former PM Mahathir Mohamed was quoted in a news report to have said: “We have to speak the truth, and the reality is, the people are disappointed with UMNO’s leadership. To be respected, you must be Malays with morals” (The Malaysian Insider, June 28 at webpage
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/30784-dr-m-wants-umno-cleansed-of-corruption-, accessed June 28). Duh! Don’t we all know it!

There’s a news report dated June 25 that talked about research being conducted by the blog UberCEO.com. By studying Fortune’s 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs, this study concluded that not one CEO had a blog; 81% of CEOs did not have a personal Facebook page; and only two CEOs had Twitter accounts (Webpage http://malaysianinsider.com/index.php/world/30509-top-us-execs-still-shun-blogs-facebook, accessed June 29). Sharon Barclay, editor at UberCEO.com who runs executive PR firm Blue Trumpet Group said “It’s shocking that the top CEOs can appear to be so disconnected from the way their own customers are communicating. They’re giving the impression that they’re disconnected, disengaged, and disinterested”. Strange but true!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eventful Saturday

Yesterday, I attended the CEO forum on “Riding Out of the Current Global Economic Crisis” at Exchange Square, Bursa Malaysia. There was a panel of 5 CEOS, including Dr. Paul Chan representing HELP International Corporation Bhd. As expected, Dr. Chan was eloquent in delivering his perspective and he articulated all the issues very well. Some of the gems he shared include “creating a company that is enduring and endearing”; “mindset transforming”; and “what matters is not resources, but resourcefulness” (although I beg to disagree – I believe resources are important, and so is resourcefulness). The other panelists, Tiong Kwing Hee, Group CEO of Ecofirst Consolidated Bhd, Danny Leong, CEO of Cuscapi Bhd, Cheng Ping Keat, Group CEO of Khind Holdings Bhd, and Soh Meng.Hui, Director & Head of Research of Alliance Research Sdn Bhd did not give the audience anything new, and in a way, it was a letdown. Still, it was an interesting Saturday morning – if not for this talk, I would be in college, compiling my ADP teaching resource files.

I also had a bad fall, just as I left the forum’s venue – I tripped and landed on my face, literally. My right side of the face, to be precise. I don’t know how I landed in this manner, but I did and I grimaced in agonizing pain. My skin tore and bled, and soon, it became clear that half my face would turn black-and-blue.

And for some reason or another, I had felt as if I had transformed into Two-Face – remember him in the Batman movie? Okay, so I am exaggerating, I am not hideously disfigured. Besides, Harvey Dent's face was mangled on the left side. But looking at my image in the mirror today, it sure makes me feel like him, nevertheless. My fertile imagination has been working overtime, I guess...

That same evening, I went to the Avanti Italian Restaurant, Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa where the D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club Installation Nite was held. The food was great, and so was the wine.

I kept a low profile throughout since I was still shell-shocked after the nasty fall earlier today. No matter what, I had a nice evening because I was among very good friends.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Glam Carnival

This week, Diploma in Business students are organizing a special Glam Carnival – which is a hodge-podge of promotional activities to publicize and hype the actual Hollywood Glam event that is scheduled for August. What is interesting is that these activities will be graded as part of their Marketing course requirements – Shireen Ng’s idea really, that I believe will genuinely see a payoff in increased ticket sales and greater awareness of this happening in our College. Besides, this will foster more effective learning because students are applying what they have been taught in the classroom to an actual event. What I admire most about these students is that they attack this marketing project with lots of enthusiasm, earnestness, and energy. They surely deserve ‘A’ for effort, ‘A’ for organization, and hopefully, ‘A’ for results. I am proud of these students, and I believe Shireen is too.

With July 04 just around the corner – let’s see if we can celebrate American Independence Day with a big bang! We are thinking of doing something different this year – but dare we? Can we?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Peace and Quietude

Aisha (one of my blog followers and student and friend) had remarked that we all talk too much at times; that maybe, sometimes, there is no need for us to speak at all – a sentiment that strikes a chord with me suddenly. I can only agree wholeheartedly. After all, didn’t The Tremeloes sang “Silence is golden”? And didn’t Abraham Lincoln once say: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”? But more importantly, I remembered what Francis Siah (my student and friend) said, silence is really peace and quietude. Well said, Francis. After all, after giving 9 hours of lectures today – wouldn’t I crave for a long spell of silence? And don't forget - tomorrow, there is still this unfinished business of this semester's lectures. And Friday. And then again, next week and the week after. Sshhh! Let's have a quiet momennt. please...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Westminster's Shame

When I was in London, I became a voracious reader because I read all the newspapers I could get my hands on and gorging all the “local” news that caught my eye. Of course the newspapers were screaming “bloody murder" about the unbridled greed of British MPs – from Gordon Brown’s Cabinet to backbenchers of all parties who had abused public funds by exploiting the system of parliamentary allowances to subsidize their lifestyles and multiple homes – and as Metro (June 19, p 1) shrieked: “They took every penny they could”.

More than one million claims and receipts were finally released one year after the High Court ordered their publication – but as the June 19 editions of newspapers illustrated, the names, addresses, and other details were conveniently blacked out – further outraging the British public.

Even as early as May 09, the Daily Mail has already begun to expose Labour ministers’ spending excesses (Webpage
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1178516/Dont-blame-As-expenses-scandal-rocks-Westminster-predictable-response-rulers.html) – little did anybody suspect this was just the beginning of something so very scandalous!

And other equally astonishing claims include:
Ex-Premier Tony Blair claimed £260 to shred “papers” and a whopping £6,990 expense claim for roof repairs on his designated second home, just 2 days before stepping down.
Jeremy Hunt, Tory MP for South-west Surrey claimed one penny for a 12-second mobile phone call.
Michael Spicer, Tory MP for West Worcestershire claimed £620 for hanging a chandelier in his manor house and even submitted a bill of £47 for a visit from a chimney sweep, while logs for the fire cost taxpayers £60.
Sir Peter Viggers, Tory MP for Gosport claimed £1,645 for the cost of a floating duck home – a miniature replica of an 18th century Swedish building, and £30,000 for ‘gardening” over 3 years, including £500 for 28 tons of manure.

John Battle, Labour MP for Leeds West claimed £499 for a dark brown sofa and £599 for a recliner.
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter submitted a WH Smith receipt for gay magazine Attitude for £3.25.
Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield Attercliffe claimed £1,268 for carpets, £689.99 for a television, £1,135.20 for a bed; £570 for a sofa bed; £1,220 on furniture and £1,433.50 on decoration.
Liberal Democrat Lembit Opik claimed £19.99 for the “mother of all wigs” to wear to a charity event.

As George Pascoe-Watson, political editor of The Sun (June 19, p 5) remarked: “No wonder the nation demands an early general election. Nothing less will clear out the Westminster pig sty once and for all”.

So it’s not just Malaysian politicians who need to be lynched, the antics of British politicians demand the same punishment!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Part 4: Last Day

I woke up to another great morning (June 20) but I was feeling down in the dumps because I knew that I would be leaving the UK the same day. But return I must, so no point in dwelling over something that was definite. I had wanted to re-live the Malaysia Hall ‘culinary’ experience that I now faintly remembered from years ago, and so I decided to try out their Malaysian breakfast. I had typical Malaysian fare costing £4.70; nothing fancy and the food was just palatable – which was to say it fell short of my own expectations.

Being the stickler for punctuality, I decided to travel early to Stansted (about 25 miles from London) – I had to make sure I caught the flight to Kuala Lumpur in good time, since I was expecting to reach there on Sunday, and I would be starting work on Monday. Again, I enquired the best route to take to go to Stansted, and this helpful soul manning the ticket counter at Bayswater tube station gave me really sound advice.

I faithfully followed his instructions by proceeding to Queensway station, and travelling on the Central line to finally disembark at Liverpool Street.

Thereafter, I got on the Stansted Express to take the 45-minute train journey to Stansted Airport; making just two stops – at Tottenham Hale and Bishop Stortford.

Perhaps it was the weather, or maybe it was the train ride, but when I arrived at Stansted, I was ready to eat a horse. So for lunch, I had simple pub grub at O’Neill’s:

An £11.03 meal at Stansted

Stansted Airport – London’s third airport – offers flights to more than 30 countries, and many leading low-cost airlines have made Stansted their base (e.g. Ryanair, EasyJet, Air Berlin, Pegasus Airlines, Air Malta, and not forgetting, AirAsia X). All our Malaysian airports, save KLIA pale in comparison even to Stansted.

I must mention about the return flight to KL for the simple reason that the AirAsia crew this time around, were very good at looking pretty (not that they were pretty, mind you!) but beyond their “serving” duties, they did little else. AirAsia X is certainly not going to win awards for cabin service any time soon. And they didn’t like to smile. When they did try to give a half-smile even, they looked really constipated. This crew on the London-Kuala Lumpur flight D72007 were really sad-looking. Oh yes, food wasn’t any better too.

I arrived Kuala Lumpur on June 21 and immediately wished I could spend the whole summer in the UK instead.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Part 3: London Beckons

I checked out of the University on the morning of June 19, to make my way to London, Since I had the whole day to myself, I decided to be a wee bit adventurous, and so, went in search of public transport. In the UK, it is very normal to do a lot of walking and getting about by bus, train or even by tube is also fairly common since these services are generally very dependable.

So from the University’s de Havilland campus, I walked to the Galleria, where I took bus No. 301 to the train station (Hatfield, I think), and then onwards, by train of course, to reach London King’s Cross station. From there, I took the tube to Bayswater, where a 9-minute walk saw me arrive at the doorstep of Malaysia Hall, 30-34 Queensborough Terrace. I was fortunate to secure a room – I was told, that Malaysia Hall is almost always full house during summer – and in spite of what we read in some of the blogs about the rotten hospitality there, the reception I experienced was almost pleasant but in case, we get excited about it, let me add that it was a typical Malaysian-style service – very laidback. But what the hell, the room rate was only £15.28 for a single room on the fourth floor. Anyway for those Malaysians keen to get cheap accommodation at Malaysia Hall, kindly check out
http://www.masduke.net/vs/index.php but remember, it is best to book one month ahead, and also do take note that Friday afternoons are not the best of times to drop in because they are closed for Friday prayers. Also doors are locked at 11 PM, so no painting the town red until the wee hours of the morning – unless you’re not staying at Malaysia Hall!

Flower stall at Bayswater

Once, accommodation was settled, I thought I would stray from the Bayswater area to go into the city center. And so, I took the tube to Oxford Circus, and immediately having exited the station, I came upon Oxford Street. It’s often described as UK’s and some said Europe’s largest high street (it has more than 300 shops). For anyone visiting London, a visit to bustling Oxford Street is a must. It's central, it's well connected and it's busy. Boy, was it busy, as I have always remembered Oxford Street – crowded with shoppers and tourists alike. Sale signs were everywhere, and people of all hues and colors were flooding in from every nook and corner of the world – and I did not believe I was exaggerating when I said this. But I was not one for walking – even though the weather was great – and after an hour or two, I decided I had enough.

By the time, I headed back to Bayswater, I wanted to put my feet up, and so I decided to take in a movie. Not just any movie, but one that was likely not to be screened in Malaysia, a “screamingly funny” comedy called “The Hangover” – replete with expletives and other interesting stuff. Most reviews gave it a four-star rating (e.g. London Lite, Daily Mirror, Metro, News of the World, The Sun, Independent, Sunday Express). I am not the type who laughs easily – still, it has its funny moments. By the way, the ticket price at the Odeon was £9.80, so it was not really a bargain-basement way to take a breather. Here's the trailer:

And as is normal in the UK, a couple of beers before I called it a night.

Malaysia Hall at night

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part 2: The Blended Learning Conference

I came with limited funds. To save money, I decided to travel to the University by coach and by bus. In any case, from Stansted Airport - it was the most practical way to get to the University. And so, I arrived without much fuss and without fanfare. I was put up at Watton, one of the Halls of Residences: Room 11, Flat 4 - a small but nevertheless cozy abode:
The 2-day Blended Conference was well-attended. I dutifully listened to the keynote speeches as well as took part in many of the plenary sessions. Some of these were really interesting, e.g. “Mobile Blended Learning” presented by Philip Barker, University of Teeside; “Promoting Collaboration through Social Bookmarking” presented by Dr. Guy Saward, University of Hertfordshire; and “Video Learning Journals” by John Hayes, Sheffield Hallam University (Note: My ECU students are already familiar with writing reflective journals, but this is using the Sony PSP instead).
I was in Session 52 (originally scheduled as Session 24) and the topic that I presented was titled “A qualitative study of blended learning in Malaysian tertiary institutions”.
As is expected, I moved around and got to know as many people as I could – during the sessions, over dinner and especially over free-flowing beer (in case anyone misunderstood this, what I meant was the beer may have flowed freely, but we still had to pay for the beers).
Some of those with whom I had the pleasure to have made the acquaintance include Lorna Dodd, senior lecturer of Psychology at Newman University College; Anna Marie Holloway, Learning Technologist, also from Newman University College; James Wilson, e-Learning Developer at Writtle College; Simon Starr, Learning Technologist at Canterbury Christ Church University, and Prof. Mark Brown, Director of Distance Education at Massey University, NZ.
Overall, it was an invaluable learning experience for me as an academician from Malaysia. I was really glad I came.

Part 1: The AirAsia X Experience

The D72002 flight to London left on June 16, 0100 hours without me. Fortunately, I managed to board another flight, about 33 hours later – Flight No. D7 2006. Even spending close to 8 hours at the LCC Terminal was bearable because I wanted to make sure I got on the next flight. And I did. When I cleared Immigration – imagine that! I hadn't been abroad for two whole years! – I said a prayer because I knew I was finally going to the UK. I had worked really hard to write this academic paper with Sheila Cheng and Dr Cho Cho Wei, and I was determined to go to the University of Hertfordshire to present the said paper. I am an academic after all – I have to start presenting papers and publishing in journals. It would have been really great if Paul Chan could have been supportive financially, but... Anyway, I couldn't care less because I had already made up my mind about going.

Once in the plane, I was mighty relieved. And I began to relax. Still, take-off was kinda slow since we were aircraft No. 5 in the queue. But what's important, flight No. D72006 did take off.

This AirAsia X flight was okay – I had no major complaint whatsoever. Yes, I had to pay for my drinks (e.g. a can of Carlsberg 320 ml cost RM10). I had to occupy myself since I had 14 hours on my hands – luckily, I had my trusted Walkman to entertain me throughout the journey, since the airline didn't provide any (unless you paid RM30 for a portable video player where one could enjoy movies, tv shows, music and games). Food, I must say, was disappointing. Other than that, cabin service was pleasant, and even friendly. I was not the type to sleep well on a plane – but on and off, I did managed to drift into deep slumber, accompanied by loud trumpets of snores (or at least I imagined them to be).

I landed in London's Stansted Airport to be met by wonderful English sunshine (the ground temperature was a lovely 15-degree Celsius). Come to think of it, I should have kissed the ground as my feet touched the tarmac - but that would have been so Hollywood, right? I have really missed this British weather...

Going to the UK

I have not been accessing the Internet for quite awhile. And I am actually resorting to writing down my thoughts and reflections on my UK sojourn – the traditional pen-and-paper method. Hehe, how very quaint! And I cannot help but notice how 'scribbly' my handwriting is. Time to get a laptop, methinks.
Anyway, I am going to break up this narration into 4 parts - so that my postings are more "digestible". Here goes...

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Branding of Universities

At the invitation of Paul Chan, I am attending a 2-day workshop (June 15 & 16) on “The Branding of Universities” at Holiday Inn Glenmarie, KL. The speaker is Philip Zerrillo of Kellogg Graduate School of Management; the organizer is AKEPT (Higher Education Leadership Academy) and it is organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia. I certainly believe this is an interesting workshop because we are discussing “university branding”, which to me, at least, is a rather uncommon topic – but it is nonetheless very relevant given the growing recognition that Malaysia is trying to build a larger, more flexible tertiary education sector, more responsive to its rapidly growing and changing economic requirements – and ultimately capable of even exporting services to its neighbors (e.g. HELP already has a formidable presence in Vietnam). And why not? K Steele had this to say: “Higher Education is the most complex, expensive intangible most people will ever purchase, and the purchase decision is therefore powerfully influenced by brand reputation”. So, it is timely that we "learn" about branding universities.
Learning is one thing, applying what we hav elearnt is another.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Marathon Meeting

Today, we had a marathon Strategy meeting with Dr. Paul Chan. As HOD of the Department of ADP and DIBS, I had to present my plans, pertaining to my departmental targets and strategies. I was told to keep it brief – so, I came up with 5 strategies in just 10 slides. Not bad, eh? I impress myself sometimes! Anyway, the opening slide is enticing, as shown below:

Former UMNO minister, Zaid Ibrahim has joined PKR. He resigned from the Barisan Nasional cabinet last year in protest against the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and was subsequently sacked from UMNO. Anwar Ibrahim announced Zaid's decision at a special PKR congress today, according to The Malaysian Insider. Finally, Zaid made a decision...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Brush with Bureaucracy

It took 4 visits to the Malaysian Immigration Department before I finally got my hands on a new passport on Wednesday. On the fourth visit, I spent nearly 3 hours and exactly RM300 for the said document to be ready. But the wait is finally over. And I can now plan for my UK academic jaunt. So if someone asks me if government bureaucracy has indeed improved, I would say that based on my personal experience, the results are somewhat mixed.

And with Gordon Brown facing a crisis, being confronted with ten ministerial resignations, amidst the expenses infamy – Daniel Hannan MEP had called UK’s Prime Minister, the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government – I had hoped that the pound sterling would take a tumble this week, but it remained relatively steady: On Saturday, our money-changers are selling pound sterling at 1 GBP = RM 5.76; on Thursday, it was 1 GBP = RM5.77 I had hoped to stretch my ringgit, but alas, it was not to be… Perhaps, tomorrow?
For those who are blur about this British public embarrassment, it is about how dozens of members of Parliament have been reimbursed for home expenses that range from the petty (dog food and light bulbs) to the extravagant (repairs to swimming pools and the cleaning of a moat) - these represent the excesses and abuses of MPs’ expenses, thereby undermining public confidence in the British political system. Political shenanigans are indeed commonplace - and not just in Malaysia!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jack Welch's Leadership Formula

I bought a Jeffrey Krames book “Jack Welch and the 4E’s of Leadership” because the teaching of OL328 Leadership is never complete without embracing the winning leadership formula of Jack Welch. In his 20-plus years at the helm of General Electric, Welch transformed this mature manufacturing company into an outstanding products-and-services juggernaut. But most of all, Welch selected and developed leaders – under his watch, GE turned out more Fortune 500 CEOs than any other company in history (pp 2-3). But what impressed me about him is that he had guts! He was not afraid to act decisively: selling off more than 100 businesses and firing more than 100,000 employees (pp 6-7). As he himself said: “Change before you have to”. Now, what about HICT?

A second Jack Welch quote awakened inside of me: “Strong managers who make tough decisions to cut jobs provide the only true job security in today's world. Weak managers are the problem. Weak managers destroy jobs”. Is it any wonder that Fortune magazine named him one of America’s toughest bosses? It is not uncommon to read of massive job losses because of the current weakened economic state worldwide. It’s a tough call to make – erase jobs to save jobs! A third quote from Jack Welch rightly nailed it down: “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be”. I am a Jack Welch fan now. In fact, anybody who needs lessons in leadership should read this book!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Prodigious Teaching

My teaching hours reflect how critical our need is, for quality teaching resources. While we are making some progress, it is a dicey situation because at the end of the day, two senior lecturers, Sheila Cheng and myself share the bulk of the teaching in the School of Business. My own personal timetable illustrates this very vividly:

Out of the blue, a Jack Welch quote lit in my head: "An overburdened, overstretched executive is the best executive, because he or she doesn't have the time to meddle, to deal in trivia, to bother people". This is so betul. A straightforward point is being made here.

I paid attention to the 55th PAS muktamar only because I was interested to know how Nizar Jamaluddin fared at this meeting. I read in The Malaysian Insider (June 08) that many in PAS supposedly wanted him to compete for a vice-presidential spot. But he declined, and he vied for only a place in the party’s Central Working Committee. And when the results were announced last Saturday, he had in fact spectacularly succeeded, by romping home with the highest number of votes – over 800 votes, which meant that almost all the delegates gave him their support – it is not wrong to trumpet his immense popularity; after all, many see him as a symbol of the people’s fight for democracy in Perak.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Busy as a Beaver

I have been inactive in blogosphere for almost the whole of this week – there’s just too many things that were keeping me really busy - and I only just began writing and posting today.

On Tuesday, I attended a funeral. In Malacca. My father’s funeral. He died on Monday at the age of 87.

On Wednesday, I finally completed a Conference paper, “A Qualitative Study of Blended Learning in a Malaysian Tertiary Institution” and emailed it to the UK organizers. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I will be presenting this paper at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK in 2 weeks' time.

On Thursday, I finished the examination question papers for ENL103 Critical Thinking, the subject I am teaching at Foundation-level. Sadly, I missed the deadline by 4 days. And in the evening, I attended a farewell dinner for Ng Siew Chuan, the HOD of Professional Studies - he is well-known as an industrious and tireless manager; and his departure from HICT will definitely be a loss to that department.

On Friday (i.e. yesterday), HICT Toastmasters Club organized a 30-minute seminar on “How to Project the Right Image, Professionally”, conducted by Master Trainer/International Image Consultant Sheila Wong, AICI, CIBTAC, ITAC (of SWET Advancement Centre; check out their website www.swet.com.my). Close to 30 people were in the HICT Conference Hall to get invaluable tips on grooming. Thereafter, Sheila and her colleagues (Cherrise and Enrique) began selecting interested HICT students (and even staff members) to model for a forthcoming catwalk show at Sogo’s. My students get the opportunity to learn not only in the classroom but also outside of the classroom. Of course, most of the selected “models” are my students, and they started their first catwalk lesson on that day itself.