30 April 2013

The Multi-Brains Whole-Man Thinking Framework for Success in a VUCAD World.

In this VUCAD world, one brain may not be enough yet there are still people who identify themselves either a left-brain or a right-brain thinker. In order to cope successfully, we need a Multi-Brains with Whole-Man model thinking framework. Here are the details....
VUCAD stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity and deception. It is a good description of today world. For more, see Wisdom for Success in a 21st Century VUCA World. Making sense of this world overloaded with information, some true, some lies, some are conjectures, some are opinions are already very difficult. Yet, the speed of change requires us to learn fast and to make a decision quickly. If you feel that one brain is just not enough you are not alone.  However, there are people who after reading about the left-brain and right-brain functions restrict themselves even further by positioning themselves either as a left-brain or right-brain thinking. That is a very wrong thing to do. If left and right brains are already not enough, why restrict oneself to either. What we need is to further augment and extend our brain with digital brain. After all, the main culprit for all these information overloading is due to digital technology. We can rely on the computer to be our extended memory as data base and knowledge base, and our our artificial intelligence with the programming. Finally, we need to go one-step further, that is to tap into the brains of others and forming the Brain in the Internet Cloud, the Cloud-Brain. This Multi-Brain concept of Left, Right, Digital and Cloud Collaborative Brain is shown in the mind-map below.

Brain, thinking and mindset is just one part of a whole-man. A whole man have body, a mind and a heart. A person may know the right thing to do but without engaging the heart, there is a lack of motivation and will to really do the right thing. Many smokers know the dangers of smoking and yet still indulge in it. Many know the benefits of exercise and yet many still not exercising. Behavioral Economics teaches us that our decision may not always be rational in economic terms. Yet, the irrationality is predictable! There are biases and stereo-types in our mind too. Any thinking model and framework must address this Whole-man concept.

The Mind Map:

Once we have this multi-brain whole-man model, we can know what are the thinking methods, software, network infrastructure, and most importantly, our network of friends with which we can discuss, consult and integrate their information, knowledge and wisdom and bring them into our problem solving, decision making and innovation needs.

Many of such techniques like mind-mapping, concept mapping, the wisdom and thought processes of the Ancient Chinese, thinking biases, etc etc are addressed in this blog. Hope you find them useful.

Remember not to label yourself as a left or right brain thinker anymore, but go into the mindset of Multi-Brains Whole-Man thinking so that you can be more effective and successful.

As a start, learn to use mind-map to re-organize the knowledge that you learned. Use it as a knowledge base where new learning can be added. See The What and How of Mind Mapping Series:
  1. Brain Storming with Mind Mapping - Illustrated with Future of Singapore
  2. Mind Mapping Made Easy - Follow Your Thoughts & Heart 
  3. Re-Organizing Your Map where Real Learning Starts
  4. Beautifying Your Maps to Create Gestalt - Ease of Understanding
  5. Guided by Templates - Fast and Secured Problem Solving
  6. Expansion of Existing Map to Capture More Knowledge

Lim Liat (c) 30 Apr 2013

29 April 2013

The Kia-Su Kia-X's Uniquely Singaporeans - Mindset & Their Values

The uniqueness of Singaporeans is best described by what others say about us. The four Kia's of Kia-Su, Kia-Si, Kia-Po, Kia-ZhengHu described Singaporeans quite well. Comparing them against the ideals of Singapore as described in the National Flag and the daily Pledge, we, Singaporeans are doing quite well. We are recognized as "Progressive, Ethical, Law Abiding, Family Centric, Harmonious, Clean (physically and governmentally), Efficient & Working Systems and no-fooling around 'Fine' city nation.
If you ever been asked by your foreign friends about what Singaporeans are like, I think the best answer is the 4 Kia's of Kia-Su(afraid to loose), Kia-Si(afraid to die), Kia-Po(afraid of wife), Kia-ZhengHu(afraid of Government). Most people see them as negatives. I see them as rather positive values and show how much we have come to achieve the ideals that are represented in our National Flag and our daily pledges recited in schools.

For ease of understanding and grasping the big picture and details at the same time, I have them mapped in a mind-map format (as done in most of my writings. I am a proponent of getting rid of exams but submitting home work in mind-map formats that clearly show your understanding of the subject matter. Sorry for the slight deviation) as follows:

The Uniquely Singaporean Values:
1. Our Pledge expressed most of the virtues represented in our Flag.
The only issue I have is the order of importance .... the pledge has it as "so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress", which I agree is the right order. But the actual order I think we are promoting is more prosperity first (as led by the government high salary policy) , progress and happiness either last or being equated with prosperity or material abundance.

2. The 4 Kia's has some problems at times but generally they are positive values and virtues!
KiaSu, afraid to loose could be at times expressed as inconsiderate, selfish, rushing and 'jopping' (reserve) of seats and things. But it is good in keeping the people progressive.  Kia-Si, afraid to die, is a good attitude for risk-management and preparing in advance before a disaster strikes. Kia-Po, afraid of wife, is good for having a harmonious family, especially the afraid, better translated as respect, is also reciprocated by the spouse. Kia-ZhengHu, afraid of Government produces law abiding citizens. It underline the fact that Singapore is a society of law and order. It is not only a garden city with cleanliness, but the cleanliness extends to the way people do business with one another.  We are so ethical centric and law abiding that we are at times described as '无知' naive or a fool, whereas certain people are described as 无情 heartless or worse 无耻 shameless.

Our progressive attitude helps us to overcome some of our fears. Others laugh at us in Singapore, point out that when we want to do new thing, the first question we ask is "Is it legal?" or "Have the government approved it?". For others, it is do first until the government says no.

Such interaction of factors result in a Singapore that is Progressive, Ethical, Law Abiding, Family Centric, Harmonious, Clean (physically and governmentally), Efficient & Working Systems and no-fooling around 'Fine' city nation.

The Cracking Signs
Things have been working well for Singapore for many years until the recent events of frequent MRT breakdowns, flooding in Orchard Roads etc.  These are tell tale signs of some deeper issues in the Nation, in the attitudes and systems. Personally, I feel we have place too much emphasis on 'money' things and neglected the other fundamental issues of the heart, serving and doing excellent work because it is so not because it pays higher, as represented in your flag of red(brotherhood of all people) and white (virtuous and purity) and the five stars.

The 'prosperity' in our pledge has been unfortunately equate with money wealth. The equivalent Chinese word used is “繁荣”, which is make up of 繁=many varieties 荣= blossom gloriously. It should be a flourishing and blooming in multi-dimensions of things, tangibles and intangibles, of cultural richness, besides money wealth.

May we reflect on our values and make the necessary adjustments to build a nation of people that have the ideals represented in our flag and pledges.

Lim Liat (c) 29 Apr 2013

25 April 2013

Strategic Planning - How To Read a Situation with Fusion of East & West

The most important step in any strategic planning is to read or study the situation first. But before we can read, we must know what are the important factors to consider first. Presented in the mind-map is the methodology integrated from the teachings of East (Chinese) and West. You may follow it to get a better strategic plan. 
Sun Zi's Art of War is a famous Ancient Chinese Book in the west. It is much less know fact that Sun Zi's wisdom has an earlier and higher source. It is the book of i-Ching (see I-Ching in One Minute), the Bible for Change, the foundation of all Chinese wisdom and philosophies. But such great wisdom will be of no use if we cannot put them into good use in this present world. With a view from building successful and long lasting businesses, instead of wars, here is an attempt to bring the East and West wisdom into strategic planning for business. 
Only a very little part of the Ancient Chinese Wisdom is cited here due to limited space of a blog post. But I hope it serves the purpose of helping you to do a better strategic plan.  More practical Chinese wisdom can be found at Ancient Chinese Wisdom.

Lim Liat (c) 25 Apr 2013

17 April 2013

Effects of Management by Fear - You may be doing it!

The fastest and easiest way to get people to obey or do their assigned work is by fear. This is preached in the West by "The Prince" by Machiavelli and in the East by the Legalistic School (Fa Jia 法家). In modern management, the theory X practices. But it is not the most effective and productive way in the long run. The reverse of by fear is by love or grace, or in modern management term, people-centered. But love could be badly misunderstood too. Here are the clarifications.
You can manage by fear. It works somewhat, but:

  1. You get the minimum standard achieved
    because doing more may incur mistake and your wrath.
  2. You get an overly optimistic view of reality
    because no one dare to tell you the bad truth and bad truth get distorted as good.
  3. So, you only get to know only when they blow-up and never earlier.
  4. If you want to avoid such heart-attack, change your style.
  5. You got branded as the Tyrant is due the way you handle mistakes made by others.
    Did you blow your top? Did they got severe punishment? Did they got embarrassed publicly? Reflect on how you handle others' mistakes.
  6. Extreme high incentive pay for performance is also management by fear -
    fear of loosing the high pay.
    So they do 
    1. incrementally safe improvement and 
    2. be quick to blame others.
  7. In religions, we call such practices as legalisms, following the letters of the laws and not the spirit or principle of the laws. We use the threats of the punishments and curse of God to get everyone to toll the line. A verse used frequently by the leaders to get the members to obey and kill off any corrections is "Touch not God's anointed".
Management by Grace or Love or People Centered 
is not about reducing the standards for excellence.  It is about taking interests in people and to do the following tasks of monitoring, correcting, teaching, coaching and encouraging to enable reaching of such BHAG(Big Hairy Audacious Goals) standards. 

The objective of high standards and excellence is same, just the approach is different.

Some good references to read are E W Deming's work on Pay for Performance, Maslow's hierarchy of needs and its modern version in Daniel Pink's Drive 3.0. 

Lim Liat (C) 17 Apr 2013 based on FB Note posted on May 17, 2011

11 April 2013

Leadership and HRM of Terry Guo Tai Ming of Foxconn

HRM is more than just resource management. It is actually about creating human capital, from the raw human resource, that increases its value over time. The company must create the culture and environment for challenging their staff to ever learning and experimenting. It is about creating a learning and innovative organization with knowledge accumulation and sharing at the organisation level. Successful leaders must do both well leading and managing concurrently or iteratively depending on the stages of progress and situation. This is typical integrative thinking of the Chinese Management Mindset.
This is the 2nd post in the series of learning from Terry Guo Tai Ming of Foxconn. The previous post is  Learning the Winners Mindset from Terry Guo Tai Ming.

HRM - From Raw Talents to Human Capital

The mind-map below summarized Terry's quotes on HRM.  I am sure he has much more wisdom that what I captured in the mind-map that I got from scanning the internet. The typical four keys of talents management of selection, development, deployment and retention are there. But what is interesting is that you can find the typical Chinese Philosophies and wordings.

On selection, he is looking for people with 3 attributes of  "德、才、气 兼备", which I translated as "Character, Capability/Talent, Energy". The last attribute of 气, which I translate as energy can also be translated as the passion or engagement of the staff. This energy/passion/engagement is the productivity and new value creation multiplier. It is the use of their talents that create the great success. Another point to note is 3 more attitudes of responsibility, progressiveness and aspiration or determination to success. He even used such strong words to describe aspiration as "unless the sun does not rise, I will achieve my targets!".  To complete this topic on selection, I bring in Andy Stanley (the senior pastor of a large and fast growing church in US) concept of 4C's representing Character, Capability, Cultural Fit and Chemistry Fit (with colleagues and bosses).  Culture compatibility is a key criterion for staff selection is also stressed by Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Much of his company interview and training is to find out the culture fit. He even pays a rewards (about US$2000) for the newly hired to quit anytime in their 4 weeks induction training program. Chemistry with the immediate working colleagues and bosses are also important. One of the main reasons of people quitting a company is 'inability to get along with their colleagues".

On Development - From Resource Management to Human Capital
Terry highlighted the 3 stages of development : from raw materials to capable talents to wealth creating talents. (人材 people materials →人才 people capability →人财 people wealth/people capital).  This is the true spirit of SHCM Strategic Human Capital Management, the state of the arts teaching on HRM. Resource, like polymers and power, are consumed in the process of production. However, capital is something that are not used up but could continue to produce and even increases in value. The key is then to make sure that our human talents are developed, deployed and learned to increase their ability to create greater value. Human skills must not be obsoleted but rather kept up-to-date and even more to create new innovation of value. Those attributes are stressed. The company must also create the environment for learning, experimenting and other challenging opportunities.

On deployment - Putting the right people on the right jobs.
I am reminded of the "Bus Analogy" of Jim Collins - getting the right people up the bus, the wrong people down, and putting the right people in the right seats.

On retention - Creating the Learning Organization and Knowledge Accumulation through sharing via ICT systems. It is also about challenging the staff to increase their competitive advantage and also its marketable value.

When staff sees that their value increases over time while working for his present organization, there will be less needs to go elsewhere.

Leadership - Integration of Leading and Managing

Here is the mind-map on Leadership.

Here we can see the integration of leading and managing together. This is the typical Chinese Yin-Yang Integrative Mindset. The western management concept like to separate leadership from management. That is good because the tasks are actually different, but they need to be integrated together to get alignment and focus to achieve the same goal and mission. Before a decision or a goal is set, then there could be lots of collaboration and consultation. But once the goal and plans are set, then tight discipline is needed to ensure smooth execution towards the goals. However, things seldom goes according to plan, and hence constant monitoring of the environment and the executions are needed. At times, some part of the plan may need to be changed while keeping the same goals. Successful execution is a blend of discipline and adaptability. It is the wisdom of when and how to change or not to change!

Lim Liat (C) 11 Apr 2013

05 April 2013

Branding, Innovation and Productivity for SME (SMB)

For SME (Small, Medium Scale Enterprises) to scale up and be successful, they must understand that innovation is about creating value and differentiating from others in shibumi (elegant simplicity), the multi-dimensions of customer value, the power of branding, systematic innovative methods BVITS, and the steps to take. Read on for the details….
Invited by NUS Extension to participate in a Emerging Enterprise Round-table that resulted in the publication in Business Times Business Times 2 April 2013.
http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/print/522165 on the topic “Getting a Boost from Branding”. Only the essence of my views was published but still left out many important points that I wish to present below for the benefits of all.

Branding and its Power

A brand is the summation of customers’ experience over time of what it means to them. It is more than what the company says. It is what people say about the company, products or services. These sayings are the impressions formed the customers in their encounters with the company products, services and ways of doing business.
A brand is then the trusted statement of company’s identity and values in the market by the public.
A good brand is like a flower that draws customers. Whereas for no brand companies, they have to seek out and push its offerings like the busy bees.
A good brand creates the awareness and short-cut the decision making process.
The whole marketing process of AIDA (Attention or Awareness, Interest, Decision and Action) is shortened. For unknown brand, most people may not find it, and even if they do, they will want to test and evaluate it, ask others about it, carefully consider all other options, before, if ever, arrive at the purchasing decision. It is also likely to be very a price sensitive decision reducing the profits for the company.
In addition, a good brand creates a differentiation that command higher value.
Consider the purchase of smart-phone, the typical preferences and recommendations by people are Apple and Samsung and the prices reflect that. A relative similar feature sets of Android phones to the Samsung are available in the 2nd tier brands like HTC, Sony and LG and they are priced lower. Technically, HuaWei, the China leading telecom network and phone company also produces Android phones that are similar to the Samsung but does not enjoy the same branding of Samsung so that its phones are priced much lower and yet lag in market share in Singapore.

Branding for the SME’s

  1. A Unique and Differentiated Value Proposition – Clarity NeededUnless one is clear on its unique value proposition, it is hard to create a brand that stands out from the pack of  similar offerings. To understand this value proposition better, we need to understand the following:
    1. Customer don’t buy products or services but the outcome of a wow experience.
    2. The Value of the experience has the following three dimensions of:
      1.  Rational, Economic or Utility such as cheaper, faster, better, safer, easier, longer lasting. People are happy when they have a good deal.
      2. Emotional (look good, feel good, trustworthy) & Social (lifestyle of class and trendiness and status of wealth and honour) .
      3. Significance of meaningfulness for a good social, environmental, health and long life causes.
    3. Need to address all contact points with customer that creates the wow experience. From awareness, interests, decision making, purchase, installation, use, enhanced usage, repair, upgrade and retirement.
    4. Shibumi (MiniMax) – Simplicity in Elegance and Depth.
      Most people equate more features as better not realizing that more choices actually create stress and errors besides adding production and quality costs. The success of Apple teaches us that ease of use and depth of use are more important. SME’s must know how to minimize the big set of features into a few key features that customers desire and implement those features well and in depth. The branding can then be more effectively done.
    5. Consider companies like Starbuck or Breadtalk, are they just selling coffee or bread only? The answer is no. Their value proposition is higher. Breadtalk said they are selling innovative and trendy lifestyles.
  2. Gap between Claim and Delivery – Alignment Needed
    1. The claim of the Unique Value Proposition must be delivered consistently across all locations, by all staff and all the time. It is in the delivery of such claims that create the customer experience. Many fail because either they lack clarity of their value proposition, or their policies and deliveries are not aligned with the value proposition. There may also be lack of training and monitoring of staff especially when there are multiple locations.
    2. It is important to note that everything, the locations, deco and layout of shops, brochures, policies, procedures, attitudes and behaviour of staff, the delivery trucks etc all contribute to creating a brand and the experience.
    3. Consider Breadtalk, its beautiful shop deco, the innovative bread products, opened kitchen, its locations at high end shopping malls, friendly staff and others are all aligned to its vision of creating the trendy and innovate lifestyles.
  3. Handing of Complains or Defects – Be Positive
    1. Most typical reactions to customers complains are to blame others and pass the bugs.
    2. Instead, one needs to have a positive attitudes towards customers’ complains. Customer’s complain is actually customer giving us a second chance to make good. If we can recover well then we will gain a loyal customer.  He or she will also tell others about your good service too.
    3. We need to understand the multiplying effect of customers complains or praise. A unhappy customer will tell many others. A happy customer may tell others too. Why not make his/her praise of telling others easy too?

Steps for the Branding

  1. Put in a Branding Process to be led by the CEO and involving other key staff. The objective is to create their unique brand and work out the tasks, staff, budgets and timelines with monitoring of the progress. Branding is not a one off exercise. The brand is the company’s identity and value statement to the world and should be a prime concern for top to bottom.
  2. Work out the Unique & Differentiated value proposition and communicate it throughout the company.  Sessions with the key customers should be arranged to ensure the value proposition is also welcome and experience by the customers. A common error is to think what the customers would like rather than finding out from the customers. The Value Proposition should be viewed from the customers’ eyes.
  3. Ensure all staff understand that branding is more than just marketing but more importantly, it is the delivery of the value proposition at all contact points with the customers.  Every staff has a role to play. Find and show the right behaviour for that role. A common error is to state the objective. like serve the customer well, without telling the how, resulting in every staff having their own interpretation of what ‘serve well’ means and creating inconsistency of service.
  4. List out all the potential contact points with customers and work out how should the delivery be done such that customers can have a wow experience. The delivery could be the key product features, service levels, the ways business are done, the environment of the engagement, the right behaviour and attitudes of staff.
  5. Beside training the staff, managers should lead by examples, showing staff what are the right behaviour. Managers should also praise staff when staff exhibit the right behaviours so that other staff may know too. Correction should not be just saying what were wrong but also what are the right way. Managers should also show staff how to behave towards nasty customers. Managers should also celebrate successes.
  6. Engage the very satisfied customers and involve them in coming out with reference-able case studies and suggestions for new innovations. Engaging the very dissatisfied  and former customers also give us valuable information on how to improve our offering.
  7. Have a Social Network Presence with dedicated team  to engage with the wider audience base. Carefully monitor its content, activities and response positively to criticisms and complains. Make the work of customers giving feedback and recommendations easy for them.
  8. Collect and review customers feedbacks at all contact points regularly. It serves two purposes. Firstly is ensuring alignment to the company value proposition. Secondly is to detect if customers preferences and trends have changed.

Innovation for Higher Value and Profits

Innovation is the way to break free from the fierce commoditized competition of low margin and price cutting. However, one must understand ‘Innovation’ well in order to create the innovation that bring in the value and productivity.
Innovation is about converting intangible ideas into tangible products (including information content) and/or services that are valued by certain group of users called customers that they pay money for. Innovation is essentially business value creation.
Business value is more than just rational utility or economic values of cheaper, faster, better, safer, easier and longer lasting. There is also value in the emotional trigger of look good feel good and social values of lifestyle and status. There is the significance or meaningful value of contributing to the social community, protecting the environment, making life healthier and longer. By looking at the various dimensions of this value, there are much an SME can do in improving the emotional, social and meaningful value of their offerings.
Furthermore, innovation is not just restricted to products or even services. Innovation can occur through out the entire supplier chain, to production and operation, management and the distribution chain to the final customers or users. There can be innovations, such as a better or cost saving production methods, or finding a better source of supply, or better organization of tasks and team.  Re-thinking about our offering and finding new meaning is also innovation. Consider lights as not just giving brightness but also creating the right ambient to create the right moods bring the lights into new markets.
By seeing innovation as creating a wow experience for customers, the company can workout and improve the engagement with customers at the various contact points to increase the delights of the customers resulting greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Innovation brings value and is easy. Have a right understanding of innovation and then workout the details will enable the SME’s to create differentiated offering of higher value and reduced costs.

Productivity, Higher Salary and Less Staff Turnover

With the right understanding on innovation (as in Q4),  SMEs have to construct and look at their business model in terms of value consumption(values used by customers), value delivery(the distribution to customers), value creation(the manufacturing or production model) and value capture (the financial model) and reallocate the manpower, skills, tools and automation costs.
Some very basic question have to be asked:
  1. What features are really important to customer and can we offer less to cut production costs or offer more to increase the price.
  2. What are easy for us and hard for others to do? We should do more of those.
  3. Who does it best? Is it better to automate or for the staff to do? Can we ask the customers to do it (e.g. self-serve or self assembly)? Can our suppliers do it for us (suppliers configure, pack, and ship directly to customers)? etc.
BVITS Creative Thinking for Breakthrough Ideas
Here is a list of ten BVITS (Bvotech’s Innovation Thinking System) operators to challenge us to think out of the box.  Apply the following operators to the 6M factors of Man, Machine, Materials, Methods, Measurements and Environment to re-engineer the Business Model to gain productivity:
  1. Take out
    • remove some features and offer lower end offerings
    • remove offerings that are not needed or valued by customers
    • do lean methodology or go JIT
  1. Divide
    • break down into sub-components and reassign features or jobs to get better productivity
    • specialize for greater productivity and skills
  1. Outsource
    • contract out work to someone who are better than us.
  1. Irregularize
    • From standardized one size fit all to custom-made or personalization.
    • As an example, a very successful start-up called Littlemissmatch of USA sells shocks in package of three in different colours and patterns instead of a pair of same colour and pattern.
    • Flexible working hours and locations for staff.
  1. Invert
    • reverse the roles e.g. customers self-serve, self-assembly.
    • staff pick their team leaders to lead them.
  1. Multiply
    • Make two or more copies of some key components like dual or quad core CPUs, triple or Quattro blades razor etc.
    • Staff acquired more skills to be more flexible and can work at different jobs at different times according to needs.
  1. Acquire
    • offer an offering that is better than the market.
    • hire staff from companies that are closing down.
  1. Combine
    • one product for multiple uses e.g. Smartphone
    • put diverge skills people into a team for general problem solving.
  1. Extremitify
    • serve the people at the edges e.g. baby, old age, odd sizes.
    • make product usable at extreme conditions e.g. ruggedized.
  1. Learn from others
    • practices in other industries and even from natural science e.g. Biomimicry.
Finally, increase the value of job so that the staff can enjoy higher pay and job satisfaction.  Staff turnover is a big cost not just of hiring but also lost of expertise, retraining, re-deployment and adaptation into productive teams.
Lim Liat (c) 4 April 2013