Increasing Productivity

The recent speech by prime minister Lee calls for us to increase productivity in this unpredictable landscape. Today, I’m going to discuss the challenges we face as a nation and how we can overcome it.

Note that I’m not a credible source of information. Do not cite me.

I believe the first challenge faced by the nation is the traditional mindset of leadership. The management should devote time thinking about how to reduce effort to produce the same results.

An immediate reward and punishment system should be implemented as well. This will condition employees to produce positive results and reduce negative response.

Employers have to develop employees. Living in a world filled with uncertainty, industries my collapse due to economic structural reforms. Thus, companies must aid employees to develop skills to stay relevant. Skills developed needs to be transferable, adaptable and sustainable. Companies might want to reconsider deep specialization as such jobs might be replaced by automation.

Data management, financial analysis, computing, engineers/technicians and product design are skilled jobs which I don’t foresee will be replaced by technology.

Investment in research and development is essential as well. The early adopters of new technology will allow the companies to boost their productivity. The need for new, clean, portable and efficient energy is on the rise as technological advances demands for more fuel. The demand for smart materials and alternatives to Silicon will also increase as the quantity of electronics product rise.

While efforts are focused on improving productivity and integrating systems, the threat of security still remains. Today, individuals are granted the ability to terrorize without the need to be present at the crime scene, let alone being in a group. Reports have shown that there is an increase in individual actors of terrorist attacks and with the availability of information online, hacking is not impossible.

Some data needs to be censored and isolated. These data includes accounts from the central financial sector and energy related information.

Thereby, productivity is a challenge of the leadership. As the world advances, threat increases, uncertainty rises, leaders has to adapt and motivate employees to stay relevant.

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Does Time Speed Up as We Grow Older?

Have you ever wondered if time is passing by faster and faster? Here is my theory about it.

Does the second on the clock tick faster? Is the day and night cycling faster? Why are we feeling that time is passing us so quickly?

I claim that 1 second 10 years ago is still the same as 1 second today. If that is true, how can I explain this strange phenomenon about time passing us at an accelerated rate as we grow older?

This is my theory. Time is relative. The 1 year as a 10 year old is experienced 2 times more as the 20 year old. Therefore, comparing the 1 year to the total time experienced, the 20 year old might claim that 1 year is faster.

However, there are instances that time “stops” or time passes by faster than usual. How did that happen? I don’t know the real reason but maybe it is due to an adrenaline rush which resulted in quicker mental processing.

Well, all these are my personal theories, feel free to critique, comment and compliment but do so responsibly.

Multi Tasking

Currently, I’m a student in SMU, a Division Governor in Toastmaster, Vice President of a Management Body in SMU, an active political activist and active community volunteer. And there is only one question I want to know, how do I manage time?

Being active in any organization is always a heavy commitment, quitting usually initiates some form of distress. Sometimes I find myself over committing to an organization to the point where I neglect my health and family but I’d say, the more senior you are in an organization, the less time you need to devote on the ground.

There is an old saying, time is the oldest thing that existed, do you think it will let it you manage it? How many of us really manage our time? Most of the time, we take assignments as they come. Here is a trick I do to classify stuff. What is important and what is urgent?

Most of the time, our time is utilized at communication, be it coordination, conflict/ complaints , meetings or public relations. I usually respond to a mail within 3 days or not respond to it at all; especially conflict malls

Here are some of my criteria to decide on the importance & urgency of the matter to craft my action plan.

1) Does it affect the long term plans directly?
2) Can I delegate the matter?
3) Who are the stakeholders directly involved?

Based on the answers I’ve asked myself, I will be able to design a course of action to manage the situation.

However, before I am able to answer these questions, I must be able to identify the long term plan. Without that, I’m not able to answer all other questions because the important stakeholders depend on the plans I have and the people whom I delegate work to also depends on the plans or sometimes, it is okay to ignore emails.

If everything is important, then nothing is important. With that, let’s not try to manage time but classify our work to produce maximum efficiency!

Well, these are my opinion and my opinion only. Do note that I’m a 22 year old student with zero working experience. Feel free to comment, critique and compliment responsibly.

On Psychology: Is it a Science?

As expected, the first question what was raised during the lecture was: “What is Psychology?” and also “Is psychology science?” “What is science?”

Definitely, the lecturer debates that psychology is a science, a study of behaviour (Overt) and mental processing (Covert). Since we cannot see or measure mental processing, we base our results of behaviour to determine the mental processes.

A huge segment of the lecture we devoted to the Scientific Method which I believe is important for layman as well. Is a logical way of thinking, analysis and theorizing. However, it is not a model used to generate solutions; its only halfway there.

1. Observation

Well, we can never identify a problem until we observed something dysfunctional right? Observation is the reason why we pursue studies or activity on any subject. Good observations will assist the processes listed below for the reasons I’ll state.

2. Defining the Problem

I’d like to talk about the Operational Definition which was mentioned in class. It is a complete definition of the problem, identifying the scope of study and the hypothesis. Here, you will realize that problem definition is not an easy task of asking a question. It is a process of thinking, criticizing and defining the complete scope of experiment. The experiment is not supposed to be too general (generalized results are usually inaccurate) nor too specific (the impact of study is not substantial). Asking good questions, defining the problem accurately will enable an accurate result and strong conclusion!

3. Hypothesising

In statistics nothing can be proven, it can only be supported. Therefore, by making a claim, we need to identify if it is falsifiable. Falsifiability of a claim is important, how can we prove that the claim is wrong? And by failing an experiment that proves that the claim is wrong will support the claim.

4. Evidence

Data collection is critical. Having the right subjects in the right conditions will allow for an accurate result and provides a strong conclusion. I don’t think there is a need to explain about this further. Haha

5. Building a Theory

I skipped a step “Results” because I have nothing to say about it but building a theory is a challenge. Interpreting the results of a test is the goal of all scientist. Similar to problem definition, being too general and being to specific isn’t going to help.

This is demonstrated in class through the hot hand phenomenon. Results did not support the case of the hot hand phenomenon but some of us might still choose to believe in it just for the sake of sporting mythology.

Having a logical and clear mind will help to solve many problems, I hope this short blog will assist in building that logical thinking ability.

Social Sciences – Introduction

I’ve never felt more proud than to be enrolled into a university, SMU. Yesterday is my first day of school and I’d like to share the key learning lessons of the lecture so that you can benefit from my blog and I can benefit from revision.

As all philosophical lecture would start, my lecturer engaged us with a question “What is Sociology?”. It then rang other potential questions from lecturers like “What is Psychology?”, “What is Analytical Thinking”, “What is Political Science”, “What is Philosophy?”.

I think I have a good idea of the topic on sociology; the study of societies. However, my lecturer made a point that I will never forget: “We live in the presence of others.” What he meant by that is all decisions made are influenced by the social structure and social interaction.

Sounds very deep doesn’t it? Everything thought we can do is confined within the four walls of the social structure. Take suicide for example, it’s a very personal choice, you don’t consult others if you should do it, you just do it. In sociology, we claim that even the most personal choices are influenced by society.

If there is a pattern, it is not a random occurrence and therefore not a solely based on personal choices and should be resulted from the social context. Why does some countries have consistently higher suicide rates than others? Why male have consistently more suicide cases than females? This is definitely not resulted from personal choice.

Therefore sociologist encourages everyone to develop the “Social Imagination”, an ability to view personal problems in the society’s perspective and to view society’s problems in a personal perspective. Bearing in mind that “We live in the presence of others.”

So folks, before doing anything, please think about it’s consequences to the society. A hurtful word or displeasing gesture will result in a ripple throughout society which will forsake our future and destroy our descendants. In one hand, your decisions are not your decisions and on the other, your every actions affects the rest of society because even their most personal choices are influenced by you.

Thoughts of the NDR 2014

I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible but here it goes!

1) Honouring Yusof Ishak
I have to agree that he is a notable figure of Singapore, some might consider him a symbol of Singapore; you see him on your dollar notes everyday. It was stated that he was a religious man who believes in meritocracy and opportunity for all (which sets the theme of the national day rally). To honor him, we have named our new Mosque the “Masjit Yusof Ishak” to honor his religion, we have named our Institute of South-East Asian Studies (ISEAS) the “Yosof Ishak Institute” and also started a “Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Science”.

This is a good gesture to the Muslim community and I strongly support it but I think it does not affect most of the Singaporeans except for it’s heritage value.

2) Opening Pathways for ITE/Poly Students
Today we are having a paper chase. Every single student wants a PhD/Masters (Including me!). I kind of forgotten everything in this section but the initiative to bring the Government, Unions and Employers to work out a progression plan for the non-graduates based on ability. The government and civil service can encourage faster promotion of the non-graduates but can the private sectors, the employers, the human resource managers change their mindset about it? This question will be determined by the policies worked out by the tripartite collaboration. Question is: Can anything concrete be derived from this?

Another Major Question I have is: Will this initiative devalue the Degree Certification thus devaluing formal education? At our current state now, I believe it is highly unlikely but this is not impossible.

Maybe, reducing the number of degree holders is a good thing for graduates! It means relatively more jobs for graduates since there are less supply, reduction on university fees and possibly faster career progression for degree holders due to less competition!

I’d also love to see the ASPIRE initiative being executed to provide career advices for the ITE/Poly students as this will help them in the long run. Formal education shouldn’t be the end but the means to an end.

3) Retirement Planning
This will be the most concrete part of the speech. Some things to take note, lease buyback is available for 4 room flats now, minimum sum will increase to $161,000 for the next batch of retirees, CPF top-up for residents who are unable to meet the minimum sum, flexible CPF schemes for withdrawing lumpsum. When it comes to finances, it gets us alert! Let’s do the maths here.

Assuming our salary doesn’t increase, we started working at age 30, we finish paying for the house at age 45 and we do not sell our house. 50% of the CPF is a given and the amount we need to save in our CPF: $80,500.00

If I have a consistent flow of salary at $1200, I should have 20 years to work for my retirement funds and saved $82,880. Sounds affordable. Based on this assumption, the minimum you need to earn to reach the minimum sum is $1165.53 per month (assuming no bonus and no income raise).

Let’s say you didn’t meet the income criteria therefore didn’t meet the minimum sum. It was mentioned that there will be CPF top-ups for people who are in need. Sounds like a beautiful scenario.

Well, all this seems too good to be true. I hope this isn’t one of the populist policies made to satisfy the majority. This can only be sustained by continuous economic progress or else it will come out from taxes.

4) Smart Home
I know there are lots of emphasis on Jewel @ Jurong but I’d like to talk about SMART Home; a plan to integrate agencies through technology. I love this idea and believe that it will give rise to convenience and better communication between agencies and residents. One risk though (really trying to find a nail in a haystack).

This system is prone to hackers which lives within the cloak of anonymity. Security systems and response measures should be in place as tempering of such systems will have devastating consequences. It’s the one stop weakness for all government agencies.

Placing the wrong person in-charge of this project will also result in a stagnation of the project but I believe in the government’s judgement on leaders.

These policies are meant for the betterment for the Singaporeans. This can only be achieved if we strive for economic growth. When everyone plays their part, the accumulated actions and aspirations will propel us to greater heights. Majulah Singapura!

7 Lessons as an Area Governor (Toastmaster)

If you are in the Toastmasters movement, you might understand that being a leader in Toastmaster is supposed to be a safe haven for mistakes. Here are my 2 cents worth of experiences as a leader.

It started with a thought. My speaking ability is deproving, I have lost the sense of purpose, I need to up the stake. Being a leader will add the pressure, give me responsibility and allow me to grow differently. And here is my first lesson.

No one knows what they are getting into until they are in it.

All my assumptions were wrong. A safe haven for mistakes? Nope. Having the airs and grace of a leader? Nope. A smooth sailing boat throughout the year? Nope. Everything everyone told me about being a leader is a lie. However there is one thing for certain. I’ve grown and learnt much, every experience as a leader is different. However uncertain the situation is, the best time to act is when you are not prepared. Leading to my second lesson.

You are always flawed, make the best use of it.

I went into my first club visit as and  Area Governor. No one knew I was an Area Governor because of my age. Some even tried to induct me into the Toastmasters program. “How can an Area Governor be so young?”, “Does this guy know what he is doing?”, “He has no experience, not fit to be my leader.” People always judge us for things that they are not, it’s time to prove that our differences doesn’t pull us apart but bring us together. Your age brings knowledge and experience to the table while my youth brings innovation and energy to the table. We made the best use of our resources and excel together.

What happens if you fail? Fail together.

It’s easy to celebrate victory together as a team, but teamwork is more than that. I flopped 2 of my events initially; Speechcraft and an Area Contest. I felt better when I screwed up the Area Contest because I know that I was in a team. Who is going to take the blame of failure because when something fails, it’s not the fault of one person but the whole team. It’s easy to celebrate the fruits of success but who is going to take the blame of failure? Never blame because you can always do more.

Always do what you think is right, if it’s good it’s great! If not, it doesn’t matter.

I received a letter after my presentation at the Club Officer’s Training. I presented an unconventional method to market Toastmasters and I’m sure it’s out of the syllabus. The letter is heart warming, basically asking if the person can translate the content of my speech for her French Club. As a leader, read the book, understand the book but don’t follow the book. There are times when you disagree with the conventional way of doing things, feel free to do so.

Never overthrow your leader.

That has always been my philosophy of leadership. There are somethings that you will disagree with your superior because as humans, we are all unique. I disagree with many of the preachings of my superior but at the end of the day am I able to do a better job? If I can, my term as Area Governor is the time to prove it. But if you overthrow your leader, this will be the start of the dark ages of the organization because there will not be any handing over, he or she will mess the system up and ensure that you leave the office as rotten as possible. It’s just human’s nature. It’s easy to walk away, but it’s only right to leave the organization a better place. That will be your legacy.

Never walk alone.

A leader is no one without his people. As my Commanding Officer once said “If I have to do everything myself, I’ve failed as a leader.” If people don’t follow your command, you are not a leader. In the past, the leader sees the way, goes the way and leads the way. Today, it’s different. Not only has the leader needs to lead the way, he must explain the “Why factor”. Failing to do so will lead to the pitfall of leadership. If you don’t trust you people to fail, you are not fit to be a leader.

Numbers counts, Heart matters.

Every organization has a Key Performance Index. I agree that it is important, but what’s more important is this question: “Why are we trying so hard to achieve it?” If we cannot answer that question, I’d suggest we do not achieve that KPI. In Toastmasters, we have the Distinguished Club Performance (DCP). Clubs under my charge didn’t meet the required mark; and I didn’t make them do so. Coming to the end of my term, I have to find my successor and I have people telling me “I will only be an Area Governor if you are my Division Governor.” These are moments when I know that I have succeed as a leader although I didn’t make the numbers. Numbers don’t make you a leader, it’s the hearts you touched that defines your leadership.

So leaders, are you up for the challenge?

What is Leadership?

Leadership is an abstract concept and I quote someone whom I’ve admire as a leader “Everyone have a different definition about Leadership”. However, what I’ve learnt in SAFTI MI is “Leadership is the ability to influence a group of people to accomplish the same mission.”

“Everyone is a leader” is what I’ve been taught and drilled in Basic Military Training and I agreed to it but it is not until recently that I learnt that not everyone can be a leader. I learnt that there are 2 forms of leadership, one on the ground, and from the HQ.

Leadership on the ground is important. I’ve learnt many things about influence during BMT. “You’ll get what you give” and “Treat others how you want to be treated” are the philosophy I applied on the ground. Usually, we will look up to the one who volunteers for heavy responsibilities, responsibilities that little will take up.

They say you earn your respect. You may not be the strongest but you lift more than the strongest. You may not be the fastest but you run further than the fastest. You may not be the smartest but you plan more than the smartest. The more you put in, the more respect you have. Perseverance is the key to leadership on the ground, how long are you willing to take the pain for the team.

I’m someone who likes to work the ground. I take initiative, fight longer than everyone if needed. I’m sure, people respected me for my endurance but is it sustainable? My body is human, my mind is human, I am human. One day, someone must take my role in the organization and what if he doesn’t meet my standards?

Here are some of the things I’ve learnt as a ground leader:

1) Objectivity
On the ground, many things will happen. Distractions from everywhere. We need to know where we are standing what we are standing for and where we have to go according from the directions from the organization. We will also need to know when to quit; which relates to my second lesson.

2) Welfare
There are welfare that are given at policy level, but what can you do to give your people welfare as a leader on the ground? Breaks, day off and sometimes treats are tangible benefits that you can give to your man, but it’s the intangibles that makes it different. Noticed that your man is working too hard; learn to slow him down. Noticed that your man is not performing; lend a listening ear. The key is be personal because people don’t take that for granted. This will become an asset for you in the future.

3) Perseverance
I cannot emphasize this further. This is something that cannot be taught. The more will you have in your job, the better you will be as a ground leader. Will you sacrifice yourself for the people around you. How do you stay motivated when the situation is bad? Leaders who lead by example must demonstrate this value.

4) Initiative
Or also known as doing your boss’s work. There is always something that can be improved for everyone in the same organization. Why wait for someone to do something then? Take a step forward and make that change you see! Don’t like the current system? Take some time to think about it and change the way we should approach things. If you succeed, you SUCCEED! But if you fail, you learn something.

5) Communication
This is the make or break. Instructions must be clear, yet giving people the freedom to exercise creativity. It is a delicate balance that we have to maintain. How do we do it once, and do it right? How do we communicate errors yet maintaining high morale in the team? How do we manage difficult team members? There are trainings available for such communications skills (Such as Toastmasters) you can sign up for it to learn more about it.

Next week, I’ll be sharing about leadership from HQ. How different it can be to adapt from the ground to HQ, but if you cannot be a leader on the ground, you cannot be a leader at all.

So do you agree with what I have mentioned in this article? Do feel free to comment, criticize and curse at my post but remember to be responsible for your comments!

Successful = Busy?

I was having a chat with a friend at my regular Meet the People’s Session at Nee Soon Central. We often hear people saying, “Oh, you have no idea how busy I am.”, “Sorry, my schedule is very tight.” and “Recently I’ve been very busy.” And they all almost sound like a humble way to brag.

Being busy seems to be the path every successful person must take. “An organization, without me,will collapse” attitude is evident. Telling others that you are very busy is a form of “subtle arrogance”. Are you trying to tell me more?

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For me, my schedule is very tight. Not because I’m very capable, but because I have poor time management. I participate in many projects that made me stretch beyond my limits. Then I realized something, things have to change. I cannot work on the ground forever. Someone must know what I’m doing and should be able to take over anytime I leave for another appointment. This is most evident during the days of my service in the military.

I was an operations clerk, in charge of almost all the operations in the office of  8 man. I was overstretched, overworked and overused. Sometimes I feel that I fight a war everyday although I’m a clerk.

Once I told my peers: “You know, I wish I could have been healthier, then I can prepare to fight instead of fighting wars everyday.”
My friend will ask: “Who are you fighting the war against?”
I’ll reply: “HQ” (In my mind, that includes everyone in the same office)

I used to doubt their ability and say “You can be a free loader, but don’t mess up my work.” I’ll only give “brainless” stuff for them to do. But I realized I’m wrong. I have limited time, limited energy, limited tolerance. I realized, this have to change but no one wants to help me do the thinking.

Therefore, I’ve learnt the importance of giving others the chance to try and came up with a handing over process:

  1. I do, you watch
  2. I do, you assist
  3. You do, I assist
  4. You do, I watch

With that, I effectively handed over my tasks to another which reduced my workload, allowing me to focus on more strategic tasks.

Therefore, being busy just means that you are needed at that level of work. You can’t go up because no one can do your job. I believe, to be successful you have to effectively explain to an idiot about your job and empower him to do it. This way, as you progress, you will not be caught off guard by blunders from the bottom.

So do you agree with what I have mentioned in this article? Do feel free to comment, criticize and curse at my post but remember to be responsible for your comments!

Inequality Everywhere

Yesterday I had a conversation with my Polytechnic classmate and very good friend after she graduated from SIT.

She said that she don’t see herself as a house wife; it’s a waste after struggling hard for her degree. However, these are the hard facts she have to face. So I explained the unequal society.

 

1) After marriage, they will split household chores equally. Man does some stuff, women does others and both couples work for income.

2) After some time, someone will get promoted. Given the circumstances (her boyfriend has a first class honours degree), he will have a higher chance of getting promoted. Furthermore, it is easier for a male to climb the cooperate ladder compared to females due to how society perceive their leaders.

3) Man will increase his portfolio and scope of work, he will end up having late nights and will have to fall short on household chores.

4) The couple will then have to make a decision:

a – Get a Maid
b – Women leaves her job to be a home maker
c – Man leaves his job to be a home maker

Given the obvious situation, option c is not logical.

 

It is statistically proven that man all around the world are better paid compared to women, there are more male leaders compared to female leaders as well. This inequality cannot be changed with a blink of an eye. It is also due to our biology that causes this divide in treatment.

Women will face a tough time during pregnancy. They loose mobility and are more vulnerable during this period of time. After pregnancy, they will be compensated with maternity leave which will delay their career progression. Adding on to that, their counter parts would already have taken that time to climb the cooperate ladder. Therefore, even if there isn’t a social stigma, females will still fall short compared to the males.

This have resulted in many females choosing not to get pregnant and even deciding to stay single. Developed countries all around the world are facing this problem of low fertility. Ladies today have ambition and wants to make a difference. They also realize that family will become a burden to them, establishing a limit to their career progression.

Therefore, the problem with gender inequality is not simply due to social perception, it’s also our physical differences that hinders them from progressing in the cooperate sectors. Even if there is meritocracy, we can’t promote a great employee who is not working for that period of time. Inequality starts even from our genes.

 

Speaking physical difference and progression, do you know that we have an “Ideal” appearance of a leader? And fitting that criteria will assist you in climbing the cooperate ladder? Here are the things about the “Ideal” leader’s appearance I’ve read somewhere and I’m sharing them with you.

1) People prefer a Male leader than a Female leader
2) People prefer a Taller leader than a Shorter leader
3) It’s easier to respect someone without Spectacles
4) People prefer Muscular leaders than Fat leaders, prefer Fat leaders than Skinny leaders (For males)
5) The more handsome/pretty you are, the easier it is to gain respect
6) People with Fairer skin tone can gain respect much easier than someone with Darker skin tone
7) Religion is also a factor, not going to comment further

 

Speaking of which, racial inequality is the most ridiculous idea. It’s not the skin that makes the person, it’s their culture that builds the person. You can be an American but you are brought up in bad family, bad company, your attitude will most likely be bad (well, there are exceptions to every concepts).

Therefore, inequality is part of our genes, part of us even before we are born. Can any organization adopt every single disadvantaged child and raise them up, give them equal opportunity, equal education and moral values? I believe that the least we can do is to recognize these differences; they are real and we should not pretend that they don’t exist. We should at least give everyone equal treatment and tolerance even if we couldn’t give them equal opportunities.

So do you agree with what I have mentioned in this article? Do feel free to comment, criticize and curse at my post but remember to be responsible for your comments!