Friday, 30 December 2011

Understanding the differences

Organizational culture is a mirror image of the personality of the organization. According to Katherine Miller, culture is composed of fragmented subcultural units which is complex and ambiguous, and is socially constructed through communicative interaction of organizational members. In a nut shell, culture itself defines the way an organization works and the way members communicate with each other.

There are two main types of corporations in the working world, the Multinational Corporation (MNC) and the Domestic Corporation (DMC). Both MNCs and DMCs basically have to handle similar regular internal organizational issues, problems, and challenges in coordinating, integrating, and controlling its activities. However, because of the diversity and complexity of an MNC, they require a far more effective internal communication as compared to a DMC. A MNC is described as a coordinated federation where many assets, resources, responsibilities and decisions are decentralized but controlled by the headquarters. It is different from a domestic company in a way that it works across markets, nations and cultures. Knowledge sharing and learning in a MNC is a cross-border process in two ways: not only organizational but also national borders have to be overcomed which is a highly difficult and requires complex undertaking. DMCs on the other hand are corporations or partnerships created or organized and exists or occurs inside a particular country; not foreign or international. Communication, unlike MNC, resides only in one region and location.

Evidently, communication is a major constituent in any organization; it plays an important role in delivering vital messages throughout the entire organization. Often the success of a corporation is dependent on the styles of communication that it uses. It is important that essential information is passed around accurately and efficiently. The rapid and steady flow of information enriches and empowers an organization, just as the flow of money creates wealth.

Both types of corporations, though different in magnitude and culture, employ indisputably similar ways of communication that runs throughout the hierarchy. Deploying human resource approaches by incorporating various rites and rituals within to make employees feel a sense of belonging and affiliation. These indirectly allow the employees to get a further insight of the organization’s culture and practices and also allow them to develop a deeper sense of commitment to the organization. Needless to say, however, a company as big as a MNC poses  various communication barriers and that the importance of well-functioning internal communication for MNCs becomes  more vital than that of a domestic company, due to the fact that, among other things, its units are dispersed across national borders. The simple fact that there are physical distances among the subunits complicates clear and effective communication.

Even with several barriers restricting effective communication amongst corporations and employees, MNCs and DMCs have nonetheless overcome this, by creating a new sub-culture, a culture with which employees of the coporation learn to adapt and adhere to. Likewise with inter-corporations communications, the corporate world will have its set of communicative tools and rules based on cultural settings.

As it is with everything else in this world, change is the only constant, and culture is no different. Understanding the differences in culture in MNCs and DMCs is not enough. We have to realise that over time, these cultures might not be suited to its day and age, and should therefore change according with it.

Monday, 26 December 2011


In 2004, 10 bombs were simultaneously detonated in Madrid that killed 190 and injured over 2000 train commuters. One early morning of 2005, 4 suicide bombers, 3 aboard London Underground trains and 1 on a double decker bus killed 52 and injured more than 700. Attackers armed with rifles and grenades went on a rampage in Mumbai, India’s largest City, and left 100 dead with more than 200 injured in 2008. Moscow continuously experienced a string of urban terrorism attacks from 2000 – 2010 claiming hundreds of lives.

“If you notice any suspicious article or person, please contact our staff or call 911.”

The message to Singapore’s nationwide public transport’s passengers has been clear since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It warns of the high possibility of Singapore becoming a target and vigilance of every citizen is required to safe guard against the cunning, hidden and unpredictable threat. Without the eyes, ears, and intuition of the general public, authorities stand little chance of identifying the enemy among us.

Terrorism became a blinding reality 10 years ago and continues to claim the lives of many civilians through its variety of attacks and targets. Urban terrorism, more specifically, has claimed the lives of thousands in densely populated cities in the world. Urban Terrorism is terrorism aimed at urban populations in bid to cause the most causality in a single targeted area. Areas like trains and streets offer these terrorists the best covert disguise, using the confusion to disappear into the crowd as observed in the increasing cases of attacks. In addition the crowd provides the opportunity of a supporting attack that spreads its fatality further across the area. Unfortunately, these areas, unlike transportation hubs, cannot be subjected to physical security measures as they are designed to be open and easily accessible to vast numbers of people.

Terrorists have played this vital weakness to their strength allowing them to be virtually undetectable in any area. These attacks reveal tactical knowledge, careful planning, coordinated execution and experience of our attackers. And as the reality of urban warfare continues to unfold on the city streets worldwide; they grow stronger with each successful detonation of their bombs.

Thankfully, recent developments in facial recognition and high-speed retina scanning have aided authorities significantly in detecting and tracking known suspects through a crowd. Governments all over the world have also stepped up security measures by saturating urban areas with surveillance camera systems. According to Duos Technologies Inc, one is expected to pass the view of at least 300 different Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) while walking down the streets of London in the day. Increased numbers of CCTVs have been strategically placed in all local MRT stations as well as buses.

Even with additional technologies, countries worldwide are still very much dependent on civilians’ surveillance to prevent and minimise fatalities.

Editor: JT

Friday, 16 December 2011

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

As an organization grows in size and stature, the values that it once prided itself upon gets corroded over time. This is especially true when there is no strong leader to mould the right mind set. Traditions and cultures that take many years to build rest on the foundation of the creators that have brought them forward by taking time to explain, teach and nurture. This cycle is repetitious yet crucial in maintaining consistency in an organization’s vision and mission. Unlike the 1980s, when it was slower-paced, challenges in the workplace are getting increasingly daunting as the bar for performance and productivity are raised. Lesser emphasis are placed in the coaching of employees but more on profit driven objectives to stay afloat amidst flagging economies. 

However, in order to thrive amidst challenging times, a forward learning organization is required along with its similar-minded employees. The ability to adapt to harsh situations and change along with the market and relevant trends is vital. To then harness this ability requires learning executives with managers that actually coach their subordinates instead of throwing them to the deep end of the sea and watch them learn to survive the turbulence. Over the years, coaching has gained recognition as the critical platform for successful organizational change and learning initiatives. CIPD (Chartered Institute of Development) has also reported an increase in the use of coaching tools within organizations.

What is coaching exactly? Jo Lamb, from, defines coaching as a person who teaches and directs another person via encouragement and advice. Winston Connor, former HR Vice President, further elaborated on coaching as managers who are able to tailor coaching methods to each individual to create an impact and cause behavioural changes. 

There is an old saying that goes“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” To further build on this, one has to consider thatwhat is taught to subordinates will not only shape how they work and what they believe in, it will eventually shape what they will teach their subordinates as well in the future. It essentially a slow but sure effect in shaping the entire company’s future. 

Who else better to coach than the very leaders of the organization? 

Carrieanne Larmoreg, an e-Commerce entrepreneur and writer, shares 4 simple but key roles a great coach needs to play to allow employees to flourish and become a better asset to the organization.

The coach has to first of all, guide. Amidst the mounting workload, time and patience has to be taken out to share, teach and show. While it is easier to feed employees with instructions, leaders need to know how to appropriately trust their employees and challenge them with tasks and responsibilities for them to grow in confidence, experience as well as a sense of achievement at the end of the day. It is also one thing to trust and another to blame when things go wrong. With trust comes support. The willingness to stand by them in their decisions, offer advice and help in time of need. Lastly, leaders need to monitor their progress or the lack thereof to be able to timely render appropriate assistance, reward or advice before tasks gets bungled up or employees become dejected from the lack of appreciation.

Organizations such as Deloitte, KPMG and Mercer also assert that the current generation of employees are no longer blindly loyal to companies but to managers who take an active interest in their development, time to teach and patience in listening and working with them. Similar to an athletic coach, who stand by the side lines and watch their players play, they should also be able to draw out employees’ strengths and talent and bank on it. 

Editor: JT

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain

You can sit in front of a screen to rehearse over an amazing presentation and still fumble it up during the actual presentation. You can type out a well thought and enticing proposal but fail in convincing the other party to take it up. You can hide behind a computer and accomplish a great deal of paper work but none will take flight without the ability to present the finished product to colleagues, bosses and clients.

Confidence does not stay contained within the mental boundaries. It seeps through into actions and affects thought processes which on a larger scale affect life on a whole entirely. It plays an essential and vital part in ensuring success in one’s career. The lack of self-confidence makes it difficult to take ownership of tasks and duties, step up to challenging responsibilities or making a decision at work. Theoretically, work itself isn’t the problem. Over time, skills are picked up, new thought processes are introduced and gradually implemented, and technology advancements are learned and incorporated into the daily work grind. The factors that cause more grief are the human factor and being trapped in a deadly cycle of negative thoughts. It is one thing to face a machine and a whole new dimension to face a person. It is also one thing that you think you can’t before knowing you actually can’t. 

Yes, indeed not everyone is born with the natural ability to succinctly present thoughts and ideas to a crowd of faces with ease. Nor is everyone born or nurtured in the way they are able to readily believe in their own capabilities and step up to new challenges. But just as Rome was not built in a day, with time and effort, the confidence in a person can be built. It all starts with breaking down mental barriers and adjusting thought processes. 

For most, the fear of rejection or failure has kept the mind in a repetitive negative loop. Understand that without actually failing, one is unable to learn from his mistakes and with it gain experience and knowledge.

No good solid work or presentation comes without adequate preparation. Flustering in front of the crowd when you don’t have the necessary information ready at the tips of your fingers does not help in confidence building. 

Appear stoic and calm even when things are not. People respond to a calm person more positively as compared to one who goes hysterical when things do not go according to plan. On a hind side, constantly assuring of your capabilities in attempt to remain stoic will create a natural belief that you can.

Mark Twain once said” Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”

In an increasingly global society, where the corporate world is infused with stiff competition, everyone is struggling to get their voices and ideas heard, and even more so amidst a growing diversity of colleagues. To climb to the top, you need an edge but first you need to be heard.

Chief Editor: Jeremy Chan

Friday, 2 December 2011

Communication, it is not just about words.

48 years ago when Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his “I have a dream” speech, he did more than just give a speech. In 17 minutes, he inspired thousands.

3 years ago the United States of America elected Barack Obama as their President. His rhetorical skills – the ability to plant visions into the public’s head and invoke feelings with words was what catapulted him into where he is now. 

Jane Sunley, CEO of Learnpurple, calls it “The Big C” which is essentially the first thing we learn in order to get what we want as infants. Nearly 85% of what is accomplished in a career (and personal life) is determined by the ability to get the message sent across and the persuasion powers of it for others to take a chance on the ideas and recommendations that comes with it. It is no surprise then that leadership and communication go hand in hand. In turbulent times, the leader has to communicate hope with purpose and passion to employees. A correctly transmitted message creates motivation within the employees and empowers them to overcome obstacles and accomplish more. 

However, in the modern business world with Skype, video blogs, podcasts, emails, teleconferences, and text messages instead of the good old-fashioned face-to-face chats, the opportunity for poor communication to take place increases. The reliance on a medium grows as the message gets distorted with each individual’s different lingo and inference. Often employers are the last to find out that poor communication is the root cause of their problems, which ironically, is a direct result of the lack of communication within the organization. If an employer is unable to create a proper flow of accurate information then evidently message from the bottom tier will not be able to flow back to him. 

Thankfully, effective communication is a learned skill. 

According to Albert Mehrabian, who pioneered the understanding of communications since the 1960s and Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, there are 3 essential elements to take note. 

1. Choice of words
Many in attempt to impress choose bombastic words and lose their message in the big words that many may not understand. A string of simple but effective words carries the message further than a message that cannot be understood.

2. Emphasis and Tone
Increasing voice and pitch of tone at different parts of a sentence can greatly alter the meaning behind the message. It also highlights the important parts of the message.

3. Body Language
The effect of communication can be increased a by leaning towards the audience or shifting your weight forward onto the balls of feet and an appropriate amount of hand gestures.

In addition to these, a competent communicator will manipulate effectively and correctly the how(s) and where(s) the message should be communicated. They are able to align themselves the audiences’ goals and methods to produce a smooth, productive, and often enjoyable dialogue. They aspire not only to transmit a message accurately and effectively. They inspire, motivate and with it, drive an organization.

Editor: JT

Friday, 25 November 2011

Douse the fire before calamity

An article on reported that 24 – 60 percent of Human Resource managers’ time are spent dealing with employee dispute. did a survey on 357 human resource managers across all genre of working industries, profit and non-profit alike. Statistics reflected that 98% of HR managers handle conflict at work. Out of which, 81% have seen conflict resulting in employee’s departure and 77% saw it in terms of employee’s absenteeism.

Conflict in the workplace is a distressing reality that can bring about unpleasant and undesirable consequences if left unchecked and allowed to fester. Conflict is unavoidable when you put individuals, from different backgrounds and cultures, together because every individual will undeniably have his own set of mind, ideas and working style. Reasons why conflicts occur can stretch out to the horizon. It could stem from internal factors such as personality, temper or ego that will affect a person’s ability to lead, follow or compromise. It could also be caused by external factors like stress, pressure & health that plays a part in a one’s reaction which will thereby have an overall domino effect.

If you are not embroiled in the conflict, you become the silent watcher. You see the icy stares darting across the room. You feel the tension arising. But you do nothing to alleviate the situation. It is a common notion to avoid trouble by keeping your silence and not intervene. But sometimes the lack of intervention gives the window of opportunity for things to escalate further into a bigger eruption. Conflicts can easily and quickly rage into deadly flames if sparks are not contained earlier in the game. Most of the time, conflict resolutions are necessary to nip a potential conflict in the bud and prevent it from escalating.

One of Sun Tzu’s strategies was to pick battles wisely. Take heed that not every disagreement is worth turning it into a conflict. Usually after the initial cloud of emotions, you would realise how insignificant the issue really is. In other context, you would also realise that heightened emotions often cause us to lose sight of the main topic and unconsciously let our anger stray. By attacking the speaker instead of the problem outwardly displays inability to control emotions which could ultimately lead a small work disagreement into a personal attack. With that said, at the end of the day, you would realise none of the above will work without good communication and listening skills. With communication, using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ language and avoiding judgmental remarks or sweeping generalization in a speech are more effective ways to communicate and allows for more empathy amongst colleagues. Hearing is easy while active listening isn’t as simple as it seems. It requires focus and intent from the listener and usually accompanied by acknowledgement of speaker’s message as well as the constant restating/reframing of his statement to show comprehension. A talker who feels he has been heard would be less disgruntled even if his idea was not put into use.

It is easy to allow a spark turn into raging flames while it takes five times the effort and amount time to calm raging flames. Should we really spend our time and effort dousing fire or a shorter time and lesser effort to maintain harmony?

Chief Editor: Jeremy Chan 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Making it work like clockwork.

The melting pot has gotten bigger and will only get even bigger as the world goes more global. We are no longer separated by oceans, seas and mountains thereby resulting in the change of nature of our workplace. An organization is no longer a monochromic make-up of employees from the same culture and neighbourhood but a rainbow coloured team of employees from all parts of the world.

It has then never been more important for an organization to have a common language but at the same time it is all the more elusive now.

There are many advantages to having a multicultural organization just as there are many pitfalls if not properly managed. Cultural Awareness is required for multicultural employees within to maximise their potential and productivity.

With a gradually growing diverse genetic make-up of employees comes an increased difference in cultures between the individual employees. Although cross cultural differences do not always cause obvious problems, it is their more subtle manifestations that can and will lead to a lack of clear communication and poor performance. Differences in cultures encompass more than just traditions and beliefs. A person’s cultural background impacts how he acts and behaves. Communication style, attitude towards conflict, approaches to task completion as well as decision making style is all affected by his cultural background.

In a cross cultural environment with conflicting ideals, attitudes and beliefs, there are too many situations where conflict can occur that will significantly lower productivity. Developing people skills for a multicultural workplace requires the emotional, cognitive and practical skills in combination.

Patience & Tolerance:
Even without adding multicultural to the equation an organization is already diverse in its own way with every individual having their own unique working style, beliefs and attitudes. Applying the same patience and tolerance to someone of a different culture easily soothes a difficult situation and turn a potentially rage into harmony.

It is one thing to listen for the sake of listening and listening with interest and committing it to memory. Everyone is busy with mounting amount of workload, practising active listening saves everyone’s time by eliminating the need for repetition. Active listening also ensures that the message sent out is not misinterpreted or misunderstood.

Broaden your minds:
We develop our personality at around the age of seven. Gradually, through experience, we get our beliefs, attitudes ideals etc. It is easy to live in our own bubble and ignore what we can’t comprehend but allowing in perspectives and ideas from someone outside our own culture could unknowingly lead to the missing piece of the puzzle. To grow, we have to break free of our mental chains to allow the influx of greater and more innovative flow of ideas.

Talk like a diplomat:
Like in high school, everyone has their own clique with their own lingo. In an organization, every single employee becomes one to ensure the survival of it. Effective professional communication occurs with mindful and respectful interaction.

Chief Editor: Jeremy Chan