It’s not the end, just the beginning!

Author: Calista N., Sweden

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog entry. Although we keep telling each other “It’s not the end, it’s just the beginning!”, we all know that the bond and camaraderie is something we will miss the most when we part ways. Inevitably, since we have become like a tightly-knit family for the past year.

As the months and days crept to the end of Trimester 3, I knew for sure this would be a different kind of goodbye. Most of my cohortmates are flying off for their exchange programs, and most of them are also continuing their stints overseas with summer programs, which span until the end of Trimester 4. Thereafter, they would either return to their home countries or like most, continue to scour the world to build their global careers.

We are troopers! T1 done…T2 done…T3 done!

Birds of the same MBA feather!

Here’s representing America, Europe and Asia.

A priceless momento – a memory etched forever

For me, it’s very simple. I came to Asia knowing exactly how I wanted the end of my program would be. I have just secured an internship here in Singapore, with an international consulting firm, and if that turns out well, I will be offered permanent employment with the company.

While gaining some work exposure in Asia, I will also attempt to fulfill my dreams of travelling around Asia. I absolutely love its culture, rich history and learn the different ways of life. And who knows? I may even want to settle down here, get married and have kids raised in an exotic Asian environment!

The Cambodian Trust Pops By

Felix S., Britain

The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Club had a guest last month. Mike Scott, Country Director of The Cambodia Trust, an international NGO started in the UK for Cambodia, visited us. The Cambodia Trust was set up in 1989 by three British, in response to the Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr Hun Sen’s plea for assistance to the country’s thousands of landmine survivors.

After three decades of war, Cambodia is left with one of the highest rates of physical disability of any country in the world. More than 40,000 Cambodians have suffered amputations as a result to mine injuries since 1979.

The Cambodia Trust primarily helps these amputees with prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation, with donations they receive from around the world. To date, they have already helped some 5000 patients, with at least 50 to 60 patients coming in for treatment everyday for this free service.

Apart from this prosthetics service, The Cambodia Trust started the Cambodia School of Prosthetics and Orthotics in 1994, building the foundation for sustainable and locally-run rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. This fulfills the severe shortage of such services in developing countries, which is mostly provided for, by foreigners with the expertise. Over the last decade, 3 more schools were set up in Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and Jakarta.

As mobility is the first step towards self-sufficiency, an artificial limb, brace or wheelchair can make the difference between employment and begging on the streets. The rehabilitation scheme ensures a view of the larger picture by means of giving patients an improved way of life, over and above the physiotherapy services given to patients who have received new prosthetics. Some of these initiatives are: easy access for children with disabilities in schools, giving access to disabled young adults for skills training and giving out grants to disabled adults to establish small businesses.

In a country where the government’s support is limited and sometimes inconsistent, The Cambodia trust can only look to private organizations or willing individuals for help. Its funds were heavily depleted during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, making its day-to-day operations a big problem.

The CSR Club of The NANYANG MBA has taken up this challenge and will work with The Cambodia Trust to introduce strategic ways forward to raise funds and create sustainable plans for it.

Mike Scott (3rd from left, front row) with The NANYANG MBA CSR Club members

An Interview with Mr. Zafar Momin on “Strategy Implementation”

Author: Balaji Rajhavan, India

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview one of the stalwarts of business and consulting in Singapore, Mr. Zafar Momin, about strategy implementation from a CEO’s perspective. I was also fortunate to attend his course on the same subject and felt that an interview highlighting some of the more practical issues related to implementation would be both useful and interesting for all MBA participants.

Mr. Zafar has over 24 years of experience in business and consulting in Asia, Middle East and the USA. Mr. Zafar has held a variety of positions in prestigious companies: Executive Vice-President of Alghanim Industries in the Gulf, Partner and Managing Director of Boston Consulting Group in Singapore and Dubai, and Partner and Asia practice head with A.T Kearney to name a few. Here is part I of our discussion:

“Why should a CEO or the senior management of a company bother about strategy implementation? Especially when they have many other things like PR, stakeholder management, strategy formulation, etc. on their agenda.”

No matter what other items the CEO has on her/his agenda, the primary mandate for the CEO is usually ‘enhancing shareholder value’ and ‘creating a successful enterprise’. You can define success in terms of financial measures, operational excellence, people development, community enrichment, or whatever measure makes sense for the company. Every firm has a reason for “being” and this reason is usually articulated in their vision, mission & strategy. If the CEO can’t get these executed or put into action, can he/she be successful? So strategy execution cannot be something that he/she can delegate off to somebody to concentrate on something else, because what else could be more important than putting the company’s strategy into action.

“How much of a CEO’s time would typically be taken up by implementation issues?”

It’s hard to define how much of her/his time would be taken up exactly as it would depend on the specificity of the situation. However, implementation will surely be a priority on her/his “things to do” list. Most successful implementations have the CEO playing a key role in them. It doesn’t mean that he/she is necessarily leading
everything but that he/she is playing a significant leadership role; which may range from a hands-on driver to a facilitator to a decision shaper role. It is a very key that the CEO ensures that the strategic initiatives are moving forward, all the bases have been covered, budgets & resources have been allocated, and that there is a
detailed translation of the strategy into an actionable list of initiatives for the organization to act upon.

“Does the time spent by the CEO also depend on the size of the company? Say large companies like GE as opposed to a SME?”

Yes it might. A CEO at a large global company e.g. GE is leading a very complex & diverse organization, but probably has a lot more bench-strength and resources available to him. So the role he might play and the time he might spend might be different than the time spent by the CEO of a SME. The CEO of the SME might not have the
luxury of bench-strength and he may have to do a lot more of “rolling up the sleeves” stuff himself. But the importance of strategy implementation to both CEOs would be pretty much the same.

“What are the most common challenges faced by the CEO in executing strategy?”

There are several actually, but the typical ones are: getting the various layers of the organization to buy-in and align with the strategic direction of the company, identifying and mobilizing the correct resources for execution, planning the execution steps in detail and putting them into action with milestones, KPIs, control mechanisms and proper risk management. Implementation can be a very long and difficult journey, especially if it involves getting people to change. Often people resist change because they are comfortable with the status quo or feel they are not motivated or incentivized sufficiently to change.

In order to execute strategy effectively, CEOs have to make sure that they are exploiting all the levers that they have at their disposal such as organizational structure, processes, rewards, etc. One big problem in organizations is that people are asked to execute a strategy but are not given guidelines, processes, structures or systems to enable them to do that. The other issue is related to coordination and control mechanisms. People need lots of
information sharing, learning, empowerment, and also need measurement devices to know how they are progressing. Strategy formulation takes a lot less time than strategy execution. Yet, people underestimate how difficult it is to execute strategy, even though many start off very well they tend to get lost or wander off-course over time.”

Part II of the discussion continues in the next post with details about what tools or techniques a CEO can use, how to distinguish between a flawed strategy and flawed implementation, etc. Hope you all found this interesting. Over and out!

The Lovely Bintan

Author: Yosuke S., Japan

Singapore is just a stone’s throw away from everywhere else. Which is why, most of us would travel together regularly to surrounding cities or islands for a relaxing weekend vacation.

Recently, a group of us decided to hit the shores of Bintan, Indonesia. Bintan is an island which is just an hour away from Singapore by ferry. Most of the shops, restaurants and hotels accept the Singapore currency too, so we don’t even need to bother about exchanging currencies.
It is a perfect getaway if you had a hectic week at school, and like me, only the sound of beach waves and the sight of bikini babes can relax me. We were kept busy with sea sports like banana boating, jet skiing, para gliding and just chilling on the upper deck of a small rented yatch.

In Japanese culture, we believe in a good life balance between work and relax. So, I am glad here in Singapore, I am able to have the same balance. Although the program is rigourous, whenever I think about these affordable short getaways to relax by the beautiful beaches, I have enough motivation to work hard during the week.

Some recommendations I have in Bintan, are the spa and seafood. Go to a reputable spa and spend a few hours enjoying a massage. I am beginning to like the Balinese style of massage a lot. Since Bintan is an island, there is plenty of seafood. I suggest going out of the hotel (as they can charge more) and heading downtown for a good seafood restaurant. If only they serve sashimi.

Let me share some pictures with you.

Our ferry is called Penguin 5. The upper deck feels less shaky in the waves.

My heart jumped for joy when I saw the peaceful water and simple way of life

The sight of a quiet sandy beach is so welcoming

You will see me if you look closely. I was trying not to fall off the boat!

The view from our rented yatch. All you need is a pair of shades and suntan lotion.

You can have your massage outdoors if you wish to

Some also like to snorkel but I’m not a fan of jellyfish

I wish this is the view from my room, but it is not. One day it will be.

This is the view from our hotel. Not bad too.

There were some couples enjoying their romantic dinners on the beach. Unfortunately my dinner partners were a bunch of MBA guys.

The sunset is absolutely beautiful. I have not seen anything like this before.

If you wish to go downtown for shopping in the night, these trishaws will bring you there very quickly.