Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reinventing management for the next century

Harvard Business Review asked me to participate in a survey to prioritize an agenda of 25 items of management innovation for the next century. The items were drawn up by MLab (Management Lab) with a group of scholars and executives. They are thoughts on how should management's principles, processes, and practices change for companies to thrive in the next 100 years. These ideas are by no means conclusive and thoughts are still being given to their importance. However, we could treat them as a preview of what are ahead of us. Possibly some of them could be the leading edge management theories in the next few decades. So they are worth taking a look.

I completed the survey with the government, and in particular the grade, in mind. I was asked to label the degree of importance of each item, and the position of my organization at them as well as the direction she was moving. Sadly in my mind, the government and the grade failed in many areas and showed no sign of probable improvement in the near future. I was pessimistic on our hierarchical structure and democratization of decision making, which I think would not change easily. Also, I am worried on the prospect of reducing fear and increasing trust. Just look at our public discussion forum like EGRIN. Seems we have a lot of fear and lack trust in public exposure.

The 25 items are:

1. Ensure that management’s work serves a higher purpose.
Management, both in theory and practice, must orient itself to the achievement of noble, socially significant goals.

2. Fully embed the ideas of community and citizenship in management systems.
There’s a need for processes and practices that reflect the interdependence of all stakeholder groups.

3. Reconstruct management’s philosophical foundations.
To build organizations that are more than merely efficient, we will need to draw lessons from such fields as biology, markets, democracies, and theology.

4. Eliminate the pathologies of formal hierarchy.
There are advantages to natural hierarchies, where power flows up from the bottom and leaders emerge instead of being appointed.

5. Reduce fear and increase trust.
Mistrust and fear are toxic to innovation and engagement and must be wrung out of tomorrow’s management systems.

6. Reinvent the means of control.
To transcend the discipline-versus-freedom trade-off, control systems will have to encourage control from within, rather than constraints from without.

7. Redefine the work of leadership.
The notion of “the” leader as a heroic decision maker is untenable. Leaders must be recast as social-systems architects who work to enable innovation and collaboration.

8. Expand and exploit diversity.
We must create a management system that values diversity, disagreement, and divergence as much as conformance, consensus, and cohesion.

9. Reinvent strategy making as an emergent process.
In a turbulent world, strategy making must reflect the biological principles of variety, selection, and retention.

10. De-structure and disaggregate the organization.
To become more adaptable and innovative, large entities must be disaggregated into smaller, more malleable units.

11. Dramatically reduce the pull of the past.
Existing management systems often mindlessly reinforce the status quo. In the future, they must facilitate innovation and change.

12. Share the work of setting direction.
To engender commitment, the responsibility for goal setting must be distributed in a process where share of voice is a function of insight, not power.

13. Develop holistic performance measures.
Existing performance metrics must be recast because they give inadequate attention to the critical human capabilities that drive success in the creative economy.

14. Stretch executives’ timeframes and perspectives.
Discover alternatives to compensation and reward systems that encourage managers to sacrifice long-term goals for short-term gains.

15. Create a democracy of information.
Companies need holographic information systems that equip every employee to act in the interests of the entire enterprise.

16. Empower renegades and disarm reactionaries.
Management systems must give more power to employees who have their emotional equity invested in the future rather than in the past.

17. Expand the scope of employee autonomy.
Management systems must be redesigned to facilitate grassroots initiatives and local experimentation.

18. Create internal markets for ideas, talent, and resources.
Markets are better than hierarchies are at allocating resources, and companies’ resource allocation processes need to reflect this fact.

19. Depoliticize decision making.
Decision-processes must be free of positional biases and exploit the collective wisdom of the entire organization.

20. Better optimize trade-offs.
Management systems tend to force either-or choices. What’s needed are hybrid systems that subtly optimize key trade-offs.

21. Further unleash human imagination.
Much is known about what engenders human creativity. This knowledge must be better applied in the design of management systems.

22. Enable communities of passion.
To maximize employee engagement, management systems must facilitate the formation of communities of passion.

23. Retool management for an open world.
Value-creating networks often transcend the firm’s boundaries and can render traditional power-based management tools ineffective. New management tools are needed to build complex ecosystems.

24. Humanize the language and practice of business.
Tomorrow’s management systems must give as much credence to timeless human ideals such as beauty, justice and community as they do to the traditional goals of efficiency, advantage, and profit.

25. Retrain managerial minds.
Managers’ traditional deductive and analytical skills must be complemented by conceptual and systems-thinking skills.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Phone heaven in the Vatican

I read this in a hotel in Japan. It was a copy of Los Angeles Times, specially produced in co-operation with the Yomiuri Shimbun 讀賣新聞. The article was written by Sebastian Rotella in Vatican City in Rome. When I was back in Hong Kong, I read it again at the Los Angeles Times website. For news, the world is flat.

The article revealed that the technology of the early 21st century has produced a phenomenon known as "phone hell": an audio inferno where callers are tormented either by mechanized voices or human ones with less soul than the machines. We experience much of such hell in Hong Kong with so many IVRS systems. Whenever you call a bank, phone company, many other companies, or government departments, very often we hear mechanized voices, or the voice of a receptionist repeating answers hundreds of times a day. More often, although we call local, the phone is answered by someone in Guangzhou, or India, or Malaysia.

Within the audio inferno, The reporter discovered a phone heaven in the Vatican, whose switchboard is manned by no one other than the nuns of the order of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. If you are interested in the full description of this heaven, please read the full article.

Many calls to the Vatican are routine inquiries about papal activities, hotels, or museums. That information is available in a recorded message as well. But Vatican has also preserved an oasis in the often harsh subculture of switchboards. For 50 years, the nuns have operated the Vatican switchboard. They are the gatekeepers of the Holy See. The sisters field half a million calls a year from all over the world. They assist the friendly, the loud, or the troubled negotiate a labyrinthine of the Roman Catholic Church bureaucracy. The Vatican has accepted modernization; the sisters will get some state-of-the-art assistance soon. But the sisters are determined that the human touch of the Vatican switchboard will never change. There are ten nuns from locales as diverse as India and Poland. Their average age is close to 60.

At least once a day, the switchboard receive phone call from someone insisting on speaking directly with the Pope himself. The sisters respond with tact and never say no. They try to see if a priest, the press room or a church official can help. However, sometimes the caller will not be satisfied with even a bishop.

The sisters also remember a frequent caller who identifies himself as Saint John the Baptist. This caller asks to be addressed as Saint John and prays with the nuns. Also, quite a number of people call and say they need an exorcist. It seems exorcism is a very important issue of the Catholic faith.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tiger cart 老虎拉車

老虎在亞洲是森林之王,專門獵食弱小動物。各種動物如果有信仰,會求神將老虎滅絕。這個假設的禱告竟然應驗,而上帝之手就是人類。要將老虎滅絕有兩個方法;第一是愛,愛虎皮、愛虎骨、和愛整隻老虎標本;第二更為簡單和自然,地球六十七億人口已差不多用盡一切適合居住的土地,老虎快將全無生存之所。

之後人類又後悔,想拯救無處容身而將滅絕的老虎,但又不想歸還已開發的森林。另一方法就是將老虎捕捉再囚禁在動物園供人觀賞。但老虎總不能在動物園裡無所事事,受人供養而不需付出代價。下面這個動物園竟然要老虎做苦工拉車娛賓,收十元走一圈。

老虎話:不如俾我死左好過。

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre 聖塚教堂

昨天看到世界新聞,說有兩基督教派的教士在耶路撒冷著名的聖塚教堂發生打鬥事件。詳請可以看看BBC新聞報導。聖塚教堂是各基督教派爭權奪利的其中一個重要地點,這個過程已延續了千多年,新聞不斷出現。BBC較早前有一篇特稿,名為聖塚的不神聖爭執,詳細解釋爭執的由來和發展。

我去年曾在耶路撒冷參觀聖塚教堂。因為曾讀過十多年聖經,我對聖塚教堂的來歷和重要景點都很熟識,但卻不甚了解各派系鬥爭的歷史,因為神父不會講解。進入教堂之前導遊先生介紹各教派在教堂內的根據地,原來小小的教堂已被六個基督教派割據:它們是
希臘正教 Greek Orthodox
亞美尼亞教皇使徒 Armenian Apostolic
羅馬天主教 Roman Catholic
埃及正教 Coptic Orthodox
埃塞俄比亞正教 Ethiopian Orthodox
敘利亞正教 Syriac Orthodox

基督教在聖塚教堂並沒有立足之地,因為它只在數百年前成立,沒有捲入千多年前的鬥爭。在聖塚教堂之內,六個教派之中以希臘正教勢力最大,其歷史最久遠。耶穌死後其門徒不斷被猶太人和羅馬人打壓,只為地下教派。直至公元四世紀,君士但丁大帝始立之為國教,其母后海倫拿更到以色列尋找新約所述的各個地點建立教堂,其時已是耶穌死後約四百年。情形等於我們在現時二十一世紀去找尋清朝初期的明朝人士反清事件地點。究竟此地點是否真確?最後定論在一九八六年由耶路撒冷考古學家 Dan Bahat 作出。他說我們不能確定,但現時沒有其他地點可以推翻這說法。君士但丁大帝的東羅馬帝國就是在現時希臘,最古老的新約官方版本是古希臘文,而希臘正教就是最早使用聖塚教堂的教派。其後東羅馬帝國崩潰,正教四散到各地再各自發展。

雖然各基督教派都要在聖塚教堂分一杯羹,但近一千年來聖塚教堂的所在地耶路撒冷都是伊斯蘭教勢力範圍。統治者為求局勢安穩,一直都容許基督教派逗留在聖塚教堂;但因教派爭執不斷,教堂門口幾百年來都設有伊斯蘭守衛站。現時耶路撒冷是由猶太人管治,聖塚教堂的基督教派爭執由以色列警察處理。聖地很久以來已經不屬於基督徒。

聖塚教堂的全貌。十字架圓頂下面就是聖塚的位置。

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現時聖塚教堂已經沒有伊斯蘭守衛,猶太人警察亦不見,門外有基督教派教士看守。

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我從聖海倫拿小教堂 Chapel of St. Helena 進入聖塚教堂。只見狹窄的地方設有幾個不同教派的祭壇和座位,印象很深刻。這幾幅照片的祭壇應該是屬於亞美尼亞教皇使徒、希臘正教、羅馬天主教和埃塞俄比亞正教。

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Insecure behaviour

You may think that it is very careless or very unfortunate to have your computer infected with virus. Shouldn't we be very cautious in surfing the Internet, watching out for danger every step of the way, and shying away from anything dangerously attractive. What do other people do when surfing?

To answer your question, Cisco recently did a study on the behaviour of people regarding Internet security. The result was published in PC World.

The survey was based on interviews conducted with 2,000 employees in ten countries, the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, India, Australia, and Brazil. The result showed that the risks taken by employees with company data can vary by nation and culture.

The Chinese and Indians were the most likely to bypass set security settings to access unauthorized websites, with 52%, i.e. more than half of the people, saying they would do this because it was their own business on which sites they visited. U.S. and Indian employees were the most likely to use unauthorized applications with, respectively, 74% and 79% admitting they would do such a thing with their office laptops and PCs. This is the form of risky behavior identified by IT staff as causing most data leakages. A large majority, more than two-third of employees, did it. In Germany, the biggest security problem was simply letting non-employees wander freely around the office without supervision.

Cisco realized that businesses were enabling employees to become increasingly collaborative and mobile. Data is now always in transit, in use, within programs, stored on devices, and in places beyond the traditional business environment, such as at home, on the road, in cafes, on airplanes and trains. Companies with a global footprint have to be aware of different cultures and be willing to tailor their security education to fit in with differences in attitude.

I don't know if people view Internet security differently at home and in the office. I would have thought employees should be more cautious because a slip of hand in the office could have serious consequence to the entire office network. However, the survey showed that many employees have a carefree attitude towards Internet security in the office. You can guess how Internet security is viewed at home. So, you could go with the norm and surf wherever you like. But get your anti-virus program up and running, and back up all your data.