Thursday, 29 March 2007

Mountain Climbing Concept of Building a Strong and Productive Workplace

I had a new inspiration for building the team, thanks to the book "First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently".

Barely, finishing the first chapters, I am already putting this to use and feeling I can really make a difference and improve the team morale and productivities.

The greatest assets to any company is the people. So , building a strong team is the key to make the company successful.

Amazingly, there is excerpt of the book on the first chapter. So, you will get want I mean.

I like the mountain climbing concept as described in the book. It makes it so simple . Yes! We should focus to improving ourselves on the base camp and Camp 1 first. Do not talk about the mission, understanding company objectivies, those high level things if the base camp is not strong.

Here are the 6 questions survey I sent to my team (Rating: 1 : Strongly disagree, 5- Strongly agree):

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?
4 In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

Recently, I received a resignation from one of my direct. Before she is leaving , I ask her to fill in the survey for me also. Guess what I get from the questions 1 & 2? 1 ! However, I did get 4 to 5 for most questions from 3 to 6.

It is so true that if the basecamp (especially this) and camp 1 is not taken care of, people will leave, even though you have strong mission statement and company strategy and objectives.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

My Favourite 4 E's

In his book "Straight from the Guts", Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of General Electric, had laid out 4 E's that are important to a leader or manager or even employee.

Energy. Leaders with tremendous personal energy.
Energize. Those who energize teams, and don't intimidate them.
Edge. Someone with a competitive edge and a will to win.
Execution. Those leaders who have a track record of getting results

I still haven't finished reading this book actually. :). It got a bit complicated at the end but overall is a very good story. Jack Welch is definitely an exceptional leader, being able to bring drastic changes to a company as big as GE , stopping bureaucracy, and being able to persist in his pursue despite labelled as neurotic. Only few men in this planet can do that. Anyway, it is unfortunate that he cannot maintain his first marriage. I guessed with his hectic schedules (mine is already too hectic considering I only managing less than 20 people), this is the sacrifices that he has to make. (or , maybe it was because he had many outside "affairs" or so I heard from some rumors).

I also have another book called "Winning" from him, but have not have the time to read it yet. Soon ...soon......(small voice) when can I have the time? If only I have 48 hours a day!

11 things you will not learn in school

This is the excerpt from the book "Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add" by Charles Sykes, But there were some rumors (I actually received email for this) that it was from Bill Gates during one of his speech.
However, these are really the few things some grown-ups have not learnt also.

RULE 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

RULE 2: The world doesn't care about your self-esteem. The world expects you to accomplish BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

RULE 3: You will NOT make $40,000.00/year fresh out of high school. And you won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you EARN both.

RULE 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He won't have tenure.

RULE 5: Flipping burgers is NOT beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it OPPORTUNITY!

RULE 6: If you mess up,it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

RULE 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how COOL you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your room instead.

RULE 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and will give you as many times as you need to get it right. This doesn't have the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

RULE 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

RULE 10: TV is NOT reality. In real life people need to leave the coffee shop and go to work.

RULE 11: BE NICE TO NERDS!! Chances are you will end up working for one!

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Marketing and Innovation

In today product demo to our technical team, there are more people in the team that has put on their thinking cap and really challenge the product. It is a great sight to see as mostly technical people are always considered as geeks and never really think about marketing.

I came from technical background myself and still love technical works. However, I also find great passions in product management and marketing. I do believe, technical people can do a great product management and marketing jobs as well. From Bill Gates, Steve Job , Larry and Sergey , they all do geeks proud! They started very small and get VERY BIG. They create dreams and their dreams changed the world.

From Peter Drucker's famous quote in The Practice of Management
The business enterprise has two - and only two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.

There are so much more to learn and there is absolutely no boundary!

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Law of Navigation: Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course

From the Book "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" by John Maxwell, the story that depict this law is what I remember the most and it really hit me hard. It brings me to think about my responsibilities of planning for the team. And planning is not just putting all the activities down and saying who do what, it is making sure everything is alright and meeting the objectives/end result (sometimes not only short-term, but long-term). It is really a tough job. There is also no clear measurement on this whether you have done well or not, whether you have lead well. Wrong decisions and mistakes cost the lost of money, and energy and it affects the morale of the people.

For myself, I think there are still a lot of rooms for me to improve. And so is everybody else. Being able to get the total high level picture and drilling to details, making sure everything is covered, thought through , no loopholes, no misunderstanding, no mistakes - all these require gigantic efforts. A lot of people tends to seek the easy way out . Also a lot of people procrastinate on the plan or do not plan at all.

Doing the right things and doing things right!

Here is the story...(if you like this, do buy the book)

Two groups set off to reach the south pole, Norwegian Roald Amundsen and British Robert Scott.

Amundsen painstakingly planned his trip. He studied the methods of the Eskimos and other experienced Arctic travelers and determined that their best course of action would be to transport all their equipment and supplies by dogsled. When he assembled his team, he chose expert skiers and dog handlers. His strategy was simple. The dogs would do most of the work as the group traveled 15-20 miles in a 6-hour period each day. That would allow both the dogs and the men plenty of time to rest each day for the following day's travel.

Amundsen's forethought and attention to detail were incredible. He located and stocked supply depots all along the route. That way they would not have to carry every bit of their supplies with them the whole trip. He also equipped his people with the best gear possible. Amundsen had carefully considered every possible aspect of the journey, thought it through, and planned accordingly. And it paid off. The worst problem they experienced on the trip was an infected tooth that one man had to have extracted.

The other team of men was led by Robert Falcon Scott, a British navel officer who had previously done some exploring in the Antarctic area. Scott's expedition was the antithesis of Amundsen's. Instead of using dogsleds, Scott decided to use motorized sledges and ponies. Their problems began when the moters on the sledges stopped working only 5 days into the trip. The ponies didn't fare well either in those frigid temperatures. When they reached the foot of the Transantarctic Mountains, all of the poor animals had to be killed. As a result, the team members themselves ended up hauling the 200 pound sledges. It was arduous work.

Scott hadn't given enough attention to the team's other equipment. Their clothes were so poorly designed that all the men developed frostbite. One team member required an hour every morning just to get his boots onto his swollen gangrenous feet. And everyone became snowblind because of the inadequate googles Scott had supplied. One top of everything else, the team was always low on food and water. That was also due to Scott's poor planning. The depots of supplies Scott established were inadequately stocked, too far apart, and often poorly marked, which made them very difficult to find. Because they were continually low on fuel to melt snow, everyone became dehydrated. Making things worse was Scott's last-minute decision to take along a fifth man, even though they had prepared enough supplies only for four.

After covering a grueling eight hundred miles in 10 weeks, Scott's exhausted group finally arrived at the South Pole on January 17, 1912. There they found the Norwegian flag flapping in the wind and a letter from Amundsen. The other well-led team had beaten them to their goal by more than a month!

As bad as their trip to the Pole was, that isn't the worst part of their story. The trek back was horrific. Scott and his men were starving and suffering from scurvy. But Scott, unable to navigate to the very end, was oblivious to their plight. With time running out and desperately low on food, Scott insisted that they collect thirty pounds of geological specimens to take back--more weight to be carried by the wornout men.

Their progress became slower and slower. One member of the party sank into a stupor and died. Another, Lawrence Oates, was in terrible shape. The former army officer, who had originally been brought along to take care of the ponies, had frostbite so severe that he had trouble going on. Because he believed he was endangering the team's survival, it's said that he purposely walked out into a blizzard to relieve the group of himself as a liability. Before he left the tent and headed out into the storm, he said, "I am just going outside; I may be some time."

Scott and his final 2 team members made it only a little farter north before giving up. The return trip had already taken 2 months, and still they were 150 miles from their base camp. There they died. We kno w their story only because they spent their last hours writing in their diaries. Some of Scott's last words were these: "We shall die like gentlemen. I think this will show that the Spirit of pluck and power to endure has not passed out of our race."

Followers need leaders able to effectively navigate for them. When they're facing lfe and death situations, the necessity is painfully obvious. But, even when consequences aren't as serious, the need is just as great. The truth is that nearly anyone can steer the ship, but it takes aleader to chart the course. That is the Law of Navigation.

The fact remains that Amundsen's party had better equipment, better clothing, had a clearer recognition of the primary task, understood dogs and their handling, used ski effectively, pioneered an entirely new route to the Pole and they returned.

In Amundsen's own words:
"I may say that this is the greatest factor -- the way in which the expedition is equipped -- the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order -- luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck."

--from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen.

Lastly, Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course!!!!

So, put your heart and soul to chart the course for your team.

Good Requirements should be Implementation free.

I noticed that many times when the requirements are communicated to us, it tends to tell us the "solution" or "how it should be implemented", rather than really what are the problems customers want to be solved, what they are facing, and what they are currently doing about them.

Hopefully, the requirement gathering process can be enhanced. Most of the people in the our team are able to come out with solutions (great one!!!) given the problems. This is what we are training ourselves to be - to find great solutions to problems. And this is what we work hard for!!!!!

Implementation free. The requirement states what is required, not how the requirement should be met. A requirement statement should not reflect a design or implementation nor should it describe an operation. However, the treatment of interface requirements is generally an exception. Got from this site -

Just some food for thought!

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Starbucks Experiences

Photo Courtesy of

First of all, I am a Coffee Lover! I cannot live without coffee.

Recently, I began to notice that I was visiting Starbucks more often than its competitors . In fact , it is like 10 times to 1. ( Coffee Bean, Gloria Jean, San Francisco) . Honestly speaking, I prefer San Francisco's and Coffee Bean's coffee more than Starbuck. But why am I choosing to go to Starbucks - the answer is, it is the most convenient. Just less than 3 km from my house, there is a Starbucks. Everywhere I go, every shopping malls I visit, I see Starbucks. It is like San Francisco , Coffee Bean and Gloria Jean is fading...into unknown. Some more , just noticed that 2 of the Gloria Jean's shop has been closed down. San Francisco seems never have any new stores .

Anyway, I love to go to Starbucks to do my work or even blogging. It kinda has a culture that welcome you to go there and do your work with your notebook, sits there for hours (my record is up to 5 hours). It also provides you with extension cable in case the cable point is not enough. At one Starbucks, I saw all the overlapped cables on the floor. Pretty Messy sight! But , hey, nobody seems to mind.

And there is a new bestsellers book on Starbuck!!! (see below). Haven't read this but hope can read someday (when I finish all the books that I have bought for past 1 month. A little bit slow in reading nowadays due to the hectic schedule.)

Next, come to the latest Starbucks gossip about the the email of the Chairman that leaked out for all to see.

Starbucks chairman warns of "the commoditization of the Starbucks experience"
Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz wrote this to CEO Jim Donald earlier in Feb. The memo's authenticity has been confirmed by Starbucks.

Below is the email.

From: Howard SchultzSent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 10:39 AM Pacific Standard TimeTo: Jim DonaldCc: Anne Saunders; Dave Pace; Dorothy Kim; Gerry Lopez; Jim Alling; Ken Lombard; Martin Coles; Michael Casey; Michelle Gass; Paula Boggs; Sandra Taylor
Subject: The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience

As you prepare for the FY 08 strategic planning process, I want to share some of my thoughts with you.
Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.

Many of these decisions were probably right at the time, and on their own merit would not have created the dilution of the experience; but in this case, the sum is much greater and, unfortunately, much more damaging than the individual pieces. For example, when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista. This, coupled with the need for fresh roasted coffee in every North America city and every international market, moved us toward the decision and the need for flavor locked packaging. Again, the right decision at the right time, and once again I believe we overlooked the cause and the affect of flavor lock in our stores. We achieved fresh roasted bagged coffee, but at what cost? The loss of aroma -- perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we had in our stores; the loss of our people scooping fresh coffee from the bins and grinding it fresh in front of the customer, and once again stripping the store of tradition and our heritage? Then we moved to store design. Clearly we have had to streamline store design to gain efficiencies of scale and to make sure we had the ROI on sales to investment ratios that would satisfy the financial side of our business. However, one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee. You certainly can't get the message from being in our stores. The merchandise, more art than science, is far removed from being the merchant that I believe we can be and certainly at a minimum should support the foundation of our coffee heritage. Some stores don't have coffee grinders, French presses from Bodum, or even coffee filters.

Now that I have provided you with a list of some of the underlying issues that I believe we need to solve, let me say at the outset that we have all been part of these decisions. I take full responsibility myself, but we desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it's time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience. While the current state of affairs for the most part is self induced, that has lead to competitors of all kinds, small and large coffee companies, fast food operators, and mom and pops, to position themselves in a way that creates awareness, trial and loyalty of people who previously have been Starbucks customers. This must be eradicated.

I have said for 20 years that our success is not an entitlement and now it's proving to be a reality. Let's be smarter about how we are spending our time, money and resources. Let's get back to the core. Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others. We source and buy the highest quality coffee. We have built the most trusted brand in coffee in the world, and we have an enormous responsibility to both the people who have come before us and the 150,000 partners and their families who are relying on our stewardship.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge all that you do for Starbucks. Without your passion and commitment, we would not be where we are today.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Using website to generate business for you

1. Be a customer ourselves first
If we are selling any product, we should be the first customers to really use the product for us to understand the painful or pleasant experience. From there, we also know how to enhance the product (if we are building the product on our own) or look for another products to sell If the product really sucks.

2. Keep your website up-to-date
A good website need to be constantly updated and the contents are fresh. A outdated website does not really look too professional and customers will not trust the information. One indication is the announcements and news in the website, which should be updated constantly. Not good to show the latest news in the website is last year January.

3. Constant communication with current and potential customers through newsletter, mailing list, announcements/promotion, etc.
A good website should collect and build up their mailing list and constantly communicate to this list, sending information on promotions, news, etc. that can prompt customers to come to your website or even buy things from you.
Also, the content is important. Make it look very nice and informational and customers will not hate you for that, even though the information is not useful for them or they would not really buy the products. A good content make the customers believe in your service and your company, even though they are not your customers yet. For e.g., Dell also always constantly have product promotions on their website. It gives a good reason to visit the website again and again to learn about new promotions.

4. Ability to impress customers
I am impressed with website with good & clean design, especially with some flash. I believe sometimes customer buy the products not because of clear logical reasons (do not think they will do a win-loss analysis on the products before they buy them) but because of their feeling (or psychological reason) about the product. Thus, we cannot underestimate the ability of website being able to impress people.

5. Good website is searchable
Need to make sure the website is searchable in major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, and you name it!) and also get listed in some local directories like Yellow Pages, Marketplace, or even some specific target communities like expatriate website.

6. Target industries
You should know your target industries of your product, in order to know which channel you should market your product.
Related to the earlier point, if you are in fine dining business, you need to put up your website and get listed in the website for expatriate, searchable in search engine, so that people can find out more information on your restaurants (foods, locations, etc.) and this will increase sales! (Although u might not know why more customers start coming to your restaurant, maybe is WOM or maybe it is your website)

Sunday, 11 March 2007

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Relationship With Your Spouse

Inspired by The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership written by John Maxwell, I decided to try my luck to write The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Relationship with Your Spouse.

Would want to make the title simpler, like The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Love but Love is very general and what I would want to touch is the love between you and your other half.

To start, you need to think about relationship with your spouse as something beautiful, something unique for just the two of you. Each of you are unique in your own way. You can be two very different persons in certain things, and can be very similar in same ways.

How you two intertwine with each others in a world full of obstacles and temptations? How you two learn to compromise, accept and respect each others despite your differences? How you two can live happily ever after?

That is what I am going (or try) to tell you in the 21 Laws. :) . Let's get started!

P/S : I am not really a pro in this matter. I just got inspired by one of the animation that I really like.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Relationship With Your Spouse. Rule No. 1: Laws of True Self

Show your true self to the one you love, for only your true lovers will love you as what you really are, not what you will pretend to be.Everyone also has weaknesses that are hidden to the outside world. One primary reason for people to hide is the fear of rejection. Only when you are brave enough to show your true self, then you are ready to be loved.

In front of others, you can be elegant, knowledgable, and pretty.....:)

In fact, you may be a plain Janes (same person)....maybe without the make-up, the nice clothes, the contact lenses.

And at times, you can be quite "ugly" and "disgusting"........:)

But, you have to show it all . Be brave, be spontaneous and be yourself! Your spouse (or meant to be) will love you as you are!

Knowing yourself and acknowledging your weaknesses is the first step to improve yourself and be a better person.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Importance of SMART Monitoring on Data

Today, we have an incident where our customer sent us 20,000 ++ files to our server and this caused the disk space and DB tablespace to be full. This also affected other customers and we used up around 2 manpower to recover the problem.

In fact, only around 200 files are expected from this customer per day. The number reached 20K because of some issues that either happened at customer's system or our software problem.


If our system is SMART enough, it should flag out a warning because 200 vs. 20,000 is HUGE difference - almost 100 times the original numbers.

If we are SMART enough, we should develop the system that is SMART enough the flag out the warning and prevent the headache and the lost of 2 man-days,and lost of focus.

If we are SMART enough, we should also LEARN from this incidents and do something to prevent this.

That's if we are SMART enough. :)

Footnote: Actually, it is not we are not SMART enough, we just do not have the time and energy to do that. But then, we are still not SMART enough to overcome the lack of time and energy to deliver!!

"In the midst on anxiety, she chattered away."

My review and reflection for The Garden of Words

I just watched this short animation work from Makoto Shinkai. I had previously watched his grand hit 'Your Name' and absolutely fel...