Are Malaysian Business Owners and Managers Ready to Trust? (Part 1)


The word above inspires a lot in people, either in the context of relationships or in the context of this article, the trust between employer and employee.

trustIt is a constant tussle of wits between Management and their subordinate Staff about the concept of trust, either one wants more of the same from the other and although they try to meet in the middle on this contentious issue, it always falls short. When staff ask for more empowerment, it will typically be met by Management with half-hearted ideas or initiatives that sometimes seem more buy-in and trivial than revolutionary and career-changing; but when management seemingly gives a bit more breathing room, the tendency for the staff to take advantage and abuse them is equally just as high. 

So the inherent question this article is looking to address is…are we ready to trust?

I just finished Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now, and I was taken aback by the case study of the American company, Morning Star. The level of self-management employed by Morning Star is just simply mind-blowing but it is a sobering reality to me that with the Generation Y in the workforce and Millennial kids reaching their graduation dates soon, this form of self-management work style is very suited for this generation’s self-inflicted need for independence and personal destiny in determining their career direction & futures. 

Is Self-Management the next phase of the ever changing management paradigm? Is it even relevant in Asia or Malaysia?

The Argument for Management & Why They cannot TRUST yet…

Before we can even go into the topic of Self-Management or other revolutionary & innovative forms of management, we need to take a good hard look in the mirror to see whether Asia (Malaysia in particular as my clients are typically Malaysian MNCs) is ready these forms of new management styles. As a lifelong fan of the Star Wars Trilogy (NEVER the prequels!), we always remember what Yoda mentions in the Empires Strikes Back that FEAR is the route and cause to stalk down the road to the Dark Side of the Force; thus it is similar to our current management climate, it is the fear of the unknown and the fear of letting go. 

The Fear of the Unknown

When I was a young boy, I was never the same adventurous person I am today as I was quite the chicken little boy. One day after dinner when I was 5 years old, my Dad tried introducing me to the banana (the fruit mind you!) and I refused which resulted in a chase around the house with me crying, kicking and screaming when he finally caught me but when I took one reluctant bite of the fruit, I realised it was pretty good. If this metaphor does not set the tone for the rest of this paragraph, I cannot think of any other loaded phrases to use to get my point across!

My point is very simple, we fear the unknown because we do not know the outcome of embracing new management styles such as self-management, even though proven initiatives such as flex-working hours and a company CSR program to engage the social entrepreneurial spirit has worked in the past but is look upon with disdain and derision. Its natural self-preservation and completely human as the status quo always feels like the proverbial safety blanket but in order for us to move into the next phase of Management 2.0 or even 3.0; especially when Generation Y finally takes over with the Millenials jumping unto the bandwagon, we cannot to be the ostrich hiding its head in the sand hoping it will all pass. 

Because ONE simple, inalienable truth must be said, MARKETS ARE UNFORGIVING and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We have all seen the already passé trends like social media engagement & marketing strategies, the rise of the mobile freelance workforce (Hint: Read the $100 Startup book!), the increasing proliferation of shared wikis of knowledge and collaboration between small portable SMEs with mobile assets to can be moved around at will to cater to changing market forces. If current brick’n’mortar companies are not ready for this future, they will start to fall behind, it is already happening in the US where the traditional BIG corporations are suffering from lagging sales due to the heavy investments and capital expenditure in infrastructure to cater to their inflated product ranges, and charging into the fore are small tech companies backed by Venture Caps that can move around the markets with ease due to their tech-savvyness and ability to offer or retract a very focused user-centric product & in the long run; merge and collaborate with lateral competitors or partners. 

Case in point, take the example of Facebook’s USD 1  billion acquisition of Instagram, no one in their right mind in the 80s would have anticipated an acquisition of this magnitude from a company that produces a camera smartphone app that just degrades pics to make it look sepia and retro then sharing it on Twitter or Facebook (or everyone’s favourite pastime, taking pics of food!). Instagram created a product that was very user-centric, that catered to the needs and narcism of the mass app market, it was only the most logical choice to make for Mark Zuckerberg to get his paws on it. In the past, a billion dollar would have gotten you a huge manufacturing facility with heavy machinery investments, large payrolls of employees and tons of sinking costs and now all you get is a simple upload of a few million lines of code which is mobile, customisable and be integrated seamlessly in the social media fabric and the bad news, you ultimately can’t do that with your 50 acre factory. 

Stop fearing and start embracing new methods of leadership, HR & management, finally open your hearts and minds to the younger generation to hear what they can do to help your organisation move into the next phase of life. 

In the next part of this article, we will discuss the spectre of the Fear of Letting Go and how I will share a wonderful self-management methodology based on a very excellent facilitation tool. 

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