I’m Still Learning


For the best part of last week, I was at Politeknik Tuanku Sultanah Bahiyah conducting a course in strategic management for a bunch of Heads of Departments from various other polytechnics. At first, the assignment seemed like any other assignment: deliver the content, make sure that the content gets across, and get out of Dodge. In a way, things went down the way I had expected them to. But I hadn’t counted on meeting the most interesting group of participants I had ever come across – a least, not from a group that at first blush looked like a random sampling taken from a pool of the most tired and disillusioned of civil servants.

At tea, when most of them hadn’t yet known that I was the facilitator, I heard comments like, “This is a waste of time”, “Doesn’t the Government know other ways of throwing money down the drain?” or “Let’s just get this over and done with so we can go back to our departments and rot”. Frankly, at that point I seriously considered packing it all in and heading for home. This was going to be a particularly difficult group. Resistance was high and I was certain that I wasn’t going to be met with open minds.

But I bit the bullet and put myself through the paces. After I dismantled the mystique and misconceptions surrounding strategic management, and distilling it to its very essence (Where are we? Where are we going? How will we get there?), the atmosphere had changed. I was no longer faced with a group that thinly veiled their contempt but instead, was pleasantly surprised to detect a sense of quiet but urgent inquiry in the air.

By the time I had taken the group through the finer points of McKinsey’s 7S Framework, Porter’s Five Forces, SWOT analysis and the rudiments of change management, I hardly recognised the group anymore. It had taken a life of its own. What had been a rag-tag bunch of weary civil servants with massive chips on their shoulders had transformed itself into cogent team of professionals who were passionately dedicated to their jobs. Time and again, intricate and hotly debated discussions were launched following which, elegant strategies were formulated. It was refreshing to see a group so obviously and sincerely interested in what they can do for their organisation and not what it could do for them.

Morale of the story? I will never again dismiss anybody, or any group (even if they are civil servants) simply based what they initially had to say. You never know what actually lies underneath. Sometimes you just have to scratch the surface to find a wealth of wonder just waiting to be discovered. Secondly, the next time I find myself in what seems to be a hopeless situation, I shall make it a point to persevere. After all, the hopelessness may turn out to be only an illusion fuelled by my own insecurity and self-doubt.


Anyway, at the end of the course, after an almost tearful farewell, I headed for home. Somewhere just past the Rawang exit, I heard a muffled explosion. My left rear tyre had exploded and I was careening off the highway. I saw myself tumbling end-over-end into the ravine and exploding in a ball of fire like some bad guy in a Bond movie. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view), the car stopped just short of the edge of a ravine.

After regaining my composure, I whipped-out the spare tyre only to find that I had no tools with which to make a tyre change. So much for strategic management, eh? So, with my tail between my legs, I called PLUS and explained to them my embarrassing predicament. Lo and behold, within half an hour a PLUSRONDA truck arrived at the scene.

Without any fanfare, two gentlemen alighted, and after asking if I was all right, proceeded to change my tyre for me – free of charge! And before I could do or say anything, they politely thanked me for giving them the opportunity to be of service. How’s that for customer service! I think PLUS got it right when they hired these two gentlemen. They had class!

And by the way, so do you PLUS.


14 thoughts on “I’m Still Learning

  1. Akhirnya you tulis juga… Janganlah rehat lama sangat…So, you’re back in KL…nanti jumpa ek…


    Mana ada rehat? Keje macam lembu. Ok, nanti jumpa

  2. Cakap takap serupa bikin, bro? What if your students were to pass by… hey, isn’t that our strategic management guru? No worries, bro’, to err is McKinsey – oops! πŸ™‚

    Anyway, kudos to PLUS.

    By and large our civil service is generally okay. Only political meddling is what gives them a bad rap since they can’t do their jobs effectively.

    Good of you to accord them proper respect.

    Mat Salo

    Absolutely, bro: cakap tak serupa bikin! Dead embarrassing – and something as basic as not remembering to have the proper tool, too.

    Yes, I have overhauled by perception of the civil service. Civil servants are NOT the trouble-makers – the politicians are!

    And how about the tango club for old fogies as proposed by Cipan?

  3. Hold it Mat!PLUS just changed your tyre?Before that you described your car tumbling and exploding into a ball of flames macam dalam Bond movie! So yang mana ni?You kelentong and nak buat cerita a bit suspenseful ke…err James.. I mean Mat?Mat Bond??


    In the moments just before the car stopped short of the edge, I imagined I would perish in a ball of flames like a secondary Bond villain. It was that close!

    But here I am, alive and kicking; still able to create minor havoc like a good secondary Bond villain πŸ™‚

  4. Well Mr James Bond, you do strategic management? Wah, like that can teach me lar for free. Ok ka?

    Thank god your Aston Martin stopped in time… Kalau tak, takde chance I nak test drive your car… Heheheh!


    Strategic management? Sure! For you, my friend… anything!

    The Aston Martin is OK. But my Brioni suit is ruined and the rear-firing rocket launchers are a bit out of whack. Nothing Q can’t fix, though.

    (OK, M. I’ll be back in London, soon – just as soon as I sort out those riff-raffs who made Vesper turn on me)

  5. lucky i’m not a civil servant!

    kalau tidak, dunno how i’d feel about the even if in this:

    I will never again dismiss anybody, or any group (even if they are civil servants) πŸ˜‰


    Don’t worry about it, ma’am – just me being cynical.

    Anyway, I have overhauled my opinion about civil servants. In any case, we get dead-beats in the private sector, too, don’t we? Me, for instance?


  6. Welcome back. I thought you had given up on us..:)

    Perhaps you can enlighten me Mat B… how is it that we have so many uncivil civil servants? I have always wondered about this…

    Puteri Kamaliah

    No, ma’am – I hadn’t given upon anybody. Just that I was busy putting out a few fires that needed desperately to be put out. You know, to ensure I can continue to ‘cari makan’.

    But as Mat Salo quite rightly pointed out, its not the fault of the civil servants per se. They tend to go bonkers when the bureaucracy monster rears its ugly head (as it often does). Add to this the constant changes in policy brought about by politics, we have a recipe for accelerated burnout (or at least, big-time disillusionment).

  7. Sheesh, now I feel guilty for being cynical. My apologies. I should have screamed at the top of my lungs – Welcome Back!! – followed with a few steps of Foxtrot instead, to show my delight at your return… πŸ™‚

    Puteri Kamaliah

    Thank you.Good to be back, ma’am!

    However, due to neglect, I regret to report that my foxtrot has gone to the dogs – definitely something that must be remedied soon, tho.

  8. Well James,
    Aston Martin, Brioni suit, Vesper-chick… What a life!

    Hey, our teh “shaken not stirred” tarik session is long overdue. Ah, forget the teh tarik. Lets have some vodka and gin πŸ™‚


    Vodka and gin? Ok, preferably both at the same time – and in large quantities!

  9. mat,

    for a deadbeat, you sure beat ’em civil servants dead at that strategic mgmt course! πŸ˜€


    What probably happened was that they met the grand daddy of deadbeats (who was conducting the course) and decided they weren’t having any of that – they then went on to turn a new leaf πŸ™‚

  10. Most times people come back from training all fired up to DO something.

    Most times their bosses dengan selamba will put out the fires …

    The smart ones pretend to their bosses that the training was good but we’re already doing most of it – and launch a guerilla war to bring about changes.


    I think (hope?) I’ve spawned a small group of guerrilla fighters. Though they were ‘gung-ho’ about it all, I could see in their eyes that they were considering the resistance they’d face once they got back. Let’s see what they actually do about it…

  11. Mat?Please promise that if ever your tyre needs changing,ask the PLUS ronda guy to take a photo of you pulak!I am sure everyone wants to see how Mat Bond looks like!Especially us, the Bond ladies!phweeet fiiuu!Posing lah sikit kat tayar pancit k?


    The last time someone took a photo of me, the camera broke!

  12. M.O.R.AL of the story…darling, minus the E.

    What I do feel here is the dry humour that is often missing when u look for it and present in light hearted touches throughout ur post. a morale booster…no less.

    Mat Salo sez to err is Mc Kinsey…I say thank god for the “undo” button.

    Enjoyed meeting u macha…as much as reading u.


    Hmmm… so that is how it should be spelled! Thanks, ma’am.

    And you called me ‘macha’? I very like!

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