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.