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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lead by Action - Walk the Talk

I was in Shanghai around 1 year plus when HR approached me to be one of the facilitators to evangelise the new process-driven way of looking at supply chains.

You know how it is. Previously, each player in the total supply chain will have their own "silo mentality" and corresponding KPIs - which sometimes do conflict with one another.

The left hand may not be always talking to the right hand.

So here we come as agents of change evangelising the new gospel that's emanating from the Head Cathedral in Sweden.

What's the new unifying KPI? 

It's availability at the selling floor from the customer's perspective.

In each class, there will be participants from different organisations and functions within Shanghai - Retail, Transport, Distribution, Trading, Shared Services (accounting, admin, etc).

You know what? In my first class of 15 participants, 4 giggly young girls from Accounts at Shared Services walked in nonchalantly 5 minutes late.

Yup, I started my workshop on the dot sharp as stated in the agenda.

I sent these 4 girls packing.

My parting words to these 4 girls and to the stunned class:

"Now you know from first hand experience what's the essence of availability at the selling floor from the customer's perspective."

It was a calculated gamble.

And it paid off.

After the workshop, the "news" spread like wild fire. It has never occurred before in any of the Shanghai organisations before.

Immediately, I got a complaint email from the furious manager (local mainland Chinese) of the Accounts girls. LOL!

HR, and all the expat facilitators who done the workshops before me all poked fun at me and patted my back in congratulations. 

Yes, I am the boy who pointed out the Emperor has no clothes...

Oh! What happened to the the manager that complain against me? Well, HR and his boss (non-mainland Chinese) have a good talk with him on leadership in a Swedish MNC...

When I do change management, I start at the serpent's head and work my way down to the tail.



  1. SMOL,

    You must be feeling very smug after the incident, ya? Good that you have your boss' support.

    Not so easy when your boss is singing a different tune. Sigh.

    1. S-Reit System Investor,

      Au contraire!

      I left out a lot of the juicy and fun stuffs....

      When there's a "strategic change", its not just a KPI or mindset change...

      Let's see:

      1) The individual trading fiefdoms of Taipei, Shanghai, Xiamen, and Wuhan were group under one umbrella as "Trading Central China" not so long ago.

      2) The Retail head office in Beijing has just been relocated to Shanghai to be under "one roof" in Shanghai with the other organisations. Not everyone accepted the move and left the company...

      3) King-pin Transport was on it's transition be to "grouped" under Distribution.

      4) I am officially under the payroll of Distribution Singapore and was seconded to Trading Central China as a "free" resource.

      5) I sit in Shanghai and my dotted line report in Trading Central China was sitting in Taipei who is having her own "political" battle with her Shanghai counterpart - that's what happen when former colleagues become boss/subordinate by fiat decree. LOL!

      6) The Shanghai counterpart was feeling threaten by my presence and kept trying to "push" me to Xiamen office to be the Operations Manager there.

      7) And yes, unknown to most of my Singaporean colleagues, the Singapore Asia Pacific office will be relocated to Shanghai....

      Smug? It's survival!


  2. Don't worry. The grasshopper had his Boss as a factor too in his calculations.

    1. temperament,

      I wish!

      12 months later, Trading made me an offer to join them. I turned down a promotion to the new Distribution organisation in Shanghai.

      Trading was more fun ;)

      Retail is about buying and selling. I sell Supply Chain but I never forgot my retailing and purchasing roots!

      I'm a snake-oil salesman remember?

      P.S. Younger corporate warriors reading here, you may want to reflect on
      this mismatch of expectations between boss and hired-hand:

      If we expect our boss to "support" or "help us" in order for us to achieve anything, pray tell why we were hired in the first place?

      If you are in a leadership position, would you hire a dog and do the barking yourself?

      Good help is so hard to find!!!

  3. Wow, I better don't be late for your next talk. Heng, I was early that day :D

    1. B,

      I always poke my trading teams when they arrive late at our suppliers.

      What moral authority do we have to expect our suppliers to deliver on-time when we ourselves do not live up to what we preach?

      Of course, must do it with tact, humour, and carry a big stick called "consequences" behind my back ;)

    2. You can be late, but make sure you are model lookalike Mei Mei! Haha

    3. Rolf,

      I gather you are into Lin Chi-Ling?

      Not bad for a 40 years young hor?

      Free next time I would share some of my cultural shocks and funny moments while in Shanghai and Athens.

      When work is fun, every hour is happy hours!

    4. Lin Chi-Ling... Eeeee... can't stand the way she talk... But she like to catch u by surprise sometimes...

      Yes. Work is dead & boring, it's people who can make them fun!

  4. Hi SMOL,

    Just want to know at that point, have u reached ff? What gave u the courage to do this? :) the reason for your action is more interesting to me :)

    1. LP,

      I was hopping you would ask ;)

      I moved to Shanghai at 37 end of 2003; and no, I've not reached financial freedom yet.

      Since "ah kong" paid pretty much most of everything, I was able to save around 70% of my salary during my 4 years in Shanghai and 3 years in Athens.

      So I was pretty much in cash when 2009 came and I went shopping (with size) from Sept 2009 onwards. That's how I became financially free ;)

      Lucky or what?

      As for courage, I must attest to Confucius' wisdom!

      At 30, I found my "square hole"; before this company, I never stayed longer than 5 years in a single company - 三十而立。

      At 36, I became enlighten to how the corporate world really works - 四十不惑。

      Confidence and courage comes from knowing my craft. Even though I have no ABCs behind my name, I know I can carry my own weight in a team environment ;)

      A little something from the grasshopper to the butterfly:

      Wisdom comes from knowing when to sacrifice my time with the 99 mediocre underlings for that 1 exceptional prodigy; and when to let go the 1 prodigal to secure the success of the other 99 true hearts.


    2. Hi SMOL,

      Thanks for the long and detailed reply :)

      Confidence and courage do indeed come from the mastery of one's craft. This reminds me of an incident back in my uni days. Was taking an exam but I saw that the question is wrong. The question is to prove some results and I knew that the question cannot be done because the question is wrong. I told the examiner and they promptly ask my lecturer, who is also the setter of the paper, to come. He didn't listen to me, or couldn't, and insisted that I should just carry on doing.

      Well, I couldn't. So I wrote on my script that the question is wrong, and proceeded to write my own question, answer it and submit it. On hindsight, it was a bit impetuous on my part, but I know my craft enough to challenge any authority, whether he's my lecturer or not.

      I'm sure you are well trained enough to react accordingly if the gambit didn't pay off. You certainly didn't plan for this to happen but your skills at such ad-hoc things must have made you confident enough to listen to your instincts :)

      Thanks for your sharing :) I like that paragraph. I listen, I hear and I will practice it :)

  5. Lead by Action - Walk the Talk?

    Hmm ... Likely not applicable for investors education or training.

    Lead by Action?

    Did you really see real actions?

    Talk the Talk nia.

    1. CW,

      That's why you must come out to share your experiences!

      We need more hobbyist bloggers without hidden agendas to walk the talk :)

  6. Hi SMOL,

    Reminds me of a Customer Service course I attended where the instructor will pick on the late comers. Anyway, we sort of reach a general consensus that the Top Management should be attending this course instead of ka kias like me. His parting word of advice for me is to leave the company. LOL

    1. Derek,


      Nothing shouts Customer Service better when top management practice Management by Walking Around ;)

      A smile. A handshake. A greeting how are you? How's your family doing?

      When staff are motivated (management cares and sees me); this motivation will rub off to customers ;)

      And please not those "fake" walk around like those "pre-arranged" ones that Prince William and Princess saw during their tour of Alexandra Canal Park sometime back...

  7. Hi SMOL,

    Perhaps another reason why the girls were red carded is because they are not the "4 beauties of China"! LOL.

    Corporate world, entrepreneur driven world is all total different ballgame. You did it the right way!

    1. Rolf,

      There are not the 4 beauties of China, but ahem.

      Heard of "Youth is Capital"?

      Luckily, there were more drop dead hubba-hubba jie-jies in Shanghai.

      I am more into jie-jie like Taiwan's 謝金燕 ;)

      I prefer someone whom I can talk to.

      Mei-mei I leave them to you!

    2. Bingo.. U already confess why you send them off... Haha

      Thanks i will create a separate class same schedule to take all the late comers! Haha..

  8. wah small girl you ask them to FO but if 4 big strong men you probably say something else.

    correct? did you know you were in foreign land!

    1. coconut,

      But of course!

      If they are 4 strong burly men, I would say:

      "Lao da! You all must have a hard time finding this place.

      Come! Please sit down.

      Anyone wants to have a drink first?

      How about a char shao bao?"


      I can "angkat" with the best of them!

      I am dumb; but I not stupid!!!

    2. coconut,

      My mom saved me some kopi money last night...

      When S&P broke down with the dismal durable goods figure, I was so tempted to short the Simsci. But mom shouted at me to go to sleep lah and stop playing with my notebook :(

      So I went to sleep thinking maybe this morning can short at the pre-opening. I good mama boy mah.


      Who knew MAS would also join the game of surprising the market with easing too?

      STI not easy to play these few weeks leh.....

    3. i have enough of the S&P already, lately the market volatility is keeping me very busy and i'm worn out by the time the US open.

      talk about currency, i almost shorted the Euro 1 week ago before the news when it was at 1.18.. ch.. b....miss it!!

    4. i'm no longer interested in any long on asset but i'm not in hurry to short them yet. the market can get crasy but when it does go down, i can't wait to see what happen!

      there is gonna be a lot of "blood on the street".

    5. coconut,

      Hee hee. I think I go for my wanton noodles Nothing to do today for me.

      I'll wait for the FOMC minutes to see whether I can add to my long USD positions (or trim them)...

      You take care now. We are no spring chickens. Don't wear yourself out. Wait your missus very "boring" with the non-action ;)



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