Monday, April 04, 2016

Lessons from Batman vs Superman - Know your Enemy. Fight the Right War.

This post was first published on:

Spoiler alert. 

If saving lives and keeping villains behind bars were their calling, why would two superheroes pitch a war against each other? A large part of the reason why I decided to watch the movie was to find out the reason why. The other part, of course, is because of Batman (never mind that the Director prefers Superman). Suffice to say, the suspense generated by the epic battle was a great movie-seller but to think of it, such "wars" happen to our team and organisations from time to time.

In a nutshell, the movie sets itself in the aftermath of the destructive battle between Superman and General Zod (in the prequel Man of Steel) which left Metropolis in ruins. Batman saw Superman as a potential threat to humanity, and was manipulated by Lex Luthor to firm up his perception. Superman, realising Batman's actions, also viewed him as a threat. When both heroes realised they were not each other's enemy, they were confronted with a larger monster to deal with. After the victory, Batman and Wonder Woman set forth in their search for other superheroes to form the Justice League.

Whether the "war", silent or pronounced, takes place between the veterans and the freshies, the newly recruited Manager and subordinates who would have thought their career progression opportunity just got stolen. Left unaddressed, the energy spent by team members to engage in mini-"wars" among themselves will leave the team high and dry when the real "war" (think opportunity or crisis) comes by.

Forge Healthy Mental Models with Open Communication 
Amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily operational work, data can sometimes be hived up within a department or a work team, with the others oblivious to it. This is especially so when the team feels that the new data only concerns the team itself. For instance, a suspected increase in request for logistics support, due to a competitor suffering from downtime issues, might seem like data critical for the logistics department but the Human Resources department could have benefited from more lead time to respond to possible needs for contract drivers and overtime budgeting. In the absence of data and information, work teams can develop unhealthy mental models about one another.

Open Communication is, thus, crucial in forging healthy mental models within work teams and between teams. Besides promoting an open organisational culture and keeping one another in the loop via email ccs,these are some ways to encourage open communication:

  1. Ensure there is sufficient time allocated at each team meetings for each member to be engaged in discussing the bigger picture, besides their operational updates. Use the check-in/check-out method to facilitate such discussions which often produce gems. 
  2. Listen from the rank-and-file and the frontline staff. My experience working with unionised blue collar workers tells me that at the company canteen and at the shop floor, informal conversations thrive and data sometimes get pieced into very useful trends. 
What gets actually measured gets actually done 
Employees are driven by KPIs, and passion. No performance appraisal is perfect but spending organisational time and resources to conduct appraisal exercises only to subject it to be overriden by personal bias is counterintuitive.

When team members find that the listed KPIs are just to legitimise the appraisal process, they will soon determine what actually gets measured and gravitate their work correspondingly. In most cases, this leads to a contest of face-time with the boss (including staying back late in office and leaving after the boss does), and pleasing the boss (ultimately leading to groupthink and poor team cohesiveness).

While the other extreme of strict adherence to KPIs is not beneficial as well, organisations would need to find a balance on transparency and managing expectations.

Service Excellence with Team Excellence 
When your client lodges a complaint on your team member, how you respond as a team leader can affect team morale. Do you prioritise your external stakeholders' (clients, shareholders) interest above your internal ones (employees)?

I once came across a hardworking employee who works stealthily. His hard work was not as appreciated as employees who received compliments from customers. As a result, he submitted compliments to his company using his clients' names. He soon got a raise.

There can be established guidelines on handling complaints and feedback against employees but the team leader's attitude towards unproven, unverified claims can matter more than the final outcome.

I am eager for the sequel to the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Meanwhile, identify your Lex Luthor in your enterprise and may you build a strong Justice League!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating SG49 with the Community

Enjoyed a week's holiday in Vietnam and flew back just in time for National Day celebrations! At Changi Airport's Duty Free Shop, I wished the cashier a Happy National Day and she gave me the widest smile.

Took a quick shower and rushed to Eunos Community Club (CC) for the annual Eunos National Day Observance Ceremony. It is the first time in history that the National Day Parade is screened live at the CC and my first time emceeing on National Day.

The event kicked off with a performance by Tosh and Wei Liang, actors in the "Ah Boys to Men" movie, but not before a cool wefie.

The wefie uploaded by Tosh on his instagram

This is how it begun

To have war?

Immediately after the performance, National Day Parade was telecasted live at the hall. It was a touching moment when the founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew was on screen. All of us broke out in cheers and applause together with the many Singaporeans who were at the Floating Platform. 

And I guess singing National Anthem just gets more emotional each year for me, realising how blessed Singaporeans are in a safe, clean and green country, a small island that shines brightly in the international realm.

A segment of NDP 2014 acknowledged the workers of various professions and their contributions in nation building. For a moment, I thought that was a Labour Movement event. Nevertheless, it was a great showcase and recognition of the contributions made by workers of various collars.

And it coincided well with Prime Minister's message on recognising individuals based on their "skills, contributions and character" and not just educational qualifications.

Looking forward to National Day Rally!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Beautiful Sun and Sea at Cô Tô Island

5-7 August 2014

Situated in Quang Ninh Province of Vietnam, the Cô Tô archipelago comprises about 50 islets, including the Cô Tô Island and Thanh Lan Island we visited.

Getting to the island from Hanoi requires a 5-hour bus ride and a 1.5 hour ferry journey. Lots of touts and hagglers at the bus terminal. Fascinating marketplace of buses and passengers amidst the chaotic traffic flow. The long distance buses pick up passengers from any spot along the journey.

My Dinh Bus Terminal in Hanoi

First Challenge: Walking the Plank

Co To Island was only plugged onto the national power grid since 2013, but wireless internet had been made available since 2012. All households also have access to digital TV via satellite. The tourism is largely driven by local visitors. There aren't many cars around and there are no taxis. While locals travel by bikes, tourists commute around via electric carts or bicycles.

We bunked in at Starlight Lodge, which looked like a tram carriage. The carriage can be towed towards inland during stormy weathers.

Safety pins for snail meal

Bonfire by the waters

Timely wefie with Buffalo

Lots of development projects ongoing around Co To island. The local government actively encourages the local populace to adopt new ideas to promote tourism. This includes converting houses to homestay hotels, like the following house located at a land previously used as a poultry farm.

A random house

Cows and the green pastures

Some photos at Co To Lodge, a colourful and romantic place to stay at:


And this is how it looks like at night, with pleasant English music

The late Ho Chi Minh visited the island and gave the approval for the one and only statue to be built after him when he was still alive.

Uncle Ho's statue overlooking the sea. A temple to worship the revered leader is in the vicinity.

A construction site with the wharf in the background

Beautiful rock formation at Cầu Mỵ:

Photo with Mr Nguyen Duc Thanh, Secretary of the Co To district Party Committee, Chairman of Co To district People's Committee

A resting spot for visitors down the cliff

A 15-minute ferry ride brought us to Thanh Lan Island, which is a far more quiet place. The island is occupied by military camps, where tourists can experience life as a soldier for a day.

Jellyfish farm

The beautiful and serene beaches are a relaxing spot for visitors.

Photo with Chairman of Thanh Lan People's Committee

Probably the Cutest Dog on the island

That weighing scale

The moon shines bright

Okie, time to pack and leave

Market at the the central

Zzz along the bus journey back to Hanoi

Friday, July 18, 2014

Singapore could probably host a Football match between Bangladesh and Guam. Read on to find out these interesting coupling of FIFA Country Codes

Ya, I know World Cup 2014 is over. I am but a non-football enthusiast who gets intrigued by disciplined Tiki Taka-styled football and probably would just tune in to Germany matches (and Singapore's if we ever make it to World Cup...) once in 2 years (think Euro).

While the whole world was shocked by the punishing score of 1-7 of BRA-GER, I was actually amused by the FIFA Country Codes of these two nations. How apt for BRAzil and GERmany to be associated.

And so I read the list of FIFA Country Codes and discovered more amusing couplings. Check them out:

COL-BRA (Cobra) : Colombia vs Brazil

ARM-BAN : Armenia vs Bangladesh 

Hai–BRB : Haiti vs Barbados
And you know you messaged at the wrong time. 

COM-DOM : Comoros vs Dominican Republic 
(Image is censored)

FIN-EST : Finland vs Estonia 

VIR-USA - US Virgin Islands vs United States of America

IND-FRA : India vs France 

CAN-LIE : Canada vs Liechtenstein 

MAD-SAM : Madagascar vs Samoa 

BAN-GUM : Bangladash vs Guam 
Singapore might be happy to host the match

MAR-VEN : Morocco vs Venezuela 
The battle of the Men of Mars and Women of Venus

NAM-BER : Namibia vs Bermuda  

POR-NOR : Portugal vs Norway 
(Please click here to verify you are above 18)

SWE-SUI : Sweden vs Switzerland
The Swee (Pretty) meets the Sway (Unlucky)

COK-CUB : Cook Islands vs Cuba 

CHA-KOR (Charcoal) : Chad vs South Korea 

PUR-PLE : Puerto Rico vs Palestine
Purple Light in the Valley, that is where, I want to be...

WAL-RUS : Wales vs Russia