Friday, 19 January 2018

Distilled thoughts on business & people management

There are many great articles out there, notably from Harvard Business Review and Inc.com, that talk about leadership and how to manage a business. I would say I am quite an amateur in terms of people and business management (as I only started taking on a managerial role in 2013). Regardless of where our core expertise lies - we can be our 'own shepherd', the entrepreneurs or in the corporate world climbing the career ladder, I would think that designing work processes and managing people are the two most important aspects to master.

Within the scope of people and business management, there are of course many sub-skills involved such as communication, marketing, strategic-thinking etc which could be multiple modules under any academic course and possibly years of experience at work to master.

Here I share some of my thoughts from articles, as well as personal experiences in context of business operations.


Work processes in business management

Systems, Standard Operating Procedures and policies

In big organizations, SOPs and policies are common place and at times even burdensome, But they are set up with good intention - to standardize (minimize disputes that can arise from different ways of doing things) and make work more productive. Devising and implementing SOPs was what I did as a manager. While doing so, it is always a challenge to balance between making work easier to do (by reducing the steps) and getting work done the right way (minimize error occurrence). Due to the fact that these SOPs and rules are not the most friendly things to read, most containing multiple pages almost like a textbook, operation staff often do not learn to appreciate them until something crops up. Say for instance, when someone broke a rule by not following the SOP and, as a result, caused a big mess or inconvenience to the team.

Over-reliance on IT

IT systems have undeniably made work much easier. over the years. However, at times when IT system fails us, we need to be prepared to handle the workload manually in a streamlined, organized manner and not be thrown into chaos. As much as we have expectation on IT functions improvement, we need to constantly improve on our contingency planning as well.

If a system makes work slower than when you do it manually (provided error-proof rate stays the same), then it is better off doing it manually. We don't need higher logic to conclude that.

Adopting the 6 S

There are many ways that can streamline work processes by reducing waste and working lean. What I particularly like is the 6 S.





People management

I believe that human (more than IT systems) is the greatest asset of a company. Hiring process can, therefore, make or break a company's culture. If you hire one person with the right skill sets and attitude for the job, it beats hiring three with skill misfit and problematic attitude. If you ask me, between attitude and aptitude which is more important?

My answer would be attitude. Without the right attitude, it is difficult to train and have the staff be accountable for his/her work responsibilities.


Next it comes to managing the people who are hired. Embracing diversity, leveraging on their strengths, promoting teamwork and effective communication are a few key elements to human resource management. People are not machines (even machines we need to press different buttons for different models in order for them to work), so we need to view and treat them as individuals with different potentials.


Be a leader, be a teacher

The best leader I have encountered is one who leads by example and who teaches without reservation.

Related image      Image result for lead by example


To sum up on how a leader should behave, a good leader would

  1. 对事不对人 (pinpoint on the matter, not the person) .
  2. not gossip and dabble in office politics.
  3. be fair, be firm and recognize that his/her job is not to please everybody.
  4. praise in public, criticise/ feedback in private. (Read related)


Some of these really come with practice and experience. Theory and practice can be quite different as in reality we will tend to be swayed by herd emotions.

Teaching without reservation may be just as difficult as being a role model. Not everyone has the ability to teach and not everyone has the motivation to learn. If you can learn and teach well (better still, be a motivating teacher) that should make you quite respectable. Which brings me to the next point on "empowerment of people through training".


Empowerment through training

An organization cannot advance when employees don't keep up with changes and refresh their skills through training. When a boss complains that the employee is not performing up to expectation or is always not sure of what to do, the root cause could be a lack of training. As one complains that work is up to the neck but team member XYZ is not of the capacity to help, ponder again if there is a lack of empowerment through training.

Sometimes a subordinate may not know what he/she does not know. Having a duty list and training checklist for the person would be good to ensure that he/she understands the scope of duty and learn what he/she is expected to know. As for which is the best method of training? I am afraid that is beyond the scope of this post.


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I shall reflect upon the above periodically in my course of work and come back to revisit once in a while if there are more points to add on. :)

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