April 17th, 2007

A virtue never tested is no virtue at all


viaTom Peters

Billy Bragg was coming through my car speakers singing, “A virtue never tested is no virtue at all.” That pretty much summed up the two coaching sessions I had just completed. Both of the leaders I have been coaching have been identified as high potential candidates for the executive team.

June 29th, 2006

“You sux!” vs “You sux! :-)”

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In an electronic text communication media, much of the facial and vocal expression are not immediately obvious. The way you say “You sux” with the appropriate facial expression could be meaning apart.

It is not surprising that people dont communicate as well as they think on email. And if you do click on the link, you can see what I mean when I say academics like to turn a simple answer “No” into 12 page paper with over 100 citations. :-)

It is also not surprising that emoticons like “:-) and :-P” is not just fun little things teenagers and kids do but also serve to cover the emotion/expression gaps in the email communications.

That it also helps to prevent misunderstanding is perhaps something we should encourage not just on personal emails but also in the office where people-to-people relationships are more fragile and more prone to misunderstandings. Such as when you send an email “You sux!” to a co-worker, he would not know if you are trying to insult him or just merely being playful without the “:-)” at the end.

It is time for management to embrace ^_^ and -_-; or when you are really angry >:O

May 22nd, 2006

Rules of Business


I had dinner with Charles Lee* earlier this month when he is in Singapore. I considered Charles a mentor who has given me many valuable career advises, esp. at times when I need it most.

Anyway, I have being thinking over something he said over dinner: “世上所有的事都讲情,讲理,讲法。”. Loosely translated “the rules are relationship, logic and law”. The only difference is the order of the three.

In United States, it is “logic, law, relationship” whereas in China it is “relationship, logic, law”. There lies the difficulty when a Chinese and an American tries to do business because the priority is different.

Perhaps this also explained why many Singaporeans also fail to do business in China because the rules in Singapore are “law, logic, then relationship if any”. The assumption that a contract would be binding in China (as in the case in Singapore) is often an expensive mistake. In general, Chinese see contract as a paper formality to seal the relationship and there is no business otherwise.

Being in Malaysia the last couple of weeks also made me realized how different things is where the rules are “relationship, logic, law” just like China as in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Perhaps this is why Taiwanese, Hongies and Malaysians has more success in China. It also explains the difficulties between the cross bounder relationship between Singapore and Malaysia on various issues like water and the bridge.

So whats the rules of business in your country?

* btw, Charles is now the Dean of School of Management in Beijing University altho he also spend some of his time in Singapore lecturing in NUS. He also manages a seed fund (~50m USD) to help young aspiring technopreneurs in China using his past experience in helping entrepreneurs in US. Many years ago, he helped a young man to raise 1m seed fund for a crazy idea – The name is Steve and the company is Apple.

April 13th, 2005

Managing CEOs for Programmers


I really like what Tom Evslin1 said about how to manage different type of CEO.

As difficult as it is for a programmer to manage a non-technical CEO (yesterday’s post), managing a CEO who is technical or thinks he or she is technical is much harder.  A CEO who knows programmer-speak can be very difficult to manage.

Read the whole series:

1. Managing (non-technical) CEOs for Programmers

2. Managing (technical) CEOs for Programmers

Very accurate and reflected the same experience I have in my carrer. They should make Tom’s article a compulsory reading in computer science :-)

While you’re there, read also the other series Tom’s have in reverse, how to manage programmers :-)

Part 1 of this series is a phrase book of programmer-speak.

Part 2 is the meaning of “done” and how to know when you’ll get there.  There’s another Bill Gates story here as well.

Part 3 is about features that kill projects.

Part 4 is about super debuggers.

I agreed with Tom – great programmers & debuggers are hard to come by. In my entire carrer, I only come across 2 other person whom I consider great programmers. So if you know one, cherish them. They are really rare.

1 Tom is the Chairman of ITXC – I follow his blog to get news on VoIP but hey, you never know what you get – I love his management writing.

February 26th, 2005

Old customers are blind


Here’s a story from APRICOT: The Hitachi-cable folks who made the wonderful WiFi SIP Phones originally didn’t believe this will work. They have been trying to sell the phones in Japan but their customers wasn’t really interested.

“Who wants WiFi only phones?” “my i-mode/FOMA can do more things!” “I still need to install a SIP server?”

This was confirmed when we found very few Japanese interested in our trial.

But all the gaijin goes ya-ya over the phones. Just before Ogawa-san (from Hitachi-cable) presentation, I did a quick strawpoll and asked how many people have the phones. A few hands raise up. Then I asked how many wants the phone. Almost everyone in the room raised their hands. Ogawa-san was speechless.

Moral of the story: When you have an innovative product, don’t talk to your old customer; They are all blind. Instead, find new ones!

December 10th, 2004

Fight Goliath

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One of the common phrase we hear often in tech business is ‘Competitive Advantage’ which usually means some sort of technology/patents and/or cheaper pricing, perhaps due to new disruptive technology. Many worship the ‘disruptive technology’ story and how it would kill the market goliath eventually.

But I’m convienced we’re mixing up the cause-and-effect. A goliath in your industry have the strength to build whatever technology you have and have bigger buying power to negiotate better pricing and deeper pocket to go into a price war. It is a war you cannot win in the long run if they put their heart to it.
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September 30th, 2004

Evangelist CEO


One of the important skill CEO must have is the ability to talk. Not just normal talk but one that is passionate, powerful, slick and smooth: whether to motivate your staff, paint your vision to the customer or sell your company to the investors.

Put him on the stage and he can just go on and on about how great his company is. Doesn’t matter if he missed a little fact here or there, or that sometimes the stories jump around disconnected. But listening to them, all seem so clear and conviencing even as your brain tells you ‘it does not make sense!’.

It is rare indeed to find a CEO who can make that human connection with his audience and all the great CEO’s I know seem to have this ability. And this morning, I met a master: Alex Lightman, CEO of Charmed, evangelist-extraordinary for 4G, IPv6 and Visualization.

December 29th, 2003

Picking Management


the-essential-drucker-peter-drucker.jpeg“People don’t work for their organization. They work for their boss.”

I can’t remember where I read about this but it is something that remains true so far I have seen.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying the junior or middle management is more important then the senior management. Instead, I am suggesting that the relationship between yourself and your direct reports (regardless which level you are) is one of the important factors in determine how a group performs.

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November 4th, 2003

Microsoft without Bill Gates


At the Asia Open Source Symposium today, a friend asked me: “What do you think will happen to Microsoft if Bill Gate leaves?”

After giving it some thought, I said “Probably nothing”.

I mean, why would it be any difference? While Bill Gates is the icon for Microsoft, the real power of Microsoft, IMHO, are the huge number of talented people in Microsoft who can make things happens, its culture of taking big risk and never give up and its seasoned processes for software development to business operation. Microsoft, in short, is an conscience entity of its own, beyond any single individual, even Bill Gate.
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October 25th, 2003

What’s the manager role?


I’m sitting at my hotel louge drinking coffee waiting for my next appointment and started thinking about something that happened a month ago.

I was having coffee with an old classmate. He has done pretty well too and now manages a team of people like I do. In the hour we sat in the lounge, his handphone rings at least 3 times. “Fire fighting… my team couldnt do without me” he said proudly. I could hear the unspoken hint “so how come your guys don’t need you?” since my handphone remains totally silent.

But I don’t feel bad at all.
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