Monday, March 17, 2008

Brainstorming Sessions

At 8:30 am every Monday morning, we would have a meeting with the Valuation staff. It is a kind of brainstorming session introduced many years ago. Before I came onto the scene, my partner used to chair the said meetings.

During one of those yam cha I had with my partner at a coffeeshop near to our office, he lamented that none of the staff would dare to speak up during the meetings. It became more of a briefing and hardly ever a discussion or exchange of ideas.

After that I discretely went around and asked some of the staff why wouldn't they speak up. They said there's just no point to suggest something which will be shot down anyway. Besides, they're afraid of offending the boss and getting black-listed for that! In the end, the best policy was to shut up; don't suggest anything; and hope for the best!

Years later, my partner withdrew himself from the so-called meetings, and I ended up chairing the Monday meetings. It took a little while to change the mindset. This morning, as usual, we had another one of those Monday meetings; and I was happy to note that several of them readily raised matters in connection with our work and staff welfare. We were also able to joke and laugh occasionally.

It is strange that many people do not dare to speak up or suggest something new to their superiors for fear of serious repercussions. It is in our culture to "give face" to the boss—even if that boss has made a mistake. Absolutely no one's supposed to question the authority of the big boss. What the boss decides should be obeyed unconditionally!

Thankfully, such mindset is gradually changing in many organizations.

But in some organizations, there are strong forces that will see to it that the boss is always right—even if he is not! The boss is like the captain of a pirate ship. If the boss steers the ship into an iceberg, no one is supposed to challange his order, because he is the boss. Whatever happens to the ship is secondary; what really counts is the boss—his authority remains intact no matter what happens. And if any of the crews questions the boss's authority, then he might find himself walking the plank.

It seems hard to believe, but the above scenario is very much alive in Malaysia. I think this chap will be walking the plank soon.

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