Transforming to Top notch civil service

Published 28/02/2014 by megat terawis

Many people expressed their disdain towards civil service in the country saying how bloated it is, its slow pace, its uselessness, etc. Being a civil servant, I found that majority of the civil servants are willing to change their working ways provided they were given the flexibility to act. As it is, the rules and procedure for them to follow is so voluminous that many stumbled, fumbled, and muddled their way through. Take finance for instance, all funds disbursed to departments are strictly pre-divided according to certain headings called “objects”. Monies allocated to certain object cannot simply be used for other object even though there is a surplus. Let me cite a simple case in my office, we  have some money for “service” and no more money for ” maintenance”. We cannot simply divert the money from service to shore up maintenance work without prior permission from the central controlling officer. Being a huge ministry with more than forty separate divisions and thousands of staff, getting permission from the controlling officer would probably take a week at the earliest! Now, let say we save money in procuring some ICT equipment, we cannot use the excess funds to procure other equipment or extra things without permission from central controlling officer. Imagine you are given permission to buy 10 computers with a certain amount of money with certain specifications. If you manage to procure the 10 computers at a price lower than the amount given, again, you cannot use the saving to buy more computers or any other things without permission. Even if you get to buy a better  spec computer at lower price, it is not allowed, unless you get clearance. It may sound inefficient but that’s the environment that we operate in. We do understand all these procedures were built in to prevent abuses and frauds by some rouges officers. So we all suffer because of some unscruplous people. A real catch-22 situation. one one hand we need all the flexibility to move fast, on the other the flexibility tend to get abused.

Try a little love

Published 24/02/2014 by megat terawis

Winslow Wong in this weeks’s Focus wrote “The more love employees feel at work, the more engaged they are”. The Marriott Group founder JW Marriott ran his companies contrary to the “customers first” philosophy by adopting “employees first” policy. He believes that,if you take care and love your associates, they will take care of your customers. The success of the Marriott Group worldwide is a testament to that policy.
Wong further added that we need to inculcate greater sense of companionate love among our employees. Companionate love? Well, companionate love is different from compassionate love in the sense that the intensity is less. It is based on respect, warmth, affection, camaraderie, care and connection rather than passion. Of course, I reckon, lust is definitely not part of it. An organisation that take care of its employees invariably performs better. How do you improve the relationship between your colleagues and subordinate to show more love? In Islam we were told to greet our brethrens with the salam. A micro second utterance of salam with a little smile from the boss goes a long way in showing that the top management care for their subs. We are strongly encouraged to be the first to utter the salam every time we meet others. A company in the USA encourages its staff to kiss each other’s cheeks every time they meet, irrespective of gender. That maybe pushing it a bit far here but it works wonders for the company in building its comradeship. A simple “morning or hello” would do. Improving working condition and facilities is also another way employers can show their love to their employees. An employee need to be assured that they are being taken care of with compassion. My subordinate came to me the other day with a huge problem that has been plaguing her for a long time now. On one hand the administration is not happy with her for missing from work for quite sometime, albeit with valid MCs on certain days, on the other, her case seemed genuine enough to warrant some compassion. I can only offer a pair of sympathetic ears and soothing words. We still had to deduct her salary for missing work or disciplinary action would be taken against me for not following General orders. Dilemma like this makes working in government department very incompanionate (if there is such a word) let alone compassionate. I have to look at some other means of helping her. Please God help us.

Farewell Big Brother

Published 10/02/2014 by megat terawis

“Abah dah meninggal:, she skipped. “Abah dah meninggal”, she hopped. “Abah dah meninggal”, she trotted. It was very hard for me and all the rest of us to contain our tears when Mia, my eldest brother 4-year old adopted daughter went round telling everyone that her dad had died. If you probed further she would innocently described the final moments of how her adopted father’s life ebbed away on Friday mid morning. It was truly harrowing watching her like that. She is in her usual talkative way telling us that her father had passed on. She would continue to play as if nothing had happened. Of course she did not understand the loss we are feeling. Around 10.20am that Friday morning, I was in a meeting when I got a call from my niece. Her speech was garbled with tears. I had to tell her to calm down and talk slowly. Her dad fell and had become unconscious she said. I told her to call the ambulance and I would be there as soon as possible. She already called the ambulance she said but they said they’ll be late. She hang up. I feared the worst. Just I was sliding the redial button a few seconds later my 5th brother called. He said our Abang Tar had passed on. I was numbed dead on my track. By then fortunately the meeting had ended. I quickly gathered my things and rushed downstairs while calling the wife. No response. After three attempts, I texted her the news. The niece called again to confirm the news. All I can advice her at that moment was to get help from the nearest surau or mosque. Every mosque normally had a standing committee to handle death. By the time I reached her apartment, the hearse was ready to move to carry my brother back to our kampung. Apparently it was his request to be buried in Kuang Hilir, our village.
There goes my eldest brother at the age of 67 years, 10 months. A fierce but kind retired army corporal with a typical army booming voice. When he retired some twenty years ago he dabbled in all sorts of things to earn a living. He tried breeding fish, selling at fish at pasar minggu, farming, rubber tapping, and slowly gaining reputation as a formidable chef at khenduris. Later he moved to Sabak Bernam and his reputation as “tukang masak” for weddings and other feasts grown. Last year, her daughter persuaded him and his wife to moved with her. She wanted her parents to relax and sit back taking things easy as age is fast catching up with them. But I reckon, being used to spend time working in the farm and out and about with nature, being cooped up in a 20-storey apartment was not an easy transition.By then his health had been poor. all the more reason for her daughter to ask him to slow things down. Once in a while he would called me up and dropped by the house. It is not easy to please him as far as food is concerned. I remember having to scour almost half of Ipoh to look for nasi kandar Ipoh, the old way. Come to think of it I am glad that I did that for him or else I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. Being the eldest he would always goes out of his way to introduce me to long lost relatives that I normally would not know. He would also rally the family if there is anything important to decide. We would definitely missed him during “khenduri” or durian season for it was during these occasions that he would move to the fore. May Allah blessed him him with all His Grace and place him with the solihin. Now, I can only pray for him. How I wish I had visited him more often or at least check on him ever so often with phone calls. Now, I can only kneel at his grave and cry. Please Allah, forgive my Big Brother and have mercy on him.

Fort Supai Steamed fish

Published 03/02/2014 by megat terawis

I rarely write about food or makan place but there is this little place called Fort Supai in Kuala Linggi, the border between NS and Melaka. It is situated next to the Melaka’s Rural Transformation Centre (RTC) and the old historical Fort Supai site. There are signs that the old place have been recently refurbished but as usual maintenance is always an issue in this country. I was told by my history teacher friend, Kuala Linggi was an important landing place in its heydays.
The jetty at Fort Supai is specially built for the restaurant. Funny I cannot even remember the name of the restaurant! It is jutting out about 100m into the sea. A great place to watch the sun sets. Good thing is the place is not crowded, unlike the Ikan Bakar place in Umbai or Jeram. That means you can get your food fairly quickly and parking is not an issue. The place serves the usual fares. Its lemon steamed fish is outstanding, so much so that the wife will order the same fare every time we are here. The price is not as expensive as the atrocious Sekinchan’s. But then of course it is not as cheap as those in Alor Star or Perlis.
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Tasik Raban

Published 23/01/2014 by megat terawis

Over the weekend I had the chance to visit Tasik Raban – a little lake area between Kuala Kangsar and Lenggong in Perak. It is under the Lenggong District council. Lenggong is the site of the famous Perak Man – earliest man known to inhabit this part of the world. The site in Kota Tampan, near Lenggong has been gazetted as World Heritage site. Tasik Raban is a beautiful lake districts not unlike the Hua Long Lake in Vietnam. Unfortunately not much has been done to promote the area. Unless you are familiar with the area, you would not know about it. The Lenggong district council has to be lauded for building the Tasik Raban Resort – a low cost chalets fronting the lake. Given the beauty of the area with lush greenery and serene lakes and rolling Titiwangsa mountain range in the background, it has the potential to be a top tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the resort is already suffering from various state of neglects. It is a vicious circle really. To build and maintain such facilities, the council need funds and the funds can come from visitors occupying the resort and using the facilities. Visitors don’t come if the facilities are not maintained properly. If visitors do not come, the council has less money to maintain the place and the place will become more run down and driving way more visitors and the owner getting k
less money and the circle goes on and on. I believe in places like this, the authority need to do more to promote the place. As it is it is only used as a transit incidental stop by travelers like me.

The Raja NAzrin Brdige crossing the Tasik Raban


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Disciplines of execution

Published 01/01/2014 by megat terawis

Our newly minted Education Director General recently reminded us on the need to have a proper implementation of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025. The Blueprint is superb, well thought out, well received, and well written.  We are famous for  formulating excellent plan but failed miserably in implementing them. Two points were pointed out. The implementation needs strong implementation and rapid execution.

Students aspiration as stated in the Blueprint

Surveys have shown that many teachers agreed that between planning and executioning, they chose planning.  When asked what they would rather not do, many chose execution.  More than 90% of transformation plan failed due to poor implementation and execution.

In a recent meeting, I had the privilege of  listening to a book review. The book identify six gaps between planning and executioning:

Clarity:

Implementors and planners do not sit on the same page. Whatever being planned is not clearly transmitted to the implementation team resulting in less than desirable outcome or worse not implemented at all. Everybody must be clear what are their roles and what are expected of them and the outcome of the plan.

Commitment:

There must be buy in of the project by the users and everybody else along the line. Without committed implementors, a project is as good a failure right from the start.

Translation:

From the plan to execution phase, there must be a clear and  well defined implementation plan involving people, platform, devices, support systems, and funding. All these are translated from the blueprint or plan. Faulty translation will lead to awry implementation.

Enablers:

There must be sufficient support system to enable the project.  The enablers normally are the technology and the tools needed to implement the project. Improper and wrong enablers would render the project useless.

Synergy:

There must be synergy between the various parties implementing the project. Unless the parties get along well with each other, we are looking at implementation failures.

Accountability:

Accountability not only towards the customers but also towards each other in the team. Quite often we are reluctant to tell off others to saving face or ” jaga hati”. The lack of accountability all round would certainly impede smooth implementation.

Integrating SPS and SPBS

Published 28/12/2013 by megat terawis

Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS) have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Things were so grim they are around 130 sites in Facebook calling for the abolition of the PBS. The main contention is the accessibility to the Sistem PBS (SPBS). It is not a question of access to the internet but access to the SPBS. Many teachers complained that they have to wait until 2am or 3am to access the system. Even then they have to wait for hours to update one data. Worse still,  data that have been updated sometimes got lost and the teachers were up in arms at having to re-key the data. Basically in SPBS, teachers, especially subject teachers have to key in students’ data, performance, and provide reporting. The system admin would have to create users and maintain the system.

SPS is another important system revamped from the original Smart School Management System (SSMS) and the only system in the school solely designed for automation of the daily running of the schools. No doubt, there are numerous systems in schools but none can match SPS in terms of role based, function based, and data based system. Currently SPS has 22 modules covering every function of the school from students profile, teachers profile, school profile, teaching and learning as well as administration.

After much acrimony and outcries, the powers that be in the Ministry decided to merge SPBS with SPS. PBS would be the 23rd module in the SPS. The merging would commence in early 2014 and by April 2014, school would be able to use PBS via SPS. The challenge is to ensure no more 2am access or worse still breaking up of family harmony.

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