Monday, December 01, 2008
National Service Part Deux
Saw Rocky Bru's latest postings on the speculations and movements involving the senior management of GLC top dogs:
Rocky Bru: Ismee Ismail, the group managing director and chief executive of Tabung Haji, is tipped to leave for TNB while Che Khalib, the current Tenaga boss, is said to be eying a Petronas job. Like I said, it's market talk. We've also heard that Amokh or Azman Mokhtar, the Khazanah boss himself, is keen on Hassan Merican's job. Never mind if Hassan's shoes may be many sizes too large, even for both of them combined! I won't rule out anything, especially after learning the other day that Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan had proposed to the NSTP Board to bring in Kamal Khalid, the PM's 4th Floor chief operative, as the new CEO! And when the Board turned this down, Kali, who is the outgoing NSTP deputy chairman and editorial advisor, had then proposed that a position of Deputy CEO be created for the PM's special officer! I'm not sure if Kamal even knew that his name had been dropped like that. Syed Faisal Albar, Kali's trusted friend, left NSTP to head Pos Malaysia. Syed Faisal's right hand man, Jezilee, is leaving his COO post at NSTP for the equivalent in Pos Malaysia. A couple of other top execs from NSTP are expected to leave and join Syed Faisal at Pos Malaysia, too, leaving Anthony Bujang, the new NSTP chief executive, a big hole to fill. Kamal Khalid may still find an executive's position in Media Prima (the international side, I heard). Another 4th Floor op, Zaki Zahid, is expected to head for MRCB. If this was a game of chess, someone's moving around his pieces in a desperate attempt to save the old King's reign. Perhaps Nor Mohamed Yakcop, the MoF ll, can shed some light on these moves, starting with his friend's attempt to put Pak Lah's chief press attache as the NSTP boss.
a) Did we not learn anything from the past 12 months? Why are these senior management jobs only available to a select group of people? Why are these jobs only "given" or "appointed" when "kingmakers" make their chess moves?
b) I don't know about you, but there are very few Louis Gerstners in the world (Gerstner came from American Express, and then McKinsey, followed by his remarkable stint as CEO of RJR Nabisco, that food and ciggies giant, before ending up at IBM and then building up IBM a few levels higher in terms of strategy and sustainability of operations). But apparently, we have truckloads of Louis Gerstners running around in Malaysia. Apparently we have a huge number of them being able to run a newspaper one day, and then the national postal company, and then the national utility company, heck maybe even the national oil company.
c) These jobs ARE NEVER advertised. These positions need to be advertised and the selection process be transparent - come on, did we learn anything on transparency at all over the past 12 months? How do you think the young and upcoming smart, diligent bumiputra graduates are going to feel? They feel like crap because these jobs only circulate among those young upstarts who know the right Datuks and Tan Sris. Naturally you are creating a new multi level caste system among the bumiputras. (I am not even going into the bumi/non-bumi issue in GLC CEOs, just at least be fair and transparent to bumiputras from all ranks and "classes").
d) There has been a silly predisposition towards "giving" plum jobs to the people who have the right degrees. I think good degrees from high ranking universities are all good things to start with. Look at all the investment bankers from Stanford, Yale, London School of Business, Oxbridge, Harvard... yes, the degrees can only get you so far - a degree only tells me you know how to read and write in English, and maybe do a power point presentation - that's it. This kind of "preselection" in appointing top candidates in GLCs is OK, but do not let it be the determining criteria. That's because this preselection criteria naturally benefits the well to do and connected. I am not saying that you cannot go to Harvard on government scholarships, its rare.
e) The musical chairs have to stop. One must evaluate the requirements of CEOs carefully and appoint candidates that have proven themselves. I do not see how the NSTP top dogs for the past 5 years have proven themselves, but they still get posted to good jobs.
f) Khazanah and the powers to be seem to think that you can be the CEO of any industry as long as you manage by the metrics and ratios set up. As long as you have enough data on anything, you can manage them - that seems to be the new school of thought that is pervading the corridors of MBAs and the likes. Yes, I agree that a good CEO can probably shift to manage in another industry provided that he/she has a good handle on the new industry critical success factors and critical industry developments. We are operating AS IF ALL our top management have that ability... come on!!!
g) The corridors of power must not be arrogant. They must be open and be accountable to the people. I like some of the transparency measures and metrics management imposed by Khazanah over the last 5 years. I am also aware that Khazanah may be more than willing to push the envelope in transparency and accountability but is always "asked" to go a certain way by hundreds of "politically connected or politically important" people - by imposing strict transparency procedures, it moves the entire process beyond the reach of these so called "kingmakers". Do not ruin it all by leaving this stone unturned. It is the spinal cord of what is wrong with the system, it is the pink elephant in the room that pisses the broader nation, it is the 64,000 dollar question that everybody do not want to confront. Its just not cricket!
p/s photos: Shu Qi