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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Half of 2011 is gone before we knew it.  If the world is indeed going to end by December 21, 2012, we have less than a year and a half left.  What will you do if you only have that little time left?

I don’t think I can ever declare that I am living my life with no regrets, but at least I am consciously yearning to lead that attitude towards life.  When you want to spend more time with your parents and your family, do it.   When you want to tell someone “I love you!”, do it.  When you want to say you’re sorry to someone you’re wronged, do it while you have a chance.

Whatever big hurdles you are going through now, chances are you will find them dismissable or even petty a year from now.  So if we can demonstrate more compassion to others or even ourselves throughout this journey, is it really that unthinkable?

If we can follow our hearts, be vulnerable and let down our self-protection mechanism, the world could be a much better place.  At the very least, I know I will lead a meaningful and fulfilling life.

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Unless you are an habitual job-hobber, if you have had changed jobs more than 2 or 3 times within a decade, you might have been at the receiving end of some repetitive, or sometimes bother-line annoying,  questionings from either prospective employers or headhunters.  ” Are you not a loyal employee? ”  “Does it reflect concerns on stamina?”  Sometimes the question is sugar-coated as “I am seeing that you have a promising career path in your previous (or present) company, what makes you want to move so soon?

As implied in my first sentence, the key to tackling these questions is to really ask yourselves whether you have indeed put in the necessary amount of time in a post to deserve the accomplishments and experience you brag about on your resume.  You are not likely to be able to make a convincing argument for a 6-month posting, but if you can provide evidence that you have indeed added value during the limited time period, be prepared to articulate it with concrete examples.  Yes, when I mean concrete, I mean specific projects and accomplishments rather than “providing support to the team“.

What I really want to bring up here is that if you are indeed not a job-hobber and if there are legitimate reasons of every one of your job moves, don’t get carried away by the questioner’s argument or logic.  Yes you understand where the interviewer is coming from, and you appreciate that they are being frank and honest with you by expressing their concerns out loud.  Though is it that easy to find the right opportunity, pass all the stringent interview process, background and reference checks and get hired in the first place?  How incredibly difficult is it to constantly adapt to new working environments with new bosses, colleagues, internal stakeholders and working culture?  It is surely not cut out for the faint of heart.

You can even go further to imagine that it takes a lot more adaptiveness, stamina, and energy to keep diving in new and unfamiliar waters every few years.  If you can pull that off plus churning out a few recognizable accomplishments during your tenure, it should be no way underestimated.

So when you find yourself demotivated being a new kid on the block, give yourself a break when you are trying to compare with colleagues who have been in their posts for 4 or 5 years.

You may not be able to change other people’s perceptions or opinions, but at least don’t give up without trying to fight for your case.

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It was a perfect finish to a 5-month long hiatus.  The best part of it is that nothing is planned which is so against my decades of personal belief, and I’m loving every minute of it.  Aside from blogging, juicing, reading, gyming, shopping and partying, I was in Taipei, Bangkok (x 2), Paris and Barcelona.  I could have been in Taipei (yes, again) and Tokyo as well if not for the last-minute changes and the horrendous earthquake, but there is absolutely nothing worth complaining about.

So when I got the call where I could offer my service once again, I jumped on the chance feeling recharged and totally fired up.  Despite what happens next, it’s always our EQ, passion and attitude that matters.  My latest trip reminds me once again how beautiful the world is, and how often we might have overlooked the fortune and pleasures around us.  I have every intention to internalize all that I have experienced during my last week and a half, and if that succeeds in any small way, I have the two most beautiful cities to be thankful for.

Come to think of it, was there really some truth to what the supposedly scam-artist told me last month?

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Life operates in its mysterious ways.  You will almost never get anything that you are fixated at, and when you least expect it, things come knocking on your door.   There is no way around it, and you just have to make sure you are always physically and mentally prepared for the unexpected journeys in life.

We can plan all we want, and believe me I’m probably more logical and organized than I should have in life.  Yet when the circumstances in life ask you to take a break from your work schedules, relationships,  or longer term plans, you just have to take a big breath, get your gears on (and sometimes off)  and embrace what’s next.  The most important thing is to learn how to be content with what you already have.  Don’t be a whiner.

Bessie Anderson Stanley wrote a poem in 1904 titled Success.  I find it very fitting today.

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.

 

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My Beloved

Never underestimate the power of a song and its lyrics.  Last night I was watching a Taiwanese entertainment talk show featuring the local diva Ah-Mei, and by the end of her live performance I  found myself tearing up.  I then youtubed the song’s music video and ended up crying through the night like a pathetic loser.  Yes, I was utterly moved to my tears.

Although it’s obviously no fun at all seeing and feeling yourself aching at heart and weeping alone, somehow I find that it’s a blessing to have the ability to feel and get in touch with my emotions.  I have never felt more alive, and it can be endearing to express my vulnerability once in a while.

To all of you who have truly loved someone in the past, I dedicate this song to you.  Enjoy a good cry, and move on!

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Multinational corporations rely quite heavily on external consulting firms for a number of reasons.  They need an outsider’s point of view.  They need experts with specialist knowledge on areas that can’t be found in-house.  They need to strategize privately and confidentially.  They need someone authoritative to back-up and conduct due diligence on something they have already decided to proceed.  They want someone impartial to make difficult and often unpopular decisions within the company.

No matter how many industry jokes there are about consultants (as if any profession is ever immune), one cannot deny the importance of at least one of the above reasons.  Corporations do not need to take time to pitch the change or promote the upcoming initiative the way they would proceed without the appointment of a consultancy firm, at least when the project is barely at its infancy stage.  Engagement is fast, cooperation is usually guaranteed much due to the fear factor, and in my opinion, much of the fees are also paid for the deflection of any future blame, should there be a failure of the deliverables.

So if there is money to spend that is authorized all the way from the top, it does sound like there is nothing to lose.

Well, that is rather a loose pre-requisite here, I admit.  Corporations nowadays do not have that much money to burn anymore, and every cent they spend is under close scrutiny by the shareholders.  Though consulting spend sometimes is considered untouchable or out-of-scope depending on the policies of specific corporations, I do get myself involved from time to time, as a procurement professional.  I am involved in the analysis and souring of consulting firms, through to the finishing touches of negotiating the terms, fees, contracts and team members to be deployed.   Realistically, procurement is only involved on engagements that are relatively less sensitive.  I still look forward to having myself signing a sacred non-disclosure agreement in order to get myself invited to negotiating a top-level super-sensitive consultancy engagement deal.

Why?  Consultancy engagements are lucrative, to say the least.  Engagements I have involved with start from a few million US dollars, easily.  No matter what the proclaimed return on investment is, it still constitutes a big percentage of discretionary spend to be forked out upfront.  We can attempt to build in all the pay-by-performance metrics all we want, but the truth of the matter is, if there is no one involved to conduct at least the minimum due diligence on the costing formula and the engagement brief, the company only has itself to be blamed for being ripped off, big time.

It’s always a sensitive area for procurement to be invited to the table, and that pitch may very well come from the consulting firms themselves.  In order to avoid the risk of conflict of interest, many consultancies could only embrace my presence to prove that they have nothing to hide – and that is the first and smart step.  Internally, when senior stakeholders are adamant about their preferred consultancy partner, I position my value as one who helps build structure, transparency, fairness and accountability to the engagement contract.  In more times than not, that equates to monetary savings, or at least money better spent.

Sam Reynolds wrote an informative article titled “Two Threats Facing The Consulting Industry” on vault.com.  How do MNCs deal with the imminent pressures of cost control in their needs of consulting help?  What is the future of the consulting industry in view of internal consulting units and consultant-managers?  Whether you are a consulting or a strategic procurement professional, Sam’s article is not to be missed.

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Finding Ourselves

So I have a desktop computer at home, and a 16-inch laptop.  Oh yes I have another 10-inch netbook for my travels, and of course an iPhone.  I just ordered my iPad 2 a few days ago, which I am expecting in a couple of weeks. 

Things have definitely gone out of hand.

Now when I get an e-mail, I get it on my iPhone, on my computers, and on my Facebook if it’s a Facebook message.  When I work, I also have all my messages and e-mail forwarded to my work blackberry.  There are so many ways I can get in touch with my friends and it does take a while for the virtual party to figure out whether it’s best to text, whatsapp, MSN, Facetime, skype or Facebook chat with each other.  It just seems as if we are all too lazy to pick up the phone these days, and I am just as guilty as anyone I know.

If I ask you how you have been sending pictures to your contacts, I’m sure I will get quite a few different answers.  However, the trend is definitely moving toward personal mobile devices that can talk, text, take pictures, exchange info, entertain, and surf. 

I feel like we never have any so-called free time anymore.  In the city of Hong Kong, it’s like we have been trained to keep ourselves occupied 24 hours a day.  It’s a sin to stare blankly anywhere even for just a few minutes.  We are surfing Facebook, catching up with the news, playing games, and texting with our friends no matter whether we are on the subway, at the coffee shop, or quietly recuperating at home. 

I also feel at times that we are no longer actively using our brains.  Yes it’s been working but more often than not our brains have been passively bombarded with junk information that we can live without.  So much data is being pushed on us now and those who are not careful can very well lose track of who they are.  Why is it a crime to give ourselves a few minutes of free time to listen to our bodies and inner voices?  Are we feeling contented, or are we lost?  Are we designing our own destiny or are we following some set upon paths for us? 

Take a breather, get to the countryside, pack some light lunch, leave your gadgets and spend some quality time with yourself for an afternoon.  Think and be free.  We all deserve just that.

 

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I think it was year 1990 or 1991 when I was in the United World College attending a media summit organized by the school faculty and students.   A few prominent speakers, including some movers and shakers of the media industry, were invited to address the students about the role of the media and its impact in the political world.  I don’t remember who the speaker (some American journalist) was now, but she was talking about her views on news productions around the world.  “You know what’s the worst news reporting production I have seen so far,” she shared in the middle of her speech.  “It was the Hong Kong TV news programs.”  There was laughter and gasps.  My schoolmates immediately turned to me giggling.  Being one of the only two Hong Kong students in the school, suddenly I felt that I was singled out.  Should I say something?  Should I defend something – anything?  The speaker didn’t need to be a genius to realize that a poor Hong Kong ambassador was in the hall, and she reiterated: “I’m serious.  The newscasters were babbling on and on at a piece that needs not much explaining.”

Maybe I didn’t quite get it at the time, since I hardly had much else to reference to, having only been away from my home town for less than a year.  But I get it now, big time.   Some 20 years later, I am still amazed and amused by where we are today with our news productions.

First a disclaimer.  I know nothing much about the industry, and my frame of reference since then has been largely related to that of the States.  But I think I am still entitled to share my views as a TV audience, and one attempting to seek up-to-date information from the local programs.  By the way, there aren’t that many choices to begin with.

I am a complete believer in news reporters’ and the station’s impartiality in any news stories, but do they all have to be so stone-faced and robotic?  Those of us who are also in the “people business” understand that we as the messengers play a huge part in getting our messages across.  How we say it and how we deliver it is an art by itself.  Yet throughout the few decades of TV news programs I have seen, it seems that there is a cardinal rule in their training programs that no news reporters or anchors should ever shed a single hint of emotion and intonation, whatsoever.  Hey, don’t get that mixed up with adding an opinion, as I know they aren’t talk show hosts and they are not supposed to.  I am talking about adding the right pause, phrasing, and emphasis to the key points, conclusions and transitions.  Sometimes subtle body language and hand gestures may be appropriate.  Though no, all I see is complete stiffness from beginning to end.  Maybe this is requested and demanded by the viewers?  I’m not sure, and I’m not one of them.

I like news anchors who have credibility and professionalism, and it takes them years on the field to gain that hard-earned reputation.  I don’t want them to turn into another extreme like some of the TV news programs in Taiwan, where the programs are much closer to entertainment than anything else, just so they could push up ratings in a relatively much more competitive media market than Hong Kong.  Despite the authoritative figure, I like to see some personalities being presented from time to time.  That brings an element of relatability, trust and connection with the audience.  I understand it can be hard to do here because the local presenters are not as high paid, their career prospect not as secure and promising, and hence it will be much tougher for them to build a distinct brand for themselves.

That’s what I would like to see changed, at least progressively.  It starts from the top at the leadership level, and goes down to where news stories are reported.  The news transcripts do not need to repeat everything we are already seeing on TV.  Come on, we are watching news with news feeds.  The news stories can stand to be a bit more original and non-repetitive.  Interviewing parents and school kids every year on September 1 when the new school year starts is not newsworthy material, similar to shooting at the flower market every Valentine’s Day, or dim sum restaurants on Mother’s Day.  Asking passing by citizens on the streets what they think of the recent public bus fare hike can only lead to one uniform answer.  Every time, I feel that 20 to 30 minutes of my life is robbed.  I don’t dislike the events themselves, I am just longing for a few more original questions or angles on them.

We need some pioneers and some daring moves to push everyone out of their comfort zones once in a while, even if they are of the TV viewers.  I want to envision myself jumping out of my auditorium chair some day, defending the next coming critique if I am fortunate enough to get stuck representing Hong Kong again. 

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Heart-Wrenching Sorrow

I’m sure you have experienced some form of heart wrenching moments in your life, and though it might not necessarily be your greatest moments, they are still worth remembering.  Obviously I have experienced my fair share, and to be honest I do try my very best to see the silver lining of every one of them.  I won’t agree that this is self-deceiving, as I believe withering away in my own demise isn’t something I am thrilled about.

Sometimes listening to the signs of your body is pretty amazing.  When I feel that the left side of my chest (aka my heart) starts to grip slowly sending sour emotional notes up my brain, I know I have gone into areas that matter.  You know sometimes we are lost as to what we are fighting for and what’s it all about in life, just because we tend to follow paths where they are all decided for us.  It’s these late night heart wrenching moments which remind me that I am alive and human, and my organic human needs lie with my family, my relationships and my beliefs.

A few lines from Yahoo’s associated content:

“Sorrow is usually accompanied by tears and much pain. The pain from sorrow is definitely more acute than physical pain because it is something which cannot be alleviated by medicine. Some people have described the pain sadness as the breaking of the heart.”

” Although sorrow is something unavoidable, we must also learn how to deal with it so that it does not develop into manic depression. The only way to deal effectively with sorrow is to come to terms with the loss which triggered it. Accepting that what has happened cannot be altered and coping with life thereafter is the best way to combat depression. Although it is not a fool-proof cure, because the memories remain; carrying on with life is the best possible antidote. For the inexplicable sorrow which is triggered from innocuous events, it should not be allowed to overwhelm us so much that we lose self-control and sink into despair.”

Amanda Harvey has the following to say on her life-coaching portal:

“To feel the pain, is to stop fighting the nature of reality. In Buddhism it is said that pain or sorrow is as much a part of our life as joy. The difference that we can bring to the pain that we experience is whether or not we allow it to cause us suffering.

Very few people want to feel pain. It is not nice or pleasant, but it is inevitable. Whether our pain brings suffering to our lives is largely dependent on how we handle it. Suffering is always caused by a conflict between what we believe reality should be, and what reality actually is. Fighting against reality does not change what is happening in our lives, but rather, it intensifies and distorts the pain of difficult experiences.

By allowing ourselves to feel, rather than fight the sorrow of life’s tough times, we can move through the pain much faster, and experience it as a pure sensation rather than an inner turmoil. Fear of feeling pain is almost always worse than the pain itself, and giving into the pain can actually lessen its intensity.

If you are going to experience sorrow, as part of the human experience, why complicate the issue with resistance, fear, and suppression? By allowing yourself to feel the pain when it comes, you also open your heart to making a quick recovery, and to being able to fully experience the joy that will also come, as surely as night follows day.”

Right on.  The keyword for me is allowing ourselves to feel rather than combating sorrow full frontal.  Feel it, live it, accept it and move on from it.

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Developing procurement talent is an art by itself, particularly when I still see many leaders having a less than adequate understanding of how this profession has evolved.  It is a highly fluid practice and it requires professionals with great adaptiveness and agility.  Paul Teague, US contributing editor of Procurement Leaders, published a blog post recently on the topic that is worth sharing.

“How to Develop Procurement Talent

By Paul Teague

Stephen Hester, vice president and CPO of Smith International, was the first to raise the issue at a recent Procurement Leaders roundtable on risk management,sponsored by Emptoris. Procurement, especially in the oil and gas industry from which he hails, has a people problem. Specifically, he said, the need is to develop the next generation of procurement professionals, to groom executives who will have the broad knowledge and international savvy required for success in a global economy.

One by one, the other roundtable members echoed his sentiments when talking about the risks they face. You can read what they said in a report on the Roundtable in the next issue of Procurement Leaders.

I heard similar views expressed at a previous roundtable sponsored by AT Kearney on data analytics. Ahmet Hepdogan, vice president of procurement at Fresh Start Bakeries North America, called for a new generation of procurement executives with “holistic” knowledge.

There have been whole conferences on  talent development, including Procurement Leaders’ Forums. Procurement Leaders formed a knowledge group on talent management. Recently, the Procurement Intelligence Unit called talent management a key priority for CPOs. Google even has a special project on people skills, specifically management skills.

I thought of all that when I read the US News and World Report magazine’s most recent ranking of the best US colleges for studying supply chain management. Here are some of the courses those “top schools” will teach future procurement and supply chain leaders: finance and accounting (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University), law and marketing (Pennsylvania State) and negotiations (Michigan State University), all areas of knowledge procurement professionals need. But, I saw only one course each in global supply chain management (Michigan State) and international business and finance (The University of Michigan).

Gadzooks! Given the globalization of business, the apparent lack of recognition among some of the curriculum planners of the importance of international studies is stunning. Even the Harvard Business Review touted the importance of international experience and knowledge for procurement and supply chain management. I guess the rest of the proverbial ivory tower has no windows through which to look at the world.

So what should the ideal curriculum include? Introductory courses in engineering concepts (to give them an appreciation for product design and manufacturing); corporate finance (so they will see how CFOs look at a business); business law, marketing and advertising, personnel management, and logistics (so they can truly understand the issues those functions face); risk management (think of commodity-price fluctuations, Middle East turmoil and Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis); computer science and statistics (to get them used to using software for analytics); and, especially, courses in international relations/culture/communications (because the world really is flat).

And, rather than study versions of those courses tailored for procurement and supply chain management, they should attend the same classes that engineers, finance students, political science majors and others who will make their careers in those disciplines attend. May as well get them used to collaborating with those folks early.

Oh, and once they get their first job in procurement, I suggest assigning them to those other functions for three to six months each to further appreciate the roles of the people they will serve.

Maybe the best academic program is not one entitled “supply chain management,” but a broad, interdisciplinary program called “business-cycle management.” That may better reflect the role future practitioners will play.”

One thing for sure, those who are trained following Paul’s prescription will no longer be labelled as just a “buyer”.  Let’s announce to the rest of the world how much value we can add.

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