It is always a privilege to listen to someone who has a proven track record, and so it is my pleasure to share some examples he gave about Managing Effectively. Idris Jala is the CEO of Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) and he was responding to questions relating to Malaysia moving towards becoming a high-income economy, at a platform he shared with Air Asia’s Tony Fernandes (a former rival when Idris was CEO of Malaysia Airlines).
On how he manages the River of Life project (to clean up the Klang River) which fosters partnerships between 2 states governed by different political parties, the Minister states that they are told to focus on achieving their objectives while leaving their political differences behind. Progress is monitored by a weekly traffic-light system, which signals which areas are on track or lagging or need special attention. Evaluations are made monthly. He quipped “dua bantal, satu mimpi” (literally meaning 2 pillows, one dream) which translates into having different perspectives but working to achieve the same dream.
On managing relationships: “Do what your are paid to do, don’t take things personally”. He related an account of when he and Tony were out enjoying curry and drinks together and there were people at another table who took bets on whether it was really them, since they were business rivals. His motto is to be hard on the business aspects, but soft on people as everyone has a life to lead too. “Treat people with dignity and respect. Be relentless and don’t give up; be international and open-minded”.
On moving up the economic chain, the Minister said companies must think globally and comply with international standards in order to compete. Honesty is really important in assessing competitiveness, and change needs to be celebrated and endorsed, instead of clinging to familiar ways.
The Minister also advised companies to adopt greater flexibility through methods like job-sharing, part-time work and flexi- hours to accommodate the needs of mothers and to keep them working. He also said that in coming years 46% of jobs will require vocational skills (not academic ones) and vocational centres need to be strengthened to be ready for this demand.