Everyday, we go to work, but, why do we go to work? Because we have to, or, because we want to? We can simply define ‘Have to’ as a need, and ‘Want to’ as a choice.


Whether it is ‘have to’ or ‘want to’ depends on the factors that motivate us to go to work daily. These factors can be categorized into 2 categories: Intrinsic and Extrinsic.


Example of Intrinsic factors:  Passion, Self-Fulfilment and Mastery of Subject.


Example of Extrinsic factors: Monetary Reward, Threat of Punishment.


Studies have shown the when one is intrinsically motivated, greater effort and desire will be put into the task and often, leading to greater output. People who are intrinsically motivated believe that the output is in their own hands. Researchers have also found out that these people approaches stress with stride and handle it in a positive manner.  Studies also reveal that when one is motivated by extrinsic factors, he will pay less attention to enjoyment and satisfaction from the task perform. People who are extrinsically motivated will based their performance on extrinsic factors. Performances and returns share a positive relationship for people in this category. For example, if a worker’s pay is halved, expect him to only produce half the original output. Coercion is a good means to drive output from people under this category, albeit it is a short term solution.


It is rare for one to be employed solely on intrinsic motivation alone. We often hear, ‘You should do something that you are passionate in’. In reality, for most, passion alone does not fill the rice bowl. So, the question is, how do one find the balance?


One of the tools we can use to evaluate this balance is the Equity Theory.


Individual’s Output Partner’s Output

Individual’s Input       Partner’s Input


Equity Theory is based on how fair one perceives his ratio of input and output against another person’s ratio. Output refers to the outcome of one’s effort and input refers to the work put it. Output and input can either be tangible, intangible or a combination of both. Example of outputs includes salary, satisfaction, acceptance and promotions. Examples of inputs are time, effort and money. The subject of comparison does not have to come from the same industry. Perception and relativism are highly significant in this theory because of the intangible elements and the relative nature of the equation.


Fairness exists because of relativism. In retrospect, it seems like it is not a matter of how and how much we are rewarded, but, how the other parties are.





                                                                                                    6 Stages in Communication – A Fragile Process.

                                                                                                                           An article by Joey Ng


Can we think of anything more fragile than communication? By fragile, it means that it can be broken down easily. There are so many opportunities for communication to breakdown and when it occurs, it is term as ‘miscommunication’. Miscommunication happens when there is a difference between the message the sender intends to send, and the message the receiver perceived.

Let’s break down a standard communication pattern into 6 different stages and analyze where and when breakdowns can occur.

Stage 1 –Know what to say

Before a sender wants to communicate any message, he must know what is to be send. Ever encounter situations when someone is talking to you and you have the feeling that he has no idea what he is talking about. Or worse still, he knows he have no idea what he is talking about.

This could happen when the sender is relaying a message for someone else, but have limited information and is required to fill the gaps with assumption or, miscommunication have already taken place between the original sender and the medium.

 Stage 2 –
Find the right words to use

Different words have different meaning. Different meaning will lead to different perception.


Language deficiency could be one of the reasons for breakdown at this stage. Great players do not necessarily make great coaches. One reason is because despite their experience, they are unablemto find the right words to piece their thoughts together.

Stage 3 – Convey the message clearly


The key to this stage is to articulate the message clearly, using the right tone, at the right pace. Issues could arise when the speaker is not speaking clearly, and the listener is not impelled to raise the matter.


Stage 4 – Listen to the message accurately


Moving on to the receiver’s half. Breakdown could arise if the environment does not support accurate listening. Setbacks could also occur at this stage if the receiver is not use to the pace or language the sender is using, or, if there are too much information to digest.


Stage 5 – Decode the message correctly


In the receiver’s mind, the words heard by him are drawing linkages with his understanding of each word. Again, language deficiency could cause break down at this stage as the same word might mean differently between the two parties. The need to assume if the word is not understood could also lead to break downs.


Stage 6 – Translating message into thoughts

The meaning of each words are put together to form a perception in the receiver’s mind. The same principal of language understanding as Stage 5 applies, because words can have different meaning when put together. Once the entire message is put together, the receiver will intend to connect it with his knowledge.

If he is unable to draw any links, he will not be able to fully comprehend the actual meaning of the message, resulting in misinterpretation or misconception. When the receiver translates the misinterpreted thoughts into action and it does not aligned with the sender’s intention, both parties will realize that there has been a miscommunication. Trust is also an element which might affect the communication process at this stage. If the receiver of the message does not fully trust the sender, he might interpret the message differently.

Communication is a process of transferring information from one entity to another. In this article, this process has been broken down into 6 stages, each containing several elements. The process of communication is as fragile as it can get because it takes just one element to breakdown to shatter the entire process.




                                                                                                                             An Article by Joey Ng

Evolve, innovate, expand, advance, learn, transform, modify, develop, revolution, creativity, be different, alter, restructure, paradigm shift, growth, progress, invent, reform… just some of the many terms we read and hear everyday. As different as they are, they are connected by a common denominator, an underlying constant. And the constant is – change.

What is change?

Change is to become different. As long as the current state is not the same as the origin, change has taken place. Change can happen to everything, and change, can happen at anytime. Everything around us is relative. A matter per se can stay constant but when the environment changes, so will the matter. Remember the good old days of pagers?

This brings us to the next question – Why is there a need to change?

When there is change, there will be obsolescence and anything can be obsolete. Function, system, technologies, style, organization and people are not spared from it if they do not change.

We need to change to survive (do enough) or to excel (do well).

The bare minimum to survival is to maintain relevance ,to do just enough. A person who wishes to just survive will eat what is enough for his body to function. A company that is aiming for survival will do just enough to not turn red.

If we were to parallel the mindset of survival to Jack Welch’s idea of differentiation (, one will do just enough to not be in the bottom 10%. Human, as a resource, changes when learning and development takes ‘If we focus on result, we will never change. If we focus on change, we will get result.’  place. We change through acquisition of knowledge and development of skill. The key difference between changing to survive and changing to excel is attitude. If one’s attitude is skewed towards survival, one will develop just enough to get by. If one wants to do well,

one will do more than what is required. Let’s not forget, just like the pager, if one remains constant and no development take place, over time, one will become obsolete too. On this same note, whether an organization do enough or do well is very much dependent on the attitude of its most vital resource – its workforce.

If we keep doing the same way, we will get the same result. If excelling is the name of the game, we will need to change the way, be it system, method or process, to achieve better result. Results in this context can refer to greater output, or achieving the same output with lesser effort or both! We need to change to survive. If no change takes places, we will become obsolete. Just like the dinosaurs, if an organization does not change, it dies.

However, is change all that easy? Change is often met with resistance.

Why do people resist change?

Here is a list of reasons why change is often opposed:

1) They do not see the
need to.

  1. Not able to see the
    benefits, which are mostly long term.
  2. Do not see the
    importance. No understanding of what they are changing to or for.

2) Comfortable with
current status, way of working –

3) The change is
really a bad idea!

  1. There is just no
    point in changing – change for the sake of changing.

4) Difficulty in letting
go of the old.

  1. The old works! It
    is proven.
  2. Emotional
    attachment as a result of heavy investment (time, effort, commitment).

5) Perceived
negativity attached to change.

6) No or low confident
in handling change.

7) Human are naturally
built to resist change.

  1. One section of our brain, the basal ganglia or ‘habit centre’, has 2 parts. One part is for routine work, the other is only active when taking in new information. Using the routine portion makes the brain feels comforting and good, thus, human have a natural tendency to process any task by diverting it to that side of the brain. Case in check, one always seeks the most familiar method when approaching
    any task, even a new task. However, when one need to learn something new, when change happens, the brain will need to draw out more energy to attend to it, leading to discomfort.

b. A second problem with something new is that human brains learn to react to errors the difference between expectations and actual – and when we detect an error our brain emits a strong signal which uses a lot of brain energy. Using extra brain energy for processing something new or when we mentally detect an error, actually hurts in our brain. It seems quite human to prefer what is pleasant and avoid the painful; at the very least we can feel comfortable that resistance to change is natural rather than a

particular person’s personality disorder.

It is interesting how we human sub-consciously resist change. It is also interesting how, without much thought, the word ‘adapt’ is toss into the mix every time we encounter the word ‘change’. When one is adapting to change, one is undergoing a process. The processof adaptation can be very challenging; however, if ‘sold’ correctly, it will help facilitate the process.

So, how does one ‘sell’ change?

But before one sell change, one needs to understand change as a system, change as a process. Change is a process, not an event. Change does not happen at the blink of an eye, there is a series of happenings before the end state is met, and the cycle continues. Changes take place gradually and subtlety, for example, before day turns to night, day light will start to dim, or, before the market crashes, tell-tale signs will begin appearing. The challenge in approaching change is when one is unable to see the entire system of change, but just snap shot of the tell-tale signs and react to it. The following line, taken from the
book 5th Discipline, explains – ‘Many of times, we react to changes without thinking about any underlying assumptions, the message the changes is bringing out.’ It is interesting the word ‘react’ is used instead of ‘respond’. Theoretically, both words have very similar definition, however, in the context of change, both implies totally different meaning.

Let’s use a situation to explain the difference. Whenever the pipe leaks, we react by either plastering over the leak, or we change the pipe. A respond will be to understand the reason why the pipe leaks and remedy it. The respond in this case could be to decrease the water pressure or, to remove the entire water system altogether. In other words, reacting is short term and responding is long term. If one keeps reacting to changes, one will always be plugging the hole.

When one develops an understanding of change as a process and not an event, he will bebetter equipped to sell change, even to himself!

Going back to the
question, ‘How does one ‘sell’ change?’ here are some ways that can facilitate the change process:

1) Give people a
reason to change, tell them what they are changing for and why the need

for change. When you change what you believe, you change what you do.

2) Sell the benefits.
Focus on the positives to shift away from the negativities usually attached to change.

3) Create and
celebrate small wins. These make progress vivid and will encourage the ‘changee’ to take the next step.

4) Provide a structure, in other words, ‘Change Management’. Now, ‘Change Management’ and ‘managing change’ are two different ball game – First, ‘managing change’ refers to how one adapts and manage change when it happens, it could include a plan. For example, midway through a picnic, it started to rain, and we manage the change in weather by moving the set-up indoor, which was planned for. Next, ‘Change Management’ requires a step by step process, starting with identifying what needed to be changed, what is the desired outcome, how to go about reaching the outcome and what post-change actions. These are the basic fundamentals of various ‘Change Management’ model out in the market.

To change or not to change, it all depends on us. Any change in process, system, function
and technology are initiated by people. We can even dictate change in natural ecology system, like climate and food chain. If we don’t change the way we fish shark, it is just a matter of time before they become extinct. An organization will only change if the team change, the team will only change when the members change, the member will only change if he wants to change. If we don’t change, it is just a matter of time before we or our organization becomes extinct. Change is here to stay.




                                                                                                       The Customer is NOT Always Right
                                                                                                                      An Article by Joey Ng
                                                                                                                            7th July 2010

The customer is not always right! However, the customer can never be wrong. There is a clear distinction between these two statements and the implication of subscribing to either statement is very, very different.

The customer is always right’ mentality has its root from the Master/Slave relationship in which power and ultimate authority is handed over to the Master. Without power and authority, the slave (service provider) can only say yes to the master(client).

It is a challenge to disagree with the customer. ‘The customer is always right’ mentality is reciprocal – service provider will always say yes, and when they themselves wear the shoes of a customer, they will expect the same. And the cycle continues.

The belief that customer is always right is both narrow and shallow in thinking. The path of least resistance opens the door to just saying yes to everything the customer requested, the easy and lazy way out of a discussion, with no thoughts on the bearing of the decision. When working in a team, one of the most
frustrating situation members find themselves in is when the implication of someone else’s decision falls on them. Generally, the implications of the decision will be felt sometime down the road. While trying to fulfill all those promises made, one will sometimes wonder, ‘is it all worth while?’ The distinction between time consuming and a complete waste of time is how much difference those additional effort made. Customers being customers, they will want everything. To some, or most, value for money simply means quantity. One side of the coin will argue, ‘we should always satisfy the client’, the other side will reply, ‘there isalways another way to satisfy the client’.

A point for everyone to note is- the surprise of today is the expected for tomorrow. If the client receives a free gift today, they would expect the same to happen again. If they
are offered a bargain the first time, they will not expect any changes next time round.

The customer is not always right, but, the customer can never be wrong!

The customer can never be wrong because being the pay master, they have the right to request and demand. But, this does not mean they all should be fulfilled. As the Subject-Matter-Expert (SME), it is the service provider’s responsibility to educate the customer and share with them the ‘feasibles’ and ‘suitables’.

Educating clients requires an investment of time and effort, but in the long run, it forges closer ties between both parties. Events or personnel that changes the way we think remains longer in our memories. Of course, what was shared must first click with them. The paradigm of ‘not always correct’ is strategic in nature because it looks beyond a single transaction. A few feathers might probably be ruffled in the beginning but, in the grand scheme of things, it is for the good of the customer. It is definitely easier to just say yes to everything, instead of explaining why certain things won’t work and brainstorming a new solution. But, what is the price? 

The key to keeping customer coming back time and again is to build and maintain a solid relationship. The way to start is by delivering a good product based on what works. Agreeing to every request made by the customer will not guarantee result. Clients will always seek for the ideals, but the ideals might not work for them. And when it does not work, guess who the fingers will be pointing. As the SME, the service provider has by a far a wider spread of knowledge and experience to understand what is ideal for the customer. And sometime, the ideal is telling them ‘NO’!

Saying ‘No’ to a customer requires courage. Doing away with
the mindset of ‘The customer is always right’ is a good way to
start. And of course, telling them ‘NO’ should be soundly back
by rationality (what make sense) and conviction (believing that
their ideas really won’t work). The threat of losing a customer
because someone else would say ‘Yes’ is real. At the same
time, just blindly saying ‘Yes’ will bring about its repercussions.
Being eager to please will keep the power hungry customer coming back for
more, power! The challenge, as always is to find the right balance. The word ‘No’
is not easy to digest for many. Replace it with sentences or terms that shows
tactfulness and make it known that the customer’s point of view is heard will
cushion the blow.

‘The customer is always right’ is a mentality or approach that people carries with them, either imbued from past experiences or, created by the environment. And this mentality will dictate the way people think, make decisions, feel and behave.

Think about this, what would a team or an organization be like if ‘The Leader is
Always Right?

The 3Fs Approach to Change – To Balance is to Unbalance

THE 3Fs Approach to Change – To Balance is to Unbalance


3Fs – This framework is an attempt to house 3 elements commonly associated with change management together. The elements are Fixation, Focus and Flexibility. Over here, these elements appear in the form of disciplines because they are presented as activities that one can better through constant practice.

The Framework

Here are their definitions.


A persistent concentration. Fixation is strategic in orientation, looking at the long term. Once a target/goal/objective is fixed, it sets the direction for the team.

The late Steve Jobs’ single-mindedness towards how Apple’s product should appear was as north as it could get. His pursued of perfection was relentless (Perfection was defined by Jobs’ own terms. He was famous for his non-market survey approach in an era where the consumers decide what is produced. He was always certain that he knows what people will want.). The company success has everything to do with Job’s fixation on perfection in product design. At times, his unbending belief frustrates those around him, but, his persistency was also a source of drive and determination that galvanized the organization.

With fixation, the goalpost doesn’t change!


Looking nowhere and everywhere is Focus without Fixation’ – Unknown.

A point of concentration. Focus gives us alignment and effective use of resources by minimizing deviation. It is like a single lane highway directing everything (time, energy, effort) towards the destination.

Allied forces D-day invasion of France offers a dramatic example on the effect of resource Focusing. The Nazis had a near 5000km stretch of coastline (Atlantic Wall) to defend.  Normandy, where the invasion took place, stretches a mere 70km of beach. Key to the invasion’s success was the penetration offered by the focusing of Allied troops within a pointed scope. In warfare, advantage always lies with the defenders. However, the Nazis forces were stretched too thinly across the Atlantic Wall, and could not maintain a sustainable resistance
during D-day.


“I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.” – Everett Dirksen

Openness to change, capability to adapt. Flexibility allows us to evolve with time and maintain relevant. Instead of a contra, it should rather be view as a complement to Focus. In the field of engineering, flexibility is defined as ‘the ease with which the system can respond to uncertainty in a manner to sustain or increase its value delivery’. Similarly, in team-dynamics, any change must be for the better.

“… any colour so long as it is black” – Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company).

A great deal has been said and written about this quote. This belief was a symbol of the industrial age, mass market approach in early America’s automobile sector where organizations dictated consumer behavior and patterns. Economies of scale generate healthy profits because mass repetition reduces production cost. As a result, American automobile companies flourished. Much of this attitude was carried forward to present day America where consumers have little say in what the factories roll out

All this changed in 2008 when Toyota over took the big 3 (Ford, General Motors, Chrysler) to become the No. 1 automobile brand in America. The same year it becomes the world’s largest automaker. One of Toyota’s success factors is the execution of highly targeted marketing strategies, which comes from its ability to understand, anticipate and willingness to change according to market’s demand. Flexibility in its business model was key to Toyota beating their rivals on their own turf.

More recently, Ferrari announced its ultra exclusive ‘Tailor-Made’ customized service. This is in respond to the growing shift towards personalized service and goods consumption.

The table below contains a detailed description of the 3 disciplines:

Effectiveness in this framework requires balance in the 3 disciplines. And to balance, it sometimes calls for an uneven distribution of consideration among the disciplines. Here are 3 situations where imbalance is balance:

  1. Build commonality.
  2. When a team first come together for a new task, it is important for a direction
  3. to be set. In this context, higher emphasis on Fixation will enable a sense of
  4. commonality to be achieved.
  5. Counter
  6. group-think. This phenomenon can be challenge by increasing Flexibility and
  7. opening up for alternatives.
  8. Encourage lateral
  9. thinking. Reduce Focus to explore seemingly irrelevant ideas but maintain a fair
  10. degree of Fixation to maintain some form of alignment during explorations.

This framework can

serve many agendas and be used in various ways, here are a few:

  1. Analyze and
  2. diagnose a team’s current attitude and behavior towards change – the emphasis we
  3. place on these 3 disciplines, split 100% among them. What can we
  4. learn from this data?
  5. Framework to
  6. facilitate strategic discussion – where in the process can we be more flexible?
  7. Are we focusing too many resources in certain areas?
  8. Like De Bono’s Six
  9. Hats, it clearly separates the disciplines’ different functions, allowing
  10. participants to mentally wear and switch the ‘hats’. This makes it easier to
  11. direct or re-direct thoughts, meetings and conversation.


Change is a multi-faceted event that involves many elements and at times, surfaces link and relationships that were previously oblivious, further complicating the process. Thus, to effectively work with change, the approach too must be multi-layered, encompass many factors, flexible and not one dimensional (it forces the situation into a pre-agreed notion). 3Fs strength lies in its generic and broadly defined disciplines, allowing this framework to be applied in a variety of situations. It can also be used over and over again, on the same situation, as the discussion deepens. For example, the initial discussion uses the 3Fs to cover a subject that covers a wide spectrum. It can be used again to analysis the separate activities or results derived from the meeting earlier. And lastly, 3Fs encourages more point of views to be look into, providing a more comprehensive coverage to overcome the peril of a narrow and thus, imbalance approach.

References from the web: