Sunday, January 26, 2014

NUSS Magazine Part 2: SMRT Desmond Kuek

I have much to criticize about this article but not the time or energy. Of course the writer can't do better than faithfully report what happened at the Guild House on November 13 last year.

I am pessimistic that Desmond Kuek would succeed at SMRT without massive government help with funds and leadership. My view of SMRT board is equally dim. I am just glad we didn't need to count on him to lead us into battle. What a confused mind he is. What a predictable mind too which the opposing general must have loved. The man reads like a theory only person. He is approaching his job like the SIA CEO but worse.

I quote him,

"In SMRT we just try and figure the path forward that focuses on doing the right thing"

But he never clarify what the right thing is. I wasn't there and if the writer failed to explain it in the article, that is an epic fail.

Desmond Kuek admitted that we can't please everyone but these are the constituencies as he sees them. They are commuters, shareholders, regulators and SMRT and its staff.

Of course he had to put commuters first but it is shareholders that ranked ahead of everyone. If commuters isn't the first priority, there is no business for SMRT to be a private much less listed company structured to maximize profits. So how this work in real life is reward shareholders which already have a formula for rewarding top management and any leftovers of the pie go to the other stakeholders. That is the true meaning of you cannot please everyone. This approach no longer work. In fact it is an impossible situation. He worst career decision was to accept the CEO job when he was not up to it.

What a CEO needs to do at SMRT is actually very simple. When a house is properly set up, you can do anything you like. Now if the house is on fire, what do you so? Put out the fire silly! Anyone who hasn't even gone to school can tell you that temporarily the top three priorities of SMRT are commuters, commuters and commuters. The way to top this up if he wants to is for the CEO to be a commuter too.

For those who regularly read business books, they might have come across how Paul O' Neill turned around Alcoa by simply focusing the company on only one thing: Safety.

If Desmond Kuek has the courage (you don't need much brains here) to just focus on that one thing which could just be customers or even more fundamental which outsiders like me cannot see, he will succeed. If he tries like all scholars to be good everywhere and everything, he would likely fail. Between now to unambiguous failure would be a totally demoralized staff that is often confused and not empowered to act. If you keep things simple, people have enough brains to know how to do the right thing. In the meantime we can expect the frequency of train breakdowns to only get worse because when you get it wrong, the problems have a way of running ahead of you. It is just like cancer.

1 comment:

  1. The only way SMRT can move forward is to bring charges against those that got away like the ex CEO SAW. Who blabbered a lot about opening a blog and was going to solve this. Higher powers at play here is the obvious