Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 45

Capability (3) "Private-Sector-Driven Development"

Having touched on the three aspects of "Private -Sector-Driven Development", Tan Kee Hian then talked about motivating private investments in Sibu.

In Kee Hian's views:

1. Sibu is widely known as the hub of substantial private wealth.

2. Blue Ocean Ideas creates economic value for:
-Stakeholders (investors)
-And the users (customers)

3. Additional benefits of:
-"Contributing to the revitalisation of Greater Sibu"
-Addressing social needs (elderly, and local university)

The above picture shows Haji Bujang Sports Field in 80s. The site was subsequently converted to Sibu Town Square and Wisma Sanyan. Photo: Philip Hii

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 44

Capability (3) "Private-Sector-Driven Development"

When Tan Kee Hian touched on Capability (3) "Private-Sector-Driven Development", he gave an elaboration on the following three aspects to take audience on a journey of better understanding:

1. Rightful role of Government:

-As enablers (infrastructure, security, social services, etc)

-Intervening in market failures

2. Belief that "business-as-usual" developmental approach is unacceptable:

-Reliance on Government to develop Sibu

-Would not satisfy the dreams and aspirations of Sibu people

3. Many successful developments driven by private enterprise, and in spite of the Government:

-Silicon Valley in the USA

-Hong Kong

-Formula 1 clusters in England

The picture shows Sibu Waterfront in 1987. Photo: Philip Hii

(Philip Hii has been generous enough in letting me use his good collection of the old photos of Sibu between 1977-1990. Thank you, Philip!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sibu Into The future

This is not part of the series that I am covering on Tan kee Hian's "Sibu In the Blue Ocean". Nonetheless, it is along similar line of thinking for the betterment of Sibu.

Amidst Hari Raya mood on September 23 this year when I was still on hectic Raya visiting, I was called up by two reporters of United Daily for an interview on Sibu future. We met up at Cafe Palmelia and the session went on from there.

It was a warm meet over a topic that all Sibuians care about. If you are Chinese-literate, you may click on to read the entire write-up. Or you can choose to pick up a copy of today's (December 29) United Daily for the feature coverage.

Have a good time!

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 43

Capability (2) "Systematic, Error-free Execution"

Tan Kee Hian then moved on to explain the third case example of success story:

Ding Tai Fung Restaurant

Kee Hian said he chose this to show that the concept of systematic, error-free processes applies to even something as mundane and people-based as making a xiao long pau, helping to drive this restaurant to global fame and success.

Kee Hian added that every xiao long pau has 18 folds. Why must it be precisely 18 folds for each and every pau? It is part of the culture and values, and systematic of everything they do in this restaurant.

The picture shows the premises of Sibu Supermarket at Kg. Nyabor Road, Sibu. It was the largest supermarket in Sibu in the 80s. It was short-lived and has since been closed down. Photo: Philip Hii

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 42

Capability (2) "Systematic, Error-free Execution"

Tan Kee Hian quoted some familiar examples of systematic, error-free execution. "Some people might claim Sibu can never be able to learn this sophisticated capability," Kee Hian said. His answer to this sort of claim is "rubbish". See these simple examples:

1. AirAsia

A Malaysian success story based on great execution. The airline manoeuvres fast turnaround of the planes from landing to takeoff, which requires that the entire process to be systematic, documented and error-free, and that all people involved are properly trained and motivated.

2. Immigration Department of Malaysia

Since Pak Lah embarrassed the department when he showed up on his first day as PM, we have all seen how much more efficient Immigration has become. To quote Kee Hian in his exact words: I am not saying they are the most productive yet, but most would agree with me that the change was quite impressive.

The picture shows Rajang River being heavily choked by tons and tons of wood debris, demestic and industrial wastes. Photo: Philip Hii

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 41

Capability (2) "Systematic, Errot-free Execution"

(2) "Imperfect execution" is a serious national shortcoming of Malaysia
Tan Kee Hian explained further as follows:

-Malaysian government and businesses (on average) place low emphasis on error-free execution, unlike MNCs and successful countries and companies.
-We seem to be quite content with imperfect execution, and rather proud of it.
-Remember Pak Lah's comment about Malaysian having First World capital and assets, but Third World operations.
-While there is execution in capital and assets, you can generally buy capital and assets as a package from foreign suppliers, at a price though. But operation is really all about day to day execution. Even the former PM Badawi realised imperfect execution is the norm in Malaysia, and a major shortcoming.

This black-and-white photo shows an operator roasting coffee at an alley behind Kiew Siong Coffee Shop at Central Road, Sibu. He was an expert in this trade and his coffee was popular among the old folks. This valuable photo is from Philip Hii's album.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 40

Capability (2) "Systematic, Error-free Execution"

A good strategy needs efficient execution to carry it through. When covering Capability (2), Kee Hian made it clear to the audience that execution actually forms an integral part of the Blue Ocean Ideas.

Two of the points covered in Capability (2) by Tan Kee Hian particularly stood out. The following is the further elaboration on the points:

1. Not just fast - a well-known trait of Sibu people

-In the exact words of Kee Hian, Sibu people are proud of being able to do things very quick. But speed is pointless unless the output is of the right quality. Remember the "Right First Time" which is now embedded in most high performance organisations.

-Tan Kee Hian quoted some high-profiling projects in Malaysia as real examples.

-The key lesson is that being fast is not sufficient to create an enduring future. It must be of the right quality, based on customers' and design specification. In fact, too much emphasis on speed can be negative, as it drives people to produce only superficial, cosmetic products and services.

-Unfortunately, one of Sibuian's pride, doing things fast, can be a major stumbling block to the transformation of Sibu, as systematic, error-free execution is a key driver of blue ocean and future success.

The picture shows logging in progress in Sarawak in the early days. This is a rare black-and-white photo from Philip Hii.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 39

Tan Kee Hian's Capability (1) involves change of Sibuians' mindset. In short, in taking Little Foochow to the next developmental cycle, we need to adopt a Critical Blue Ocean Mindset.

Having touched on Changing Mindset, Values and Beliefs, Kee Hian then moved on to Capability (2) which is Systematic, Error-free Execution.

Tan Kee Hian in the previous two talks in Sibu ("Outlook for Sibu" at MPI in 2008 and "The Future of Sarawak from A Christian Perspective" at The 9th Methodist Convention in June this year) that I attended laid great stress on execution. During the teh tarik meet with some local bloggers, Kee Hian particularly quoted Singapore as a fine example of having excellent execution.

In his elaboration of Systematic, Error-free Execution, Tan Kee Hian pointed out:

1. Not just fast - a well-known trait of Sibu people

2. Not just "Malaysia boleh"

3. But also smart, precise (error-free) and reliable

4. "Imperfect execution" is a serious national shortcoming of Malaysia

5. Case examples:
-Malaysian Immigration Department
-Din Tai Fung Restaurant

The picture shows the float of Xin Fu Yuan Methodist Church at Ecumenical Christmas Carolling.
Photo: Wong Meng Lei

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 38

I met up with Philip Wong and Melvin Goh this afternoon at Cafe Palmelia for exchange of views over teh tarik.

Philip Wong is my long-time buddy. Way back in 80s, we were active in Sibu championing consumer rights. Philip is a developer now with his base in KL. Despite that, his heart is still tied with threads of passion for Sibu.

Melvin Goh is Business Editor of Eastern Times, a local English daily. Soft-spoken, Melvin Goh has his heart set on Sibu also, albeit in another way. He is currently on a project writing life story of a prominent entrepreneur in Sibu.

Melvin asked for my views on the subject which I obliged.

I grabbed the opportunity to share with them in greater detail "Sibu In The Blue Ocean". Sibu being close to Philip and relevant to Melvin (by virtue of his book -writing project) drew the three of us into a good moment of sharing.

Let's keep "Sibu In The Blue Ocean" moving!

The picture shows (left to right) Philip Wong, Melvin Goh and me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 37

In working towards building up a Blue Ocean environment, Sibuians have to adopt a Critical Blue Ocean Mindset which, in addition to the points listed in Part 35, involves shifts in culture, values and beliefs. In the observations of Tan Kee Hian, this entails the following:

1. On motivational drivers
-Sibuians should move from cold economics & reality to dreams & aspirations

2. On purpose of education
-We ought to shift our focus from qualifications (dual majors) to knowledge & competence

3. On tenure of learning
-Emphasis should be moved from schools & universities to lifelong

4. On careers
-Our mentality should be changed from proven paths to free to experiment

5. On risk appetite
-From adverse to high tolerance

6. On problem solving
-Sibuians have to move from prescriptive to exploratory

7. On lifestyle
-From pragmatic & utilitarian to creative & artistic

8. On value of people
-From units of production to human beings

The picture shows Wisma Sanyan standing tall in the heart of Sibu. Sibu certainly needs much more than just being proud to have the tallest building in Sarawak. Photo: Wong Meng Lei

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ecumenical Christmas Carolling - Joy To The World The Lord Has Come!

" Joy To The World The Lord Has Come!" -The contingent of The Masland Methodist Church sang out loud, giving warmth and bringing joy to the onlookers. Photo: Daniel Chiew

Rev Kong Chon Lin, the pastor-in-charge of The Masland Methodist Church carolled along the street. On his side is Ah Chan. Photo : Daniel Chiew

The float of The Masland Methodist Church is a replica of the newly extended sanctuary. Leading the float is the stout Lien Yung. Photo: Daniel Chiew

It was a fascinating scene at Sibu Town Square last night where glittering lights,, contingents of God-loving Christians and Christmas melody filled up the whole of the place, making the atmosphere heartwarming.
A glance at the fleet of the floats lining up for procession would take you by surprise at the innovation in each and every decoration and the theme chosen to live out message of Bible. The brightly lit floats were simply engrossing to look at.
The whole of Sibu Town Square was a piece of perfect painting, portraying the love of God to the world in sending Jesus Christ to be our only saviour.
As the contingents carolled along the streets, the air was filled with Christmas hymns. All the brothers and sisters sang out loud to proclaim the birth of our Lord Christ Jesus who came to save us. When the 4,000-member carolling teams processed around the town, they filled up the atmosphere with festive joy.
Thousands of spectators and onlookers thronged along the roadsides to share the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ and witness the love of God.
A light drizzle fell half way through. The contingents moved on with strength and faith despite the drizzling conditions. Praise Lord for that!
Ecumenical Christmas Carolling is an annual event in Sibu. The objective is to make proclamation to the world that Jesus Christ was born to be our only saviour.
Sibu is unique to have been organising this carolling event by churches of different denominations. Ecumenical Christmas Carolling can be promoted as a tourist attraction!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 36

Education has been at the core of Sibuians' concern. From pre-school to tertiary levels, Sibuians have never let education be compromised. The flurry of comments/feedback on Tan Kee Hian's "Polytechnic" University Strategy bears testimony to this point.

The first Key Capability for "Sibu In The Blue Ocean" is "Changing Mindset, Values and Beliefs". The critical Blue Ocean Mindset involves the following:

Get out of the comfort zone
-More of the same is not good enough, "Business is not usual"

"Execution and transaction" is not sufficient for breakthrough

Inveast in thinking and innovation

Find and create your own space

Development is about creating economic and social value first......Not just building more houses and shops

Creating exceptional value for customers
-Outside-in, know your customers

Control your own destiny

The picture shows Sibu Lantern Festival 2009. Like what Kee Hian said, Sibu needs to invest in thinking and innovation to bring in tourists. Photo: Wong Meng Lei

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 35

When moving on to touch on Key Capabilities for "Sibu In The Blue Ocean", Tan Kee Hian actually took the audience for a journey to see "the qualities which Sibuians have for bettering Sibu but which may not have been fully developed".

As pointed out, the Key capabilities are parallel in degree of importance to the Blue Ocean Strategies. Together, they compose 10 Blue Ocean Ideas which shed lights on the future for Sibu.

The 5 Key Capabilities propounded by Kee Hian are as follows:

1. Changing mindset, values and beliefs
2. Systematic, error-free execution
3. Private-sector-driven development
4. "Sibu is not an island"
5. A conducive place for talents to flourish

The picture shows the glittering fireworks over the sky of Sibu on the night of Chinese New Year's Eve in 2009. All the glamour seemed to belie a bleak outlook for Sibu. Photo: Wong Meng Lei

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 34

Tan Kee Hian in his sharing with me after the forum pointed out that most, if not all newspaper reports (on "Sibu In The Blue Ocean") referred to the 5 Blue Ocean Strategies and ignored the equally important 5 Capabilities.

In the views of Kee Hian, the 5 Blue Ocean Strategies and the 5 Capabilities together make up the 10 Blue Ocean Ideas. He stressed the importance of the 5 Capabilities, without which the probability and degree of success of the 5 strategies would be severely compromised.

I have given detailed coverage of the 5 Blue Ocean Strategies. To refresh your memory, the 5 strategies are as follows:

1. Centre of Excellence for Gerontology
2. Agri-business hub
3. Hub for mass tourism
4. Arts and Crafts Cluster
5. "Polytechnic" University

The stage has now been set right for us to move on to look at the 5 Capabilities.

The timber industry is now a sunset industry in Sibu. We badly need to transform Sibu to get it out of its present dilemma. Photo: Wong Meng Lei

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 33

Some Sibuians said, "It is always easier said than done". To certain extent, it may be true.

But, in getting Sibu out of the present dilemma, Sibuians need high awareness (through raising issues pertaining to Sibu), brainstorming (through a session like "Sibu In The Blue Ocean"), commitment (through firmly believing in and caring about bringing a change to Sibu) and execution (through carrying out plans). Seriously, we have been stagnant at the awareness stage for far too long.

Then, Kee Hian came in with a session to open up the mindset of Sibuians, opening their eyes to Blue Ocean Strategies. Sibu is still hopeful as long as we put our innovative thinking to work with full commitment.

Let's not put a full stop to 'Sibu In The Blue Ocean". Rather, we have to follow up with more momentum to keep "wheel of change" rolling. It is a challenge. Dear Sibuians, are you prepared to join in?

On "Polytechnic" University, Kee Hian challenged the audience with his Strategy (4) :

Centre for Lifelong Learning:
Executive Education ( in-house and public-enrolled)
Part-time diploma and degree courses
Specialist and short courses

Sibu Town Square, reputedly the largest one in Malaysia, is the centre of activities of Sibu. Photo: Wong Meng Lei

Monday, December 14, 2009

MAF of Sibu East District

We met this evening to plan out for MAF of Sibu East District for 2010. The session was joyous anf heartwarming.

After some brainstorming exercise, Thomas Tieng treated us to a porridge steamboat.

Thank you, brother, for your hospitality!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rainbow Tangyuan

Rainbow Tangyuan
Stuffing: Red bean paste.

Dong Zhi is still 10-day away, but the temptation of homemade tangyuan had already overwhelmed us.
Very much motivated by Tan Kee Hian's Blue Ocean Strategies, Yian put her brain to work to come out with Rainbow Tangyuan. Top on her priority list is healthy style of cooking. As such, she included all natural colourings in her recipe. Freshly squeezed pandan juice, blended dragon fruits, mashed sweet potatoes and blended black sesame seeds turned out to be excellent colourings healthy for consumption.
The tangyuan ( stuffed with red bean paste and covered with desiccated coconut) looked tempting!
Yian also prepared some traditional tangyuan (coated with ground peanuts and soya beans) for us to sample.
My mom and my kids said absolutely there was only one word for the above: Yummy!
The picture shows the traditional tangyuan.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 32

Through his public forum "Sibu in The Blue Ocean", Tan Kee Hian shed lights on the burning issue of Sibu falling behind and proposed ways to get Little Foochow out of the present straits.

Kee Hian called on Sibuians to be a thinking group and be innovative in ideas. In brainstorming, we need input of your views to keep this momentum going.

I appreciate all the sincere comments so far and I am sure they would work a long way down the road towards contributing to Sibu, in one way or another.

So, all the thinking Sibuians, let us be a part of Blue Ocean Strategies. Together we wake up Sibu from its present slumber and take it to the next developmental cycle.

We shall continue with "Polytechnic" University tomorrow.

The picture shows the polluted Rajang River. We really need a clean-up of the mighty river. Photo: Steve Ling

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 31

Innovation is the gist of Blue Ocean Strategy. In an uncontested environment, we outperform by being creative. Slashing against each other is really an outdated strategy.

It similarly applies to education. Tan Kee Hian formulated " Polytechnic" University as one of the five Blue Ocean Strategies aiming to take Sibu to the next developmental cycle.

Tan Kee Hian's Strategy (3) for "Polytechnic" University is as follows:

Initial faculties include:
-Faculty of Business Administration
-Faculty of Applied Sciences
-Faculty of Technology

Candidates for Multi-disciplinary Centres for Development and Applications include:
-Institute of Active Ageing
-Institute of Agri-business
-Institute of Tourism and Hospitality
-Institute of Entrepreneurship

The picture shows an innovative decoration for a Christmas tree. Photo: Steve Ling

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 30

Having a full-fledged university in Sibu remains a dream. We have been voicing out, but the path towards realising it is still bumpy.

Tan Kee Hian said, instead of establishing a "Vanilla" University, Sibuians should aim for a "Polytechnic" University. This is his fifth Blue Ocean Strategy working towards turning Sibu around.

In the previous post, I talked about Kee Hian's Strategy (1) for "Polytechnic" University. His Strategy (2) is as follows:

Components of the "Polytechnic" University:

-University College (undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and professional qualifications)

-"Polytechnic" (diplomas and semi-professional qualifications)

-Multi-disciplinary Centres for Development and Applications

-Centre for Lifelong Learning

The photo shows Lanang Bridge, Sibu. Education is really like a bridge.

Photo: Steve Ling

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 29

With clear vision and mission for "Polytechnic" University in Sibu, Tan Kee Hian formulated four crucial strategies for the higher institution.

Strategy (1) is spelt out as follows:

Take a proactive approach to meeting the stakeholders' needs by delivering "products and services":

-Ready-to-deploy graduates, with:
*Degrees and professional qualifications
*Diploma and semi-professional qualifications

-Problem-solving, applied development and innovation services

-Programs and activities stimulating social, entrepreneurial and intellectual development

The picture shows Tan Kee Hian giving a talk at a public forum "Outlook For Sibu" at MPI on Oct. 25, 2008. Photo: Terrence Tan of MPI

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 28

Touching further on higher education, Tan Kee Hian took the audience to expound on the mission of "Polytechnic" University.

In Kee Hian's views, "Polytechnic" University in Sibu has the following mission:

To facilitate and accelerate the economic and social development of the Greater Sibu Region by focusing on domains of direct relevance and applicability to the needs of its key stakeholders:
-Businesses and enterprises
-People and society
-Parents and students

Photo: Liong

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 27

Councillor Robert Lau, a lawyer by profession and a planter, is certainly an aspiring politician on the rise.

When Tan Kee Hian came back last month to speak at the public forum, Robert Lau did his part by personally forwarding invitation messages to his contacts. I was one of the recipients and I really appreciated it.

Councillor Robert Lau turned up at the forum to show his keeness on the topic and his deep concern for Sibu.

More than just that, he penned an article to express his views on "Sibu In The Blue Ocean". He mailed it to me and asked me to upload it to the forum site ( for sharing.

We really need more Sibuians to develop burning urge to turn around Sibu. However crazy they may be, please put forward your views for sharing to arouse wider and deeper interest on the subject.

The picture shows Councillor Robert Lau (second from right, front row) at the public forum. Photo: iong

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 26

Tan Kee Hian dared Sibuians to dream. We need dreams to turn Sibu into a more-developed place. Kee Hian's vision of "Polytechnic" University in Sibu is as follows:

An outstanding tertiary educational institution in Sibu:
- That is well-respected by its peers as among the best places of learning and knowledge
- Where students from Greater Sibu are challenged , develop their talents and knowledge,
and achieve their dreams.
- That contributes visibly, proactively, substantively and innovatively to critical areas of
the economy and society.

Photo: Liong

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 25

From arts and crafts, Tan Kee Hian then moved on to education. Kee Hian viewed Sibu as having potential to have a "Polytechnic" University. His observations are built on the following bases:

1. From records, there have been several failed attempts to set up tertiary educational institution in Sibu.

2. Our approach has typically been Red Ocean, cookie cutter
-"Vanilla" private colleges
-No perceived distinctive values or benefits by parents or students
-Dominated by commercial objectives

3. Gap in employers' satisfaction with local graduates
-Mismatch with job requirements
-Generic, academic knowledge
-Poor soft skills

The picture shows Tan Kee Hian giving a talk at a public forum at MPI in 2008. Photo: Terrence Tan of MPI

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dubai Debt Towers On Foundations of Sand

When taking questions about the fallout of Dubai World's request for a standstill on its debts, Sherikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, said,"The international investors do not understand anything."

A very thought-provoking statement!

Ulber bear investor and Gloom, Boom and Doom Report editor Marc Faber said Dubai World's debt problems are just the tip of iceberg, and suggested investors would be better off not buying U.S. government bonds.

It is a wake-up call!

Picture: By courtesy of Ed Stein

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sibu In The Blue Ocean - Part 24

Tan Kee Hian based his vision for arts and crafts in Sibu on the following:

1. Make Arts and Crafts Cluster a recognised industry cluster:
-It is co-located
-With multiple arts and crafts sub-sector
-Critical mass of players in each sub-sector
-Commonalities shared interests across the cluster
2. Anchor companies in sub-sectors with large-scale operations which are supported by network of smaller entities.
3. With full industry ecosystem supporting cluster:
-Marketing, promotion, R&D, financing, business support

Photo: Terrence Tan of MPI