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This blog has been designed most for the benefits of my students. I am interested in spiritual intelligence because I believe it leads to happiness and resilience. If you want copies of my published research (conference papers or articles in journals), feel free to contact me.

Ridhwan (

My other blog is:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lessons from UTM Skudai

As some of you know, I attended a conference in UTM, Skudaim, recently. This conference was organized by practitioners and focused on leadership and management in Islamic education. Two interesting things to note:

1. Two private companies (CUCMS in Malaysia, MUIS in Singapore) explained in detail how they successfully implemented Islamic principles in business

2. In both cases, the top management had very good knowledge of Islam and up to date knowledge of management. The good knowledge of Islam - in practice - means that they relate their day to day operations to principles of Fiqh (Qawaid Fiqhiyah). The good knowledge of management means that they keep their knowledge fresh, they are able to unlearn old ideas and re-learn new ideas.

The overall feeling that I had is that Islamic management is currently being practiced. It is just that we don't have a lot of documented case studies, that's all.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Class projects: Tips on accessing Islamic websites

I have listed several Islamic websites under the heading "Excellent websites". Here are a few tips;

1. Dr Bilal Philips's website is the "mother" of this project - one of the excellent features on his site is that he rates many Islamic websites in English (he also includes deviant Islamic websites and anti-Islamic websites) and provides a decsription of the sites and the links.

2. Some of the websites that he rates (sunnah on line, understand Islam,,...) have been selected as being pretty good. They can be accessed via Bilal's site or seperately. You might want to fool around with other Islamic sites that Bilal Philips rates. Certain websites might not be directly relevant to your class project but may be useful in future. For example, no 14 on his list is "Madinah Arabic". This is a great website to learn Arabic on line.

3. The Deen show is not on Bilal Philips's list. It is quite good for more informal talks, suitable for non-Muslims or Muslims who are looking for more basic information about Islam.

At the beginning, you might need to spend some time identifying the websites that suit your level / your personality / your personal interests. Don't access other sites without permission from me (at least, not for the project).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Improving yourself: Lessons from Singapore

I came back from an international Aikido seminar that was held in Singapore. It was conducted by Christian Tisser, a 7th Dan and a superstar in the world of Aikido. I started Aikido about 10 months ago and I was surprised that most of the techniques that we were learning in the seminar were techniques that I already knew. So, I asked myself, what is the difference between a beginner and a 7th Dan ? How do you progress in Aikido? I asked the question to Sensei Tissier and his answer was simple: the mindset. Everybody makes mistakes. But if you think that you have mastered the technique, you close your mind and stop learning. You can only progress if you keep your mind open.

I thought about this and I want to relate it to developing soft skills. Everybody has soft skills - we all know how to communicate, we all know how to manage yourself and we all know how to solve problems - so the only real difference is our mindset. Is our minds open or closed? Will we reach a stage where we are so confident with our skills that we close your mind and stop progressing? Consider two students A and B. Both have a potential of 100%. But student A has the wrong mindset. After achieving 70% of his potential, he feels that he knows enough and he closes his mind. He stops improving. Student B keeps his mind open and ends up achieving 98% of his potential. Even at that level, he still sees himself as needing to learn because he realises that he is not yet at 100% of his potential.

Let's relate this to the prayer. The greatest soft skill that we have is our spiritual soft skills. The prayer is our strongest connection to Allah. Yet, two people can approach the prayer in a very different way. One person can learn the proper movement and words to be said, pray with sincerity but have the wrong mindset. He prays but he doesn't care about improving his prayers; maybe because he feels "safe" as he is praying. A second person can know the same thing, say the same thing, have the same sincerity but his mindset is one of openness. He knows that the prayer is his connection with Allah so he always wants to improve the quality of his prayer to get closer to Allah.

The journey to perfection is a never ending journey. The physical discipline of Aikido allows me to develop the positive mindset that I need to fulfill my responsibilities as a Muslim, as a father, as a husband and as a teacher. As a teacher, I still have lots to learn. After all, a teachers who think that he has all the answers has closed his mind....and shown a bad example to his students!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Training in Islamic Management

I have recently put together three courses in Management from an Islamic Perspective (MIP). These are one day courses for industry. They can be modified and delivered to students. These courses are
- Management principles in the Quran (MIP Level 1)
- Management principles in the Sunnah (MIP Level 2)
- Management in the light of Qada and Qadar (MIP Level 3)
Spread the word!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bandar Aceh

This photo was taken after the Tsunami in Aceh on 26th December 2004. If you think in terms of logic and science, it is absolutely impossible for every building to be destroyed except a masjid.....As Allah says in the Qur'an, only the people of understanding will recognise Allah's Signs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New links

I have added two new links to my "Excellent websites". Kaizen consultants is the site of a consultanting company that specializes in quality improvement, Kaizen and lean manufacturing. is a website that serves as an encyclopedia of management concepts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Palestine and Gaza

Everytime I think of what is happening in Palestine in general, and Gaza in particular, I remember this hadith recorded by Muslim

The Messenger of Allah stated that the person of the inhabitants of the Hell fire who received the most bounties of the people of this world will be brought on the Day of Judgment and dipped once into Hell. It will be said to him "O Son of Adam, have you seen any good in your life? Did you enjoy any blessings at all?" He will answer, "No, by Allah." And the person of the inhabitants of Paradise who faced the greatest hardships of the people of this world will be brought and dipped once into Paradise. It will be said, "O son of Adam, did you every see any hardship in your life? Did you every face any difficulty?" He will say, "No by Allah. O Lord, I never experienced any hardships at all and I never say any difficulty at all."

May Allah show Mercy to Muslims, the people of Palestine and Gaza, in this world and the Next. Ameen

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Repentance: a management's perspective

Its Ramadhan, 30 minutes before Subuh and I am thinking about repentance. I guess that many people do not appreciate religion because they see it as 'irrational'. But when you look at Islamic concepts and you trace them back to psychology, you find that they make a lot of sense. Fasting, for example, is not just about 'cutting food'. It is about changing your behaviour. When you have fasted and you start praying, it's normal to start thinking about repentance. Repentance is about analysing yourself, identifying the good and the bad and throwing away the bad. Although people repent after the prayer, I believe that analysing yourself is much easier before the prayer. If you are serious about repentance, a good technique is to have a little notebook. Spend a few minutes answering the following questions:

1. Why am I Muslim? Is it simply because I was born in a Muslim family?

2. If I were to die today, would I be able to justify all my behaviour to Allah?

3. If the answer is no, which behaviour would I have problems justifying?

4. Which aspect of my character would I like to improve?

I personally find that reading religious books is a good way to trigger ideas. For the last 10 days of Ramadhan, I plan to read a series of books about Aqidah - specifically about the Day of Judgment, the questionning in the grave, the descriptions of Paradise and Hell, what happens at death and so forth - to stimulate my thinking.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Management from an Islamic perspective (MGT4820)

The date for the mid-semester exam for MGT4820 has been set on Monday 20th September. Date and venue will be confirmed. There will be three essay questions, you need to answer 2.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The USA is the poorest country in the world

Here is website that should make Muslims think. The USA is so poor that it cannot afford to pay for its military campaign around the world. So how does the USA do it?

Well, every week, the US government sells US Treasury bonds to finance its budget deficit. All interest-based banks in Malaysia buy US Treasury bonds as part of their investment portfolio. If you have RM 100 in a non-Islamic bank in Malaysia, a portion of that is invested in US Treasury bond ... which is then used to pay for the American war effort. Only by having an account in an Islamic bank do you avoid this trap of financing the US government. Go to:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Red bead experiment (part 5 & 6)

As I mentioned before, the final video is excellent because you understand the whole point to the series of videos

Red bead experiment (part 3 & 4)

Continue watching, the facilitators make fun of many management practices ....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Red Bead Experiment (part 1 and part 2)

Watch carefully. If you fully understand this experiment, you will understand a lot about management. Feel free to discuss this experiment in any essay questions on the exam.....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Red Bead Experiment (Introduction)

Before I link the Red Bead Experiment to this blog, let me give some background information. Dr. Deming used the Red Bead experiment to demonstrate a number of points about management, namely variation, systems and ranking of employees.

By variation, Dr. Deming means that the time that it takes to do any task is not exactly predictable. It is possible to calculate an average with an upper limit and a lower limit. Imagine that you are in a tele-marketing department. You have 5 employees whose job is to call people and ask them 30 questions about your product. You realise that on average each call is 10 minutes. The upper limit is 15 minutes and the lower limit is 5 minutes.

By system, Deming means that people are working within a system. As employees, they are powerless to change the system. Only management can change the system by changing the rules. Continuing with the example of a tele-marketing department, if it takes on average 10 minutes to ask customers 30 questions; we can imagine that a person calls 30 people per day (on average). However, let say that the manager decides to change the rules. Instead of asking 30 questions, employees only have to ask 10 questions. Let's say that because of this new rule, the average duration of a call goes from 10 minutes to 5 minutes. As a consequence, the number of calls that employees make in one day jumps from 30 to 60. In effect, the productivity of the department has doubled. Clearly, employees are not working two times harder. Their output simply depends on the constraint of the system that they are working with.

Deming raises an important issues. If people are working in a system that has variation, it is not logical to rank them. The performance of the employee does not depend on their effort alone but the effort of the employee within a system. For example - sticking with the tele-marketing department - if I have 5 employees (A, B, C, D and E). If they all average calls of 10 minutes and if nobody has calls less than 5 minutes and nobody has calls of more than 15 minutes, then they are all performing within the norms determined by the management. If on Monday, employee A makes more phone calls than the rest, that does not mean that employee A was working harder than the rest. It simply means that on Monday, A was lucky. He had a few customers who answered the questions more quickly than normal. But on Tuesday, the same employee might make fewer calls than anybody else. Why? because he might have had a few customers that spent more time answering the questions than normal.

Deming argued that:
a) looking at individual performance does not matter as long as they are within the norms set by management
b) to reward some employees for "working hard" demotivates the rest becasue they know that the 'extra' performance was due to luck. They perceive this to be unfair as they worked just as hard as the person who got the reward.
c) to improve productivity, management has to change something in the system. Employees, by themselves, are powerless to change the rules.
d) many managers make the mistake of ranking employees because they have a very poor understanding of statistics. Once you understand statistics, think in terms of averages, upper limits and lower limits, your ability to manage people improves substantially.

Lastly, one warning. There are several links and - all together - the videos are quite long. The first video is OK but it gets a bit boring after a while. The last video - where the audience is told the lessons behind the experiment - is very important and very interesting. You need to be patient, warch the boring bits in order to appreciate the most important bit at the end.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Deming (part 3)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Take a virtual tour of a DELL factory

There are lots of interesting videos on you tube that allows you to better understand how organisations work. I found this particular segment very good.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Learning how to learn: The key to academic success

A few days ago, somebody posted a comment on the blog, asking "what were the softskills."

Rather than simply list the softskills that everybody needs, I prefer to look at a skill that is key to everybody's success: learning how to learn.

Consider the following fact. In the 1980s, what you learnt at university would serve you a lifetime. Today, what you learn at university will be out of date within 5 years of leaving university. The most important skill anybody can develop is learning how to learn.

When I was doing my PhD research, a professor gave me the following advice, He said, "Find the best academic journal, go back ten years and read everything that relates to your field." For all my students (undergrad and postgrad), I recommend the Harvard Business Review.

1. Go to IIUM website.
2. Click on "On Line Databases"
3. Click on "List of A to Z journals"
4. Type "Harvard Business Review"

If you are interested in business, you will find everything that you need to know in the HBR. You can download articles that are of particular interest. Aaprt from the HBR, another good journal is the "Academy of Management Executive" although I still prefer the HBR.

You might ask: what is so special about the HBR? Well, many people make a distinction between management and marketing. Yet, the successful organisation has to be customer-driven and customer-focused. I like the HBR because it has very good articles on management AND very good articles on marketing in the same issues..... As a student, that knowledge will complement your lectures in class. After you leave UIA, you will find that by reading the Harvard Business Review once a month, your knowledge will never be out of date.

Everybody knows that "knowledge is power." It seems shameful that once people leave university, they stop learning. Rather, you should consider that the most important skill you can learn from university is how to learn how to learn. With the one skill, you will find that the rest of your life is very easy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lifting the coconut shell

Well, I am back from my holidays. I started teaching at UIA in January 2010, about six months ago. So what do I want to do with this blog in the future? Here are my thoughts

1. Softskills are still important because they form a key aspect of the Knowledge - Skills - Attitude that makes people employable

2. The 'hard part' of softskills (understanding processes, mapping processes, developing a systems perspective) is still a major focus. That can only be mastered once the basic softskills have been acquired

3. The ultimate aim though is to make UIA students feel optimistic about their future by helping them remove the cocunut shell that some people are trying to hide under. That is why I have included some news items about some of the economic problems in Europe. We are so used to seeing problems in our own countries that we forget that the problems in other countries - countries that look like they are more successful - are sometimes worse.

During my holiday, I met some old friends. One of them asked me why I left Europe and moved to Malaysia. I explained that, in my opinion, Europe is in a process of decay. Things are 'falling apart' whether politically, economically or socially. Malaysia, on the other hand, is a society that is in the process of being built. Yes, there are many things that are lacking. But there is a big difference between lacking something because your house is falling down and lacking something because your house is not yet completely finished. There was no disagreement from my friends about my opinion.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Subsidies in France

Throughout this blog, I make the point that management problems are complex. If we fail to understand that complexity, we will make decisions that have side effects. My father, who lives in France, told me the following story a few days ago. In order to develop green energy in France, the French government now gives subsidies that reduce the cost of installing sun panels by 50%. Before the subsidy; sun panels cost about Euros 3,000. After the subsidy started, the price of installing solar panels jumped to Euros 5,600 !

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Creativity, communication and holistic a perspective

Leaders, as all my students know, focus on changing organisations. First, they need to 'see' the situation differently. Second, they need to communicate that new perspective to their followers. Third, they need to see how all the different parts of the organisation interact (dependency). I attach an old photo of an exercise in creativity. I gave my students one newspaper, one roll of tape and one brick. They had to build the tallest structure in order to support a brick. The group in the photo managed 1 m 35 cm. After the exercise, I asked them if they thought they could complete the task. They said that they didn't think it was possible..... so challenge your perception and you will become a good leader.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Meeting deadlines

Management can be complicated but the basics are easy to understand. The most fundamental skill that anybody can enforce is getting subordinates to meet deadlines. I was speaking to a manager the other day. He used to work for a multinational in Malaysia and he switched to a small, local company. He described his current organisation as one in where "everybody seems to be working in slow motion." When I asked what he meant, he explained that in a multinational, deadlines were respected. By hook or by crook, you had to finish your work on time.... so people started working on projects early. In his new job, deadlines keep moving. There is no incentive to start working on something now because you already know that the deadline willl change ..... The moral of the story is that good managers set realistic deadlines and stick to them. If people don't meet the deadlines, they scream, shout and rave to male people understand that dead;ones are important. If not, your message to your people is, "don't bother meeting deadlines because I don't really care anyway."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Leader of a group vs. manager in a company

A few days ago, the question was asked, is it more difficult to be the leader of a group or a manager in a company?

Personally, I have been both. I never enjoyed being a manager because you have a lot of responsibility but no real power. At the end of the day, your boss is telling you what to do. Many times, I was told to do things that I believe was not really good for my company .... but you still have to follow the orders.

At university, you have more freedom. However, it is true that it is difficu;t to be a leader when you are all "peers." It comes back to the role of a leader. A leader has two main roles:

a) Task roles: to achieve the task that has been given

b) Maintenance role: To maintain a good relationship between the members of a team

I suspect that some team leaders are having problems because they have not spent enough time developing a team spirit. Often, people do not invest in developing a relationship. You know one another's name but that is about it. To develop a real time spirit, everybody has to share things about themselves. That sharing is a way of telling everybody that you trust one another.

Why do you think I tell stories about Anas, Adam or Ammar? Why do you think I show pictures of my kids in class? Even my blog tells you some personal ideas or my experiences with MBA students? By sharing things that are personal (but not too personal), I am simply trying to build a sense of trust between me and the rest of the class. Everybody talks about "breaking the ice". That is misleading. People break the ice and then forget to build relationships. Everything in management is about relationships. Building relationships and (when necessary) destroying relationships.

The lesson which I take from the question is that you are finding the simulation difficult. Good. That means that you are learning something important..... :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Contingency school

I had a question related to the contingency school. The idea behind the contingency school is that there is no best way to solve a management problem. Depending on the situation, people who subscribe to the contingency will change their approach. In other words, this chool promotes two things:

a) an awareness that adapting to a changing business environment is very important

b) a flexible mindset

For example, imagine a company that is involved in on-line advertising. Maybe, their approach is very process-orientated. However, as the company grows bigger, the CEO realises that there is less and less communication between the workers. This new situation (a bigger company) requires the CEO to use a new approach (for example, more team building activities) that the company never did in the past.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Schools of management (example)

Let's take IIUm as an example. You are the new rector and you are not happy with the overall performance of the university. How would the different schools of management apply to the management of this university?

1. If you believe in the administrative school, you will re-arrange some of the policies and procedures to make the administration stronger.

2. If you believe in the scientific management school, you will do a study of how long it takes to do certain jobs. You will then find ways to shorten the time to do these jobs.

3. If you believe in the bureaucratic school, you will re-arrange the structure of the university so that the chain of command is clear.

4. If you believe in the behavioural school, you will find ways to motivate your staff because you assume that if people are more motivated, they will produce more

5. If you believe in the systems school, you will look at the university overall. You might realise that the university is very dependent on the support from the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) so your energy will be focused on improving the relationship with MOHE.

6. If you believe in the process school, you will look at how different parts of the university work together. For example, for centralised examinations, you might find that the cooperation between different parts of the university is lacking and that effects the students' performance during the examination.

7. If you believe in the learning organisation school, you will ask the senior professors to share their knowledge of management wiht younger lecturers (for example, by doing joint teaching) so that the younger lecturers becoem more experienced more quickly.

In other words, your perception of management will determine how you look at management problems. A good manager will be able to look at a problem from different perspectives in order to identify the best solution.

Schools of management (theory)

The idea is simple. Over the last one hundred years, different experts in management have proposed different ways to manage effectively.

Henrie Fayol was one of the earliest and he said that managers need to develop a good administration based on a few key principles (i.e. unity of command, scalar principle, ....)

Frederick Taylor said that the key was 'schientific management.' In other words, you need to study people's jobs and simplify the steps so that the job can be done more quickly

Max Weber argued that you had to develop a bureaucracy that was transparent, logical and orderly

The various experts in the behaviour school argued that if you engage people (i.e. challenge them, make their job interesting,....), your organisation will be more effective

After the 1950s, the systems, the process and the learning schools added more knowledge about management. In all of these three schools, the important thing is to understand that people depend on other people to do their job. To manage well, you need to see the "big picture." For the systems school, that means that you need to focus on the system as a whole. For the process school, you need to see how to coordinate the work between departments . For the learning school, you need to get the experts in the organisation to share their knowledge with members in the organisation that are less knowledgeable.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Photos from the camp on the 17th

Leadership camp on 17 April 2010

I am exhausted. I spent the whole day doing a leadership camp near Sungai Congkak for 25 participants. I changed the format somehwat from previous camps. First,we looked at the problem of "fire fighting" inside organisations. Second, we looked at why people keep silent in organisations, even when they can see major problems. We then looked at a number of concepts taken from Goldratt's book called "The Goal". To finish off, we did a 1 h 1/2 Aikido session. We linked the Aikido concepts of blending, off balancing and developing ki to the discussions in the morning. In one word, a busy day!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The reality in "rich countries"

In a lecture for MGT2010 a few weeks ago, I described the reasons that made me leave Europe and come to Malaysia. As I tried to explain in a few words, Europe is dying and the future lies in Asia. Many of my students were surprised by this lecture, probably because many do not follow what has been happening in "rich countries" like the US, UK and so forth. Today (Tuesday 13th April), I found the following article on the BBC website. I found it very relevant....

"In the places worst affected by Europe's economic crisis, unemployment and cuts in pay and public services are hitting the headlines. But the crisis is also having another effect with profound long-term consequences - the return of emigration.

Filippos Katampouris says it was a "horrible mistake" to leave the UK
Places like Greece and Ireland thought the good times of the last decade or two had finally ended the cycle of emigration, with the brightest and best youngsters no longer feeling they had to move away. No-one believes that any more. In the fish market in Athens is Filippos Katampouris, one of the best-qualified assistant fishmongers you'll ever meet. He has a degree from a Greek university, and a masters degree in technology management from the UK.

When he gave up his British job to return to Greece a few years ago, he could have been a symbol of a newly prosperous country offering good prospects to young professionals. "I wanted to live in my country, didn't want to spend the rest of my life in a foreign country," he said. With hindsight, he thinks he made "a horrible mistake" coming back. As the economic crisis began to hit Greece he lost his job in a market research agency. All he can do now is join his father and "work in the fish market to make ends meet". "It's a very dark future for me," he adds gloomily. "I'm thinking of going back to the UK, but my wife won't come with me so I'm going to stay here and hope for the best."

Thousands of Greeks are facing this dilemma - do they stay and suffer austerity and unemployment, or become the next generation of large exiled Greek communities in Australia, Britain or the US?

Future emigrants are among those queuing for passports in Dublin. In Ireland, the resumption of emigration is already well underway. During the Celtic Tiger boom, there was Irish huge pride in the fact that jobs in new industries were keeping locals at home. Ireland was even attracting its own immigrants in large numbers from elsewhere in Europe to work in everything from building to financial services.

But that boom - which became a property bubble - has come to a catastrophic end. Unemployment has risen sharply, and the Irish government has had to introduce harsh austerity measures. Among the public sector workers taking industrial action against the measures are the staff at the main passport office in Dublin.

Angry queues form outside each morning as people hope to obtain their passports despite the action, some for holidays, but others for possible emigration. "I've an offer now to go to the States and I'm thinking of just getting out of here," one man in the queue told me.

Conan O'Broin is himself seriously considering leaving Ireland. "I definitely don't want to leave the country. But it's a case of being driven out of it at the minute. It's just pay cut after pay cut. And if I do go, I won't be back." A short walk away is the campus of Trinity College Dublin, where the president of the students' union, Conan O'Broin, is equally despondent. "I've said goodbye to five or six very close friends over the last few months, some of whom at least I don't think are going to come back," he said.

"The dreamland is over, we're back to reality with a bang," he adds. It is "the same cycle which hit Ireland in the 1950s and the 1980s, high levels of emigration, used as a safety valve because we can't get our act together to develop a sustainable economy". He is, he admits, seriously considering leaving himself.

There has always been international movement in search of work. And the European single currency was supposed to help create a continent in which people could either enjoy their own country's new prosperity, or move freely around if they felt like a spell abroad.

But now many young Greek and Irish emigrants, despairing at the state of their home economies, feel forced to head for the exit, just as their parents and grandparents might have done. Europe is no longer the newly happy and prosperous economic family they hoped their countries had joined.

Crossing Continents on how the Greeks and Irish are responding to the crisis will be broadcast on the BBC World Service from Thursday 15 April 2010 starting at 1132 GMT.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Aikido event at KDE

I attach a few photos of a Aikido seminar that was held at Kelab Darul Ehsan (KDE) about 2 weeks ago. The teacher was a British sensei who has been teaching Aikido in Japan for the last 30 years. I am strong believers that successful people need to think differently. Apart from the physical benefits of having regular exercise, Aikido forces you to think differently. Instead of seeing a big opponent wiht a knife, you just see somebody which you can off-balance easily... The bigger they are, the easier they fall.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New leadership programmes planned

Well, followers of my blog will realise that I have not done a leadership programme for some time. However, there are two camps planned in April and in May. I am experimenting with new ideas. In particular, I am starting to realise to what extent leaders 'see' things differently. In the two camps planned in April and May, I will try to challenge the perception of my participants. I will do that by combining physical activities (in this case Aikido) and group discussions (no surprise, I will use the Theory of Constraint even though we won't have time for mapping exercises).

The other exciting development is that a group of researchers from the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines will be meeting me next week to talk about the possibility of developing programmes in Islamic Leadership in the Philippines. So,....wait and see. My blog may not be active in terms of posting but things are happening in the background :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recent reading

I was looking at the website and I came across the statistics in this table. The more I learn about management, the more I realize we still don't really understand what management is. Our focus is on the "people" instead of focusing on the "people in their environment". Due to that fundamental mistake, we put pressure on "everybody" without understanding what is contraining the organization. Remember: the productivity of the whole organization is determined by the productivity of its weakest link. So for any MGT2010 students out there, make sure you understand the basic idea behind constraint management!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The football analogy

When teaching the Islamic perspective to management, I like to use the “football analogy”. I created this analogy around a football pitch because a basic principle in Islam is that when it comes to ibadat, everything is haraam unless it is halaal. Outside of acts of ibadat, the principle is that everything is halaal except for a few things that are haraam. Dr Yusuf Qaradawi said, “the sphere of prohibited things is very small, while that of permissible things is extremely vast (…) the principle of natural permissibility is not only limited to things and objects but to all human behaviour not related to acts of worship” The limits that Allah SWT has defined is like the boundaries on a football pitch

If you think about it, the rules of the game of football (the rules of off-side, penalty, free-kicks, and so forth) are like the principles of Islamic Law. People can do whatever they want as long on the football pitch as long as they do not break the rules.
The owner of the Universe appointed a series of referees to explain the game to human beings. The last referee was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who explained the rules of the game to the first Muslim players who joined the game. To this effect, Muslim players have two references. One is the Qur’an (whose focus is to explain the objectives of the game) and the other is the Sunnah (whose focus is more on the detailed rules of the game). After that, the last referee left the pitch. When new Muslim players arrived, they learned the rules of the game from the first generation of Muslim players. Some confusion occurred as to how the rules should be understood and applied but the objective of the game – that players had to play the game ethically in order to go into Paradise – was clear.

However, Muslim players then started to play international games. In these international games, foreign players played with a different objective. Their objective was simply to score as many goals as possible. To help them do that, they invented their own rules. As these foreign players seemed to score more goals than Muslim players, some Muslim players forgot the original objective of the game. These Muslim players started to assume that foreign players were able to score more goals because their objective and their rules of the games were “better” than the Muslim players’ objective and rules. In fact, some Muslim players started to assume that the rules that Muslims have to abide to were the main reasons why Muslims could not score many goals.

A careful analysis though seems to indicate that foreign players can score a lot of goals because they work better as a team and they have a better strategy. Muslim players, on the other hand, may have very good individual skills but they do not always work well in a team. Often, they do not have a clear strategy. In most cases, Muslim players are no longer playing according to the Islamic perspective. Many Muslim players today agree that it is important to score more goals than the foreign players but for the purpose of dawah. By scoring many goals, Muslims who are confused can be re-assured and foreign players can be attracted to the objective and the rules that Muslim players need to follow. The key, for Muslim players, is to:
1. Re-develop their confidence in their understanding of the game
2. Re-develop their understanding of the explanations given by the last referee
3. Improve their understanding of strategy
4. Improve their teamwork

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Building character through Aikido

A question some people ask me is how can we develop ourselves? Especially our character?

One approach that I recommend is to do martial arts, especially Aikido. Martial arts is not about learning how to fight. It is more about living a healthy lifestyle through physical exercise and developing self confidence. Indeed, martial arts require a continuous process of training and improving oneself. Attending a few martial arts sessions will not really make a difference to anybody. But if somebody 'stays' with it for two or three years, there will be a significant development of their fitness, self-confidence and self-management skills.

The reason I prefer Aikido is that martial arts are divided into two broad categories: "hard" and "soft" martial arts. Hard martial arts - like silat and taekwando - requires to attack the opponent. As one Taekwando instructor once told me, "there are only two strategies: attack and counter attack". Soft martial arts - like Tai Chi and Aikido - uses the energy of the opponent to immobilize him or her. It's not about strength but about using the other person's momentum to control the situation. Psychologically, when one practices martial arts regularly for a couple of years, one develops the mindset that "nothing is impossible".

Another soft skills session