Friday, October 17, 2008


Any student from NTU doing EEE would be familiar with the name: Michael Heng. At the brief mention of this name, students will flee and screams can be heard waaay over at changi point.

At some point of his life, an NTU EEE student would have chanced across the horrendous encounters that would be associated with this name, just like a Right-Of-Passage Week known to special forces around the world, no matter how innocent or lost the student may be, he’d eventually come to know it and would have to go through it.

I’m no different. For me I didn’t exactly hear of any horror stories, neither did I know much about this subject innocently entitled Human Resource Management. Even when I did eventually come to hear about it 6 months ago, I thot “what the heck.. it can’t be that bad”. So perhaps I was wrong..

Unlike any typical modules that I’ve taken and will take in the coming semester, this one is uniquely different. Right from the start we’re told that everything we know and once knew, will be changed. A ‘life-altering’ module as described in his very own words.. so I looked out for chances where I may start to see things differently.. I’m not sure if it’s his intention to make us have a paradigm shift purely in terms of the business models and stuff but for me, this whole Reality Learning took quite a turn early this week.

Zip by from the first lecture all the way till this past Tuesday.. and for me, I have indeed gotten a few valuable lessons.

My first lesson was that the true test of a person’s character is truly revealed in times of immense pressure and hardship. Sure this must be ur 461st time hearing this statement, but I’m telling you that it’s one thing to hear it, it’s another to watch it unravel before ur very eyes.

At 2330 hours, after 5 hours of trying to sort the report out, 3 folks out of the team of 5 decide that they should leave so they may catch the last train. Note that at this point in time, the report that was due in 10 hours’ time was barely 30% completed, neither was the presentation sorted out in any way.

Fine by me, I know where my priority lies and at this point, sleep is of the least. Fast forward 9.5 hours later, after only 2 hours of sleep, and 30 min away from the big presentation, I stroll into the computer lab and realise that the report wasn’t printed.

Instead of printing it, our dear ‘Team Leader’ was busily trying to amend the peer review to make it such that it reflected that everyone had an ‘equal’ amount of work done. It’s weird when you think about it, we have 30 minutes to sort out the presentation slides, which were at this point non-existent, and to print the report, and instead of doing any of these, the peer review and the individual marks that you get takes precedence.. I just don’t get it. Don’t mind me saying but it just speaks of what shallow character you have. To have the cheek to say that you will distribute equally then it’s ‘fair to everyone’.. I don’t know about you, but if your definition of fair means that you leave 2 team members to stay up to 5 in the morning to sort out a group report, then I rest my case about ur character. I'll just take the past 11 hours of work to be an exchange to find out who you are on the inside.. and to think you’re supposed to be the ‘leader’?

Which leads me to the next lesson that I’ve learnt, that an incompetent leadership can literally tear the entire team down. In the army it’s all about leadership and delegating work and ensuring that the work gets done etc.. any trooper who’s ever donned the green would be familiar with these terms. But much as the army has tried to inform me about what a good leadership is meant to do, it failed to let me see what an incompetent leadership will do to the team.

In the case of the army, if you screw up or show that you have a negative amount of leadership potential in you, the solution is simple. You get replaced. So those in the top always keep an eye and make sure that the day doesn’t come where you mess things up bad; before that happens, you get booted.

So for the last 10 weeks, I’ve taken a back seat, since the leader of the team was appointed by the nominal roll, I had nothing to say. And since the leader would typically get more credit if the team excels, it doesn’t make sense for me to be doing the job of the leader only to let him get all the credit. No, on the contrary, commandos are not all muscles and no brains.

And so as I looked back at that final 30 minutes where nothing was done, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I didn’t step in. No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet or anything, it’s just that I rarely get THIS freaked out in school. It’s JUST school we’re talking abt, nothing life threatening, but for that minute when I realised what was going on, I got that cold shudder and the sudden feeling that we’re really not gonna make it this time.

In short, I really lost my cool for a bit there.. totally stunned, with a kangaroo-see-spotlight face.. And that’s where I realised that an incompetent leadership can really tear down all that hard-work and tens of hours of endless meetings and headaches. I thot all along that taking a back seat and just letting it ‘unfold’ won’t harm anyone/anything.. but I was so wrong..

So to me, that’s my Reality Learning take-away for this HRM project.. the semester hasn’t exactly ended yet, but I can safely tell you that I’ve learnt a pretty good deal of lessons and seen through some characters from this short span of 10 weeks than I ever did over the past 100. Something that perhaps I’ll take with me for some time to come. what's your Reality Learning take away..?

No comments: