Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Find Your Purpose

"The body count makes sad reading: no fewer than six branch heads and 15 staff officers have left. Among them are officers who served as minders - eight quit within a year."
(Edit: The body count does not include the latest resignation on 24 Nov 2009)

Depending on how you look at things, the journey between Depot Road and Gombak Drive can be a pleasant commute or, at most, a minor inconvenience.

To people intent on exerting their authority, distance can be wielded as a weapon of passive aggression.

A story making its rounds tells of how a senior officer has tried to wear down one of his own staff officers by making him make the trip from Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) offices at Depot Road to MINDEF Headquarters at Gombak Drive twice a day, almost every day.

I use the phrase “tried to wear down” because that senior officer’s shenanigans have only succeeded in earning the ire of people in his directorate – all rank and file from junior staff officers upwards.

It is of course every commander’s right/privilege to order his staff officers to report to him at any time of day. But staff officers are not children. And people in the directorate are neither blind nor stupid and could see the game that was being played.

In the age of Blackberry devices, instant messaging and all the real-time communications that the Third Generation Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) proffers, that directorate has opted for the pony express. The directorate's officers shuttle back and forth in an insane spectacle that talented film makers will probably parody one day in a black comedy on the department.

It is a great pity.

That directorate used to punch above its weight. Before morale was shattered, it used to be productive and energised and respected by peer groups. Just ask any of the staff officers who called it quits after the regime change.

The body count makes sad reading: no fewer than six branch heads and 15 staff officers have left. Among them are officers who served as minders - eight quit within a year.

A Special Correspondent commented: “No organization can continue losing its experienced staff like this without its operations being crippled. It will take years for the directorate to level up again. Things are so bad that even staff who have not known another employer are looking for other employment opportunities. The same goes for new staff who have yet to clock six months of service.”

The management style that is driving the directorate bananas explains why journalists sometimes use the phrase “officer and gentleman”.

It was probably coined by writers who realised that commissioning someone with an officer rank doesn’t automatically elevate that someone from the ranks of crass, social barbarians.

Another cliche worth mulling over comes from management school. It states that respect must be earned.



The current MINDEF advertisements challenge job seekers to “find your purpose”. I'm crossing my fingers enquiring minds don’t probe deep enough, because the stories they will hear from certain directorates may put them off a career in the defence eco-system.

More than a dozen staff officers from a morale-damaged directorate have unhitched their wagons and found their purpose elsewhere. That all of them have found gainful employment with other government departments or the private sector says alot about the calibre of these officers.

Another story that has somehow come my way is said to have taken place about two years ago. The setting was a farewell event for a senior Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) commander following a change of command.

His management style apparently chafed some staff officers in his previous command, so much so that one officer gave his parting shot by criticising the officer in the farewell video itself.

Invited guests and men from his previous command watched in wonder and amazement as the critique was screened.

That proved too much and it hit a nerve.

The officer shouted “Enough!” and that brought an end to the video show.

I laughed out loud when I heard this story because I found it hilarious. LOL

Levity in such circumstances isn’t quite appropriate. Because this story is apparently true.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pray tell who this mysterious officer is...

xtemujin said...

CMPB at Depot Road. MINDEF at Gombak.

Anonymous said...

Mr Boey, I cannot help but LOL at your info campaign postings. Well done, and beyond the pent-up frustration, I believe what you're doing is for the greater good : )

FIVE-TWO said...

According to my iPhone, the one-way journey between MINDEF HQ and MINDEF Depot Road would come to 18km. Twice a day at (I'm feeling generous here) four days a week makes 288km. And how many weeks did this go on?

One could entertain the idea of charging the "senior officer" for misuse of SAF property. The beauty of an organisation such as the SAF is that all these would be faithfully recorded in the log books of the GP cars being requisitioned.

I didn't know that management school teaches that "respect must be earned", and perhaps the officer did not attend management school. However I did learn the same from various Commander's courses, and quite certainly the officer would have attended at least one Commander's course.