Service

I’m quite thankful that I’m not in the service line. To be able to smile in the face of an angry, unreasonable customer requires a kind of fortitude and calm that I don’t possess.

That being said, service must be given with the end customer in mind. When I go to a certain shop for an answer, I expect to be given a satisfactory solution or at least hear that certain effort has been made. When I hear that they had only done preliminary testings and checks that I can do myself at home, I can’t help but feel that time is wasted.

Of course, I am very aware of the saying, “If you want good service, be a good customer as well”

Work and Life Balance

One of the things most talked about these few years is work-life balance. Breakfast Network has an article in which three authors try to work out with is work-life balance. All three authors, obviously has put in much thought into the topic and their take on the term shows depth in their thinking about the issue and how we may look at it affect how we approach the subject.

Augustin Chiam advocates “work-life synergy” instead of work-life balance. Work should be part of our lives rather than the means of our lives. When we enjoy our work, we no longer demand more time away from work nor more holidays, because we are passionate about the work. Pavan Mano defines the issue of work-life balance by stating that the balance is a fluid one in which everyone has their own definition of what is an acceptable amount of work an employee is expected to put in and that definition is, in turn, dependent on what are their aspirations, ambitions and goals at work. Finally, Vinod Ashvin Ravi asks that we see the result of any work-life balance survey with respect to the the context and if that is really significant.

My own take on work-life balance has been summed up by Mr Desmond Kuek recently at a talk. He said, “Put life in your work and work on your life to achieve work-life balance.” If we are able to be passionate about our work and, at the end of the day, have sufficient energy to spend time with our family and loved ones to build relationship, we would have achieved work-life balance.

Military and Civil Relations

On 4th July 2013, Rosa Brooks published this article on The Diplomat, “America the Coupless.” In the afterwake of an army coup in Egypt, Brooks analyzed the military-civilian relationship of USA. As the most advanced and capable military force in the world, the strains between the US civil government and US military are not often seen. Brooks argues that the general political views of the military leadership tends to be more conservative and not representative of the country’s views. The military also does not have a positive view of the civil authorities, stating that they are often misunderstood or under appreciated. While it might be true, the US military, by its own restraints and culture, is assessed not likely to stage a coup at any time.

Samuel Huntington’s book, “Soldier and the State” started out by defining the professionalism of a soldier. He states Expertise, Responsibility and Corporate Nature of Officership in the military that distinguishes the soldier officer as a professional, unlike a common labourer. The Corporate Nature of the Officer sets him apart not just from the general population but also from the politic leadership. This non-partisan delineation of roles and responsibility has set the foundation of US military’s professionalism but there has been numerous examples from all over the world where the military has stepped in, sometimes even at the population’s request, to cause political changes to the country.

Most recently, we have seen the popular uprising in Egypt which seem, at the moment, still optimistic. The military has, wisely, handed over the power to its judicial branch and senior judge, Adly Mansour is now taking charge of the interim government. Of course, we also have other examples of not so smooth transition, such as Pakistan’s 1999 coup when Gen. Pervez Musharraf took over power.

Think with the right brain… please…

A new website I recommend to all Singaporeans, the Breakfast Network. This current article talks about the slew of scandals rocking Singapore society, including a latest one, in which a 16 year old is reprimanded for repeated sex offenses. Having for boys, aged 10 to 3, myself, I can’t help but worry about them and rethink about my education to them… I hope I have prepared them well enough to think with the correct head.

Clausewitz’s Trinity of War and the Operational Art of War

Currently, I’m reading Clausewitz’s “On War” from the beginning. After hearing so many lectures on the book as well as multiple concepts being taught from the book AND having quote the book several times myself, I find it impossible to go on without at least reading it through once. I have not even gotten to the first book, when I got a “Ah-ha!” moment. I am also currently doing a project on analyzing the operational art of war, dividing the line between strategic, operational and tactics. So here’s the “Ah-ha!”

YinTrinity

Clausewitz divided the elements of war between the three elements, mainly passion, chance and reason. “a fascinating trinity—composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; the play of chance and probability, within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to pure reason.” A secondary interpretation to the trinity is to look at them as the people, military and the government. While I can go on a little more about this, I am obliged to finish this thought quickly and get back to my project.

On my project, I’m still struggling to divide the line between operational level and tactical level concepts. My instructors claim it is an art and that it takes practice. I suppose that it is true and that it also depends on the level of details a commander is willing to take.

Combining these two fuzzy concepts, what if the trinity correspond to the three levels of strategy, operational and tactics as follows. That at strategic level, one is concerned about national interests and attainment of certain “strategic objectives” may further national interest, ie nuclear power, education, etc. Priorities of national interest, I can argue, depends much on the interests of its people, especially in this day and age of social media and democratization. Often, we have seen governments, especially unstable ones, give in the the immediate interests of its people, rearranging its national priorities to suit the mood in order to maintain legitimacy. Thus, I can place the strategic level of thinking next to the primordial passion.

Operational concepts deal with attainment of strategic objectives through balance of policies with time and space, i.e. building of schools or education standards, conducting research on nuclear feasibility or bargaining of nuclear materials, etc. A discipline of sorts, it requires clarity of mind to determine the intent of the strategic interests and translate it into actionable plans. Easily, it slides next to the reason element of the trinity.

Finally, the tactical concepts concern the details of the execution. While considered the lowest level of the three, a flawed tactical execution tumbles the whole pyramid. Tactical success is required for  the operational achievement of strategic objectives. On the flip side, a successful tactical execution can be rendered ineffectual if the operational  plan does not make sense or the strategic objectives are muddled and do not mean its real intent. Tactics can be simple ie the teacher engaging her students effectively, or handling of nuclear waste, can be just as deadly important. Tactics, I place next to the chance element of the trinity.

What are the implications? It does seems that while as important technical and tactical expertise occupy most of our time, we need to spend more time making sure that our operational and strategic means are in place as well. It also means, frighteningly, that our goals and ideals are driven by passion and not logic. More to ponder on…