Majulah Singapura

20150328_majula_singapura

What a heavy week.

This week, we mourn the passing of our first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

My wife and I were glued to the television for the past few days as Mr Lee’s life and contributions unveiled on national television to much detail. We also shared with each other the stories and tributes we have gathered from social media as we have our dinner at home while trying to get our daughters to be interested in black and white speeches.

As the broadcast replayed previous national day rallies, key speeches by Mr Lee, tributes by ministers and the overwhelming outpouring of grief from the population, it’s quite hard to hold back the emotions. This is not just an emotional national event, its something a lot more personal as it felt like we have lost someone really close. This someone worked tirelessly behind the scene with insurmountable external and internal challenges all this while to prepare our Singapore for us even before we were born.

This someone intruded into our lives unapologetically, into my family life, into my life and decided for me that English will be my primary language and that I need to be a bilingual, decided that my teachers need to do a better job, decided that I need to serve the military, decided that so long as I’m employed, I’ll be able to have a roof over my head for my family.

My childhood replayed in my mind again and again as the primitive black and white speeches filled the screen. And with every replay I become more sensitive to the impact Mr Lee had on my life, our lives.

How can a man have such great vision? How can a man have such intellect, such discipline and yet such selfless devotion for his country?

I count myself blessed being born into Singapore.

Mr Lee had a conviction in his younger days. From his experience of cruelty from the war, the discrimination he had as an Asian in a Western University to his belief that we need to govern ourselves after the British could not fend off the Japanese during the Second World War. His conviction led to his life long dedication to Singapore and to us its people.

He laid a world-class infrastructure for Singapore. From economy to education, from security to racial harmony, from greenery to a very useful and much envied passport. He built a second generation of leaders to govern the country as he aged and provided wise council and continued contributing to the nation in whatever capacity he could.

In the past years, the societal questions and discussions that lingered on everyone’s lips were things like the high cost of living, over-crowding, stressful education for the young and even incompetence of some of our leaders. The vocal and unrestrained dissentient individuals on social media spoke out and questioned our leaders and demanded answers, solutions and a better way.

It felt like the Lee Kuan Yew type vision and leadership is slowly fading away and citizens have also criticised that the current leadership might not know how to run a first world country as trains start breaking down every other month. The common sentiment on the street is that Mr Lee and his old guards governed a very different country when we gained independence and their ways worked for that time, but it’s a very different world now in 2015.

I’ve never considered migrating, but in the past few years, this topic of uprooting and going to another country has been discussed with some closer friends who have also started to explore this perspective as our kids struggle academically in school, in this fast paced, competitive and distracted society.

This Sunday, as Mr Lee’s funeral procession leaves the Parliament House and heads for the University Cultural Centre for the funeral service, I’m sure Singaporeans all across Singapore will be overwhelmed with sadness. But at the same time, also be overwhelmed with gratitude and gratefulness for this great man and the foundation he have laid for us.

After Mr Lee’s funeral this Sunday, we will technically be out of the week of mourning and we all go back to our lives.

I really wonder with this week’s unceasing tributes and recognition of Mr Lee’s life long contribution to our exceptional country, what impact will it have on our politicians, what impact will it have on global leaders, but more importantly, what impact will it have on everyone of us that call ourselves Singaporeans.

What will the next 50 years for Singapore look like?

How will we Singaporeans chart our own path?

How will we Singaporeans be part of the Singapore that Mr Lee dedicated his life to?

How will we Singaporeans be part of our Singapore?

Majulah Singapura. Onward Singapore.

Project Management Best Practices

Project Success is being On Time, On Brief and On Budget

I’ve been running web design, development and marketing projects for close to 20 years now and have seen my fair share of terrible situations where I ended up beating myself up for allowing it to happen. I’m hoping all project managers out there don’t screw up your own projects and hence putting down some of the Project Management Best Practices from my own experience in short point form style for the benefit of you Project Managers out there.

Projects

Projects are constrained under defined SCHEDULE, SCOPE and COST. Project Managers are then expected to deliver projects on TIME, on BRIEF and on BUDGET while ensuring highest QUALITY.

On Time, On Brief, On Budget

These are some simple yet at times easy to overlook hard skills a Project Manager needs to have.

On Time

1. Have a USEFUL Project Schedule

  • Detail enough & clearly states who, what and when
  • Realistic timings that are checked with the team that are actually doing the work
  • Time costed for and turn around time for tasks are different
  • Dependencies factored in (eg. Other project activities, Holidays, Leave plans etc.)
  • Ensure relevant parties aware of involvement early (eg. Client’s IT team, other vendors, freelancers, etc.)
  • Ensure stakeholders are present during review & sign off periods
  • Plan time for revisions & buffer in time if needed

2. Milestones are your Best Friends

  • Milestones have a date and time
  • Major milestones should not be moved
  • It protects the project from going out of schedule
  • It allows good estimation on payment milestones

3. Define and Mitigate Risks Early

  • Don’t wait till shit hits the fan
  • Be paranoid
  • Some risks can only be mitigated by clients
  • Consult team members or domain experts for possible solutions
  • Resolve issues as quickly as possible before it complicate other activities
  • Be paranoid

4. Next Steps

  • Clients must always be informed what is the next step and when it can be expected
  • Do not allow clients to feel the project is floating or that your team is sleeping
  • Ensure regular communication with client and team
  • Always record agreements
  • Always do contact reports even after a phone call or a conversation over beers

5. Push Projects for Closure

  • Start non dependent tasks early
  • Projects should not stall
  • Project Managers are to push projects for closure so as to minimise opportunity costs
  • The longer a project stretches, the more money the company loses

On Brief

1. Only within the Scope Of Work

  • Scope of work must correlate back to activities and deliverables costed
  • Review the assumptions together with client and ensure they understand
  • Guard against Scope Creep
  • New scope is not part of the plan, hence complicates and jeopardises the planned activities
  • New items can go into next phase which can be costed for separately
  • Don’t be a nice guy
  • Project Managers are the bad guys, so let the Account Servicing / Business Development guys be the good guys

2. Common understanding on Deliverables

  • Client and Team all needs to be clear and aligned on their expectations of the deliverables
  • What is to be delivered?
  • Who is producing it?
  • In what format?
  • What are the specifications?
  • What are the mandatories?
  • To be submitted to whom? and When?
  • Where is it to be used
  • Counter check against checklists

3. Check and test for Quality Assurance

  • Have a Test Plan and Test it first yourself
  • Check against scope, plans, documents, brand guidelines, specs, wireframes, keyscreens, browser compatibility, etc.
  • For any build items, test that it works full circle
  • For creative and interactive work, ensure creative team checks interaction quality as well
  • Get fresh pairs of eyes to check

4. Know and Manage Client Expectations

  • Know success factors up front (ie. KPIs / ROIs)
  • Sometimes deliverables and client expectations don’t match up, so clarify
  • Common sense is not common
  • Don’t assume
  • Avoid reworking

5. Keep an eye on the Project Objective

  • Don’t detract from original plan too much
  • Don’t win the battle and lose the war
  • Always keep the project objectives in mind
  • Don’t have tunnel vision

On Budget

1. Time is Money in the Service Industry

  • Time spent is time spent (ie. Meetings, calls, look for images, helping your client tweak their slides, walk your client’s dog, etc.)
  • Spend only time allocated for as detailed in the scope of work
  • Any rework is time
  • Stick to agreed round of revisions and pre-empt clients when the number of revisions are going to be exhausted

2. Nothing is Free

  • Client will always ask for freebies
  • Value and respect you and your team’s work
  • Doing client a favour is doing your colleagues a disfavour

3. Up-sell when opportunities arise

  • New requests can be addressed in a phase 2 with a new quotation
  • Take note of other parallel complimentary projects in the client’s organisation

4. Time saved is money earned

  • Work smart
  • Use technology to automate tasks where possible (eg. Content Auditing, building a sitemap, data transformation, etc.)

5. Profitability depends on Project Management

  • Your rates can be sky high, but if projects are badly managed, you will still lose money

Being a Project Manager

These are some in my view critical soft skills a Project Manager need to have.
1. Be the Heart of the Project

  • Business Manager = First Impression, Project Manger = Sustained Impression, so how well this heart pumps will determine if there is going to be a next project
  • Project Mangers responsible for Happy colleagues
  • You are the central node between clients and team
  • Motivate your team to victory
  • Ensure client satisfaction

2. Be the First-line of Defence

  • Know the scope and assumptions
  • First to push back unreasonable requests
  • Nobody likes a yes man
  • Aim to be loved by both client and team
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Ask for help when needed

3. Effective communication

  • Don’t have email diarrhoea (Digest for team)
  • Listen, don’t just hear
  • Be paranoid, document even calls
  • Contact Reports is a must
  • Nobody likes to read long emails, good to talk in person with a short summary email
  • Efficient communication (10 sentences vs 1 sentence)
  • Build Rapport
  • Choose words carefully
  • Don’t reply impulsively
  • Be professional
  • Set email sending delays (ps. this saved me many times)
  • Understand & express urgency

4. Know the next steps

  • Lead the team
  • Always know what’s next & when
  • When in doubt ask
  • Bring in knowledge experts when required
  • Escalate when needed
  • Provide clients weekly updates (What was done this week, what is to be done next week, risks, mitigation recommendation, overall timeline review)

5. Know what you are managing

  • Learn enough
  • Keep up to date
  • Don’t be shy to ask
  • You can’t provide consultation if you don’t know it

6. Avoid common pitfalls

  • Do ensure clear scope & guard against scope creep
  • Do involve the right people on the project
  • Do ask for help & learn from others
  • Don’t be a yes man
  • Don’t underestimate complexity
  • Don’t suppress bad news

Hope these help. So go forth and be awesome and lead your team to victory.

Bathroom Showrooms Shopping in Singapore

Duravit Training Centre in Singapore
Duravit Training Centre in Singapore

Alot of my friends know that my family have been in the bathroom business since the early 70s and personally I’ve been in the business full time for about 3 years too. One of our family habits have been to visit the toilets where ever we go and be able to tell the brand that they are using be it a high end restaurant decked out in Kohler Luxurious One-Piece WCs and Vola tapware or at a mall with reliable Toto WCs and hygienic Presto sensor tapware. One thing for sure is I’ve always been asked for recommendations for bathroom products.

Cleo and Clié at the Showroom which I worked at last time
Cleo and Clié at the Showroom which I worked at last time

As my parents have retired, their business have been bought over and hence my recommendations now will be totally unbiased. :) Here are some recommendations if you are looking at shopping for toilets and tapware.


Bathroom Shorwrooms in Singapore

KHK ASIA PTE LTD
120 Lower Delta Road, #01-11 Cendex Centre, Singapore 169208
Tel: 65-6-377-3285 Web: http://khkluxury.com.sg, http://kohler.com.sg/en/bathroom-products-1.html
Brand to see: Kohler

Econflo Systems Pte Ltd
263/265 Beach Road Singapore 199544
Tel: 6396 3738, Web: http://www.econflo.com, https://www.facebook.com/EconfloSystems
Brand to see: Duravit, Hansgrohe

Ferrara
33 Ubi Avenue 3, #01-27 Vertex Singapore 408868
Tel: 6235 0020, Web: http://www.ferrara.com.sg
Opening Hrs: Mon-Fri 10am – 6.30pm, Sat 10am – 4pm
Brand to see: Duravit, ArtCeram, Jado, Keuco

Home & Bathroom Building Products
566 Balestier Road, Singapore 329883
Tel: 6253 4655, Web: http://www.homeandbathroom.com.sg
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10am – 7pm, Sat 10am – 6pm, Sun & PH Closed
Brands to see: Toto, Hansgrohe, Axor, Grohe

w.atelier
75 Bukit Timah Road #01-01/02, Singapore 229833
Tel: +65 6270 8828, Web: http://watelier.com
Operating Hours: Mon-Sat 10am – 6pm, Sun & PH Closed
Brands to see: Toto

Interior Affairs
12 Hoy Fatt Road, Bryton House #02-01, Singapore 159506
Tel: +65 6632 7471, Web: http://www.interior-affairs.com.sg
Operating Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun & PH Closed
Brands to See: Dornbracht, Villeroy & Boch, Grohe, ArtCeram, Gessi, Roca

Bathroom Gallery by Wan Tai
25 Changi South Avenue 2, Level 1 & 2, Singapore 486594
Tel: 6546 5900, Web: http://www.bathroomgallery.com.sg
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9am – 6.30pm, Sat 10am – 3pm, Sun Closed
Brand to see: Duravit

Hemsely
39a Jalan Pemimpin, #07-01 Halcyon Building, Singapore 577183
​Tel: 6337 3136, Web: http://www.hemsley.com.sg
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 9.30am – 6.30pm, Sun & PH Closed


Bathroom Brands I Like

Sanitary Wares

Tapware