A while ago I wrote a post titled: Idris Jala and the Firefly. The post was written just after the Firefly announcement. I was with a client who was berating how stupid a move it was and I was trying to explain why it was not a stupid move. Up to now my arguments in support of firefly have been built on assumptions until this morning.
The Star had and interview with Idris and this is what he said:
He explained that one of his projects was for his staff to brainstorm their way out of problems that were before them.
“We have them cooped up in a room for hours where they have to find the formulae and solution to a real-life problem affecting MAS.
“It is a pressure cooker situation and I tell them that they have a limited time to find the answers. I also remind them of the line in Hotel California.
“Almost all of them came out with the answers after being put into a live laboratory situation,” Idris said, adding that there had been 50 live laboratories held so far.
He revealed that the new airline Firefly was a live laboratory for MAS.
“Whatever we learn from this community airline on reducing cost, we will apply to it at MAS,” he said.
Getting the people to think outside of the box and to reinvent the way they do things to improve efficiency, reduce cost and improve service is the heart of Idris’ talent-unleashing plan.
“Causing people to do the impossible and not fearing to fail is important,” Idris stressed several times in the interview.
As an example of how he had applied this to MAS was the appointment of Eddie Leong as the Firefly managing director.
“I chose him because he is a single-minded person and not because he knows everything about running an airline.
“His strength is his focus on a specific project and I am playing up to his strength.
“He is very lethal. I don’t want an all-round fellow. I wanted someone who will cut down the costs and I have seen him in action when the Four Seasons Hotel was being constructed in Langkawi,” said Idris, adding that there were many who questioned his choice.
Leong, an accountant by training, was the project manager for the Four Seasons project and is credited with having the hotel complex completed within cost.
Idris said every leader must stay focused and state their personal stand “as this says a lot about their character.”
“To be a leader in a business turnaround one must make it a moral obligation. It is very obsessive and will even consume your life.
What make Idris so good at what he does is partly because of who he is and the way he carries himself and partly the way he has been trained – and as can been seen he is bringing in to MAS disciplines that have come from Shell.
Transformation / turnarounds is a process that can be learned and can be duplicated across companies and businesses because the core issue of a business – or “the business of the business” for every business is just about the same.
Keep on going Idris as you are the best example to show that there is no problem too big that cannot be solved and that you need not rely on a whole bunch of consultants telling you what to do.
Instead its all about engaging the entire organization in a process that focuses on first understanding “what constitute value” and second mobilizing the organization in quest of this value.