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Management skills under stringent test

by Roy Chung
Mr. Roy Chung Chi Ping is an Executive Committee member of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council, representing the Hong Kong Management Association. He is co-founder and Managing Director of Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd and an Independent Non-Executive Director of Kin Yat Holdings Ltd. He was recipient of the Young Industrialist Award of HK in 1997 from the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI). He is Chairman of the FHKI Group "Electrical & Optical Products" and a member of the FHKI General
Committee. Mr Chung is President of the HK Electrical Appliances Manufacturers' Assn, and Director of the HK Safety Institute Ltd. He is Council member, Executive Committee member and on the President's Personal Affairs Committee of the HK Polytechnic University.

Hong Kong's executives' management skills were put to the most stringent test in 2001. It had been a difficult year in which strenuous management decisions had to be made. Faced with an already hostile economic environment that turned from bad to worse after the tragic events in the United States on September 11, managers had no choice but to slash budgets, cut costs, and, most reluctantly, lay off workers. Painful as they were, these cost-cutting measures, if carefully thought-out and well executed, would enhance the competitiveness of companies and position them to rebound rapidly once the economy picks up. Indeed, given the corporate strengths of Hong Kong's companies and the quality of their products, one should not be accused of excessive optimism if one believes that many of these companies will eventually emerge from the current malaise stronger than they were before.

The management challenge, however, is to sustain and nurture a harmonious labour-management relationship based on mutual trust, and to keep the staff morale on a productive high at a time when the overwhelming concern with the bottom line sometimes threatens to obscure the importance of other matters. In fact, it has always been the job of the manager to attract and retain talent for the company. And in today's knowledge-based economy, one of the major tasks of the management is to mobilize the company's intellectual assets, and maximize their contribution by unlocking their store of knowledge and creativity.

While it is widely expected that the Hong Kong's economy will bottom out this year, other management challenges lie ahead. Hong Kong's companies must reposition themselves to take advantage of China's entry into the World Trade Organization. The winning strategy is to develop a symbiotic, cooperative relationship for mutual profit, rather than a competitive one trying to outdo each other in price.

Then there is the challenge to stay on the cutting edge of today's ever-changing technological cycles, and to harness the power of technology to offer individualised solutions to customers as well as to respond pro actively to changes in their needs. Yet, in the final analysis, no matter how technology evolves and the market changes, the performance of the manager will always be measured by how much he or she contributes to the company's earning and profitability.

That is why in the 21st century's increasingly global and competitive marketplace, the truly effective manager must lead the company in product differentiation.