Sunday, May 24, 2009

English Oral Communication - Conversation

"Even the best laid plans often fail". How true is this?
- Why might it be wise to make plans?
- Everyone would benefit if society were better organised. Do you agree?

It started like this ....
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a person by the name called Ah Seng. Ah Seng lived in a Kampong at the country side. His ways of living were very simple. Whenever the weather permits, he plouged the land and planted something. Besides this, he took care of few hundreds of chickens, few dozens of pigs and a pool of ducks. He had to work every day because all the animals wanted to eat at least once daily. So Ah Seng had his hand full from morning till evening. He never really planned before hand. Neither did he needed to because he had a few brothers to fall back on if something unexpected occurred. When the feed stocks were low, he cycled to the immediate neighbourhood shop to order the replenishment. Water was plentiful, there were ever flowing streams and rivers around his farm. His harvest were abundant and he could even shared with his brothers and neighbours. Similarly they also shared theirs with him. Live was simple, healthy and easily manageable although having to work the whole day. Sleep were sweet and full.

Then one day while on his trip to the market to deliver the vegetables, Ah Seng met a girl. There was instant attraction and love. Very soon after, they had a lightning marriage. There was no family planning then, and Ah Seng had the privileged to have as many children as he liked. Within a short span of a decade, Ah Seng's family members increased by more than a dozen (enough to form a football team with reserves). He sent all his children to the nearby kampong schools. Some learned English, while others Chinese (Mandarin) together with the basic compulsory subjects like mathematics and science. With so many mouths to feed and so many activities to carry out, Ah Seng realised that he could no longer "happy and go lucky" any more. He needed to do some planning. And he planned to succeed in all he had set out to do. Ah Seng's natural resources were no longer adequate and he foresee many difficulties ahead. His farm was bursting with its limited capacity and ability to support the whole family. They really had to make ends meet. Sleep was no longer as sweet as before.

As if problems were not enough for Ah Seng, there were many new building projects around the kampong and most of the streams and rivers were blocked or redirected to elsewhere. Water soon was declared as Scare Commodity. Its cost escalated and was set to increase day by day. Many industrial estates popped up nearby and all the farm's crops were affected by the pollutions. Electrical power became a necessary item as increasing electrical items were being used. Traveling was more complicated due to increasing jams and more traffic lights. An one hour journey before had became a nightmare experience now. Cost of everything kept on increasing and live became more breathless. Vegetables and poultry were no longer as popular necessities as new products began to flood the markets. All the children were growing up and more were required for their education and living. Standard of living may have improved but Ah Seng began to have sleepless night. The cost of living was unbearable.

Fortunately the elder of the children were able to take up jobs to earn income to supplement the family expenditures. A few landed themselves in the fast-paced manufacturing industries, while others found jobs as project managers and engineers. Among other things, their tasks were to plan the execution of projects such that it can be completed within the tight schedules and within the given budgets. They have to fight for the best available resources and make use of them in the most efficient manner.

There are many types of plans. Operational, Full, Trial, Business, Survival, Apocalypse and Insurance.

Unfortunately there is no best laid plan, except for the movie, Best Laid Plans (1999) with Reese Witherspoon and Alessandro Nivola. This information can be obtained from the wikipedia website,

No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” The quotes is taken from The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The best laid plans often fail because:

  1. The world's business and operating environments are very dynamic. They are changing by the seconds and the related tasks of almost anything also change. That is why we have the term, Variation Order, which means modifications to the original plan are required.
  2. Live Styles are different. Earlier or 3rd world countries may not require plans to accomplish relatively straight forward tasks. Everybody is equipped and inbuilt with the ability to handle tasks up to a certain level of complexities. Simple one-task generally does not require sophisticated planning unlike complicated projects with many integrated tasks. Simple live styles only requires simple tasks to be performed. The more complex the lives, requires more integration of different services and hence time constraints and financial problems occur. It is impossible to expect help to arrive in the same sequence as needed.
  3. Occurrence of unexpected events or unforeseen circumstances. For example, pandemic H1N1 Flu or SARS may strike anytime and unexpectedly. The best laid plan may not take into consideration such emergencies or crisis. Therefore the projects or task will be seriously affected or even stopped.
  4. Unknown enemies. Terrorists are by now expected to strike at will. But when and how they will strike, nobody knows. They are still evolving and it is hard to implement solutions for this unknowns in the plan.
  5. Drastic and sudden economic condition changes. One moment we have recession, and boom the next. Any plan will have to be swiftly modified to fit the requirement, with respect to the demands of the economy. Sudden large quantity orders or many models for expedited tests could be problematic if the old plan is not discarded and new one put in place.
  6. Direct retrenchment or cutting related staffs. product transfer from one country to another, is often accompanied by retrenchment or some other form of staff deployment. With a leaner staff force, delay in services and operations are inevitable. What is specified in the previous plan is no longer valid and failure is imminent if continue to proceed as originally planned.

Why it might be wise to make plans
  1. Planning enable us, up to a certain extent, to be able to see where we are going. If we have all the information on hand, it may be possible to predict what is going to happen, thus enabling us to take appropriate action and make more realistic plan. If we plan not to plan, then it may be wiser to stop everything altogether.
  2. A proper plan would instill others to have confidence in us. The better the plan is, the better the success rate and hence more dollar and cents profit could be a reality.
  3. When appropriate and adequate planning is being done, there will be less panic when the crisis eventually occur.
  4. Future generation may benefit from what is being done. A better plan may be produced to overcome the problems and making the world a better place to live in.

Everyone would benefit if society were better organised.

  1. Less effort required to get something done. Instead of having to go through many layers of red tapes. A all-in-one system can certainly minimised the time wasted for queuing, multiple forms filling and hunting for hard-copied documents.
  2. There will be more efficient use of resources. For example, an infrad camera can replace many manual temperature taking operators at the hospital.
  3. More accurate and faster process. For example, vistors' temperature can be measured more accurately and quickly, before allowing them to proceed to the wards to visit the patients.
  4. Faster in tracking down of the affected persons. Those infected can be prevented from spreading further.

Everyone would benefit if society were better organised.

  1. The more organised, the more restrictions will be imposed. This could inconvenient people in the society instead of benefiting them.
  2. More restriction means less or no freedom to perform a task by some other methods other than the organised way. This could retard or prevent the development of better solutions to the problem.
  3. Human errors may occur and escape detection if a single method is used to accomplish the task. There is no counter checking available to confirm the reliability of the method used.