Teach staff to focus on finding solutions

On the day the train collision took place, my attention was drawn to two incidents.

The first: When some passengers asked an SMRT official to open the doors so they could get an injured passenger out. The response was that it could not be done for safety reasons as all doors would open.

When passengers persisted in trying to get the injured man out, one door was finally opened - but only half an hour later.

The second incident was when an SMRT official was asked why the fare deduction would not apply to the entire station, the response was that it was not within her authority to make that decision.

Both incidents appear logical and compliant with the rules.

My concern is with the culture embedded in SMRT; a culture that teaches its people to focus on "NO and WHY?" instead of "YES and HOW?"

Organisations which train their people to focus on the "YES and HOW?" perform at a superior level because they teach their people to focus on finding solutions.

Their people are more empowered to take charge and do something instead of hiding behind rules.

A thinking organisation is far superior to one that doesn't. It is more agile and adaptive to situations.

Which is better: an empowered workforce that is committed to doing what is right and needed, and to take personal accountability, or limiting this mindset to a handful of senior executives?

Matthew Ong Koon Lock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'Teach staff to focus on finding solutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe