Apr 29, 2009

- Are You Working on the Wrong Things?

Do you frequently feel overwhelmed by all the tasks on your to-do list? Is every day a struggle to meet deadline after deadline, no matter how hard you work? Do you forget (or double-book) appointments because you don’t have time to check your schedule first? Do important projects get sidelined by the smaller “fires” you need to put out? These are all symptoms of poor prioritizing.
At a glance, it may appear as if all the tasks on your list are equally urgent and important. But with only a few minutes of your time, the differences quickly become clear when you know how to identify your priorities, then organize and execute around them.
Deciding what is most important is a skill you develop with mindful practice. Since each of us has our own unique set of duties, goals, and responsibilities, there is no one formula that works for everybody. To prioritize effectively, you must first understand your own roles and dreams. What are your job duties? What commitments do you have to family or community? What are your personal and professional long-term aspirations? How are you moving toward them? Once you know these things, you will find it easier to define your priorities and schedule your time to make better use of it. Spend a few minutes contemplating these questions before you proceed.
As you can see, every task falls into one of the four categories or “quadrants.” An urgent matter is usually visible; it is the ringing phone, the person standing in your doorway, the looming deadline. Urgent matters press on you but they may not be important to the big picture of your personal or professional life. Importance, however, specifically has to do with results and is easier to identify. Quite simply, if something is important, it contributes to your mission, values, and goals.
According to Dr. Covey, 90 percent of most people’s time is spent in Quadrant 1, the Urgent and Important, while the remaining 10 percent is spent “vegging out” in Not Urgent and Not Important Quadrant IV. Some people spend all their time in Quadrant III under the illusion that they are dealing with important Quadrant I matters, but they’re really just wasting time. Quadrants III and IV may contain either entertaining or seemingly important tasks, but Dr. Covey says, “effective people stay out of Quadrants III and IV because, urgent or not, they aren’t important.” If you have problems prioritizing, it’s a good bet that you will find most of your daily activities can be put into these quadrants.
The secret to good time management and effective prioritization is simple: make sure you spend most of your time in Quadrant II. Quadrant II deals with things that are important but not urgent, such as relationship-building and investing time in planning the future. You not only get all your tasks completed, but you also build a strong foundation for the future by putting your time where it will reap benefits instead of going to waste. Dr. Covey says that if you live in Quadrant II, “Your effectiveness would increase dramatically. Your crises and problems would shrink to manageable proportions because you would be thinking ahead, working on the roots.”
To become more productive immediately, try spending a few moments every morning evaluating your priorities with this simple chart in hand. Write each of your daily tasks in whichever quadrant it belongs. The things that count, the things that are your priorities, will show up repeatedly in one or more quadrants over the course of a week. 
Try to identify which quadrant(s) you spend the majority of your time in (it may surprise you) and you’ll have a clear picture of what’s most important to you. Then, all you have to do is get in the habit of evaluating each task with this chart in mind. If given the choice to spend time on a wasteful Quadrant IV activity, why not choose something from Quadrant II? If someone asks you to continually solve his or her Quadrant III problems, why not decline and move on to a task in Quadrant I?
 Prioritizing is about choosing what to do and what not to do. No matter what your goals and pressures are, remember that your time is under your control. Once you get comfortable evaluating the usefulness of your tasks—planned or unplanned—you will see an immediate increase in your productivity, your success, and your energy in all areas of your life.

Apr 24, 2009

- Herbs That Halt Headaches?

Feverfew and ginger: Research suggests that regularly taking feverfew reduces migraine frequency, while ginger may soothe symptoms.

Willow: The herb contains salicin, an aspirin-like substance. White willow is rather low in this pain-relieving stuff, so if you want more headache relief per cup of tea.

Red pepper: Studies show that its heat-giving ingredient, capsaicin, may help prevent cluster headaches.

Thyme: Thyme can be used in a compress to ease achy muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back that contribute to tension headaches.

Apr 15, 2009

- Reflection 1

I didn't choose this life... it chose me!
People trail too much into the past... whatever is in the past is in the past.

Beware the cockroaches... they come at night...only if you leave your place untidy!
We can learn a lot from their behavior! 

Apr 9, 2009

- History Structure of Shell - The New Shell Matrix -- (Part 3)

The central feature of the reorganization plan of 1995 was the dismantling of the three-way matrix through which the operating companies had been coordinated since the 1960s. 
In its place, four business organizations were created to achieve closer integration within each business sector across all countries. It was intended that the new structure would allow more effective planning and control within each of the businesses, remove much of the top-heavy bureaucracy that had imposed a costly burden on the Group, and eliminate the power of the regional fiefdoms. The new structure would strengthen the executive authority of the Committee of Managing Directors by providing a clearer line of command to the business organizations and subsequently to the operating companies, and by splitting central staff functions into a Corporate Center and a Professional Services Organization. 
The former would support the executive role of the CMD; the latter would produce professional services to companies within the Group.

At the same time, the underlying principles of Shell’s organizational structure were
• The decentralized structure based on the autonomy of the Shell operating companies
vis-à-vis the Group was to be maintained.
• The new structure continued the distinction between governance and executive responsibility which was described above. Thus, the formal structure of parent companies, holding companies, operating companies, and service companies was continued without significant changes. The Boards of these companies discharged the governance functions of the Group, including exercise of shareholder rights, the fulfillment of the legal obligations of the companies, and the appointment and supervision of the managers who fulfill executive responsibilities. It was the management structure where the major changes occurred, especially within the service companies.
The Formal Structure
As noted, the formal corporate structure was little changed. The principal changes in the formal structure were changes involving the identities and roles of the service companies to create a closer alignment with the new management structure. Thus, the new Corporate Center and Professional Services Organization were housed within Shell International Ltd (in London) and Shell International B.V. (in The Hague). Other service companies housed the new Business Organizations.

The Management Structure
The new organizational structure can be described in terms of the four new organizational
elements – the Business Organizations, the Corporate Center, Professional Services, and the
Operating Units – together with the two organizational units that continued from the previous structure, the operating companies and the Committee of Managing Directors.
the business organizations The central features of the new organization structure were the new Business Organizations. The CMD was supported by four Business Organizations: E&P (“upstream”), oil products (“downstream”), chemicals, and gas and coal. The Business Organizations were headed by Business Committees made up of a number of Business Directors appointed by the CMD. 
These Business Directors included:
• Business Directors with responsibility for particular business segments. For example,
among the members of the E&P Business Committee in 1998 were J. Colligan, Regional E&P Business Director for Asia-Pacific and South America, H. Roels, Regional E&P Business Director for Middle East and Africa, and R. Sprague, Regional E&P Business Director for Europe.
• Certain of the operating companies were so important that their Chief Executives were
also Business Directors. For example, in 1998, the E&P Business Committee included A. Parsley, Managing Director of Shell E&P International Venture B.V., while the Oil Products Business Committee included M. Warwick, President of Shell International Trading and Shipping Co. Ltd, and P. Turberville, President of Shell Europe Oil Products B.V.
• A Business Director for Research and Technical Services.
• A Business Director for Strategy and Business Services.

The Business Committees were accountable to CMD for:
• the strategy of their business area;
• endorsing the capital expenditure and financial plans of the operating companies and
business segments within their business area;
• appraising operating company and business segment performance; and
• the availability of technical, functional, and business services to the operating companies within their business sector. Chairing each of the Business Committees was a member of the CMD. Thus, in early 1998, E&P reported to Managing Director P. B. Watts, Oil Products to Managing Director S. L. Miller, Chemicals to Vice Chairman M. Moody-Stuart, and Gas and Coal to Managing Director M. van den Bergh. the corporate center

This supported the CMD in its role in:
• setting the direction and strategy of the Group;
• growing and shaping the Group’s portfolio of investments and resources;
• enhancing the performance of Group assets;
• acting as custodian of the Group’s reputation, policies, and processes; and
• providing internal and external communication.
Apart from supporting the work of the CMD, the Corporate Center assisted the parent
companies and the group holding companies in managing their financial, tax, and corporate
affairs. The Corporate Center represented the other two dimensions of Shell’s former matrix organization. For example, the Director for Planning, Environment and External Affairs chaired the meetings of Shell’s Technology Council and Health, Safety and Environment Council. Also, the Corporate Advice Director undertook ad hoc country reviews.

The Corporate Center comprised six directorates:
• Planning, Environment and External Affairs
• Corporate Advice (supporting each of the Managing Directors in their regional roles as
well as responsibility for IT, security, contracting and procurement)
• Group Treasurer
• Group Controller
• Human Resources
• Legal
In addition to these directorates, the Corporate Center also included the Head of Group
Taxation, the Chief Information Officer, the Head of Intellectual Property, the Head of
Contracting and Procurement, the Head of Group Security, the Head of Learning, and the
Secretary to the CMD. professional services These new units provided functional support for the operating companies and service companies within the Group. They offered their services on an arm’s-length basis and competed with external service providers for the business of the operating companies.  They were also able to provide services to third-party customers outside the Group. 

The services provided included:
• Finance (e.g., treasury services, accounting, tax advice)
• HR (e.g., recruitment, training)
• Legal
• Intellectual property (intellectual property protection, licensing)
• Contracting and procurement
• Group Security (security advice)
• Shell Aircraft Ltd (corporate jets)
• Office services (e.g., accommodation, personnel services)
• Health (medical services, environmental and occupational health advice)
Each Professional Services unit was headed by the relevant director from the Corporate Center. For example, HR was headed by the HR Director; legal and intellectual property services were headed by the Legal Director. the operating companies In the new organizational structure, the operating companies retained their role as the primary
business entities within Shell. Each operating company was managed by a Board of Directors and a Chief Executive. The Chief Executive of an operating company was responsible to his/her Board and to his/her Business Director for the effective management of the operating company.

The Chief Executive’s responsibilities included the following:
• setting the company’s strategic aims against the backdrop of any guidelines established
by the Business Committee;
• providing leadership to put the strategic aims into effect and instill an entrepreneurial
company culture;
• setting internal financial and operating targets and overseeing their achievement;
• supervising the management of the business and setting priorities;
• effective reporting on the company’s activities and results to the Group operating units
The superimposition of the Business Organizations on top of the operating companies created a problem for Shell because the operating companies were defined by country rather than by business sector and included activities which crossed business sectors. 
Hence, to achieve alignment between the new Business Organizations and the operational activities of the Group, Operating Units were created:

In the context of the Group organizational structure, Operating Unit refers to the activities in one of the Group Businesses which are operated as a single economic entity. 
An Operating Unit can coincide with an Operating Company, be a part of an Operating Company or straddle part or all of several Operating Companies.

Thus, where an operating company was in one business only, the operating company was the relevant Operating Unit. However, multi-business operating companies, such as Shell UK and Shell Australia, which included upstream, downstream, chemical, and gas businesses, were divided into separate Operating Units in order to align operating activities with the new Business Organizations. Each of these Operating Units was headed by a manager with executive responsibilities who reported to the relevant Business Director. Where several Operating Units operated in a country under different Chief Executives, the Managing Director with responsibilities for that particular region appointed one of them as a “country chairman” to fulfill country-level responsibilities (with regard to matters of taxation, conformity with national legislation, national government relations, and the like).
In addition, some Operating Units spanned several operating countries. In order to achieve
more effective integration across countries and to save on administrative and operating costs, the trend was to form Operating Units which combined businesses in several countries. Thus, in Europe there was a desire to run chemicals and oil products as single business entities.

Changing Culture and Behavior
Changes to the formal organizational structure were only one dimension of the organizational changes of this period. If Shell was to improve its operational and financial performance and improve its responsiveness to the multitude of external forces that impacted its many businesses, then change needed to go beyond formal structures. The criticisms leveled at Shell for being bureaucratic, inward looking, slow, and unresponsive were not about organizational structure, they were about behavior and attitudes. In any organizational change, a new structure may provide the right context, but ultimately it is the effects on individual and group behavior that are critical.

During 1996 and 1997, the Shell management development function moved into a higher
gear. Organizational development and change consultants included Noel Tichy from Michigan Business School, Larry Selden from Columbia, McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Coopers & Lybrand. These were in addition to Shell’s internal change management team, known as LEAP (Leadership and Performance Operations). The result was a substantial increase in Shell’s management development and organizational development activities. 

Fortune magazine reported:
This army has been putting Shell managers through a slew of workshops. In early February, teams from the gasoline retailing business in Thailand, China, Scandinavia and France spent six hours in a bitter Dutch downpour building rope bridges, dragging one another through spider webs of rope, and helping one another climb over 20-foot walls.
The Shell managers especially liked Larry Selden. He teaches people to track their time and
figure out whether what they’re doing contributes directly to growth of both returns and gross margins. Selden calls this “dot movement,” a phrase he has trademarked and which means moving the dot on a graph of growth and returns to the north-east. “The model is very powerful,” says Luc Minguet, Shell’s retail manager in France. “It’s the first time I’ve seen such a link between the conceptual and the practical. And I realized I was using my time very poorly.”
In a particularly revealing exercise, the top 100 Shell executives in May took the Myers–Briggs personality test, a widely-used management tool that classifies people according to 16 psychological types. Interestingly, of its top 100 managers, 86% are “thinkers,” people who make decisions based on logic and objective analysis. Of the six-man CMD, 60% are on the opposite scale. They are “feelers” who make decisions based on values and subjective evaluation. No wonder all those “thinkers” had such a hard time understanding the emotion behind Nigeria and Brent Spar. And no wonder the CMD gets frustrated with the inability of the lower ranks to grasp the need for change.


Cost Cutting and Restructuring
The most evident short-tem impact of the reorganization was a substantial reduction in Service Company staffs. Towards the end of 1995, Shell began shrinking its head offices in London and The Hague in anticipation of the introduction of the new organizational structure at the beginning of 1996. During 1996, the downsizing of central services and administrative functions within the Service Companies accelerated. During 1996, one of the two towers at the London Shell Centre was sold and was converted into residential apartments.
The quest for cost reductions did not stop at the Service Companies but extended to the
operating companies as well. Between 1995 and 1997, unit costs were reduced by 17 percent in real terms, and between 1994 and 1997, savings in procurement costs amounted to $600 million each year. A priority for the Group was rationalization of capacity and reductions in operating costs in its downstream business. 

To facilitate this, Shell embarked upon three major joint ventures:
• The amalgamation of Shell Oil’s downstream assets in the western US with those of Texaco
• The amalgamation of Shell’s European downstream businesses with those of Texaco
• The merging of Shell’s Australian downstream business with that of Mobil.
Restructuring in Shell’s other businesses included a swap of oil and gas properties with
Occidental and the creation of a single global chemicals business. The chemicals business has demonstrated particularly clearly the benefits of global integration. In addition to cost savings of around 7 percent each year, investment decisions became better coordinated. “The Center’s full control over chemicals, for instance, led Shell to put a new polymer plant closer to customers in Geismar, Louisiana, instead of near the existing plant in Britain. Two years ago that plant automatically would have been added to the UK fiefdom.”

Further Organizational Changes under Moody-Stuart
In June 1998, Mark Moody-Stuart succeeded Cor Herkstroter as Chairman of the CMD against a background of declining oil and gas prices and weakening margins in refining and chemicals. With Shell’s operating profit and ROCE falling well below the projections for 1998, it was clear that further organizational change and cost reduction would be essential. In September he announced a series of restructuring measures aimed at reducing Shell’s cost base while reaffirming Shell’s commitment to the target of 15 percent ROACE (return on average capital employed) by 2001. Refinery cutbacks included the closure of Shellhaven refinery and partial closure of Berre refinery in France. The national head offices in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and France would be closed.
A key element of the organizational changes pushed by Moody-Stuart was the desire to
replace Shell’s traditional consensus-based decision making with greater individual leadership and individual accountability. To this end, the Business Committees that had been set up to manage the new business sectors were replaced by Chief Executives:
From today we have CEO’s and executive committees running each of our businesses. We have entered a new period where executive decisions have to be made rapidly and business accountability must be absolutely clear. So we have changed our structures.
The major change we announced is establishing executive structures, with CEO’s, in Oil
Products and Exploration and Production. CEO’s already run our other businesses: Gas and Coal, Chemicals and Renewables, as well as Shell Services International. Now we are structured to make rapid progress to our objective in each of our businesses.
Business Committees served us in good stead in a period of transition but as from today they are a thing of the past. We will still have discussion, but we will make business decisions rapidly.

The trend towards executive power and personal accountability was also apparent in the
Committee of Managing Directors. In place of the traditional “committee of equals,” Moody-Stuart reformed the CMD more as an executive committee where individual members had clearly defined executive responsibilities.
Moody-Stuart also accelerated the integration of Shell’s US subsidiary, Shell Oil Inc., into its
global structure. By the end of 1998, the chemicals sector was a truly global division and by
early 1999 upstream operations in the US had been integrated into the global exploration and production sector. During 1999, the historically separate Shell Oil corporate office in Houston became integrated within Shell’s Corporate Center and Professional Services organization.
Thus, Shell Oil’s Human Resource function staff became part of a new global Shell People
Services organization, while Finance, Tax, Legal, and Corporate Affairs also integrated with their counterparts in London. The President and CEO of Shell Oil, Inc. became a de facto member of the CMD.

As Royal Dutch/Shell approached the second century of its corporate life, there was a clear
consensus within the company that the organizational changes made during 1995–9 had created a structure that was much better able to respond to the uncertainties and discontinuous changes that affected the oil industry. Outside the company, Shell-watchers both in the investment community and in other oil companies had little doubt that the 1996 reorganization had contributed substantially to the efficient and effective management of the Group. The stripping away of much of the administrative structure in the Group head offices in London and The Hague, the elimination of the regional coordinating staffs, and the closure of some of Shell’s biggest national headquarters not only reduced cost, but seemed to be moving Shell towards a swifter, more direct style of management. The restructuring of chemicals and downstream businesses revealed both a tough-mindedness and a decisiveness that few had associated with the Shell-of-old.
The former Vice-Chairman of the CMD outlined the way in which the changes in
organization had impacted Shell’s business portfolio and its strategic management:
We used to have a complex regional matrix system – with multiple reporting lines. In compensation relatively modest annual raises were awarded – and more often than not expected – without being strictly tied to performance. Our businesses were tightly linked to national markets and then to regions. Accountability was, through the matrix system, diffuse. It wasn’t a bad system. When it was launched – in 1958 – it was an excellent system. But, by the early 90s, it had definitely reached its ‘use by’ date. Hurdle rates were used – good guides – but they allowed unbridled investment growth, which tended to exacerbate portfolio weaknesses. Jobs were for life in the old Shell and virtually all recruitment was internal.

By the early 90s we had a problem. There was no crisis – which in some ways was part of the problem. But ROACE was not good enough and it was obvious that something needed to be done. In the middle of the 90s we instituted something we called ‘transformation’. As you can see here there were results, things were improving, but not really as quickly as they should have been. Then, in 1999 we had a particularly difficult environment, which galvanized us to rapidly complete the transformation process. Tough decisions were made, write-downs taken and the whole process accelerated.

As a consequence, today we have global businesses, headed by personally accountable CEOs.

Reporting lines are direct, uncomplicated. Incentive pay and stock options are the norm. Every project has to compete globally for capital. Everyone in the organization can compete for any job – and we also actively hire from outside.

This has resulted in a significantly improved profile. Earnings are up on basically stable net
revenues. Oil production is up, as are gas, chemical and oil product sales. The number of employees required has declined.
Capital has moved away from the poor performers and declining areas to new opportunities.

The new organization had permitted far-reaching restructuring of Shell’s downstream and
chemicals businesses:

In the early 1990’s we operated refineries in all parts of the world and our refining cover was over 80%. We have been closing or selling refineries...Our goal in this effort is two-fold – one is to reduce our refinery cover to a range of 65%–70% by 2001. The other is to achieve a return on average capital employed of 15% by 2001...
At the beginning of the nineties we had [chemical] plants scattered across the globe with 30 plants in Europe, 7 in Asia Pacific, and 17 in America. The plants produced products that were sold through some 22 different product groups, each having profit and loss responsibility. Today we are concentrating on a few, world-scale plants and a much more limited product line. We will have 7 plants in Europe, 6 in Asia Pacific and 4 in America and products will be sold through 12 product groups.
The question in most people’s minds was whether Shell was moving ahead of the pack or
playing catch up. For all Shell’s pride in being a pioneer of modern management ideas – from scenario analysis to organization learning – Shell had created by Year 2000 a business-sectorbased organization of a kind that most other diversified multinationals had created decades before. Moreover, some of Shell’s leading competitors were moving away from such structures.
BP – hailed by many to be the most dynamic and responsive of any of the petroleum majors – had abandoned its traditional divisional structure in favor of a flatter structure in which
individual business units reported directly to the corporate center.
Moreover, Shell still retained some relics of the old structure that could compromise the new philosophy of responsiveness and single-point accountability. For example, Shell was still a joint venture rather than a single corporation. Its Committee of Managing Directors was still composed of board members from its dual parent companies. The principle of rotating leadership between the two parents with fixed single terms of office for the CMD Chairman was still intact. While Shell had been consumed with its internal restructuring, other companies had been transforming themselves through mergers and acquisitions. 
Had Shell missed out on the Great Oil Patch M&A Boom? Probably, but if Royal Dutch/Shell was to get serious about mergers, its first priority should be to merge with itself, noted the Financial Times’ Lex column.

- History Structure of Shell - The New Shell Matrix -- (Part 2)

The Change Process
Within Shell, proponents of organizational change, including the heads of several of the operating companies, the finance function, and Group Planning, had had little success in persuading the Committee of Managing Directors of the need for large-scale change. In May 1993, Cor Herkstroter took over as Chairman of the CMD. A Dutch accountant, who had spent his entire career at Shell, Herkstroter was an unlikely pioneer of change. Fellow executives described him as a private, Old World personality without much charisma, and with a preference for written communication. Nevertheless, Herkstroter was widely respected for his intelligence and courage. “He’s Shell’s Gorbachev,” said Philip Mirvis, a consultant working with Noel Tichy at Shell. 
Faced with growing evidence of suboptimal financial performance and an over-complex, inward-looking organizational structure, Herkstroter called a meeting of Shell’s 50 top managers at Hartwell House, an English country manor, in May 1994. The meeting was a shock for the CMD. The request for frank discussions of the reasons for Shell’s lagging return on capital provided a series of barbed attacks on top management and sharp criticism of the service company organization. The corporate center was castigated for taking months to approve operating company budgets and for the general laxness of financial controls. E&P coordinator Robert Sprague tossed a blank transparency onto the overhead projector and commented, “I don’t know what to report, this issue is really a mess.” The meeting had a powerful impact on the CMD: “We were bureaucratic, inward looking, complacent, self-satisfied, arrogant,” observed then-Vice Chairman John Jennings. “We tolerated our own underperformance. We were technocratic and insufficiently entrepreneurial.” The outcome was the appointment of a high-level team to study Shell’s internal organization and come up with options for redesign.

The team, set up in July 1994, was headed by Ernst van Mourik-Broekman, the head of HR, together with Basil South from Group Planning, Group Treasurer Stephen Hodge, an executive from Shell France, and the head of Shell’s gas business in the Netherlands. The internal team was joined by three senior consultants from McKinsey & Company: two from the Amsterdam office and one from the London office.

The starting point for the internal team was a program of interviews with 40–50 managers at different levels within the company. This provided a basis both for assessing the existing structure and for generating ideas for change. The role of the McKinsey consultants was to provide perspective, to challenge the ideas of the Shell team, to introduce the experiences of other large multinationals (ABB for instance), to provide the backup research needed to refine and test out ideas and concepts, and to organize the program of work and consultation.
By October 1994, the group had prepared a diagnosis of the existing Shell structure together with a suite of options for reorganization. During October and November, a series of workshops were conducted, mainly in London, to explore in greater detail the specific dimensions of change and to clarify and evaluate the available options. Each workshop team provided input on a specific area of change. The results of this exercise were written up towards the end of November, and a report was submitted to CMD which identified the areas for change and the options.
During December 1994, the team spent two “away days” with the CMD to identify the objects of change and how the different options related to these. The result was a blueprint which the team wrote up mid-December. After six or seven drafts, the report was approved by CMD during the weekend of Christmas. At the beginning of January, the report was circulated to the chief executives of the main opcos and the coordinators within the service companies with a request for reactions by the end of January. In the meantime, Chairman Herkstroter gave a speech, directed to all company employees, to prepare them for change by indicating the need for change and the likelihood of job losses, but without any specifics as to the organizational changes that were likely to occur.

The driving force behind the redesign was the desire to have a simpler structure in which the reporting relationships would be clearer and thus to allow the corporate center to exert more effective influence and control over the operating companies. A simpler structure would help eliminate some of the cost and inertia of the head office bureaucracies that had built up around Shell’s elaborate committee system. There was also a need to improve coordination between the operating companies. This coordination, it was felt, should be based upon the business sectors rather than geographical regions. Globalization of the world economy and the breakdown of vertical integration within the oil majors had meant that most of the majors had reorganized around worldwide business divisions. As was noted above, most of the majors formed upstream, downstream, and chemicals divisions with worldwide responsibility. For Shell, achieving integration between the different businesses within a country or within a region was less important than achieving integration within a business across different countries and regions.

For example, in exploration and production, critical issues related to the development and application of new technologies and sharing of best practices. In downstream, the critical issues related to the rationalization of capacity, the pursuit of operational efficiency, and the promotion of the Shell brand.

By the end of January, a broad endorsement had been received. In February a two-day meeting was held with the same group of Shell’s 50 senior managers that had initiated the whole process some ten months earlier. The result was a high level of support and surprisingly little dissent. The final approval came from the two parent company Boards. On March 29, 1995, Cor Herkstroter, Chairman of the Committee of Managing Directors, gave a speech to Shell employees worldwide outlining the principal aspects of a radical reorganization of the Group, which were to be implemented at the beginning of 1996.

In the meantime, two totally unexpected events only increased the internal momentum for change. While Shell faulted itself on its ability to produce a return on capital to meet the levels of its most efficient competitors, in managing health, safety, and the environment and in responding to the broader expectations of society, it considered itself the leader of the pack. Then came the Brent Spar incident. A carefully evaluated plan to dispose of a giant North Sea oil platform in the depths of the Atlantic produced outcry from environmental groups, including Greenpeace. Consumer boycotts of Shell products resulted in massive sales losses, especially in Germany. Within a few months, Shell was forced into an embarrassing reversal of its decision.
A few months later the Nigerian military regime executed Ken Saro-Wiwa, a prominent Nigerian author who had protested Shell’s poor environmental record in his country. Again, Shell was found to be flat-footed and inept at managing its public relations over the incident.

The handling of the Brent Spar and Nigerian incidents convinced many that Shell’s top management was both unresponsive and out of touch. “We had to take a good look at ourselves and say, ‘Have we got it right?’” said Mark Moody-Stuart, then a Managing Director.
“Previously if you went to your golf club or church and said, ‘I work for Shell,’ you’d get a
warm glow. In some parts of the world that changed a bit.”

- History Structure of Shell - The New Shell Matrix -- (Part 1)

At the beginning of 2000, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies (Shell) was emerging from one of the most ambitious and far-reaching organizational restructurings of its 93-year history. The restructuring had involved the shift from a geographically-based to a primarily business sector-based structure, the elimination of over 1,000 corporate positions, the sale of much of its London headquarters, and the redesign of its systems of coordination and control.

The restructuring had been precipitated by the realization that Shell would need to change the way it did business if it was to retain its position as the world’s largest energy and chemicals company and offer an adequate return to shareholders in an increasingly turbulent industry environment.

By the end of 1999, it was clear that the changes were bearing fruit. Head office costs had been reduced and the increased coordination and control that the new sector-based organization permitted were helping Shell to control costs, focus capital expenditure, and prune the business portfolio. Return on capital employed (ROCE) and return on equity (ROE) for 1999 were their highest for ten years. However, much of the improvement in bottom-line performance was the result of the recovery in oil prices during the year. Once the benefits of higher oil prices were stripped out, Shell’s improvements in financial performance looked much more modest.

At the same time, Shell’s competitors were not standing still. BP, once government-owned and highly bureaucratized, had become one of the world’s most dynamic, profitable, and widely admired oil majors. Its merger with Amoco quickly followed by its acquisition of Atlantic Richfield had created an international giant of almost identical size to Shell. In the meantime, Shell’s longtime archrival, Exxon, was merging with Mobil. Shell was no longer the world’s biggest energy company – its sales revenues lagged some way behind those of Exxon Mobil.

Other oil and gas majors were also getting caught up in the wave of mergers and restructurings. In particular, Shell’s once-sluggish European rivals were undergoing extensive revitalization. The merger of Total, Fina, and Elf Aquitaine in September 1999 had created the world’s fourth “super-major” (after Exxon Mobil, Shell, and BP Amoco). Also asserting itself on the world stage was Italy’s privatized and revitalized ENI S.p.A.

The reorganization that had begun in 1994 under chairman of the Committee of Managing Directors, Cor Herkstroter, and continued under his successor, Mark Moody-Stuart, had transformed the organizational structure of Shell. From a decentralized confederation of over 200 operating companies spread throughout the world, a divisionalized group with clear lines of authority and more effective executive leadership had been created. Yet, Shell remained a highly complex organization that was a prisoner of its own illustrious history and where corporate authority remained divided between The Hague, London, and Houston. Had enough been done to turn a sprawling multinational empire into an enterprise capable of deploying its huge resources with the speed and decisiveness necessary to cope with an ever more volatile international environment?

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group is unique among the world’s oil majors. It was formed from the 1907 merger of the assets and operations of the Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and the British-based Shell Transport and Trading Company. It is the world’s biggest and oldest joint venture. Both parent companies trace their origins to the Far East in the 1890s.
Marcus Samuel inherited a half share in his father’s seashell trading business. His business visits to the Far East made him aware of the potential for supplying kerosene from the newly developing Russian oilfields around Baku to the large markets in China and the Far East for oil suitable for lighting and cooking. Seeing the opportunity for exporting kerosene from the Black Sea coast through the recently opened Suez Canal to the Far East, Samuel invested in a new tanker, the Murex. In 1892, the Murex delivered 4,000 tons of Russian kerosene to Bangkok and Singapore. In 1897, Samuel formed the Shell Transport and Trading Company, with a pecten shell as its trademark, to take over his growing oil business.
At the same time, August Kessler was leading a Dutch company to develop an oilfield in Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies. In 1896 Henri Deterding joined Kessler and the two began building storage and transportation facilities and a distribution network in order to bring their oil to market.
The expansion of both companies was supported by the growing demand for oil resulting from the introduction of the automobile and oil-fuelled ships. In 1901 Shell began purchasing Texas crude, and soon both companies were engaged in fierce competition with John D.
Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Faced with the might of Standard Oil, Samuel and Deterding (who had succeeded Kessler as chairman of Royal Dutch) began cooperating, and in 1907 the business interests of the two companies were combined into a single group, with Royal Dutch owning a 60 percent share and Shell a 40 percent share (a ratio that has remained constant to this day).
The group grew rapidly, expanding East Indies production and acquiring producing interests in Romania (1906), Russia (1910), Egypt (1911), the US (1912), Venezuela (1913), and Trinidad (1914). In 1929 Shell entered the chemicals business, and in 1933 Shell’s interests in the US were consolidated into the Shell Union Oil Corporation. By 1938, Shell crude oil production stood at almost 580,000 barrels per day out of a world total of 5,720,000.
The post-war period began with rebuilding the war-devastated refineries and tanker fleet, and continued with the development of new oilfields in Venezuela, Iraq, the Sahara, Canada, Colombia, Nigeria, Gabon, Brunei, and Oman. In 1959, a joint Shell/Exxon venture discovered one of the world’s largest natural gas fields at Groningen in the Netherlands. This was followed by several gas finds in the southern North Sea; and then between 1971 and 1976 Shell made a series of major North Sea oil and gas finds.
During the 1970s, Shell, like the other majors, began diversifying outside of petroleum:
        • In 1970 it acquired Billiton, an international metals mining company, for $123 million.
        • In 1973 it formed a joint venture with Gulf to build nuclear reactors.
        • In 1976–7 it acquired US and Canadian coal companies.
        • In 1977 it acquired Witco Chemical’s polybutylene division.
By the beginning of the 1980s, Shell had built global metals and coal businesses and established several smaller ventures including forestry in Chile and New Zealand, flower growing in the Netherlands, and biotechnology in Europe and the US.
The 1980s saw a reversal of Shell’s diversification strategy, with several divestments of “non-core businesses” and a concentration on oil and gas – especially upstream. One of Shell’s major thrusts was to increase its presence within the US. After acquiring Belridge Oil of California, it made its biggest investment of the period when it acquired the minority interests in its US subsidiary Shell Oil for $5.4 billion.

Shell’s uniqueness stems from its structure as a joint venture and from its internationality – it has been described as one of the world’s three most international organizations, the other two being the Roman Catholic Church and the United Nations. However, its organizational structure is more complex than either of the other two organizations. The structure of the Group may be looked at in terms of the different companies which comprise Royal Dutch/Shell and their links of ownership and control, which Shell refers to as governance responsibilities. The Group’s structure may also be viewed from a management perspective – how is Royal Dutch/Shell actually managed? The day-to-day management activities of the Group, which Shell refers to as executive responsibilities, are complex, and the structure through which the Group is actually managed does not correspond very closely to the formal structure.

The Formal Structure
From an ownership and legal perspective, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies comprised four types of company:
• The parent companies. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company N.V. of the Netherlands and the Shell Transport and Trading Company plc of the UK owned the shares of the group holding companies (from which they received dividends) in the proportions 60 percent and 40 percent. Each company had its shares separately listed on the stock exchanges of Europe and the US, and each had a separate Board of Directors.

• The group holding companies. Shell Petroleum N.V. of the Netherlands and The Shell Petroleum Company Ltd of the UK held shares in both the service companies and the operating companies of the Group. In addition, Shell Petroleum N.V. also owned the shares of Shell Petroleum Inc. of the US – the parent of the US operating company, Shell Oil Company.
• The service companies. During the early 1990s, there were nine service companies located either in London or The Hague. They were:
– Shell Internationale Petroleum Maatschappij B.V.
– Shell Internationale Chemie Maatschappij B.V.
– Shell International Petroleum Company Limited
– Shell International Chemical Company Limited
– Billiton International Metals B.V.
– Shell International Marine Limited
– Shell Internationale Research Maatschappij B.V.
– Shell International Gas Limited
– Shell Coal International Limited

The service companies provided advice and services to the operating companies but were not responsible for operations.
• The operating companies (or “opcos”) comprised more than 200 companies in over 100 countries (the 1993 annual report listed 244 companies in which Shell held 50 percent or more ownership). They varied in size from Shell Oil Company, one of the largest petroleum companies in the US in its own right, to small marketing companies such as Shell Bahamas and Shell Cambodia. Almost all of the operating companies operated within a single country. Some had activities within a single sector (exploration and production (E&P), refining, marketing, coal, or gas); others (such as Shell UK, Shell Canada, and Norske Shell) operated across multiple sectors.


Coordination and Control
Managerial control of the Group was vested in the Committee of Managing Directors (CMD), which forms the Group’s top management team. The Committee comprised five Managing Directors. These were the three-member Management Board of Royal Dutch Petroleum and the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Shell Transport and Trading. The chairmanship of CMD rotated between the President of Royal Dutch Petroleum and the Managing Director of Shell Transport and Trading. Thus, in 1993, Cor Herkstroter (President of Royal Dutch) took over from J. S. Jennings (Managing Director of Shell Transport and Trading) as Chairman of CMD, and Jennings became Vice Chairman of CMD. Because executive power was vested in a committee rather than a single chief executive, Shell lacked the strong individual leadership that characterized other majors (e.g., Lee Raymond at Exxon and John Browne at BP).

The CMD provided the primary linkage between the formal (or governance) structure and the management (or executive) structure of the Group. The CMD also linked together the two parent companies and the group holding companies.
The combination of diffused executive power at the top together with operating authority and financial responsibility dispersed through nearly 250 operating companies meant that, compared with every other oil major, Shell was highly decentralized. However, the technical and economic realities of the oil business limited the autonomy of each operating company – interdependence resulted from linkages between upstream and downstream, between refining and chemicals, and from common financial and technological needs. It was the job of the service companies to provide the necessary coordination. During the early 1960s, Shell created, with the help of McKinsey & Company, a matrix structure within its service companies to manage its operating companies. This structure was viewed as a critical ingredient of Shell’s ability to reconcile the independence of its operating companies with effective coordination of business, regional, and functional commonalties. This matrix organization continued into the 1990s.

The three dimensions of this matrix were represented by the principal executives of the service companies, who were designated “coordinators.” Thus, the senior management team at the beginning of 1995 included the following:

Committee of Managing Directors
• Chairman
• Vice Chairman
• three other Managing Directors
Principal executives of the service companies
• Regional coordinators:
– Europe
– Western Hemisphere and Africa
– Middle East, Francophone Africa, and South Asia
– East and Australasia
• Sector coordinators:
– E&P Coordinator
– Chemicals Coordinator
– Coal/Natural Gas Coordinator
– Metals Coordinator
– President – Shell International Trading
– Marine Coordinator
– Supply and Marketing Coordinator
• Functional coordinators:
– Director of Finance
– Group Treasurer
– Group Planning Coordinator
– Manufacturing Coordinator
– Group HR and Organization Coordinator
– Legal Coordinator
– Group Public Affairs Coordinator
– Group Research Coordinator
– Director of the Hague Office
– Director of the London Office

Strategic Planning at Shell
Within this three-way matrix, the geographical dimension was traditionally the most important. The fact that the operating companies were national subsidiaries provided the basis for the geographical emphasis of operational and financial decision making. This was reinforced through the strategic planning process, which put its main emphasis on planning at the national and regional levels. Shell’s planning system lay at the heart of its management system. It was viewed as one of the most sophisticated and effective of any large multinational. It was much discussed and widely imitated. Its main features were the following:

• A strong emphasis upon long-term strategic thinking. Shell’s planning horizon extended 20 years into the future – much further than the four- or five-year planning that most companies engage in. Unlike most other companies, the basis for these strategic plans was not forecasts but scenarios – alternative views of the future which allowed managers to consider strategic responses to the different ways in which the future might unfold.

• A breadth of vision, and emphasis on the generation and application of ideas rather than a narrow focus on financial performance. Shell’s planning department was receptive to concepts and ideas drawn from economics, psychology, biochemistry, biology, mathematics, anthropology, and ecology. As a consequence, Shell pioneered many new management techniques, including multiple scenario analysis, business portfolio
planning, cognitive mapping, and the application of organizational learning concepts to planning processes.

• More generally, Shell was in the vanguard of the transition from the role of the strategy function as planning towards one where the primary roles of strategy were encouraging thinking about the future, developing the capacity for organizational learning, promoting organizational dialogue, and facilitating organizational adaptation to a changing world. Planning at Shell was primarily bottom-up. The CMD identified key issues, set strategic direction, and approved major projects, and the planning department formulated the scenarios.
However, most strategic decisions and initiatives originated among the operating companies.
The role of the planning staff and the regional and sector coordinators was to coordinate the operating company strategic plans.
Between the early 1970s and the early 1990s, the world petroleum industry was transformed by a number of fundamental changes. The growing power of the producer countries was seen not just in the sharp rise in crude oil prices during the first oil shock of 1974, but even more fundamentally in the nationalization of the oil reserves of the international majors. By the 1990s, the list of the world’s top 20 oil and gas producers was dominated by state-owned companies such as Saudi Aramco, Petroleos de Venezuela, Kuwait Oil, Iran National Oil Company, Pemex (Mexico), and Russia’s Gasprom and Lukoil. In addition, the old-established majors faced competition from other sources. The “new majors,” integrated oil companies such as Elf Aquitaine (France), Total (France), ENI (Italy), Nippon Oil (Japan), Neste (Finland), and Respol (Spain), were expanding rapidly, while in North America and the North Sea independent E&P companies such as Enterprise Oil, Triton, and Apache were becoming significant global players.

Between 1970 and 1990, the share of world oil production of the “Seven Sisters” fell from 31 percent to 7 percent. The loss of control over their sources of crude oil was a devastating blow for the majors – their whole strategy of vertical integration had been based around the concept of controlling risk through owning the downstream facilities needed to provide secure outlets for their crude oil. As market transactions for crude oil and refinery outputs became increasingly important, so prices became much more volatile. Between 1981 and 1986, crude prices fell from $42 a barrel to $9 before briefly recovering to $38 in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and then resuming their downward direction.

Between 1985 and 1993, almost all the world’s oil majors underwent far-reaching restructuring. Restructuring involved radical simultaneous changes in strategy and organizational structure in a compressed time-frame. Key features of restructuring by the oil majors were:

• Reorienting their goals around shareholder value maximization.
• Greater selectivity in their strategies, involving the divestment of unprofitable businesses, refocusing around core petroleum and gas businesses, withdrawing from countries where investments were not justified by the returns being earned, and outsourcing those activities that could be performed more efficiently by outside

• Cutting back on staff, especially at the corporate level.

• Reducing excess capacity through refinery closures and sales and scrapping of oceangoing tankers.
• Decentralization of decision making from corporate to divisional levels and from divisional to business unit levels at the same time as giving divisions and business units full profit and loss responsibility.

• Shifting the basis of organizational structure from geographical organization around countries and regions to worldwide product divisions (many of the majors formed worldwide divisions for upstream activities, downstream activities, and chemicals).

• “Delayering” through eliminating administrative layers within hierarchical structures. For example, Amoco broke up its three major divisions (upstream, downstream, and chemicals) and had 17 business groups reporting direct to the corporate center. Mobil also broke up its divisional structure, and created 13 business groups.


Shell was the only major oil company that did not undergo radical restructuring between 1985 and 1993. The absence of restructuring at Shell appeared to reflect two factors:

• Shell’s flexibility had meant that Shell had been able to adjust to a changing oil industry environment without the need for discontinuous change. For example, Shell had been a leader in rationalizing excess capacity in refining and shipping, in upgrading its refineries with catalytic crackers, in establishing arm’s-length  elationships between its production units and its refineries, in moving into natural gas, and in taking advantage
of opportunities for deepwater exploration.

• Because of Shell’s management structure, in particular the absence of a CEO with autocratic powers, Shell was much less able to initiate the kind of top-down restructuring driven by powerful CEOs such as Larry Rawl at Exxon, Jim Kinnear at Texaco, Serge Tchuruk at Total, or Franco Bernabe at ENI. Nevertheless, during the early 1990s, a combination of forces was pushing the CMD towards more radical top-down change. The most influential of these pressures was dissatisfaction over financial performance. The early 1990s were difficult years for the industry. The fall in oil prices to the mid-teens meant that returns from the traditional fount of profit – upstream – were meager. At the same time, refining and chemicals suffered from widespread excess capacity and price wars. Meanwhile, investors and the financial community were putting increased pressure on companies for improved return to shareholders. The CMD was forced to shift its attention from long-term development to short-term financial results. 

Against a variety of benchmarks, Shell’s profit performance looked less than adequate:
• Cost of capital was the most fundamental of these – during the early 1990s Shell was earning a return on equity that barely covered the cost of equity.
• Long-term stability was a further goal. Top management asked, “What rate of return is needed to provide the cash flow needed to pay dividends and replace assets and reserves?” The returns of 1990–4 were somewhat below this figure.

• Shell’s rates of return, margins, and productivity ratios were below those of several leading competitors.

Evidence of the potential for performance improvement through restructuring was available from inside as well as from outside the Group. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, several Shell operating companies – notably those in Canada, the US, UK, South Africa, Germany, Malaysia, and France – showed the potential for organizational restructuring, process redesign, and outsourcing to yield substantial cost savings and productivity improvements.

The operating company executives that had been in the vanguard of cost cutting were increasingly resentful of the corporate structure. By 1994, Shell employed 6,800 people in its central organization (in London and The Hague) and in its corporate research and support functions. Even allowing for the differences in organizational structure between Shell and its competitors, this was bigger than the corporate and divisional administration of any other oil and gas major. As the operating companies struggled to reduce their own costs and improve their bottom-line performance, so they became antagonistic towards what they saw as a bloated corporate center whose support and services offered little discernable value. A major gripe was the failure of Shell’s elaborate matrix structure to provide effective coordination of the operating companies. Lack of coordination in Europe resulted in UK refineries selling into Spain and Portugal, the Marseilles refinery supplying Belgium, natural geographical units such as Scandinavia split between different operating companies, and difficulties in launching Europewide initiatives such as the Shell credit card.
As Chairman Cor Herkstroter noted:
Many Operating Companies are sending us clear signals that they feel constrained by the management processes of the Service Companies, that the support and guidance from them is ineffective or inefficient, and that the services are too costly. They do not see the eagerness for cost reductions in the Operating Companies sufficiently mirrored in the center.
The essential issue, however, was to prepare Shell for an increasingly difficult business environment:
While our current organization and practices have served us very well for many years, they were designed for a different era, for a different world. Over the years significant duplication and confusion of roles at various levels in the organization have developed. Many of you notice this on a day-to-day basis.
We anticipate increasingly dynamic competition. We see the business conditions of today, with flat margins and low oil prices continuing into the future. In addition, there will be no let up on all players in the industry to strive for higher productivity, innovation quality and effectiveness.
Our vision of the future is one of increasing competitive surprise and discontinuity, of increasing change and differentiation in skills required to succeed; and of increasing demands by our people at the front line for accountability within a framework of clear business objectives, and with access to a global source of specialist expertise.

Apr 7, 2009

- A Guide to Creating Your Life Plan

 A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
To be successful in your life, you need to have a life plan. Without a plan, many of your dreams will only be dreams. A life plan, on the other hand, will help you turn your dreams into reality. It works because it gives you not a just a destination, but also a way to get there.
A life plan doesn’t have to be complicated. It should answer just two questions:
  1. What is your destination?
  2. How will you get there?
Let’s look at them one by one.

What is Your Destination?

You should know where you are going. Not knowing your destination is a mistake because you may end up in the wrong place. You need to know where you want to go so that you don’t waste your time and effort.
Here are some tips related to finding your destination:
1. Create your life map
To see how your life will be in the future, it’s helpful to see how your life has been in the past.  By creating a life map, you can see patterns in your life that help you find out where you should go.  Look backward, connect the dots in your life, and project them into the future.
2. Find your life purpose
Your life purpose gives you meaning in everything you do. It helps you do what matters to you and makes your life fulfilling. Without a purpose, you may achieve much but feel empty inside. Take the time to find your purpose in life.
3. Discover your big dreams
The size of your dreams has a lot to do with living in mediocrity. If your dreams are small, there is no reason for you to move past mediocrity. It’s easier to just live a comfortable life. On the other hand, if your dreams are big, you have to move past mediocrity to make your dreams come true. So discover the big dreams in you.
4. Make short-term goals
You should know what your final destination is, but you should also have milestones along the way. These milestones help you stay on track. They help you know whether or not you are on the right path to reach your destination.
You create the milestones by breaking your long-term goals into short-term ones. What do you want to achieve this year? What do you want to achieve this month? What do you want to achieve today?
5. Keep refining
Knowing your destination is a process. If you are like me, you will refine your destination over time. It’s like zooming in a picture. At first you see the big picture, but after zooming it in you can see its details. Similarly, perhaps you can only see the big picture of your destination now. That’s fine. Follow it. Along the way, you will find clues that make the picture clearer. 
How Will You Get There?
After knowing your destination, you need to know how to get there. Here are some tips related to it:
1. Find and communicate your personal brand
To achieve your goals, you need to market yourself. You need to find the unique value you can provide to others and communicate it. This way people know that they can come to you to meet their needs.
2. Have some guiding principles
There are a lot of distractions along the way to your destination. To prevent yourself from being distracted, you need to have some guiding principles. You need to identify the value you believe in. These principles help you stay true to yourself in everything you do.
3. Find your deliberate practice
Doing deliberate practice is important if you want to be remarkable. Deliberate practice is the kind of practice that stretches the boundaries of your capabilities. A good rule of thumb is you need about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a world-class expert in a field. Find out where you should invest that 10,000 hours.
4. Use tacking strategy
The world constantly changes so you need to constantly adapt. That’s why tacking – a term taken from the world of sailing – is a good strategy to apply. With tacking you set a short-term objective, work hard to achieve it, evaluate your performance, and adjust accordingly. 

Executing Your Life Plan

After knowing your destination and how to get there, you need to execute your plan. Here are some tips on executing your life plan:
1. Focus
There is no question that focus is essential to achieve your goals. Without focus, you will spread your effort and attention too thin and eventually achieve nothing. Be careful though. You should be focused but not obsessed.
2. Be persistent
You should be persistent because failure is inevitable on your way to success. Without persistence, it’s easy to get discouraged in the face of failure and stop before reaching your destination. Have faith and keep pushing forward.
 3. Build relationships
Nobody can succeed alone. You need the support of other people to succeed. So build your network before you need it.
 4. Start now
A good plan vigorously executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.
George S. Patton
Don’t wait until your plan is perfect before you start. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Start now. You will learn more by doing than by waiting.

Apr 5, 2009

- What If You Can Live Your Life Over Again?


Each of us have only a single life time and how we want to live it is up to our choice. We can choose to live as a musician, an artist, a lion tamer, office worker or a police man. There are lots of choices for us and in fact, the number of choices are so great that it it is hard for us to make a decision.
Even though we are spoilt for choices, many of us tend to work in an occupation that we don’t really love. For example, our desired occupation can be a dog trainer but we are working as an accountant instead because we have a degree in accountancy or maybe both of your parents are accountants and they want you to follow in their footsteps.
Choosing a career that is not really what we want in a first place lead to many problems such as…
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Lack of fulfillment in job
  • Mediocrity
I believe many of us make the decision of choosing a career that we don’t really like because of the social pressure. It doesn’t help when our family and friends are going to be pissed at the idea of working as a dog trainer when we have an accountancy degree.

What If You Can Live Your Life Over Again?

I try my best not to ask what if questions when I want to start doing something as this will lead me to analysis paralysis but I think the “what if” question will help in this situation.
Did you ever ask yourself this question?

“What if I can live my life over again? Will I be doing this again?”
I find that this is a very useful question that can help me find out what I really want in my life and it has help me greatly to make big decisions in my life.

I had learned my lesson and when it was time for my graduation, I asked myself the question, “What if I can live my life over again? Will I be doing this again?” My answer is a straight No!
The question I asked myself had helped me to make a decision to start all over again by trying to enroll for a business course(my interest) for my university while most of my friends stick on to the science courses. These are the 3 common reasons for their decision.
  • They love it
  • They hate it, but staying in the science course will ensure that they get exemptions which means a year less of studying.
  • They follow the crowd
I did the mistake of following the crowd when I am 17 and I am not going to make it again. That is why I decided that even I am not going to have any exemptions and have to study an additional year for my course, I am going to stick by my decision no matter what others say of it.

How Can You Find Your Dream Career

The only way I can think of right now is to use the trial and error method. You read books from different authors to find out who is your favourite author or listen to different music to find the genre that you love most and these are also achieved through the trial and error method. It may not be the most efficient way to find the career you really want best but it is definitely a way that will help you find out what you truly want.
To help you speed up the whole process, you can start asking yourself this question when you are in a certain career, “What if I can live my life all over again? Will I do this again?”
If you answered yes, then most probably you like what you are doing now and there is no reasons to change your career for now. But if you answered no, it is time for you to switch to another career to find what you really love to do.
Time wait for no one and instead of suffering in the wrong career choice, why not ask yourself this question and find out if what you are doing now is really what you want to be doing.

Apr 3, 2009

- Let Go!!!!!!

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”
Lao Tzu
“We need to learn to let go as easily as we grasp and we will find our hands full and our minds empty.”
Leo F. Buscaglia
We often carry with us a lot of stuff. Not in our hands perhaps. But in our minds. It can become like you are carrying half the world on your back. Not very helpful. So you need to let go of things. Not only to move lighter and more freely. But also to be able to fully move forward in life.
So how do you let things go?
I am certainly not expert at this but here are few tips that have made it easier for me to let go.
  • Ask yourself helpful questions. Questions like: is this helping me or is it just some nonsense or something I’m reliving from the past? Or am I clinging to it because it’s what I have known for such a long time and it seems comfortable and safe even though it is holding me back?
  • Give up “being right”. Realize that you may cling to things because they might make you feel right as you replay an argument or conflict over and over in your mind. It gives you a certain sense of satisfaction as the other person is wrong. But you have to give up that kind of satisfaction to move on.
  • Understand that you get better at letting go as time passes. Not just because what you are carrying gets lighter with time and less painful. But also because your mind over time – for me it took months of practise – becomes more and more open to letting things go. It understands that letting go is something you can do nowadays. That it’s just a mental habit.
  • Accept it. Then let it go. If you have read this blog for a while you know I like acceptance. I like it because when you accept something instead of resisting it you stop feeding more energy into your problem and making it even bigger. A bit counterintuitive. This is also useful when it comes to letting go. If you first accept what you want to let go you aren’t so emotionally attached to it and still feeding it with your focus and energy. And so it becomes less powerful and easier to just drop. As long as you resist it then it will be hard to let it go.
  • Let it go if it shows up again. In my experience it’s pretty common that what you let go shows up in your thoughts again. And that’s ok. Just let it go each time it shows up. After a while it stops showing up.
What to let go?
Here are a few things you might want to let go of.
Let go of negative, small, petty and unimportant stuff.
If you dwell on that stuff – like how someone cut in front of you while you were driving or something negative your boss told you – and blow it out of proportion all the time how will you be happy? How will you be able to focus? And how will you be able to handle something really big when it comes along like a serious disease, a break up or getting laid off? Be smart about that stuff.
Don’t make yourself weak by making mountains out of molehills. Let that stuff go and focus on the more important and positive stuff you have and want in you life.
Let go of distracting stuff.
It’s easy to get caught up in checking your inbox all the time. Or filling your time with tasks that are kinda important but in the end are mostly distractions.
Letting that distracting stuff go from your life and thoughts as best you can makes is a lot easier to focus, find free time and remain on track to do what is most important for you in life.
Let go of trying to control the results of your actions.

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction”
This quote tells me to understand that I cannot control the results of my action. I can’t control how someone reacts to what I say or what I do. And that I should do what I do just because it is something I want to do rather than because of some outcome I’d like. But at the same time I should not let these two ideas lead me to become passive and get stuck in sitting on my hands and not taking action at all.
Basically, I do what I think is right and that is my responsibility. And then the rest (the possible results), well, that is not up for me to decide about or try to control. I let it go.
Let go of information you don’t need.
If you have read a lot about personal development then you might have a lot of tips on different topics in your head. To simplify your life and thinking you might not need 25 ways to handle nervousness.
Now articles with that many tips can be helpful but it’s important to try that stuff out for yourself and see what tips that work most effectively for you. And then simplify so you always know what action to take if you get nervous for example. Instead of having your mind so cluttered with information that you become paralyzed and take no action at all.
Let go of the past and old self-images.
I think this can be a big problem for many people. They get caught up in the past and relive it over and over (perhaps in their minds as old conflicts are on replay or by making the same negative decisions over and over again). Or sometimes they become trapped in their current circumstances as they think that they are what happened to them in the past. Of course, our self-images are fluid.
A few years ago I for instance saw myself as someone who didn’t eat healthy food or was athletic and worked out. Even when I started to do that a bit more I still kinda felt like the person I used to feel like when I was living in an unhealthy way.
Over time I started to think more and more of myself as someone who was healthy. But still shifted between the two self-images of being a healthy person and an unhealthy person. So  since sometime around the beginning of this year I let go of that reassuring past image of myself that felt kinda comfortable. Since then, as my self-image as a healthy person has become consistent in my mind, I find it much easier to work out and eat healthy food. It seems like the natural thing for me to do now.
I think at some point you have to make a shift and let your old identity go if you want to grow. It may be your identity when it comes to health. Or money. Or socially.
If you try to improve but still cling to that old identity of who you were it will be very hard to move forward at your full capacity. And also harder work than it needs to be. When you are not holding on to that past image, when you stop working against yourself, then your current work to improve some part of yourself become more natural and many of the mental obstacles just disappear.
You will still be you if you let your past or an old self-image go. But it’s a new you, a simpler and lighter you.
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