Doug Matheson: AAMO President

NZIM national chairman Doug Matheson has been elected president of the Asian Association of Management Organisations (AAMO) for the next three years. New Zealand hasn’t chaired the organisation since 1974. But what is AAMO and why is it relevant to New Zealand? And what does Doug Matheson want to achieve during his tenure in the top job? Management interviewed Matheson on his return from this year’s Kuala Lumpur Assembly.

What is AAMO and what are its objectives?
Matheson: AAMO was formed in 1960 and is non-political and non-profit making body. It aims to promote the principles and methods of sound management in the Asia Pacific region. It provides the facility for cooperation amongst member management organisations to develop and conduct common management research, education and training programmes and to build international management services. The member countries are currently India, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. The Malaysian Institute of Management in Kuala Lumpur provides permanent secretariat.
It aims to support national management organisations and make them more effective by working together to provide an international perspective to management. It provides vehicle and process for bringing the world’s leading management training and education programmes into the Asia region.

What is its strategic focus?
Matheson: We obviously want to develop AAMO and its leadership role.
We want to be more proactive in the region by developing projects, activities and training programmes, to lift the performance of management in their respective countries building an Asian Management Best Practice database which allows managers to benchmark their skills against best practice in the region and build an itinerant speaker programme, offering leading-edge management speakers from the member countries.
We plan to consolidate regional management development programmes into comprehensive programme for international managers and build the AAMO website and information services network.
Finally, we want to provide reciprocal membership framework that links the national management organisations.

How and why is AAMO relevant to NZIM and local managers?
Matheson: It brings wider perspective to our activities and services. It is also an important resource in research, training and education and management information.
The Asian dimension has been important for some time but it is increasingly so as the world moves to the new economy and globalisation. New Zealand is part of Asia and the opportunities to provide common perspectives, understanding and development is important to the future development needs of our managers.
Asia, including New Zealand, must respond to globalisation. I think AAMO will be increasingly valuable to NZIM and its members because it provides the facility to bring the wider international dimensions of globalisation. For example, last month we staged an international conference in Kuala Lumpur on “The New Economy – Challenge and Response”. I was privileged to chair the opening plenary session. AAMO brought together international speakers from the USA, Europe, Australia, New Zealand as well as Asia including Japan. The initiative offered New Zealand managers unique opportunity to be involved, an important international forum.

What does AAMO think are the key issues facing managers today?
Matheson: The key issue is the same for all of us – it’s the knowledge economy. To remain competitive organisational leaders and managers must master the concepts of knowledge business, of globalisation and of the technologies that drive it.
We have identified management education and attitude as the two elements needed most to improve performance in all countries. But we also need to improve the core management competencies of strategic thinking, adopting and exploiting technology, innovation, managing opportunities and human resources.
The fundamental shift for knowledge organisations is management’s recognition of human capital as the principal strategic resource. Management must take leadership of the transition to the knowledge economy – developing human capital is an important key responsibility of all management.
Are the issues facing our managers the same as those facing managers in other member countries?
Matheson: In all countries, including in New Zealand, there is the need to reinvent the role of government to enabler. Governments must perform the regulator role – but not in such way that it is competitor or restrictor on business.
Governments must ensure the infrastructure to support knowledge economy. This means wide band high-speed fibre optics communication capability to every area and every building in the country as well as to the rest of the world. Ensuring this infrastructure is in place is the government’s most important role. Government must also create the environment for success – an environment in which innovation and success can thrive under inspired business leadership and management.

Just how relevant (to managers) is the trend to globalisation?
Matheson: Globalisation is the competitive reality for companies of all sizes and in all sectors. More than half of US exports come from companies with fewer than 20 employees. The internet with information and communications technology has virtually removed barriers to entry.
I believe Asian managers are more internationally focused than we here in New Zealand. We need to break management’s myopic mindset in New Zealand. But managers in all countries need vision that extends beyond their business. They have to create culture of global management inside the organisation. Management must confront and challenge the norms of the past.
The new economy – knowledge economy – is an open economy. It demands competitiveness. In most countries managers must lead their businesses in:
• moving from being opportunistic to being more strategic
• shifting to higher value products and services
• moving into higher value add – finding “new” things to do
• developing world class practices and processes
• benchmarking and setting world-class standards – they must compete against the world’s best.

Do you see AAMO expanding its membership base – and if so what other countries might join?
Matheson: Mainland China is increasingly interested in joining AAMO. We are also talking with Vietnam and Cambodia. Most developing countries of Asia are potential members of AAMO.

What personal agenda have you set for your term as president?
Matheson: I want AAMO to be more future focused. We’ll review our strategic thinking and identify strategic initiatives in response to researching and identifying the management needs to succeed in the new economies and global environment. AAMO must drive the national management organisations to look at what is needed in each of their countries. We can then identify the value-add opportunities for AAMO in the future Asia-wide environment. This strategic process is beginning in each country and will end with strategic session involving all countries at the first Council meeting under my presidency in Melbourne next year.

New Zealand will host the AAMO Conference in 2003 – what is the theme likely to be?
Matheson: It’s unlikely to be traditional form of conference. Spending two days listening to series of speakers reading prepared scripts, or delivering PowerPoint presentations does not provide the important, sharing, discussion and interactive debate that managers from wide and diverse range of backgrounds and countries need. We are already discussing changing the format more towards an international management forum with both the stimulus of international experts and involvement of the international participants. The pace and nature of change in today’s world suggests we should not settle on the theme at this time.

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