Archive for March, 2010

Porter’s Five Forces

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Assessing the Balance of Power in a Business Situation:

The Porter’s 5 Forces tool is a simple but powerful tool for understanding where power lies in a business situation. This is useful, because it helps you understand both the strength of your current competitive position, and the strength of a position you’re looking to move into.

Conventionally, the tool is used to identify whether new products, services or businesses have the potential to be profitable. However it can be very illuminating when used to understand the balance of power in other situations too.

How to use this model:

Five Forces Analysis assumes that there are five important forces that determine competitive power in a situation. These are:

  1. Supplier Power: Here you assess how easy it is for suppliers to drive up prices. This is driven by the number of suppliers of each key input, the uniqueness of their product or service, their strength and control over you, the cost of switching from one to another, and so on. The fewer the supplier choices you have, and the more you need suppliers’ help, the more powerful your suppliers are.
  2. Buyer Power: Here you ask yourself how easy it is for buyers to drive prices down. Again, this is driven by the number of buyers, the importance of each individual buyer to your business, the cost to them of switching from your products and services to those of someone else, and so on. If you deal with few, powerful buyers, they are often able to dictate terms to you.
  3. Competitive Rivalry: What is important here is the number and capability of your competitors – if you have many competitors, and they offer equally attractive products and services, then you’ll most likely have little power in the situation. If suppliers and buyers don’t get a good deal from you, they’ll go elsewhere. On the other hand, if no-one else can do what you do, then you can often have tremendous strength.
  4. Threat of Substitution: This is affected by the ability of your customers to find a different way of doing what you do – for example, if you supply a unique software product that automates an important process, people may substitute by doing the process manually or by outsourcing it. If substitution is easy and substitution is viable, then this weakens your power.
  5. Threat of New Entry: Power is also affected by the ability of people to enter your market. If it costs little in time or money to enter your market and compete effectively, if there are few economies of scale in place, or if you have little protection for your key technologies, then new competitors can quickly enter your market and weaken your position. If you have strong and durable barriers to entry, then you can preserve a favorable position and take fair advantage of it.

These forces can be neatly brought together in a diagram like the one below:

To use the tool to understand your situation, look at each of these forces one-by-one.

Brainstorm the relevant factors for your market or situation, and then check against the factors listed for the force in the diagram above.

Then download the free worksheet, mark the key factors on the diagram, and summarize the size and scale of the force on the diagram. An easy way of doing this is to use, for example, a single “+” sign for a force moderately in your favor, or “–” for a force strongly against you (you can see this in the example below).

Then look at the situation you find using this analysis and think through how it affects you. Bear in mind that few situations are perfect; however use environmental scanning as a framework for thinking through what you could change to increase your power with respect to each force.


Martin Johnson is deciding whether to switch career and become a farmer – he’s always loved the countryside, and wants to switch to a career where he’s his own boss. He creates the following Five Forces Analysis as he thinks the situation through:

Porter's Five Forces Example

This worries him:

  • The threat of new entry is quite high: if anyone looks as if they’re making a sustained profit, new competitors can come into the industry easily, reducing profits;
  • Competitive rivalry is extremely high: if someone raises prices, they’ll be quickly undercut. Intense competition puts strong downward pressure on prices;
  • Buyer Power is strong, again implying strong downward pressure on prices; and
  • There is some threat of substitution.

Unless he is able to find some way of changing this situation, this looks like a very tough industry to survive in. Maybe he’ll need to specialize in a sector of the market that’s protected from some of these forces, or find a related business that’s in a stronger position.

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The Boston Matrix

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

If you enjoy visual representations and vivid descriptions of your business then you’ll love the Boston Matrix!

Also called the BCG Matrix, it provides a useful way of looking at the opportunities open to you, and helps you analyse which segments of your business are in a good position – and which ones aren’t. That way, you can decide on the most appropriate investment strategy for your business in the future, and where best to allocate your resources.

Understanding the model:

Market Share and Market Growth -

To understand the Boston Matrix you need to understand how market share and market growth interrelate.

Market share is the percentage of the total market that is being serviced by your company, measured either in revenue terms or unit volume terms. The higher your market share, the higher proportion of the market you control.

The Boston Matrix assumes that if you enjoy a high market share you will normally be making money (this assumption is based on the idea that you will have been in the market long enough to have learned how to be profitable, and will be enjoying scale economies that give you an advantage).

The question it asks is, “Should you be investing your resources into that product line just because it is making you money?” The answer is, “not necessarily.”

This is where market growth comes into play. Market growth is used as a measure of a market’s attractiveness. Markets experiencing high growth are ones where the total market is expanding, which should provide the opportunity for businesses to make more money, even if their market share remains stable.

By contrast, competition in low growth markets is often bitter, and while you might have high market share now, what will the situation look like in a few months or a few years? This makes low growth markets less attractive.

The Matrix Itself

The Boston Matrix categorizes opportunities into four groups, shown on axes of Market Growth and Market Share:

Boston Matrix Diagram

These groups are explained below:

Dogs: Low Market Share / Low Market Growth
In these areas, your market presence is weak, so it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get noticed. Also, you won’t enjoy the scale economies of the larger players, so it’s going to be difficult to make a profit.

Cash Cows:
High Market Share / Low Market Growth

Here, you’re well-established, so it’s easy to get attention and exploit new opportunities. However it’s only worth expending a certain amount of effort, because the market isn’t growing and your opportunities are limited.

High Market Share / High Market Growth

Here you’re well-established, and growth is exciting! These are fantastic opportunities, and you should work hard to realize them.

Question Marks (Problem Child):
Low Market Share / High Market Growth

These are the opportunities no one knows what to do with. They aren’t generating much revenue right now because you don’t have a large market share. But, they are in high growth markets so the potential to make money is there.

Question Marks might become Stars and eventual Cash Cows, but they could just as easily absorb effort with little return. These opportunities need serious thought as to whether increased investment is warranted.

To use the Boston Matrix to look at your opportunities, first download our free worksheet and then use the following steps:

Step One: Plot your opportunities in terms of their relative market presence, and market growth on the blank matrix provided on the worksheet.

Step Two: Classify them into one of the four categories. If a product seems to fall right on one of the lines, take a real hard look at the situation and rely on past performance to help you decide which side you will place it.

Step Three: Determine what you will do with each product/product line. There are typically four different strategies to apply:

  • Build Market Share: Make further investments (for example, to maintain Star status, or turn a Question Mark into a Star)
  • Hold: Maintain the status quo (do nothing)
  • Harvest: Reduce the investment (enjoy positive cash flow and maximize profits from a Star or Cash Cow)
  • Divest: For example, get rid of the Dogs, and use the capital to invest in Stars and some Question Marks.

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Water for life

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

WATER is the essence of life. All creatures evolved out of marine life. Even the creationist view of life does not exclude the importance of water. Our body is 55% to 75% water (depending on age and health, with decreasing percentage with increasing biological age), and our cells are 70% to 90% water. Dehydration is one major effect of ageing, and this can be clearly seen in the ageing skin.

Water is not only essential to the health of our bodies, but also to the health of our earth. The gaia concept views earth as a living organism which, like all living organisms, depends much on clean, health-giving water.

Unfortunately, our blatant neglect of the lakes, rivers, and oceans, and our persistent pollution of the environment has contaminated most of our water sources. Some of the rivers that flow through major cities around the world are so murky, only mutant fish can survive! As clean water sources are becoming scarce, in future, wars will be fought over water, and not just oil.

Alkaline water is good for drinking, while acidic water is excellent for skin health and beauty (skin pH is 5.5), and for feminine hygiene. – AP

Water for health

In the past, all we needed to do to drink a glass of clean water was to turn on the tap. Nowadays, nobody drinks from the home tap anymore, and for good reasons. The quality of the domestic water supply is suspect, and often obviously deficient and dirty (depending on where you live). We only drink boiled, filtered, or bottled water.

With the realisation that filtration was necessary, we were then bombarded by a whole array of water filtration and treatments systems. Some fantastic claims are being made about the health and healing powers of the treated water, so it would be good if I explain to you some of the terms used.

Purity and sterility

The gold standard for water purification is the distillation process, which involves boiling the water and then condensing the steam as distillate. In this way, pure water is obtained due to its specific boiling point. Boiling also sterilises the water (kills viruses, bacteria, and parasites).

Modern technology has enabled reverse osmosis (RO) technology to be equally as good. The best filtration membrane is so fine that only water molecules pass through, excluding even viruses. Pure, sterile water is the result. It is so reliable that even urine can be recycled (e.g. Singapore’s Nuwater). However, you will not get the benefits of urine therapy by drinking it, since it is just pure water.

All other methods of filtration (e.g. layered sand, fibre filters) do not give the same purity as the above two, although it can come close if multiple filter systems are used.

Besides distillation and RO, other methods used to sterilise include UV light and nano-silver. Do note that you can have sterile water that is not pure – e.g. if impurities are not filtered out before boiling (unless you collect only the distillate) or UV-irradiation.

Note that if it is not safe for drinking, then it is not good for bathing too, since the skin absorbs water and whatever it contains easily. Be sure to have an outdoor filter system for your whole house if you are serious about your health. For added safety, have a table-top unit in your kitchen to re-filter (and alkalinise, energise, etc.) for drinking.

Acidity and alkalinity

The pH of pure water is seven (neutral). However, distilled and RO water tends to be slightly acidic due to its readiness to absorb the carbon dioxide in the air, turning it to carbonic acid.

Impure water is acidic, and is not good for health. Our blood is always alkaline (pH 7.35 to 7.45), and the body has to maintain this at all cost to ensure homeostasis (optimum physiological conditions around the cells and organs) is maintained, allowing all cellular functions to continue.

The body does this through acid and alkaline buffers which are outside the blood. Thus, if you drink or eat too much acid foods, or produce too much acids (e.g. starvation diet leading to ketoacidosis), then your alkaline buffers will be used to maintain the alkaline blood pH, at the expense of your cells and organs. These will be surrounded by acidic conditions and their functions may be impeded.

Once the body runs out of alkaline buffers, then the blood pH becomes more acidic, and organ failure follows. A body that cannot restore its alkaline blood pH will die.

All the natural healing water (e.g. Lourdes, Zam-Zam) are alkaline. From my explanation above, you will understand why this is so. Our unhealthy diets and lifestyles tend to increase the body’s acidity, and alkaline water will neutralise this tendency.

My advice is for you to get a water treatment system that produces alkaline water. The best ones allow you to select precisely the pH that you require (most natural alkaline water are around pH 9), and also discharges acidic water which you can use for skin health. While alkaline water is good for drinking, acidic water is excellent for skin health and beauty (skin pH is 5.5), and for feminine hygiene.

Molecular size

The terms micro-water, nano-water, clustered-water, structured-water and a host of other terms all describe the fact that pure, energised water molecules tend to form small clusters, and the water behaves better in dissolving, cleansing, and other functions, including healing. While all the physical actions of water can be proven in the laboratory, the healing effects of small water-molecule clusters have not been validated by scientific studies, although there are ample testimonies from those who have benefited.

It is not surprising at all that smaller water clusters should have better healing effects since all the functions are improved, and maintaining health (and healing) is a major function of water.

The smaller clusters result from the change in the angle between the two H (hydrogen) and O (oxygen) atoms that constitute the water molecule. This is possible through a change in its energy state, and is responsible for the improved properties and functions.

Mineral content

The best natural healing water is also rich in minerals. However, do not correlate this with all the mineral water that you drink. You must understand the difference between organic and inorganic minerals.

For example, the mineral water that contains minerals from dissolved rocks and stones (e.g. mineral pot) contains inorganic minerals that are not easily assimilated by the cells, and may be detrimental under certain conditions.

If there is dehydration, or changes in acidity, they tend to form stones in the body. Rock-derived minerals may form mini-rocks inside you!

Organic minerals are plant-derived. The natural water that contains organic minerals flow through earth layers that are rich in minerals formed from pre-historic plants, which have denatured.

When dissolved, these layer of organic minerals form colloidal minerals. The Hunza Valley water is especially rich in such minerals because the glaciers collect the organic minerals as they travel down the mountains.

It is best that you get your minerals from fruits, vegetables, and other foods and not worry if your water is sufficiently mineralised, unless you are sure that the minerals are organic. However, some mineral content is necessary if the water is to be ionised.

Ionised water

Charged or ionised H+ and OH- atoms and molecules can be obtained by splitting the water molecule, by passing an electrical current. However it is easier to charge the dissolved minerals. Since the body functions through subtle electrical currents, the availability of charged atoms and molecules can help in health and healing. For example, when you have an injury, the injured cells’ electrical charge is disturbed and this initiates the healing process.

Negatively-charged ions also act like antioxidants, neutralising free-radicals and thus help in fighting disease, ageing, and cancer. Thus ionised water is often called “antioxidant water”.

Energised water

You have seen how energised water can improve its healing power through a change of its molecular structure. But how is water energised? Most water-treatment systems do this though FIR (far infrared) obtained from treated ceramics or other materials. It can also be energised by scalar-energised volcanic minerals or metals.

Finally, it can also be energised by sending life-force (qi, reiki or prana, etc) to it. While FIR and other measurable energy-forms are easily understood, the effects of scalar and qi-enhanced water can only be shown through innovative means.

Secrets of water

Dr Masaru Emoto is the eminent water-scientist who revealed to the world the “Secret Life of Water”. He showed though scientific methods that water not only has memory, but also emotions.

When frozen under controlled conditions, pure and polluted water formed different crystal patterns. Water that had pleasant words and prayers recited formed beautiful patterns, while water that got negative words formed ugly patterns.

Scalar and qi-energised water also formed exquisite patterns. Watching the crystals slowly forming, with the accompaniment of music, is an unforgettable experience. Dr Emoto will be giving his much-awaited lecture on more secrets about water in Kuala Lumpur on 3rd April 2010. You should not miss this experience.

by Dr. Amir Farid Isahak.

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The Ansoff Matrix

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Understanding the risks of different options :

(Also known as the Product / Market Expansion Grid)

For a whole variety of reasons, there are times when as an individual or in business you want or need to expand or change your field or market. In business, you might need to achieve economies of scale, make more money for investors, or gain national or even global recognition of their brand. As an individual, you may want to change company, or even career.

Having decided that you want to grow your business or career, you’ll have hundreds of ideas about things you could do. For your business, this means new products, new markets, new channels, or new marketing campaigns. For your career, it means new skills, new roles, and even new industries.

That’s great! But which ones should you choose? And why?

Using a strategic approach, such as the Ansoff Model or Matrix, helps you evaluate your options and choose the one that suits your situation best, and gives you the best return on the potentially considerable investment that you’ll need to make.

Understanding the model:

The Ansoff Matrix was first published in the Harvard Business Review in 1957, and has given generations of marketers and small business leaders a quick and simple way to develop a strategic approach to growth.

Sometimes called the Product/Market Expansion Grid, it shows four growth options for business formed by matching up existing and new products and services with existing and new markets, as shown in Figure 1 below.

Ansoff Matrix Diagram

The Matrix essentially shows the risk that a particular strategy will expose you to, the idea being that each time you move into a new quadrant (horizontally or vertically) you increase risk.

The Corporate Ansoff Matrix

Looking at it from a business perspective, staying with your existing product in your existing market is a low risk option: You know the product works, and the market holds few surprises for you.

However, you expose yourself to a whole new level of risk either moving into a new market with an existing product, or developing a new product for an existing market. The market may turn out to have radically different needs and dynamics than you thought, or the new product may just not work or sell.

And by moving two quadrants and targeting a new market with a new product, you increase your risk to yet another level!

Personal Ansoff

Looking at it from a personal perspective, just staying where you are is (usually!) a low risk option.

Switching to a new role in the same company, or changing to a similar job with a company in the same industry is a higher risk option. And switching to a new role in a new industry has an even higher level of risk.

This is shown in figure 2, below.

Use of the model is straightforward:

  1. Start by downloading either the free Corporate Ansoff or Personal Ansoff worksheet. Then plot the approaches you’re considering on the matrix. The table below shows how you might classify different approaches.

Market Development

Here, you’re targeting new markets, or new areas of the market. You’re trying to sell more of the same things to different people. Here you might:

  • Target different geographical markets at home or abroad
  • Use different sales channels, such as online or direct sales if you are currently selling through the trade
  • Target different groups of people, perhaps different age groups, genders or demographic profiles from your normal customers.


This strategy is risky: There’s often little scope for using existing expertise or achieving economies of scale, because you are trying to sell completely different products or services to different customers

Its main advantage is that, should one business suffer from adverse circumstances, the other is unlikely to be affected.

Market Penetration

With this approach, you’re trying to sell more of the same things to the same people. Here you might:

  • Advertise, to encourage more people within your existing market to choose your product, or to use more of it
  • Introduce a loyalty scheme
  • Launch price or other special offer promotions
  • Increase your sales force activities, or
  • Buy a competitor company (particularly in mature markets)

Product Development

Here, you’re selling more things to the same people. Here you might:

  • Extend your product by producing different variants, or packaging existing products it in new ways
  • Develop related products or services (for example, a domestic plumbing company might add a tiling service – after all, if they’re plumbing in a new kitchen, most likely tiling will be needed!)
  • In a service industry, increase your time to market, customer service levels, or quality.
  1. Manage risk appropriately. For example, if you’re switching from one quadrant to another, make sure:
    • That you research the move carefully;
    • That you build the capabilities needed to succeed in the new quadrant;
    • That you’ve got plenty of resources to cover a possible thin period while you’re developing and learning how to sell the new product, or are learning what makes the new market tick; and
    • That you have firstly thought through what you have to do if things don’t work out, and that failure won’t “break” you

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The Marketing Mix and 4 Ps

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Understanding how to position your market offering:

What is marketing? The definition that many marketers learn as they start out in the industry is:

Putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.

It’s simple! You just need to create a product that a particularly group of people want, put it on sale some place that those same people visit regularly, and price it at a level which matches the value they feel they get out of it; and do all that at a time they want to buy. Then you’ve got it made!

There’s a lot of truth in this idea. However, a lot of hard work needs to go into finding out what customers want, and identifying where they do their shopping. Then you need to figure out how to produce the item at a price that represents value to them, and get it all to come together at the critical time.

But if you get just one element wrong, it can spell disaster. You could be left promoting a car with amazing fuel-economy in a country where fuel is very cheap; or publishing a textbook after the start of the new school year, or selling an item at a price that’s too high – or too low – to attract the people you’re targeting.

The marketing mix is a good place to start when you are thinking through your plans for a product or service, and it helps you avoid these kinds of mistake.

Understanding the model:

The marketing mix and the 4 Ps of marketing are often used as synonyms for each other. In fact, they are not necessarily the same thing.

Marketing mix” is a general phrase used to describe the different kinds of choices organizations have to make in the whole process of bringing a product or service to market. The 4 Ps is one way – probably the best-known way – of defining the marketing mix, and was first expressed in 1960 by E J McCarthy.

The 4Ps are:

  • Product (or Service)
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion

A good way to understand the 4 Ps is by the questions that you need to ask to define you marketing mix. Here are some questions that will help you understand and define each of the four elements:


  • What does the customer want from the product/service? What needs does it satisfy?
  • What features does it have to meet these needs?
    • Are there any features you’ve missed out?
    • Are you including costly features that the customer won’t actually use?
  • How and where will the customer use it?
  • What does it look like? How will customers experience it?
  • What size(s), color(s), and so on, should it be?
  • What is it to be called?
  • How is it branded?
  • How is it differentiated versus your competitors?
  • What is the most it can cost to provide, and still be sold sufficiently profitably? (See also Price, below).


  • Where do buyers look for your product or service?
  • If they look in a store, what kind? A specialist boutique or in a supermarket, or both? Or online? Or direct, via a catalogue?
  • How can you access the right distribution channels?
  • Do you need to use a sales force? Or attend trade fairs? Or make online submissions? Or send samples to catalogue companies?
  • What do you competitors do, and how can you learn from that and/or differentiate?


  • What is the value of the product or service to the buyer?
  • Are there established price points for products or services in this area?
  • Is the customer price sensitive? Will a small decrease in price gain you extra market share? Or will a small increase be indiscernible, and so gain you extra profit margin?
  • What discounts should be offered to trade customers, or to other specific segments of your market?
  • How will your price compare with your competitors?


  • Where and when can you get across your marketing messages to your target market?
  • Will you reach your audience by advertising in the press, or on TV, or radio, or on billboards? By using direct marketing mailshot? Through PR? On the Internet?
  • When is the best time to promote? Is there seasonality in the market? Are there any wider environmental issues that suggest or dictate the timing of your market launch, or the timing of subsequent promotions?
  • How do your competitors do their promotions? And how does that influence your choice of promotional activity?

The 4Ps model is just one of many marketing mix lists that have been developed over the years. And, whilst the questions we have listed above are key, they are just a subset of the detailed probing that may be required to optimize your marketing mix.

Amongst the other marketing mix models have been developed over the years is Boom and Bitner’s 7Ps, sometimes called the extended marketing mix, which include the first 4 Ps, plus people, processes and physical layout decisions.

Another marketing mix approach is Lauterborn’s 4Cs, which presents the elements of the marketing mix from the buyer’s, rather than the seller’s, perspective. It is made up of Customer needs and wants (the equivalent of product), Cost (price), Convenience (place) and Communication (promotion). In this article, we focus on the 4Ps model as it is the most well-recognized, and contains the core elements of a good marketing mix.

Using the 4Ps Marketing Mix Model:

The marketing mix model can be used to help you decide how to take a new offer to market. It can also be used to test your existing marketing strategy. Whether you are considering a new or existing offer, follow the steps below help you define and improve your marketing mix.

  1. Start by identifying the product or service that you want to analyze.
  2. Now go through and answers the 4Ps questions – as defined in detail above.
  3. Try asking “why” and “what if” questions too, to challenge your offer. For example, ask why your target audience needs a particular feature. What if you drop your price by 5%? What if you offer more colors? Why sell through wholesalers rather than direct channels? What if you improve PR rather than rely on TV advertising?
  4. Once you have a well-defined marketing mix, try “testing” the overall offer from the customer’s perspective, by asking customer focused questions:
    1. Does it meet their needs? (product)
    2. Will they find it where they shop? (place)
    3. Will they consider it’s priced favorably? (price)
    4. And will the marketing communications reach them? (promotion)
  5. Keep on asking questions and making changes to your mix until you are satisfied that you have optimized your marketing mix, given the information and facts and figures you have available.
  6. Review you marketing mix regularly, as some elements will need to change as the product or service, and its market, grow, mature and adapt in an ever-changing competitive environment.

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Standards for students.

Monday, March 29th, 2010
The Ministry Of Education (MoE) welcomes and appreciates the writer’s feedback in “Standards For Students” By Liong Kam Chong, Seremban (New Straits Times, 18 March 2010, Page 18), regarding the 1Student 1Sport Policy, in which each student is required to participate in at least one sport starting from next year.
The writer raised several issues and MoE would like to clarify that apart from producing sports champions, MOE main objective is to develop human capital through sports.

The policy does not refer to high performance sports that require special coaching and facilities, as there is already a separate programme for that. Rather, we want students to acquire the skills, discipline, camaraderie, values and spirit that come along with the participation of sports.

Regarding the practicality of the implementation, sporting activities such as badminton, football and netball need not necessarily be played according to international standards but can be played in spaces suitable to the game without compromising on the skills needed. For example, badminton can be played in an open space instead of a proper court while football can be played within a much smaller confine.

The type and number of sports offered will be determined by the schools according to their capabilities and capacities. Our surveys reveal that 90% of schools are able to implement the policy and we will work closely with the remaining 10%, especially through the parent-teacher association, sports clubs and communities, to ensure that the essence and sporting spirit is inculcated among our future generation.

Our aim is for students to eventually increase the frequency and sustainability of their participation. We would like them to voluntarily participate in more than one sport and play these sports more often.

As pointed out by the writer, we are sadly aware that the requirement for every student to select a game, an academic society and a uniformed body only happens on paper. We hope to change this mentality by having the support of schools, teachers, parents and the community to ensure that students participate actively at all levels and not on paper only.

MoE recognises that there are barriers towards a smooth policy implementation so feedback from the community is always welcome. Let us together strive to promote and develop sports and physical education in schools for the benefit of every student and for the betterment of the nation at large.

Corporate Communication Unit,
Ministry of Education Malaysia.

PEST Analysis

Monday, March 29th, 2010

PEST Analysis is a simple, useful and widely-used tool that helps you understand the “big picture” of your Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological environment. As such, it is used by business leaders worldwide to build their vision of the future.

It is important for these reasons:

  • First, by making effective use of PEST Analysis, you ensure that what you are doing is aligned positively with the powerful forces of change that are affecting our world. By taking advantage of change, you are much more likely to be successful than if your activities oppose it;

  • Second, good use of PEST Analysis helps you avoid taking action that is doomed to failure from the outset, for reasons beyond your control; and

  • Third, PEST is useful when you start operating in a new country or region. Use of PEST helps you break free of unconscious assumptions, and helps you quickly adapt to the realities of the new environment.

How to use it:

PEST is a simple mnemonic standing for Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological.

To use this tool, follow this three stage process:

  1. Brainstorm the relevant factors that apply to you;
  2. Identify the information that applies to these factors; and
  3. Draw conclusions from this information.

The following factors may help as a starting point for brainstorming (but make sure you include other factors that may be appropriate to your situation):


  • Government type and stability

  • Freedom of press, rule of law and levels of bureaucracy and corruption

  • Regulation and de-regulation trends

  • Social and employment legislation

  • Tax policy, and trade and tariff controls

  • Environmental and consumer-protection legislation

  • Likely changes in the political environment


  • Stage of business cycle

  • Current and project economic growth, inflation and interest rates

  • Unemployment and labor supply

  • Labor costs

  • Levels of disposable income and income distribution

  • Impact of globalization

  • Likely impact of technological or other change on the economy

  • Likely changes in the economic environment


  • Population growth rate and age profile

  • Population health, education and social mobility, and attitudes to these

  • Population employment patterns, job market freedom and attitudes to work

  • Press attitudes, public opinion, social attitudes and social taboos

  • Lifestyle choices and attitudes to these

  • Socio-Cultural changes

Technological Environment:

  • Impact of emerging technologies

  • Impact of Internet, reduction in communications costs and increased remote working

  • Research and Development activity

  • Impact of technology transfer

Figure 1 below shows this in diagrammatic format:

Figure 1: PEST Analysis in Diagrammatic Format

PEST  Diagram

Key Points:

PEST Analysis is a useful tool for understanding the “big picture” of the environment in which you are operating, and the opportunities and threats that lie within it. By understanding your environment, you can take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the threats.

PEST is a mnemonic standing for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. These headings are used firstly to brainstorm the characteristics of a country or region and, from this, draw conclusions as to the significant forces of change operating within it.

This provides the context within which more detailed planning can take place to take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

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Green movement demands lifestyle change’

Monday, March 29th, 2010

KOTA KINABALU:  It takes just a simple gesture, like switching off the lights when  not needed, to con­serve energy.

FOR YOU: ISM  Sabah branch chairman Peter Ting Jack Jong (left) presenting a souvenir  to Dompok after the launching ceremony, while the event’s organising  chairman, Datuk Kenneth Yen looks on.

ISM Sabah branch chairman Peter Ting Jack Jong (left) presenting a souvenir to Dompok after the launching ceremony, while the event’s organising chairman, Datuk Kenneth Yen looks on.

“The fundamental prin­ciples of the green move­ment demand a change in our lifestyle and values. We will need to commit to the simplest task such as ope­ning up the window blinds to use daylight or drawing the blackout curtains to keep the interior of the building cool,” advised Plantation Indus­tries and Commodities Minis­­ter, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, yester­day.

Speaking at the third Sabah Surveyors Congress here, he said property pla­yers should also play their roles in minimising nega­tive impact on the environ­ment as this issue would  continue to lead trends in building design and cons­truc­tion.

“The catch word now is ‘green building’. The government is playing its part by giving tax incentives to building owners to achieve the Green Building Index (GBI) ratings,” he said.

He said there was a gene­ral expectation that buil­dings should minimise envi­ronmental impact during their life cycle and focus on improving health and well-being for the occupiers.

“We now have modern terminology such as ‘sus­tainable buildings’ or ‘green buildings’. The aim of these modern environ­ment friendly building concepts gears towards optimising utilities and functions for the occupiers, whilst at the same time, minimising the use of non-renewable re­sources and presenting low environ­mental impact, including their impact on biodiversity.

“In fact, today, many deve­lo­pers are even using GBI rating as a marketing tool to market their develop­ments,” he said.

He noted that in the last few years, there have been a great surge of awareness in green and environment movements, and that since GBI was introduced, there have been an increasing interest in sustainable and eco-friendly designs and development.

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Best teaching method

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The choice made by teachers and tutors as to which English-teaching methodology is best depends on a number of factors.

These factors include the language needs of the learners, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, the availability of resources and teaching tools, course objectives, and programme duration.

The teacher’s teaching skills and personality should also be taken into account.

The personal language needs of individual learners are of paramount importance in planning any English course.

When teaching English as an additional or second language, two aspects come to the fore — pronunciation and grammar.

However, if a learner is to develop superior English language talents, a comprehensive teaching approach is required that focuses on all the macro skills.

These include both receptive skills (reading, listening and viewing) and productive skills (speaking, writing and interpreting).

Learners for whom English is an additional language (EAL) have to contend with issues that primary English speakers don’t, such as English sounds that do not exist in their native language, words and concepts for which there are no native language equivalents, and even religious inhibitions.

EAL teachers must be “culturally conscious” to the point of researching ethnic diversity and differences.

For example, a simple factor like age can determine the “sophistication” of the teaching methodology adopted, especially when members of a teaching group vary greatly in age and maturity.

Likewise, gender can influence which teaching resources are applied in the learning process, and can also affect the seating arrangement of a teaching environment.

The availability of technology and tools will determine whether some e-learning programs can be used. The absence of computers, audio systems, CD-DVD players and equipment such as LCD projectors, can hinder accelerated learning.

Moreover, self-paced learning programmes can be inhibited and the use of self-learning and language-discovery techniques can be greatly restricted.

Here are some general points for teachers and learners of EAL to consider:

·Learners need as much exposure to the language as possible.

Mastering English requires using it in a myriad of appropriate communicative circumstances – on a daily basis, and not just a few hours a week in a classroom.

·Learners need regular, directed input from teachers and tutors.

Self-discovery is a “feel good” concept for many modern linguists.

However, experience has shown that the learning process is accelerated when learners are taught about the language and are guided and directed by competent, professional teachers.

·Teaching goals need to centre on learners understanding the attributes of English.

Teachers need to impart skills that repair, reinforce and raise learners’ communicative talents in any situation — not just knowing how to say and write words.

·Learners need to be able to accelerate the self-learning process.

This is done by acquiring the art of “skills transfer”, whereby the knowledge they gain about one word (how it is spoken and spelt), is transferred to other related words, for example: convention > inventor > preventative.

·Real-life, simulated, situational language experiences — applying to rent an apartment, for example — certainly enhance personal conversational confidence.

However, they are not enough alone to achieve English competency.

·Learners need to be prepared to be constantly self-correcting, and self-critical of their own language proficiency. They need to also be willing to accept constructive comment from others whose opinions they respect.

·Self-discovery has a part to play in the learning of a second language, but appropriate input will always significantly maximise the learning outcome.

·The acquisition of both quality vocabulary and grammar skills is a prerequisite to being a superior English speaker and writer.

The enhancement and refinement of vocabulary and grammar talents requires a problem –solution approach, as well as practice, practice and practice!

·Learners should be encouraged to experiment with the new language for themselves by using new, different and superior words when speaking or writing on a daily basis.

Using the thesaurus is a great way to discover new words.

Learners need to see early results from their initial learning efforts and quickly come to believe they can do it.

·Anxiety, stress and competition within a teaching setting need to be minimised for effective language learning.

·Learners need to enjoy learning and “own” the new language they are acquiring.

When the objective is to quickly and effectively develop, repair, reinforce and refine individual English language skills, this column contends that The 4S Approach To Literacy And Language is the most effective methodology available to the modern English teacher today.

However, regardless of the method chosen by the teacher, the most important consideration should be the ultimate benefits for the learner.

by Keith W. Wright.
for a free copy of the 4S chart, r Combinations That Make The Same Sound.

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Passion for the work

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

TEACHING and guiding children with Down Syndrome to develop their social and motor skills is no easy task but the therapists at the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation-National Centre (KDSF) in Petaling Jaya are a diligent lot who take their job seriously.

The centre, which celebrated its 21st anniversary and World Down Syndrome Day last week, has four therapists who work on activites that strengthen different parts of their bodies as well as help with their speech development.

The therapists say that they never had ambitions of working with children with special needs, but feel that fate had a part in bringing them to their current jobs.

For 26-year-old Hazel Joy D. Sablay, from Manila, the Philippines, her interest in the human body and its functions brought her into the medical field, and in no time she found herself working with children.

“Children in general are very lovely and adorable. I love their innocence.

“But what makes me want to work with children with special needs is their power to inspire us in spite of their limitations. As a therapist it is rewarding to see these children work and maximise the use of different parts of their body.”

Working with special children is a two-way relationship, she says.

“They learn from me and I also learn from them.”

Sablay says that one must have the heart to serve Down Syndrome children to be an effective teacher, educator, caregiver, or therapist.

Many of the children have disabilities that may have afflicted the muscular, skeletal, sensory, neurological, circulatory, and respiratory systems and different types of physical therapy will offer some relief to them.

“I am glad to be given the chance to work with children with special needs as there aren’t many healthcare professionals who would like to work in this field,’’ says Sablay, who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2005 and obtained her professional licence the same year in the Philippines.

Fellow Filipina Junaleth ‘June’ Dalupang Chiong says that she had no interest in the medical line but in her late teens she had an inclination towards helping people.

“I suddenly had a passion for helping out those in need,” says the occupational therapist from Manila’s Makati district.

She has had three years working with children with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), learning disabilities and mental retardation.

Chiong, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy, has her own take on why children, in particular those with Down Syndrome are referred to as “special”.

“It is not because of their condition, but because they jolt us out of our complacency and make us look at the bigger picture,” she says.

“Special children in a way help build the character of their trainer and caregivers because it’s not an easy job to handle them. It takes a lot of patience, love and understanding.”

Ida Yasmine Ahmad, 27, agrees with Chong, adding that she too has no regrets working with such children. Born and raised in Kuching, Sarawak, the physiotherapist says that they are like other normal children when it comes to emotions and even imagination.

“They amaze me because they have developed their own unique way of expressing their emotions.”

“When a child with special needs manages to complete a small task, we regard it an accomplishment, but the same task completed by a normal child may not receive such applause,” says the Mahsa University College graduate.

For her, special children may be different, but they are still human beings who deserve to be loved and treated without discrimination.

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