Should TTSH have fired Roy Ngerng? - An application of strategic thinking
June 11, 2014
First the disclaimer: we are not a political organisation and we refrain from taking sides. We are an organisation that helps people use strategic thinking to make the right decision. In this case, the decision by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) to let political blogger Roy Ngerng go is a highly visible decision which we shall take as a case study in making the right decision. Ultimately, we cannot totally understand the thinking that went on in the decision makers head. But we can apply balanced thinking and conjecture what might have happened, and what the right decision is based on that. If nothing, this will form a useful case study into our Strategic Decision Making frame in answering the question, "Should TTSH have fired Roy Ngerng?"
The way I look at it, one of the two following intents may be at work: to insulate our hospital from the political fallout, or to show solidarity with the government. If I were the CEO, I would choose the first option: to insulate ourselves. From this, I have the following options:
Write a press release to distance ourselves from our staff
Influence the relevant government agency to debunk the CPF allegations
Thinking in time
Looking at recent events, staffers who have had an online fallout were ultimately dismissed by their company. The Anton Casey case comes to mind. So letting Ngerng go will be in line with precedence.
Looking further back in time, we have seen cases where the government had taken people to task through the judiciary system and while the person may have had been financially affected, the company they were working for had not had any fallout. This is an important element.
Identifying constraints & assumptions
As CEO, my constraints would include:
how the Board views the situation of a staffer getting such negative press;
that we cannot be seen condoning the actions of the staffer;
that our actions will not be linked to the political outcome of the situation;
that we cannot be seen to have aided and abetted Ngerng in his actions;
to be a responsible corporate citizen
My assumptions would include:
that if we stated our case clearly, whatever actions we took, people would understand
as an internal matter, it will not linked to external events
Ngerng has already admitted guilt; so it is well within our rights to dismiss him
Drivers and interconnections
When we map out the system diagram for "increase the insulation of fallout" system, the centres of gravity are "expectations" and "social media influence". In fact, both of these are hindering drivers and as such, our solution should look to decreasing the impact of these drivers.
Reframing for other options
1. Carry on as if nothing has happened
2. Act only after the event has spilled over
3. Wait for his contract to be up and don't renew it
Balancing options with constraints
When we did that, we came down to two optioins that best fit these constraints:
Act only after the event has spilled over
Wait for his contract to be up and don't renew it
Both of these options have a time-delay that would diffuse the impact of the two centres of gravity identified above.
Apply scenario thinking to mitigate uncertainty
Both these options don't meet the "do not condone" constraint, and we are not sure that these actions reflect good corporate citizenry. But when we apply the best-case, worst-case and most-likely case scenarios, we found the impact of the "Wait for his contract to be up and don't renew it" to be better of the two. We are buoyed by the fact that previous events of court cases against defendants in a political setting did not affect the employer, by and large; and we have, until now, not been portrayed negatively. The risk of being perceived as "aiding and abetting" or "condoning" by the media is rather low, given our good rapport with them. Hence it would not affect us too much if we waited for his contract to end, and then terminate him. This will distance our decision from the current frenzy, shielding our decision from being politicized.
Not renewing his contract when it comes up for renewal, in our view, is the better decision for TTSH to take. But as we mentioned earlier, we don't know their thinking and, as we have said it time and again, your decision will be different if your constraints are different. But I hope you have learnt something about making strategic decisions, as surely this is one of them.