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Leading light goes the extra mile

Published on Friday, 05 Mar 2010
Paul Poon Wai-yin
Chief operating officer
CLP Power

Paul Poon Wai-yin, chief operating officer at CLP Power, oversees about 3,000 staff and manages the generation, transmission, distribution and retail areas of the business. He started with the company as a graduate trainee in 1974 and, after gaining experience with Binnie Consultants & Partners Consulting Engineers and the Water Supplies Department, he rejoined in 1981. Since then, he has held a n escalating series of roles in transmission projects, technical services, regional operations and asset management. Seeing electricity supply as one of societys basic needs, Poon has always viewed working for a power company as a meaningful way of serving the community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He talks to Jan Chan.

How do you manage your main responsibilities?

I need to supervise both operational and strategic issues and, basically, split my time quite evenly between these two areas. Company strategy usually revolves around long-term projects, which take a lot of planning and development. They require careful setting of objectives and clear vision because, if anything goes wrong, there can be a significant impact on the future of the business. On the operations side, if there is an interruption to supply or any other emergency, I have to respond swiftly and be ready to deal with different stakeholders, including customers, the media and government regulators. I must be able to make the right decisions right away and guide my colleagues. as necessary.

Which qualities helped you make it in the business world?

Apart from strategic thinking, I think hard work does count. Opportunities generally go to those who are well equipped and well prepared. Besides that, It is crucial to be proactive, to go the extra mile and to bring your staff with you. In terms of personal style, I am very focused and concentrate on getting priority jobs done to a high standard.

In a high-profile position, How do you handle adversity?

Everyone will experience the ups and downs of life's roller coaster. For example, a major project can have several delays or postponements before you finally get it up and running. The critical thing is to maintain a positive attitude and be modest at all times, bearing in mind you can always learn something new, whatever the circumstances.

How do you aim to develop staff?

No matter how advanced our systems and technologies are, we can't do anything without good people. Our employees are all talented, so it is up to the company to explore their potential and empower them to do their jobs. In the past seven years, I have put a lot of effort into people development. As a result, Colleagues have not only contributed to the company but can also be very proud of their achievements, and the skills and knowledge they have acquired.

What are some of the major challenges you have addressed?

Ten years ago, our electricity supply downtime was about 30 minutes per year. In view of the growth of the economy, I suggested we should set a target of Five nines reliability, meaning 99.999 per cent uptime and equivalent to about five minutes downtime a year. It might have seemed impossible at the time because, apart from that level of reliability, we also had to meet other requirements to be cost-effective and environmentally friendly. I understood it would take time, but set out the plans and rewarded the accomplishment of each objective. We examined the problems and tackled them one by one and, by 2005, had already achieved the target. Today, our supply interruption is down to 2.5 minutes a year. Of course, we won't stop here, but We will continue to strive for better performance and service.

What advice do you give to the leaders of tomorrow?

With the emergence of many new technologies, the world is becoming ever more dynamic. Therefore, people should be very open-minded, willing to learn, ready to think in new ways and be prepared to take on different challenges. Leaders should be able to prove themselves worthy of responsibility, and developing staff will remain one of the critical factors for success.

Hands-on boss

  • Launched the company's structured training and advice programme for young engineers in 2004
  • Helped to develop and manage overseas projects for CLP International, including the Ho-Ping Power Station project in North-eastern Taiwan during the 1990s.
  • Does frequent site visits to get feedback from engineers, check the safety of the work environment, and set an example for other managers.


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