Lt. Gen. Neo Kian Hong in 2012. (Photo by United States Department of Defense )

In an interview with the media, new man at the helm of SMRT, former army man Neo Kian Hong (Neo), announced that SMRT will be reorganised even though he declined confirming a fixed timeline for this planned reorganisation. A corporation would not normally go through a reorganisation unless there is either a cost cutting exercise or if the current organisation is not up to scratch.

Assuming that SMRT is not undergoing a cost cutting exercise and taking into consideration the recent woes faced by SMRT in the form of delays, accidents and even deaths, it is reasonable to come to the conclusion that the reorganisation is taking place because the current organisation is not up to standard. How then does this gel with Neo’s declaration that there are no deep-seated cultural issues within SMRT?

Looking at the spate of issues faced by SMRT and the amount of criticism leveled at it in recent years, I find it hard to believe that there are no seated issues. Besides, why would its previous CEO, Desmond Kuek, risk his reputation by saying there are issues if it weren’t true? Most obviously, why is there a reorganisation if there weren’t deep seated issues? Reorganisations are time consuming and troublesome. An entity the size of SMRT would not enter into this decision lightly. Most likely, this would only be done because it had to be done. This begs the question – why is Neo saying that there are no issues when there appear to be rather significant ones?

Don’t get me wrong. I am heartened that change may finally be enforced in an organisation that so many have criticised. However, why pretend there are no issues when there clearly are? Is Neo trying to downplay the problems so that he can reassure the public? If this is in the case, the proof is in the pudding. Let’s see how the proposed changes improve things. The public will judge by the results and not what Neo says. Besides, if things do not improve, Neo runs the risk of appearing to lie to the public with his premature proclamation that there are no deep-seated issues.

At the end of the day, your actions must be consistent with your words. If they are inconsistent, public trust gets eroded even further. SMRT is an organisation where public trust is already at an all time low. It would be better if Neo just focused on what he is doing to improve things and avoid making sweeping statements too early.

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