Leader’s Talk Episode 5 with Dr. Tanri Abeng, MBA “Managing Collaboration Across Different Organizational Functions”

tanri abeng

I’m very proud and pleased to see Telkom University was officialy born only 2 years ago but have 23.000 students. Although Telkom University is rather small because have 2000 international students, but I can see there it has synergy and similarity with visions in Tantri Abeng University and Telkom University, that is Entrepreneurial Global Leader.

I talk to about deliver my experiences in managing collaboration across different functions. First is what i see as an issue that challenging of leadership. Perspective of leadership says that leadership remains the biggest challenge, not only for corporation but also for goverment organization. My exeperiences in overseas and particularly in Indonesia, I discover an issue in Indonesia, in all institution, is a leadership. The problem is no institution in Indonesia that has got systematic capacity to develop leaders, except multination corporations. There is urgent need for the systematic development for leaders and has to be sytematized. We can’t expect a leader to born without developing them. Now, the leader who can develop effective institution in intern, institutionalize leadership development. The bottom line is leaders produce other leaders. Next, that are only institutions which produce leader will result in that instution being properly manage. But then, whose the leader. If they aren’t around that you cannot institutionalize the development of the leaders because the institution result aren’t well manage.  This is our critical issue even in government.

Since our independence, Soekarno had not idea or intention to develop his successor. When Soeharto took over, he also had not a plan to systematize his successor, every 5 years, he changed the vice president. Unlike Malaysia and Singapore who systematize development of their successor. He is a great leader but did nothing of producing systematize develop leaders. BJ Habibie became president really not by deciding, not systematic development. This happening in government.

I’m very proud left PT TELKOM with the systematic development of people. TELKOM already produce leaders for TELKOM and Telkomsel. In Telkom, we have 20 qualified candidates for every positions. It called systematic development of leader. In terms of institution, you can only be successful if the people around you are professional and being to deliver what you asked them to do. The challenge is how you can develop the institution and also develop the leaders

Managing collaboration across different functions. We will talk about collaboration. If we don’t have a structure of organization that allow you to manage functions across the organization, it will never be able to actually produce a team work of people who will deliver the organization

Why organization exist? Any organization exist must have purpose and vision. Leader provides vision.

I have exeperience, when I asked by Soeharto to being a first minister in Kementerian BUMN. He asked me to put together 158 BUMN into one organization. What’s the vision of Soeharto at the time? His vision in came on the fact during the crisis, at the beginning of 1998, he signed a MoU with IMF to rescue Indonesia by had loans. If we combined 158 BUMN to one organization, we will be able to create value, which before were not profitable. When the value are created, Soeharto will sell the share of the BUMN and he used to pay for the loans. It was very clear mission came out of his vision.

How do you manage the vision? I have a formula named 5S

Strategy – When we have a vision, we should have a strategy, a road map to get there. We should do restructure, profitize and privatize.

Structure  – Organizational Functions

System – Rules and Guidline

Skill – Proesional Talent

Speed – Trust & Teamwork

Paticulary in the ICT and Global era, you should have speed. My experience during my second day as being a minister, I should met Soeharto and purpose the organization that I wanted to have and the people I think I should have. There’s no rejection by him. But then, Soeharto gave me the map which the content is about the Garuda.

When crisis, Garuda had accumulated loans and negative equity, they point that Garuda was bankrupt. While it was bankrupt, the creditor wanted to possesed the aircraft. Soeharto asked me to make sure Garuda was not grounded because Garuda is the flight carier of the pabric. It’s my responsibilities which imposibble.

The only way I could try to turn around Garuda was to have a new leader, beacuse obviously the existing leader could not manage Garuda. So, I consulted to my team before I met Soeharto. Speed is so crucial in that case. I went to Soeharto and said to do that, and he said why only changed the leader, but asked me to change the whole board of director there was mafia for 7 years there. In crisis, work and manage your time, speed is so important.

Collaboration Across Function

Understanding the Vision – anybody in the organization should understanding the vision. As a leader, you have to create vision but you had to sure that members of your organization understand your vision and mission. Leader should communicate mission so people understand what we want to achieve

Mastering the strategy – roadmap, in my case, when i recruited my deputy, i make sure that the road map is crated by a team, not just by myself. Before I tell what to do, they was mastered the strategy.

-Focused Teamwork – A leader can only be sucessfull if he / she can fill the teamwork. No one was perfect, but a team actually can approach the perfection.

-Effective communication – Because of we shoul focus on our team, we should have effective communication.


Communication – It defines how to create understanding and acceptance (U&A). People may understand but they don’t accept. As a leader, your task is creating, understanding and acceptance. Communication is actually conversation. If you don’t create conversation, you don’t create understanding and acceptance. Communication is the key that provide coordination, cooperation, effective collaboration and then you get the commitment.






It is principal of team work. As a leader, you had to manage people would working under you and report to you. but don’t forget you should manage your boss. You should manage 5 ways, upways, downward, right side, left side and also yourself. The most hard to manage is  your boss / manager, because bosses do not always commite, communicate and understand what you have already agree. Ocasionally, there isn’t deciding. So when you want to get something done and you write note very often there is difficult request that boss do not respond. How you manage the condition? I would give you a trick. If no reply from your boss, ask him / her again, if he / she don’t have other decision, tell him / her that you will do your plan tomorrow.

Spesific Case – PT Multi Bintang Indonesia

Transformation Management – From Silo / Individual to Collaboration dan Teamwork

PT. Multi Bintang Indonesia was established in Surabaya in 1923 by the Dutch. Then in 1942, Japanese took over, and 1945 Dutch came back and took over, but in 1962, President Soekarno took over all and did nationalitation. In 1967, the first foreign investment came, after that a lot of foreign company came but they should bring a new money as a condition. That was how Soeharto bring new and fresh capital to Indonesia. In 1979, there was management crisis, the upper management have a disagreement, the labor union rebel the production unit was crush down and in panick, the management ask goverment to rescue that. So government take terms and condition that they should get Indonesian president director. That’s why I be the CEO of the company. I ask management, are they willing to expand the company from a beer company to beverages company.

The biggest challenge was actually how can you pull together different organization concerns into unify teamwork to actually manage the company. Then how could your staff read declining trade of market share, because when the new players coming again, the market share of the company went down. This was very dangerous. I had exerperience, if your market share continue to decline that is very strong indication that one point you should lose the company, because profitability is formula that I develop, that it is a function of market share. We should grow compatatively, we can grow but should above the market growth.

At the time, PT. Multi Bintang Indonesia, the market share was going down and sustainability was going down. We had faces many challenges. We had too many people but not enough, it means so many people not qualified people. What I did was established a vision to the company. I change the image and also the company’s identity from beer company to beverages company and change the name but keep ‘Bintang’ in the name because it was a famous brand at the time. I produce non alcoholic product. I went public. I did it not because to make money, but just because I want to expose the company. It was the basically strategy.

You always need a new talent, so I would bring in the people that I needed to run the business. So when you look at your organization, you look the structure it was very simple functional organization. I make sure I build a team with that organization. It has to be strong teamwork. I should make sure the occupied function must be qualified.

The third is existing leader who are the Dutch man who very dictator, he never had any meeting, he would appreciate individual person and give the instruction indvidually. He don’t think the team as a capable person, just as a worker. The culture still sustained when I joined. So, I was changed culture. The biggest change was in the Marketing, he brought in the professionals to do the jobs, and he also brought Human Resource professional in the management.

I established communication forum, decission making process as a management commitee meeting that consisting by 5 peoples and discuss the issues and the strategies and that should understood by all. Teamwork that I called Management Comittee had a meeting every Monday morning talk to each other, with this, strategy thinking could decide together. Mostly ideas came from myself but I never claimed that idea was mine. I said the idea from the team. So each one of them claimed that they owned the strategy and decisions. It’s very important. Each one of them became president for their owned area, making people understand and cooperate among themselves and achieve what I call is speed. After one year, we turn the company into one of the most profitable company and turn around the market share, there momentum to taking place.

A leader must be able t create a momentum and must be maintain. But you cannot stop in the level of director. I extended the second layer what I called Operating Committee meeting. It was done every month. They would to be able to explain and elaborate the issues and the problems and how they achieve their result. With the second layer working together 90% if the problems is solved.

Basically, we not do in the managing collaboration but actually bring up the understanding of the vision and strategy, continue to communicate, and build up than a team. All of this depend on one person and that is who called the Leader who must be able to produce others leader.