THE OVERWORKED ESTATE MANAGER Lok Kim Sun is the Manager of one of Malestates (Sdn Bhd) large plantations in Malaysia. It is a very large estate of 28, 500 acres and employs 2500 estate and factory workers and managers. The crops grown are rubber (6, 500 acres), oil palm (20, 000 acres) and cocoa (2, 000 acres). Mr. Lok is a very domineering individual. However, he is extremely afraid of making a mistake. His experiences as a junior planter, working up to Senior Assistant, and finally Estate Manager over the past 26 years have encouraged a strong one-man approach.
His company headquarters in Kuala Lumpur are proud of his flat organizational structure. Lok reports to Henry Davidson, his Estate Agent. Davidson is a member of the senior management committee in KL and was formerly a planter himself. As he used to be a very successful planter, he has a great deal of faith in his own opinions, rather a low opinion of others, and tends to adopt a very autocratic military attitude (he was, in fact, a major in the British Army at one time). Davidson visits Lok’s estate about 4 times per year, and makes various presentations, financial requests and progress reports to the management committee personally.
He is always thoroughly briefed by Lok before hand. For this reason, Lok feels that he has to know every detail on crop progress, factory operations, road maintenance, transport, staff welfare, etc. Before he became an Estate Manager, Lok did excellent work as an Assistant for many years. He loved his work and made a number of innovations and contributions to efficiency and progress. Even today, he is much respected for his agricultural and technical ability and shows a great deal of interest in these areas.
It can be seen from the organizational chart that Lok has 19 men reporting directly to him. The work of these men are specialized and varied. The terrain on the estate varies from hilly ground to flat land and even some marshy ground. Most of the field assistants have between 2 and 4 conductors under them and up to 250 labour forces, depending on the type of crop. The three factory managers have different types of technical problems facing them according to the product they are processing. The nursery assistant is responsible for seedlings of rubber, oil palm, cocoa, and shade trees.
The Agricultural Research Superintendent is working closely with the Malestates Research Station on the development of better strains and clones. The Senior Security officer has a large estate to patrol (it is fenced) and is constantly trying to keep to a minimum crop thefts as well as petty thieving from stores. The transport manager looks after lorries, tractors, graders, bulldozers and railway system. The Hospital Assistant has a large clinic to administer, and the Office Assistant has a large group of administrative clerk and other staff to supervise.
There are other tasks that Lok has to deal with. Every year he is involved in the preparation of annual estimates, and he has to submit his monthly returns to the head office on time. He has not been entirely free of problems from two trade unions. He has a certain amount of outside work to do as well. There are dealings with the local labour officer, the Area Security Officer, the OCPD of his district, health authorities, and other local officials. He is on the committee of the local Planters Association and sometimes has to visit the Universiti Pertanian as a guest speaker.
He handles a lot of administrative work in the office himself since his Office Assistant who has worked his way up, has no formal qualifications. He opens all the mail and answers all letters personally. He supervises the paying-out of the labour force, including the contract labour, and arranges any contract job that have to done with his contractors. His average day at work is about ten hours. Even on Sundays he always makes a personal check around certain areas of his estate. He goes on vacations only once a year.
He is becoming very strained and tense and thinks he is developing a skin rash every time Davidson is due for a visit. He has no time for any forward planning. Even immediate problems get delayed and do not receive adequate attention. He is a hard man to see; his office is a bit like a KL bus station at rush hour. He insists on personally resolving all differences of opinion, and finds it increasingly difficult to meet all the demands upon him from the estate and head office. The organization structure of the estate is shown in the following chart.