As 2018 winds down, the devastation the year left on UMNO is so widespread that many think that the party is just one more crisis away from extinction. In fact, what has happened to UMNO in 2018 which has never happened to UMNO in its 72 years of existence? Losing power at its birth place in Johor, losing the Federal Government, having its President arrested on corruption, changing leaders three times in a year, having groups of MPs leave and decimate the network in its fixed deposit state of Sabah, having its party accounts frozen – the list is endless.
However, the silver lining (“hikmah“) behind all of this is that although UMNO has received uppercuts, oyuken punches, kicked in the groin, stabbed in the back and left for dead, UMNO has not given up and is still alive and fighting, tuan-tuan & puan-puan.
As the shock begins to wear off, the members and leadership have begun the painful rebuilding process. Under Acting President Dato Seri Utama Mohd. Hassan, there is now a move toward decentralisation and giving more say to the State level party machinery to implement strategy. It used to be that everything needed to be cleared by the Headquarters which made decision making slow, but now UMNO at the states will be given more freedom to navigate their own path. This is because what works for UMNO in Selangor may not be the same for what works for UMNO in Perak or UMNO in Kelantan. UMNO Sabah in its place has been given autonomy.
However this means that UMNO at the State levels will need to show greater initiative. In my adopted state of Selangor, UMNO has been out of power for more than 10 years. The party machinery is very weak and lacks a credible leadership.A reboot in thinking is also required.
To address this, the Majilis Tertinggi of UMNO needs to appoint young and capable leaders. Age should not be seen as a barrier as the Menteri Besar of Selangor is not even 40 years old. UMNO must humble itself to learn from their enemies and adopt the “no protocol” approach as espoused by Minister of Transport, Anthony Loke . Issues should be selected so that it showcase “design thinking” and “thought leadership” of UMNO, which means looking at issues holistically and giving solutions. Merely campaigning on race and religion is not going to work anymore as UMNO needs to create positive energy around its brand. People must begin to refer to UMNO as being smarter than the Pakatan Harapan. One way is to require the entire UMNO Supreme Council to undergo formal design thinking training.
Design thinking refers to the cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts (proposals for new products, buildings, machines, etc.) are developed by designers and/or design teams. For a political party like UMNO, design thinking is required for UMNO to create not only the right political product for the rakyat, but to re-engineer internal processes and systems within the party. The benefits of this approach will transform UMNO from being a one dimensional political party to an innovative organisation which are able to articulate a multi layered strategy (“hujah yg berlapis“) and regain the public trust and confidence. In fact UMNO may even be the first political party in the world to embrace modern concepts and will be looked upon by the rakyat as the source of our national leaders.