The old rules no longer seem to apply. The winds of change are blowing from all diretions e-commerce, globalisation, Hong Kong's increasingly porous border with Guangdong province, the mainland's entry into the World Trade Organisation, the growing presence of entrepreneurs from Taiwan on the mainland. As Hong Kong moves more into a knowledge-based economy, the need for executives to keep abreast of changing trends and the latest technological advances is key. Executives are returning to the classroom in growing numbers in a reflection of a worldwide trend towards lifelong learning. 'A lot of executives have a first degree, many even have an L MBA,'' says Dr Gilbert Wong Yao-yee, executive director, Poon Kam Kai Institute of Management (PKKI). 'But it's not enough. They need to continually upgrade themselves.'' Lifelong learning is taken seriously at PKKI, which offers everything from short certificates to graduate diplomas. The certificates usually take place on weekends and evenings, with just four to five meetings spread over as many weeks. Many of these short courses cover topical and timely issues 'as the need arises'', Professor Wong says. Recent offerings include e-commerce, e-business transformation, and health care quality input. Courses in project management and the Six Sigma Method, which is designed to improve the business processes of a company and increase customer satisfaction, are planned. Graduate certificates are longer, usually lasting six to seven months, with about 150 contact hours. Thousands of executives have benefited from the institute's programmes over the years. A hallmark of the institute is its commitment to linking theory with practice. Courses are taught not only by professors from the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), but also by a core team of facilitators with professional experience in the business world. 'Academics tend to look at studies,'' Professor Wong says. 'We try to create a debate between the academics and the practitioners.'' In addition to offering four to five certificates per year, the institute also offers about five in-house programmes targeted at senior executives at specific companies. Recent clients have included DHL, Holiday Inn, the Hong Kong government, PCCW, and Macau's telecommunications arm, CEM. There are also graduate diplomas in management consulting and change, e-supply chain logistics and leadership (DSCLL), and financial analysis. The programme in management consulting and change, one of the first of its type to be offered in the region, covers local and global strategic consulting, business research for management consultants, fundamental consultative skills, and change management. It was launched four years ago in response to a need for training in change management in Hong Kong. 'If you want a company to change, you need certain skills,'' Professor Wong says. 'You have to understand the change process, which includes such skills as report writing and overcoming resistance to change.'' The DSCLL was set up three years ago and covers supply chain management, logistics management and logistics decisions tools, e-commerce for supply chain management, and developing logistics leadership in an environment of change and challenge. It is now in its fourth intake. It is co-organised by the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association and is targeted primarily at people without a background in logistics. 'We don't want people to be too focused on their specialties,'' Professor Wong says. 'We want them to know how people in other disciplines think. Nowadays we want all companies to understand logistics so they can understand their place in the supply chain.'' The programme in financial analysis, launched last year, covers quantitative and economic analysis, financial statement analysis and business ethical standards, and the fundamentals of asset valuable, which is divided into two modules. 'Hong Kong is a financial centre,'' Professor Wong says. 'This programme is geared to professional skills and knowledge, preparing students to take the Corporate Financial Analysts Examination. They must pass this exam to become a corporate analyst.'' It also serves as a foundation for the Master of Finance offered by the Faculty of Economics at the University of Hong Kong. The credits are directly transferable. PKKI's mission is 'to develop new management methodologies, tools and paradigms to help consulting and management communities'' both locally and throughout the region. One of its strengths is its commitment to original research. With HK$12 million in teaching development grants from the University Grants Committee, the institute has produced about 200 classes using the Harvard Business School model. Focusing on Asian issues, these classes have included learning from the bird flu crisis, civil service pay in Hong Kong, financial evaluation at Disney World, incentive pay systems, and e-business structures at Federal Express. It also has subjects for small and medium-sized enterprises.