Fair Process vs. Shocktivism: A Case-study for Civilized Engagement

It has been more than a month since I last wrote “Fair Process and the Myth of Inclusive Growth” and yet the issue of “Fair Process” or the culture’s lack of it still remains. According to Kim and Mauborgne’s book: “Blue Ocean Strategy”, Fair Process has its roots on Procedural Justice as much as the practice of Due Process is derived from the very same concept.

While Due Process alludes to our justice system, the concept of “Fair Process” is easily understood using a more practical managerial perspective. During the 70’s, two social scientists by the names of John W. Thibault and Laurens Walker concluded that: “People care as much about the justice of the process through which an outcome is produced as they do about the outcome itself. People’s satisfaction with the outcome and their commitment to it rose when procedural justice was exercised.” In this sense, “The means justifies the end as much as the end justifies the means.” While this statement is quite easy to understand, it apparently ends with consistent results. Ergo: Inputs + Process = Output. With the same equation, it is easy to understand why outputs or outcomes are easily spoiled by junk processes. This provides a clear case as to why civilized engagement is usually the best approach.

In more recent days, the dynamism of the social media has provided some of the greatest examples for our comparison. The case of the Philam Life Auditorium Theater on UN Avenue, Manila has been the subject of “Saving” and perhaps rightly so. The edifice is regarded as one of the country’s cultural and historical gems with acoustics designed by Bolt, Beranek & Newman, who were also responsible for the Sydney Opera House, United Nations Assembly Hall in New York, Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The building was designed by renowned Filipino architect Carlos Arguelles and was rendered in a forward thinking approach that symbolized the Manila that rose from the ashes of WW2. The thoughts of this cultural icon being demolished certainly roused the ire and activism of our netizens especially when it was found that SM had acquired the property. Twitter and Facebook ablaze, netizens rushed to “save” Philam Theater (I might’ve been one of them) via online petition. One infamous shocktivist came brandishing a placard of profanity with direct personal attacks against the owner of SM. This was followed persistently by vulgar and hateful tirades over the social media. In this case the activist would rather say “F@*# You!, just to have the last word.

While I would also like to save the theater, I have to say that I cannot subscribe to this type of approach.
Unfortunately, these types of antics are commonplace in the Philippines where our brand of democracy finds it acceptable to walk out of hearings, negotiations and just about any form of due process. Dramatic as these displays may be, the question remains whether they actually work? With much freedom gained, are we just as civilized? Is there room for fairness and justice?

From a management perspective, Professors Kim & Mauborgne gives us a simple and almost prescriptive approach in their “3-E Principles of Fair Process”.

  1. Engagement: Involving individuals in decisions by inviting their input and encouraging them to challenge one another’s ideas.
  2. Engagement communicates respect for individuals and their ideas and builds collective wisdom. It generates better decisions and greater commitment from those involved in executing those decisions.
    Explanation: Explanation reassures people that managers have considered their opinions and made the decision with the company’s overall interests at heart. Employees trust managers’ intentions even if their own ideas were rejected.

Expectation Clarity: stating the new rules of the game, including performance standards, penalties for failure, and new responsibilities. By minimizing political jockeying and favoritism, expectation clarity enables employees to focus on the job at hand.
Pages 174-176, Kim & Mauborgne. 2005 Blue Ocean Strategy.
Boston, Massachusetts. Harvard Business School Press

The case of following a “Fair Process” was clearly demonstrated when Olivier Ochanine followed a civilized approach that can be seen highlighted in Paul Farol’s article “Olivier Ochanine Defines Advocacy”. http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2013/04/olivier-ochanine-the-real-cultural-activist/

By following a Fair Process everyone wins; and in this case the Philam Theater has been saved. While many Filipinos seem to have a penchant for impact and drama, sometimes taking a management approach to negotiations could be the best way to achieving positive results. As we are now learning, shock could only create a lot of attention in the beginning but fails to deliver the objective in the long run.

From the procedural justice point of view, negative drama and shock that we have gotten used to also sometimes defeats the point of activism itself. It also causes undue delays to processes and its resulting justified resolutions that could benefit the majority. Justice delayed = Justice denied. Having the last word rendered in vulgar punctuations leave not much room for anything else and closes the door on the possibilities of positive outcomes. Let’s be fair and civilized. I am sure our society and our freedoms could move a lot further from where we are now.