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Getting the Best out of the Worst! 4-Ways You Can Make The Best Out of the New Year!

John Walter Bay

2014 has been marked with some of the worst disasters we have seen in the region’s history. Media was abuzz and rightly so. Indeed we do not even have to look very far to appreciate the disaster of Malaysian Airlines Flights’ MH 17 and MH 370. These were disasters that are likened to a lightning striking twice in the same place within the same year. These unfortunate occurrences do prove that the worst things can happen not only once, but twice! Shortly after, just before the end of the year, the airline disaster of Air Asia QZ8501 gripped us! Lives were lost, families were affected and eventually business and everyone is affected.

On a lighter note, the year also brought about the shocking news that Hello Kitty is not actually a Cat; Despite being a Kitty! The news had taken two generations of people aghast with those who always thought…

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Sorry, But Media Coverage of Pope Francis is Papal Bull

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Human, Take Me To Your Leader! A Human Sigma Perspective of Leadership

John Walter Baybay
Originally Published in 4.19.14 The Star Malaysia

In a previous article called “Leadership in the Millennial Age of Execution, I have said that the era of the 80’s and 90’s visionary is leaders have started to ebb away. During Apple’s turn over to Tim Cook, the market and the industry reacted with quivers of ambiguity. The public is often looking towards a venerated character on to which they could latch on. This has always been the paradigm of leadership. We see it in Hollywood and we see them in reality shows. In alien movies, the leader takes the sole responsibility for speaking and deciding for the rest of humanity, sometimes in very sacrificial scenarios. The funny thing is that they never seem to land in Russia, China or India!

We’ve idolized the characters of Jack Welch, Tony Fernandes and even Donald Trump! What will happen when they’re gone? Have you ever considered that the closest thing that you have as a leader is your immediate boss? If you haven’t figured that out yet, then “You’re fired!”

Apple’s Tim Cook, being the competent manager he is, has never risen to the same levels of visionary charisma as Steve Jobs. He is just a different person. That does not mean that he is an insufficient leader. There seems to be a notion that managers are different from leaders but the truth of the matter is that leaders are more accessible than you think. We simply have to change our notions on what they are supposed to look like. Yes, if your boss has the power to fire you, he is your leader. What about the man or woman tasked to lead a project, is he not a leader as well? Of course he is! According to John Maxwell, “leadership is influence, no more, no less”.
This influence extends far beyond the realms of ethics, morality and principles. In the previous article I mentioned leaders must use their influence to garner resources (money, physical assets and human resources) to get the job done. Many times, you do not have to go as far as the CEO to be able make things move. Apart from the romantic notions, leaders have their more accessible and practical uses. This is the supply side of leadership.
On the demand side, we must appreciate that our expectations of leadership has a strong human perspective. Leaders and the people they lead are humans. While this may be stating the obvious, we need to realize that emotions define the human experience and so affects the way we look at our leaders and the way we latch on to them.

In John Fleming and Jim Asplund’s book “Human Sigma”, they defined a customer and brand experience essentially as an emotional experience with progressive levels of engagement called the “Four Dimensions of Emotional Attachment”. While the mental model was used in relation to employee and customer engagement, the same is true in the ways we look at leaders. Leaders also need to look at their employees as internal customers and ultimately, consumers of their leadership. The model progresses from Confidence, Integrity, Pride and Passion under the following description with some paraphrasing for our example.

CONFIDENCE: Always delivers on promise. Name I could trust
INTEGRITY: Fair resolution to any problems. Always treats me fairly
PRIDE: Treats me with respect. I feel proud to be a customer or employee
PASSION: I can’t imagine a world without this Perfect Company for people like me.

With the above example we could see how these human dimension could frame an emotional perception over brands and even our leaders. Developing a leadership brand could be drawn along the same progression from confidence to passion. With this framework, it is not difficult to understand how some leaders have such strong levels of following. This can only be attributed to the progressing levels of emotional engagement and attachment.
Conversely, we can also see that a failure to engage your employees as a leader, can lead to stale or waning influence over behavior. Behavior determines your team’s output and effectiveness. Employees and their emotions cannot be managed exclusively from each other. We work in a human environment with behaviors that are driven for the most part by emotion.
There is more to charismatic leadership than what meets the eye. Do you have a leadership brand that your employees or teammates can trust? Are they confident in your leadership approach? Are you delivering consistently on your promise as a leader? Use the Human Sigma as a model and take it step by step.

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Leadership in the Millennial Age of Execution

Have you ever gone to a motivational seminar where you left the halls charged and motivated to slay your next day only to find that when you get there, you actually don’t know what to do next? I’ve said it before. I’ve heard someone speak. I’ve seen a bunch of TED-X videos and said: “I am so inspired and motivated! Now what next?” Where is the take away? Leaders Wanted! Please!

The truth of the matter is that as much as we have these great learning events that expose us to charismatic and inspiring leaders, we simply cannot bring them back home to talk to our parents to convince them to support your strategic shift in careers. Unless you’re paying these speakers to talk to your boss for an hour on how to become a better leader (not that he would appreciate it), then perhaps you need to come to grips with reality. There’s a lot of work to do. You need to tell yourself: “Get Over it and Get it done!” Let’s face it; if you’re feeling the pressure and cannot seem to gather the strength and motivation to make it over that hill, then perhaps you do need a leader.

Leadership however is not what it used to be. Gone are the days of charismatic visionary and motivational leaders. According to a John Hopkins School of Education the new millennium has pronounced a paradigm shift on how we look at leadership. The Visionary leaders of the 80’s and 90’s have seemed to have a muted importance in the millennial workplace. Not that “Vision” has disappeared, but the importance has shifted in favor of “Execution”.

The demand on leadership has also expanded its dimensions. The working environment is marked with so much diversity that a leader needs to have both a deep and broad understanding of his/her working environment. The new workplace emphasizes on gender sensitivity, race, culture, religion, age, current events, and maybe even music. Leaders need to work within a greater context of complex social issues as everyone brings a piece of it into the working environment. It influences behavior, work outputs, and quality. It is said that during the golden age of the 50’s it was enough to be “competent” (IQ) but in this millennial age leaders also need a high level of Emotional Quotient (EQ). A leader needs to be emotionally strong to handle complex situations and also emotionally intelligent enough to manage the feelings of others.

Beyond the issue of EQ however, is a functional realm that focuses on implementation. With such, functional skills such as planning, resourcing, controlling, and documenting tend to have great levels of importance. There is a need for a leader/manager who has a meticulous eye for process management. A leader needs to be able to identify constraints, anticipate delays and creatively navigate immediate changes in course and direction. Knowledge, Skills and Experience counts! Leaders need to go to where bottlenecks are and have the knowledge to fix them. In a project driven enterprise as we have today, leaders need to have an understanding of the language and protocol of project management. It is not enough to cast a vision and expect people to buy-in expecting them to execute automatically; sometimes a leader also needs to bring his/her people through a collaborative process of gathering a situational appraisal, brainstorming on creative options and following-through with a concrete action plan. This takes both a diagnostic mindset and knowledge on the use of analytic and strategic development tools. It isn’t enough to cast a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and say “Let’s Do It!” People need to know why and people would appreciate if a leader could go to the level and show them “How”. If you find yourself telling someone how to do his or her job without you knowing “how”, you will be in a lot of trouble. Credibility along with the trust that comes with it goes down the drain.

The challenge for the leader in the millennium is that we are living in an environment where every answer is just a click away. We live in a world of immediacy and access. Speed and convenience are no longer luxuries, they are expected. Technology has shaped the way we work, communicate, and think. Information is instantaneous. Gone are the days when we had to go to card catalog in a library to find the book that you need. Research took days, piles of books and red eyes zipping through miles of microfiches. The screen generation might not know what I am talking about, as research to most would be a matter of clicking the “search” button.

The phenomenon of immediacy also places similar demands on leaders. This gives a whole new meaning to the old term “Management by Walking Around” (MBWA). Leaders need to be accessible and teach. Leaders need to be a great source of knowledge and information. Just as they would love to see a YouTube video on how to do a particular task, it would be even better if a leader could demonstrate how things are done with a “hands-on” demonstration. This is not a negation of today’s workforce. While leaders are investing the time to teach, coach and mentor, they are also transferring skills and sometimes values into the workplace. Effective leaders of today invest heaps of praise and acknowledgment to their teammates, as they know it pays dividends in productivity. The role of leaders is more holistic than the old paradigms. A leader is that wise indispensable sage that empowers people in the organization. This is how things “get done” in today’s workplace.

The misconception about “execution” is that it is based on “hard skills”. The truth is that “execution” requires both EQ and functional competence from a leader. Getting things done requires both politics and skills. While you may have the “planning” tightly screwed down, you may find that it also takes a bit of politics to get your projects prioritized and resourced. You may be able to command a good and engaging presentation, but you may also need the data to back up your arguments. You might have all the data on hand, but many times you need a team behind you to back it up.

Leadership in the age of execution requires the ability to move laterally and vertically to get things done. A leader needs to have the integrity to exercise his/her influence in every level of the organization, even if it takes someone else to do it. It is not enough to have a big picture; a leader must be able to see both the forest and the trees. Today’s work environment calls for leaders with flexible roles where one can be a strategic leader in one situation and a field marshal on another, taking personal charge of a project with a team. Effective leaders know when to coach and when to mentor and actually know the difference between them. They know when to direct and they know when to facilitate. They know that leadership is less about talking and more about doing. They navigate through a whole slew of issues and eat them for breakfast in a meeting or over an afternoon coffee.

Today’s effective leader knows that “the task” is way beyond self and has no time looking down. The mission is more than the leader himself; it is more than what his lifetime could afford. Excellent leaders are always scouting around screening for talent and grit. They are always looking around searching for opportunities to work with the next set of leaders that will get the job done, someone to whom they could pass on the baton. That is the Leader of the Millennial Age of Execution. It could be you or the person next to you.
For all my mentors of the past, this one is for you: THANK YOU!!

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Clichéd Critics’ Critics Criticisms and Other Yolanda Do’s and Don’ts

Sunday November 10, 2013 was Day 1 after Yolanda (International Name Haiyan) hit the Philippines with a cataclysmic super typhoon that decimated central Philippines especially Tacloban. The following day had already prompted my local church with a special offering for the victims. Most attendees including myself gladly obliged without much hesitation in opening their checkbooks to help their fellow kababayans in Leyte. At that point however, many still haven’t a full appraisal of the damage caused by the super cyclone. Nevertheless, we went back home trying to assess whether or not we could manage to finds some surplus clothing on top of the money we have already given. It comes to surprise, that we might not find too many old clothes in our closets. The country has seen so many storms and floods that most of our drawers’ contents have been “right-sized”.

It wasn’t until actual footage came in that a lot of us came to a full appreciation to the extent of damage that Yolanda caused. Previous social-media videos gave clips of unprecedented winds and shearing damage but the calm after the storm was even worse. Structures have been pulverized. Bodies were seen scattered behind reporters; people of all stature were left without house and home. The devastation was inconceivable. Even with previous storms, the country was left unprepared by the scale of Yolanda’s damage. It was clear that we needed to act fast though at that point, there were already criticisms that the government hasn’t acted fast enough. There were allegations that PNoy had tried to downplay the scale of damage to the international press. There were annoyingly comical clips of Mar Roxas directing traffic and there were unjustified fingers pointing to incapacity of the local government. They themselves were rendered “incapacitated” due to the magnitude of the disaster. While the rest of the world poured in their sympathies and support into Tacloban, the President denies tact and mercy to its Mayor who by default and by choice represents the devastated city.

With eyes on the victims, some of our friends in social media had asked for a ceasefire from criticism (One from my former boss Ms. Feliece Yeban). While I heeded to this call in propriety, the critics’ critics seem unrelenting with messages saying something to the effect of: “Well if you were the President, do you think you could’ve done a better job?” Have you heard this trite remark? “Well, perhaps if your have a better suggestion, maybe you could enlighten us. After all you seem so much smarter than all of us!” My absolute favorite has got to be: “Instead of criticizing what’s wrong with the relief effort, why don’t you help instead? Be constructive instead of divisive! Stop criticizing our government!” With these sneering and self-righteous remarks, you have to ask who it is that is being divisive.

By Day 4, I found myself instantly recruited to load relief goods into privately marshaled Land Rovers, delivery trucks and personal SUVs to the airport and back. In the background there was a massive operation in a Christian Church in Festival Mall where the assembly area was converted into a sorting and packing area with hundreds of volunteers. Private planes were being used to transport items to other areas such as Palawan. A bus company volunteered to provide ground transportation a Bike Shop provided bicycles and off-road vehicles from Muntinlupa to Tacloban and local logistics company provided the warehousing to keep the logistics smooth “free of charge”. (I can attest to who they are as witnessed, and can release this information upon consent). They are not the Epal types, just God loving citizens.

We have learned from the natural crises of the past but nobody could be 100% prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. While we could make ourselves feel better by riding along the positive waves of “neo-nationalism” and “keyboard heroics or bayanihan” and attacking those who are critically frustrated from the news they are getting on the ground. I have a simple message of Yolanda DOs and DON’Ts. (The Dos having been adapted from our Church’s mission Mantra of Pray, Give, Go!)

DO:
Pray – or if not, spare a thought for them. Without being religious or spiritual, thinking of other people’s needs first sets a good precedent to your succeeding actions, decisions and behavior. Thinking about them shapes the economic decision between getting a bottle of wine or instead putting a check in an envelope this Sunday for the victims.
Open up your checkbook or say it in cash! Nothing moves faster and longer in these times of crisis as good as money. Money needs no sorting operation and I believe it would be appreciated more than the information that you used to wear a size 42. Reserve that for you “Before” picture at the gym and there isn’t much use for your bacon gartered underwear either. Believe me, some people will sort through your old clothes.
Go! You don’t have to go to ground zero. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to go too far. A local church, Villamor or perhaps ahem a local NGO (most of which don’t have a bad rep for being bogus) would appreciate your help. Lend them your thoughts but more so, lend them a hand.

DON’T:
Don’t send stuff that you can’t use yourself. The same goes for old Garfield plushy that you stick to the back window of your car. I already mentioned clothes earlier. Please don’t send your old underwear and your 80’s neon ski-jacket. You’re not being generous when you send junk.
Don’t be “unheroic” by posting messages that you’re torn between getting a KTM or an Aprilia. You’re not being heroic, you just being an @$$#0!%. Refrain from foodporn and posting your P350.00 ramen with a tall glass of Sapporo on the side. Enjoy these things in private!
Don’t be Cliché and Holier than Thou with your pseudo nationalistic sneering. If you’re criticizing the critics, aren’t you also a critic? (Perhaps on the opposite side of the fence and in who’s defense?)

You can be helpful and be critical at the same time. You can give with one hand and be discerning with the other. Criticism uncovers many of the bitter truths that society tends to hide. We move further ahead if we base it on the truth. It doesn’t take half a dimwit to see the logistical bottlenecks in the relief effort, but you have to be critical to see what they really are. No finger pointing here, I’ll just use my mouth after all that’s what still makes me Pinoy.

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Pork, Paybacks and Picnics

Pork, Paybacks and Picnics
John B.
8.27.13

Droves of tax-paying citizens flocked to Luneta and other public areas around the Philippines on Monday August 26, 2013 (coinciding with National Heroes Day) to protest the “Pork Barrel” scheme and allegations of corruption triggered by the recent exposure of P10-B Napoles Pork Barrel scam. The event was largely mobilized through the social media in recent days and resulted perhaps in a reasonably good show of force by concerned netizens. One of my companions Jp Fenix commented however that perhaps it shouldn’t have been dubbed the “One Million People March” with a risk that the event might not actually yield the targeted number. Perhaps it didn’t but perhaps it might be considered successful. I am waiting to see what happens in the next few days before I judge.

I was privileged to be in the company of seasoned reporters, who at first hand has witnessed and covered the Nation’s most significant democratic events in our history. While in the van, my companions were sharing field stories enriched with their personal takes on the events that shape our society today. As we came up to Plaza Ferguson in Ermita, the conversations toned down as we exited our van: Perhaps this from a sense of Déjà vu. The scene was very familiar, as not much from Ermita has really changed in decades.

We came up through the muddied fields leading to the Grandstand with open expectations though we were quite amused by the presence of a mixed group. There were the Hare Krishna, the KMU, lots of people on bicycles (a seemingly more organized force), and what we could guess as the online organizers of the march with their stage, big screen and entertainment. It was a mixed bag with a very open agenda loosely styled under the “Occupy Movement”. The agenda was very open and free flowing. Indeed with such a loose structure, those with their own distinct agendas were expected to take advantage. Standing from far away we might’ve witnessed the former Chief Justice Corona being booed as he exited. We were not sure if it was him. Jograd de la Torre made a comical rendition of Jesse J’s “Price Tag” and Jim Paredes sang an appropriate song though we thought he struggled a bit to find his voice in the beginning. So far those were the highlights of the morning. While it may seem uneventful, we should all be happy that nothing terribly wrong happened. It was peaceful and generally pleasant despite the constant punctuations of the somewhat comically awkward chant: “Oink, Oink, Oink, Oink!” This had me asking, OK what’s next?

Without the exciting drama we could at least see the “One Million People March” for what it is: A participative and democratic display of the people’s disdain over the pork-barrel issue. While pork was the common theme, I could not help but observe some of the later speakers’ attempt to steer the issue away from the government’s accountabilities. Statements such as: “We are not mad at the government, we are mad at corruption”, seem to be redirection messages planted by pro-administration speakers who were cordially given the floor. Would you have us believe that the rally isn’t about the pork? People have become too smart to see that they were not on the same side.

On the other hand there was perhaps an attempt by former CJ Corona to direct some support for him against the administration; an attempt that obviously failed. Other messages seemed a bit more “themed” along the pork issue however a clear direction as to what happens henceforth seem lacking. There were a number of suggestive voices but no clear and unified voice on how to move forward. Participative and democratic as it may be in “Occupy” fashion, the event showed no clear owners. This is perhaps is not a bad thing but also yields some rather ambiguous results. I believe the event to be a clear display of sentiment rather than purposed to make a strong demanding statement. We need to be clear in the type of results we want from government and how we want to see them happen. Let’s make clear statements rather than just expressing our sentiments. Beyond having our voices heard, lets be clearer with what we are actually trying to say. Do we want it supplemented, overhauled or merely repurposed? Are we calling for an immediate abolishment? If so, how are we to do it? These options were not clearly communicated during the march.

Déjà vu it wasn’t for my seasoned companions who have witnessed the EDSAs and the events that welled up to them. Clearly we have not reached a tipping point yet. Perhaps this could be the first among a series of other events? Perhaps it will progress? One thing is for sure for this writer, and this is the very reason why I went (beyond mere curiosity).

I believe that the Pork Barrel is flawed concept from the principle of keeping three separate, distinct and equal branches of government. The idea of having a presidential allotment that is distributed to lawmakers is wrong and corrupts the whole principle of checks and balances. The pork corrupts our democratic system by monetizing the flow of political capital. With much leant to the president by the local machinery during his campaign, much is owed in payback in the form of pork. I believe that it should be abolished. A dialogue between government and organized groups must quickly ensue to provide a clear roadmap to this demanded change. In my opinion The “Million People March” has little or nothing to do with Napoles and the P10-B scam, but rather more about the flawed, corruptible and ineffective system of discretionary allotments. While many would argue based on the merits of its design, the truth has been revealed that pork is often used to line the pockets of colluding perpetrators rather than being given to legitimate and deserving recipients. Can we really solve this systemic flaw by penalizing the NGOs (most of which could be legitimate) and other scapegoats? This crooked path must be straightened as promised but I am now starting to wonder if the administration might just be too politically indebted to do so. Let’s not allow them to do their pork paybacks with our money.

There are talks of another march in September 11 but until then I hope we could progress with a clearer strategy. Either way, I might be inclined to show up for the picnic.

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Debunking the Singaporean Laksa

Before the Laksa goes by the way of “chopsuey”, I would like to say my piece that I myself had been deceived that the origins of the Laksa (A rich and spicy noodle soup supposedly of Peranakan origins) came by way of Singapore and to the world. It did not come as a surprise, that when I posted my Curry Laksa lunch while working in KL, it prodded a craving for some of our netizens to go the nearest Toast Box in Manila or the nearest Singaporean restaurant. While many tourists and especially Filipinos have been initiated into the world of Singaporean street food, I would have to say that most of what we have seen is more of an audition to the real world of culinary performance that is Malaysia.

Having just recovered from cellphone bill-shock where my addiction to producing instagrammed food-porn had gotten the best of my sensibilities, I might as well make the most of out it by sharing the experience with the rest of the world. The world wherIMG_1261e food is celebrated and no other place does is so well than Malaysia. It seems like everyone there is eating all the time and everywhere. While having spent a month in KL, I came across an article which read: “Wasteful Ways of Malaysian Gluttons” The Star front page article explains that Malaysia produces some 15,000 tons of food daily; the wastage that comes with it is seen to be a problem. Placing gluttony aside, we must marvel at the sheer volumes of food being produced on a daily basis in Malaysia. Within this cornucopia, it is obviously easy for anyone to find something very good, somewhere close and at any given time.

What makes food in KL a few notches above Singapore besides the sheer volumes to work from is a greater sense of authenticity. While I consider SG to be a true cosmopolitan city that provides the most of everything, there is something about Malaysia that is still deeply ethnic. While some complain that the society is overly so, its best reflection could be seen in the food. I stayed in Brickfields where instead of gaining weight, I was actually able to shed a few pounds. With such a rich selection of Indian food, I actually had the choice of eating vegetarian throughout most of my stay. A decent meal would cost somewhere between RM 6.00 to RM 10.00 (Just don’t order the beer). That is relatively cheap even in comparison to Manila prices. The food also allows us to go deep into the country’s culture with choices of Indian (primarily Tamil), Chinese (Hokkien, Cantonese) and Malay. It is said that every region also has its specialty with Penang reaching recent renown. Richly diverse and Richly ethnic!

IMG_1298Could ethnic expression be a bad thing? Certainly not when it comes to food. Not that I am downing Singapore, as a lot of Malaysia have funneled into the once island state. But in the process of funneling, some of the ingredients might have been lost? Perhaps, Malaysia is Truly Asia. Nowhere else better explored but through food. I hope to come back for some more of that Rojak!

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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.

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The Pork Ball From Different Angles

I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to the Rotary Club of Manila by its President Rudy Bediones at the Manila Polo Club, August 29, 2013. The Rotary Club of Manila (RCM) has a long tradition of inviting excellent speakers, many of which come from their esteemed membership. The motive for me was both personal as I wanted to see some of my late father’s old friends as well as the fact that I was drawn by curiosity in hopes I could learn more about the “Pork Barrel” from an alternative angle.

The meeting was called to order around 12:30 PM followed by the usual Rotary rituals. The guest speaker was Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque who gave a presentation entitled “Pork Barrel: A Requiem for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. With such a title, one would expect a fair and balanced view of the Pork issue but whatever seems fair always comes from a matter of perspective.

Rep. Golez proceeded to induce references on the Pork Barrel, starting with its history and usage in other countries such as USA, Germany, Australia etc. citing some of the worst cases abroad. The point being, that the pork barrel is used elsewhere and that some of the worst cases are perhaps not representative of the general scenario. The argument was then segued to how he used his Pork Barrel (Priority Development Assistance Fund) with a list of achievements such as the most number of covered courts, school buildings, infrastructure etc. With such as enormous list, perhaps the Pork is a good thing? To note, not a single centavo was given to any NGOs!
He really had me going until the point where I felt that I was being led. The argument is not that the money could do no good, but whether or not the money should be allocated and dispensed in that manner. Ironically, he made some validations in his speech that strengthens the argument for abolition.

  1. The pork can be easily abused: This is not the case just in the Philippines but also in other more developed countries which you would assume have better safeguards and access to information.
  2. The pork barrel is systemic ingratiation: The pork barrel systematizes the monetization of political capital flows from the President, all the way to the local constituents through the hands of the legislators. With much political capital borrowed from local constituents when running for national office, much is owed back and paid back in the form of the pork barrel funds. This perpetuates the cycle of ingratiation and systemic corruption. Secondly, with this type of monetary ingratiation, the principle of checks and balances between the two branches of government is destroyed.
  3. It is discretionary in nature and therefore arbitrary: Rep. Golez cited an example where a congressman as a legacy chose to allocate all of his pork barrel to fund 40,000 scholars in his district. While scholarships are never a bad thing, it also begs me to think whether or not this was the only need of the district over things such as: food security, health, infrastructure and disaster control. It just proves that the usage of funds is arbitrary and according to the whims or preferences of the Representative.

Some of the highlights of the luncheon came during the Q&A portion where Roberto Pagdanganan of Bulacan a former Representative himself cited the legislative praxis of former statesmen such as Sumulong and Diokno. Emphasizing that the job of the congressmen is to make laws and policies that would help their constituents rather than choosing and implementing projects themselves. He also mentioned that the ingratiation between the executive and the legislative branch also ruins checks and balance. “How can we effectively check and balance them, if we are ingratiated to them?” (nonverbatim)

Former Representative Payumo of Bataan also cited an example where constituents would often approach their representatives for support such as medicines in a far-flung place. The congressman would usually give out of his pork barrel funds with uncertainty that the support would go where it should. The point being that the congressman’s office usually would not have the administrative means to check and make sure that projects are implemented properly or if implemented at all. It is the structural limitation of their offices.

The primary function of legislation is thus legislative in nature and should have nothing to do with the administration, management and funding of projects. It is best that the representatives’ competence is reserved for “The House” where it belongs otherwise it is performing a disservice to its constituency and the nation.
The irony here is that where administrative capacity is lacking to select and implement projects among legislators, there are many legitimate, sustainable and competent NGOs that could implement many of these projects with utmost transparency. It is unfair that these NGOs are demonized due to a scandal involving government and the rotten eggs. Shame on them who are guilty of colluding but spare the innocent who continue to do their jobs better than you can, with or without your pork barrel support.

To end, I’d like to thank the Rotary Club of Manila who gave me the opportunity to write this article with an even greater view for the Pork Barrel issue due to the Speaker’s presentation and the rebuttals of his colleagues. It is a privilege to see the pork barrel from different angles, which makes an even more compelling argument for its abolition. While everyone seems to have their eyes on Napoles, let us keep our eyes on the ball instead for its abolition.

My special thanks goes to Rudy Bediones who has allowed me to see my dad’s “old” club in a “new” light. I am assured that RCM is relevant still. Hoping for more enlightening discussions such as this.