Monday, June 4, 2012

Translating a road map into a sustainable undertaking

It is noteworthy that “the leadership at PCAARRD (Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development) . . . has decided to take on the challenge of building the needed realism into their work and requested the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and its partner organizations to . . . familiarize them with the systems used by businesses in assessing market potential and feasibility; appropriate product and process costing; agribusiness value chains and webs; and national innovation systems,” writes Mario Antonio G. Lopez, Business World, 14th May 2012.

The writer remembers – from a few years back – his Eastern European friends wondering why he didn’t appear overly excited about the teambuilding workshop they wanted to conduct. And the Business World article would capture what similarly was going in the writer’s mind: “In quite a number of cases in the past years, it is apparent to many who have been part of, or observed, PCAARRD activities that different R&D activities conducted by members of the consortia more often than not do not take conscious account of the market implications and links of the studies they conduct. If and when they do, the bases they have for asserting "marketability" and/or "profitability" are questionable.” (Similarly, a teambuilding workshop, as an activity, must be reinforced in the work setting by the requisite work processes so that the outcome is greater than the parts – i.e., synergy. For example, the organization must be able to succinctly define its “nirvana” – i.e., “starts with the end in view” – to which individuals are committed and are thus single-minded, not at cross-purposes.)

And the writer’s friends have since understood what being “activity-driven” means. And it is the consequence of linear thinking – or building from the ground up instead of “starting with the end in view.” And hence the title of this blog: Translating a road map into a sustainable undertaking. The Department of Agriculture has developed a road map that would make us a major international player in aquaculture, for example, and the challenge is to translate that road map into a sustainable economic undertaking. It is not about embarking on an undertaking . . . but rather sustaining the undertaking. 

And this latest initiative by PCAARRD to overcome the hurdles of marketability and profitability is a step in the right direction. An undertaking is sustainable when the output is marketable and profitable – which means that the cycle of production and marketing is uninterrupted – recognizing that in today’s world the marketplace is global and so is the competition. And as the article stressed: “To be sure, many have a thorough understanding of the more limited sector or sub-sector understanding of the specific businesses they are in, but these are precisely what they are -- sector-limited, parochial views of the nature of their direct businesses . . . Even our government officials are often no better in their "world views” . . . [M]any other shortcomings have hampered the ability of our country to become competitive in these sectors, thus subjecting us to the onslaught of much cheaper commodities we could easily have produced and exported ourselves.”

Good enough is never good enough. We have to keep raising the bar: “the end point” has to be that our output is unmistakably competitive that we are able to capture overseas markets. We can’t be shortsighted – isolating ourselves from the rest of the world – and claim patriotism. Winning in the global market arena – and generating greater economic output – is what patriotism ought to be. We may not be globally competitive today – and we will never be if we keep the market to ourselves and set such a low bar. Because competitiveness is a skill-set that is developed as our neighbors have demonstrated. Taking for granted that we are incapable of developing – like we’re merely the “little brown brothers” – is reflective of our stratified mindset where people are pigeon-holed akin to a caste system. And which, unwittingly, is why we remain wedded to our cacique system and structure. We can only create what we think and until we get the mindset right we can only expect more of the same! [The writer’s Eastern European friends could still lapse into missing the power of the mindset. And as one explained: “There was a time when “the idea of a bright future” was totally alien; and “a sense of resignation” reigned.”]

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