Saturday, December 29, 2012

A New Year’s wish

It is not self-flagellation that we need but what about an honest-to-goodness "examination of conscience” – if we are to turn over a new leaf? But aren't we being Christian-like precisely when we aspire to be "inclusive"? Whether it was the Baltimore Catechism or our prayer group that started us in our faith journey, it is common knowledge that even the Creator had to prioritize? And "to prioritize" is something we take for granted and consequently, "to focus" is missing likewise?

We joke about it but if we pause for a moment to figure out why economic development-wise we lag at least a generation, we may want to ask ourselves if "crab mentality" will help explain why we can't build and operate an international airport, for example, when practically every other nation has done it. And if we add our energy conundrum and how much we have outgrown our infrastructure in general and thus putting a strain on the environment and, not surprisingly, the elevated incidence of respiratory-related diseases, among others, the picture isn’t pretty.

And “pwede na ‘yan” isn’t the answer given that these are not brand new but rather an accumulation of shortcomings – and a manifestation of a structural weakness – and not surprisingly would require at least a generation to tackle? And that assumes we shall grow the economy at a consistent 7% annually. And as a senator reminded us, the question is, can we sustain it? We may be celebrating the recent fate of the BRIC countries (once favored by Wall Street) yet what goes around comes around. And precisely, these countries have had their own structural shortfalls that made those rosy predictions come to naught.

A recent Harvard Business Review article (Accelerate, John P. Kotter, Nov 2012) presents a model on how enterprises can cope in today's dynamic world and thus be on their feet. Yet to globally competitive companies the model is not new because it is simply fundamental. But what higher learning does is translate real-world solutions into a body of knowledge and present it as a model.

Kotter spells out the challenge of an enterprise as follows: “Perhaps the greatest challenge business leaders face today is how to stay competitive amid constant turbulence and disruption." And he calls his model the “Eight Accelerators”: (1) Create a sense of urgency around a single big opportunity; (2) Build and maintain a guiding coalition: (3) Formulate a strategic vision and develop change initiatives designed to capitalize on the big opportunity; (4) Communicate the vision and the strategy to create buy-in and attract a growing volunteer army; (5) Accelerate movement toward the vision and the opportunity by ensuring that the network removes barriers; (6) Celebrate visible, significant short-term wins; (7) Never let up. Keep learning from experience. Don’t declare victory too soon; (8) Institutionalize strategic changes in the culture.”

Not surprisingly, for example, Clinton translated his "It's the economy, stupid" into the "single big opportunity" of balancing the budget – because it’s simply fundamental? But we Pinoys struggle to prioritize and thus are unable to internalize the Pareto principle or the 80-20 rule? How can we focus on what matters and will give us the big and quick wins if to be “inclusive” is our overarching value – and unwittingly fall prey to crab mentality?

There is a "black hole" between plans that read right on paper and plans that are successfully executed that enterprises learn about from experience – i.e., "portfolio management" is a given. Every time there are a number of initiatives in a plan the 80-20 rule will most likely emerge. We need more than a New Year's resolution, we need to break the cycle – i.e., haven't we written great economic plans over the last 65 years or so?

And that is the New Year's wish we want to share with Juan de la Cruz.

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