Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Leadership and reform

With the 2016 presidential election looming, it is expected that the paths of analysts and aspiring leaderships will converge. Even in the US the analysts behind Clinton and Bush, for instance, have been busy pouring over “big data” to derive the platform of their respective campaigns. And as the cycle progresses, broader national and international matters will likewise percolate from big data.

In the private sector, “Big data is a collection of data – unstructured and multi-structured – from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.” [What Is Big Data (?), Lisa Arthur, Forbes, 15th Aug 2013]“One thing is clear: Every enterprise needs to fully understand big data – what it is to them, what it does for them, what it means to them.

How does that apply to PHL leadership and our concerns for reform? To simulate big data, this writer placed 16 news reports and opinion pieces side-by-side and imagined what it meant to PHL. In industry leadership is swamped with big data day-in, day-out and managers must discriminate between analyses and deliverables.

Analyses can identify a whole gamut of needs yet they still must be prioritized; and then the precise deliverables defined. How does a manager do that? Let’s take Steve Jobs. He wants to change the world. That is his mantra. If we translate that to apply to a Philippine president, it will be, “I want to change the Philippines.” That demands “a growth [and success] mindset,” not “a fixed mindset” – and the absence of a vision, if not imagination and leadership.

What follows as far as Jobs is concerned is: “There are two values and fundamentals that must guide us: (a) to make amazing products (that will be effective tools for people to change the world) and (b) to create an amazing organization (true to Apple’s mission).” And he tapped the academe to share his thoughts and Apple’s own experiences so that they could develop an intensive in-house education and training program for Apple people. Because of such clarity, their ability to set priorities is enviable. And that is reflected in their continuing new-product introductions – that have indeed amazed the world – and efficient supply chain that covers a wide geography yet is best in class.

What learning is there for the Philippines? And what are the fundamentals that must guide us? For example, we have a glaring need as spelled out in the following: “The Global Development Agenda should be the National Development Agenda,” Alvin P. Ang, PhD, Eagle Watch, Business Mirror, 21st May 2015. “There is a much larger campaign that has started for the race to end global misery that should be aligned with our local perspectives.”

“Amid the varying national agendas, we have seemed to lost track of a commitment we made in 2000 under the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) . . . The goals are to eradicate poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership in development . . . As can be noted, many of these goals are basic to human capital formation and national development. They should be implemented with or without any international commitment and achieved by a well-functioning bureaucracy at all levels.”

But how can we in fact be true to our commitment to the MDGs? Consider: “Growth without infrastructure buildup not sustainable,” Bianca Cuaresma, Business Mirror, 21st May 2015. “The country’s lack of appropriate and carefully laid-out infrastructure is a major deterrent to the country’s economic stability and sustainable growth path.”

In other words, is our commitment to the MDGs then at risk? “In an interview late Wednesday, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. told reporters this was the considered assessment of the international credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P). They recognized the continuing good economic performance and the reforms that have been put in place that are supporting this performance…although they are also looking at further improvements in certain areas, like in infrastructure . . .”

“Power demand to outpace supply in 5 years – EIU,” Ted P. Torres, The Philippine Star, 22nd May 2015. “The EIU said the Philippines suffers from numerous unplanned electricity outages, owing to the country’s insufficient and outdated power-generation infrastructure.”

“(Blackouts) harm the economy by interrupting business activity. Furthermore, owing to demand outstripping supply, electricity prices in the Philippines are among the highest in Asia, which automatically increases input costs for producers . . . The shortage of electricity supply leads to structurally high electricity prices. The EIU pointed out that the high cost of electricity is also a deterrent for new foreign investment, as well as a constant hindrance for businesses that are already invested in the country.”

Can we step up to the plate? “Amendments to changes in PPP Act pushed,” Reuters, 22nd May 2015. “‘A major policy advocacy we are now pushing for is the enactment of the PPP Act… to sustain the gains of our current PPP program,’ said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan in a speech at the Philippine-Australia PPP policy dialogue in Melbourne, Australia on Thursday. The Philippines has a long history of reviewing and revising government contracts with the private sector years after they are implemented, especially if the contract was closed under a previous administration.”

It appears we have a credibility problem? The fact of the matter is that the present administration has shown little respect for the rule of law at least twice since it took over in 2010. The first was when it unilaterally canceled the $434.8-million (P18.7-billion) contract of the Philippine government with the Belgian firm BaagerwerkenDecloedt en Zoon (BDZ) for the dredging of Laguna Lake.  As a result of that abrogation, BDZ is now at the World Bank International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes seeking $93 million (P4 billion) in damages.” [Investments and the rule of law, Business Mirror Editorial, 23rd May 2015]

“Already, the Philippine government has been told to pay $9.76 million (P420 million) for cancellation of the bank loan that was to finance the project. The second exhibition of lack of respect for commitments was the recent cancellation of the Cavite-Laguna Expressway Project (Calax) winning bid and the rebidding of the project.

“This prompted American Chamber of Commerce Senior Advisor John D. Forbes to note that the rebidding signified not just poor planning but an effort on the part of the government to ‘get more money from bidders who would recover it with higher tolls.’”

Are those examples of the imperative to discriminate between analyses and deliverables? But if the leadership is to change the Philippines, will the following be a good guide? “Constituency for Reform,” Guillermo M. Luz, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9th May 2015. “Governance and leadership matter. They lead to competitiveness . . . In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report . . . governance is captured under a section called Institutions. In this section, items such as budget reform and decision-making, the judiciary, nepotism and favoritism, law enforcement and security, corporate governance, and other measures are covered.”

“Campaign finance will also need to be overhauled, if not by law then at least by practice . . . Money is the lifeblood of any campaign. Funders who want reforms to continue will need to make tough choices on who to fund and support. These decisions are vital to the success of some candidates, especially reform-minded ones with little resources to lean on . . . Often, the real and hard work of reform occurs after an election is over. It lies in the daily grind of work and interaction with leaders at all levels. To help them maintain a reform route, they will need to be helped along by a Constituency for Reform.”

The challenge of leadership and reform stares us. And the leadership that we need must have a “growth mindset” and possess critical thinking skills – i.e., is big and secure enough to question his or her own assumptions – and with a great deal of emotional intelligence – i.e., not deterred by disappointments but is results-driven and can influence Juan de la Cruz to value collaboration and embrace change – and is guided by credible values and fundamentals to be able to show us the way.

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