Monday, June 15, 2015

“Our next leader will need a much broader skills set . . .”

“. . . [G]iven the opportunities and threats brought by the fast-paced, multi-skilled, inter-disciplinary 21st century world.” [Our next president, Gemma Cruz Araneta, Manila Bulletin, 6th Jun 2015] Indeed with our hands full, we need such a leader. But have we ever paused to ask: where are we going really? With the two branches, the Executive and the Legislative, for example, we have an abundance of skills.

“It was silly of us to expect an Annapolis graduate, with an engineering degree from an American Ivy League school, to deliver on his mandate. It was the same expectation we had of his predecessor who had a Wharton business degree and worked in Wall Street.” [DOTC: A shameful failure, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 12th Jun 2015]

Indeed skills alone don’t get the job done. Beyond incompetence, we would blame it on “crab mentality” whenever we see government – or we, the people – unable to move forward? We’ve heard it before: “trapo” or traditional politicians versus reform (or is it celebrity?) politicians, the elite class versus “the masa”, party-lists versus political parties, INC-backed or CBCP pastoral letter-influenced, etc. But if there is a common denominator, is it vested interest? There are more: BBL or no BBL, Cha-cha or no Cha-cha, FDI or Filipino-first (or is it oligarchy first?), etc.

Is our sorry state stemming from our hierarchical instincts and values? The Church, oligarchy, the education community, professional groups, and similar societal elements would claim to be “the chosen few” implicitly? And would it explain crab mentality that has held as hostage, with very little sense and vision of the future, if any?

Could we Pinoys pull together behind an overarching purpose even when rank has spoiled us of its privileges? When there is no unifying object, who can say which principles must rule? Precisely why Francis is shifting the focus away from holier-than-thou, for example? If a “good thief” can be heaven-bound, “who are we to judge”? Is there is a higher purpose? But because we’re a big fish in our small pond, does the parochialism undermine our worldview – and relevance? Even a US with a lame duck president can’t convince the world of its relevance?

But we judge our neighbors against our yardsticks, i.e., we're not only God-fearing but truly democratic and patriotic . . . and even smarter? And not surprisingly, we have a senator who saw it fit to assume omnipotence that he is throwing out the window the work of many years by various groups, both local and foreign, that want to help us in Mindanao?

One of the fundamentals of change management is to start with the familiar. And recently this blog discussed sense of purpose, principles, bayanihan and Titanic, among others. Having lived in the West for almost 3 decades and experienced their progress and setbacks, this writer wonders if we Pinoys can be different.

For example: (a) two Nobel Prize winners brought about a financial disaster a decade before the Great Recession; (b) the Western educational system has recognized its shortcomings; and (c) different disciplines have considered that they were the center of the universe – from manufacturing (after WWII when factories shifted from military to commercial goods) to marketing to quality to finance to information technology, etc. And not surprisingly, even the top-tier companies in Fortune 500 have been unable to keep their rankings through the years.

“Mr. Aquino, like all human beings, is a prisoner of his own limitations.” [Prisoner of his own limitations, BS Aquino a great success in Japan, Rene Q. Blas, Publisher/Editor, The Manila Times, 6th Jun 2015]

Indeed, we are all prisoners of our own limitations. Thus, “THE GOVERNMENT has kept virtually unchanged its list of domestic activities and sectors restricted to foreign participation, prompting one business leader to cite anew the need to make the list ‘less negative’. Malacañang on Friday published Executive Order No. (EO) 184, dated May 29, that provides the 10th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), keeping largely intact provisions of the preceding order: EO 98 of Oct. 29, 2012.” [Restrictions retained in 2015 ‘negative list’, Business World, 5th Jun 2015]

And as night follows day, “Foreign ownership limits hinder Phl growth potential,” Danessa O. Rivera, The Philippine Star, 3rd Jun 2015. “Restrictions in foreign ownership of land and uneven investments in public infrastructure continue to prevent the country from realizing its full economic potential, according to a former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief.”

“We did it again: Sent President Aquino a list of critical reforms requiring executive action as well as a list of legislative measures that Malacañang can certify as priority legislation . . . After its first letter was received in 2013, the PBG-JFC was encouraged to work with the economic cluster of the Cabinet by joining some of its meetings to ensure continuing dialogue and joint monitoring of recommendations and agreed priorities. Unfortunately, the dialogue did not continue, and the joint monitoring never became reality. The PBG-JFC then pursued direct dialogues with agencies after its 2014 letter, but these also did not transform into continuing partnerships. Yet, there continues to be recognition of the importance of public-private partnership.” [Inclusively and competitively yours, PBG-JFC, Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6th Jun 2015]

“Let us pray . . . that BS Aquino learns to apply what he admires in Japan to his own way of doing things.” [Blas, op. cit.] And this is what President Aquino had to say: “…It is no wonder, then, that for the latter half of the 20th century, companies from all over the world lined up to learn of the ‘Japanese method.’ Many asked: What sort of processes allowed such quality and efficiency to blossom?”

“I respectfully submit, your honors, that the Japanese method is first and foremost not static. It is founded on the necessity for adaptation and innovation; it incorporates a thirst for knowledge and a passionate desire to achieve positive change. This constant polishing, this constant refinement, reflects your quest for perfection in everything that you do. This, in turn, has allowed your country to collectively overcome the challenges it has had to face in its history. Your kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement, which your country has been applying in production lines and supply chains, has been applied to the highest echelons of government.

“Truth be told, this process has been a hallmark of the Japanese spirit for generations. We only need to look back to the opening of Japan during the 19th century, which ushered in the transformation of your society. Up until that time, Japan was way behind in terms of technology; I would say that you did not only start from zero, but from the negative, given the advancements that everyone else had access to at that point.

“As Japan pursued a collective national effort toward ‘Civilization and Enlightenment,’ it was able to transform itself: Feudalism was shed, allowing for the formation of this very Diet; a once-cloistered nation began to welcome outside knowledge, and in fact sent its sons far and wide to acquire new insights; railroads, telegraph systems, and banks rose across your nation; backyard furnaces soon turned into state of the art factories, and within a few generations, Japan became among the most advanced nations of that age.

“Even after that, when new realities came about after the war, you again decided to change the status quo, directing your energies towards rebuilding, and thus becoming an economic powerhouse that has lent and continues to lend its support to so many nations. . . Time and again, when confronted with extreme challenges to society, you have adapted; you met and overcame them to rise to even greater heights. The anxiety you have faced in recent years is another such challenge.”

Indeed, “Let us pray . . . that BS Aquino learns to apply what he admires in Japan to his own way of doing things.” But what about us? Do we believe that we are exempt from the imperative to learn and apply what we admire in others to our own way of doing things?

Beyond the next leader, we need Juan de la Cruz to figure out why and how the world is leaving us behind? Because if we accept that as our normal, it will get worse before it gets better?

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