Friday, May 28, 2004

(Untitled and unpublished article about ASTD 2004)

Learning & Innovation – May 28, 2004
By Moje Ramos-Aquino

This column is a little delayed because the program I used in the USA can not be accessed from our computers here. Ngek!

The participants at the American Society for Training and Development Conference & Exposition (ASTD 2004) that ended yesterday are satisfied with their new learnings, affirmations of what they are already doing and upbeat about doing more for their respective organization, but I suspect a little scared.

It was a week filled with learnings, analyzing, reflections and sharing. It was also venue for networking with fellow human resource and organization development (HROD) professionals around the world, 10,000 strong!, exchanging notes and email addresses. The Asian participants outnumbered other non-USA delegations; although, the combined number of European, Latin American and African participants is only a head or two less. I think there were only seven of us Filipinos.

HROD people are a studious and curious bunch. They listened well, asked a lot of questions and openly shared their own experiences and thoughts. The session rooms were always full. The speakers are experts in their own topics and are the epitome of an “A” presenter. Nonetheless, some friends from Panama, Mayra Baez and Miriam Samaniego with daughter Irene, managed to take their picks at the special sale at Filene’s and Hecht’s before the stores closed at night.

The popular topics are still web or e-learning, training measures, performance improvement, leadership, career development, and training techniques & methodologies like coaching and mentoring. neurolinguistic programming, music and humor.

It seems like everything is changing but nothing has changed.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Washington Post report about serious and drastic cost-cutting activities by a number of big businesses here, notably Verizon and Warner Music. Wall Street Journal’s Ethan Smith and Martin Peers wrote, “The group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. that bought Warner music Group earlier this year faced a daunting challenge—change a culture of financial excess that is as old as the modern recording industry. As soon as the deal closed, Mr. Bronfman made deep cuts: laying off 1,200 employees, slashing at least $250 million in overhead and whacking salaries across the board by as much as 50%.”

I wonder what the HROD person at Warner is thinking and doing right now. Attending ASTD? These are big challenges and opportunities for the HROD professional to earn a seat at the table.

The buzzword for the whole conference is “a seat at the table.” Sun Total’s Kevin Oakes said that for the most part, HROD professionals have lamented that they don’t have the ear of the executive management because individuals in the profession have rarely talked with confidence about what executives want to hear: increased revenue, tangible productivity, and improved business performance. He discussed how learning technology can help HROD peeps shed their academic image and not only gain “a seat at the table,” but make management view it as one of the most strategic seats they have. He suggests speaking the language that senior management understands, addressing main issues that most concern them, apply learning technology to effect real organizational change, and to demonstrate business results and bottom line impact of learning.

(Please join Moje offer prayers of thanksgiving for the continued success and happiness of her lovable sons, Adrian (May 28) and Ronjie (June 20), as they celebrate their birthday this year. She welcomes your sharing with our readers your effective cost-cutting initiatives via

Friday, May 21, 2004

Chrysler's Iacoca a whiff of Jekyll, Hyde story

Business Times p.B3
Friday, May 21, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Chrysler’s Iacocca a whiff of Jekyll, Hyde story

ENRICO G. Belmonte writes: “You mentioned the first part of the Chrysler story, which was well documented in a best-selling book authored by Iacocca himself. Here is the second part of the story, which is not well known.

”After nursing Chrysler back to health, Iacocca went into a buying spree, buying companies unrelated to Chrysler’s core business. Thereafter the company went back to financial trouble. Iacocca was criticized for laying off thousands of employees to cut costs while at the same time giving himself large pay increase. He clung to his position of Chair even after he reached mandatory retirement age. Eventually he was “persuaded” to give up the Chairmanship.

After retirement, Iacocca together with corporate raider Kirk Kerkorian unsuccessfully attempted a hostile takeover of Chrys­ler. The com­pany’s weakened position led to a buyout by Daimler Benz. That ended the story of Chrysler as independent company.

All told, Iacocca is still an admired business leader.”

Iacocca, indeed, did a Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde.

Towards the end, in this Robert Louis Stevenson story, Dr. Jekyll went home once again but every time he would fall asleep, he would revert to Mr. Hyde. Soon, his potions began to fail to work and he ran out of the salt needed for the potion. Hyde launches a desperate search across London for this potion, but was unsuccessful. In the end, Hyde kills himself, and Jekyll, too.

As what happened, Iacocca practiced a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde leadership. His Dr. Jekyll formula for Chrysler was successful at first but when more and more his Mr. Hyde’s insatiable desire for profit persistently showed itself at the expense of his employees. The rest is history, so to speak.

One important lesson here for entrepreneurs is that it’s best to stick to the core strategic driver of your organization at all times, good or bad. Ambivalence has no room in business.

Here’s more reactions from our readers.

Nina Gancita: Just wanted to say thank you again for this wonderful article. I am eager to share this with our President. I am relatively new to the field of HR/Admin and your articles really give me a lot of insights and information about various things. Admittedly, we are having a hard time changing the culture of our organization, perhaps it is because we are simply acting as managers and administrators instead of being effective leaders as well. Your article hit its mark in our organization, and perhaps in a lot of organizations, too, where most of the managers get caught up with the demands of the job and forget (or lose sight of) the importance of being a good leader.

Maleah Gildore: Just finished reading your article. I’ll start to have clippings every week to serve as my reference. I hope you can help me. I am preparing a Manual on Entrepreneurship. I’ll contact you re this matter.

(Due to limited space, please email Moje at moje@my­ if you want more discussions. She’ll respond to you even as she attends ASTD Conference in Washington DC.)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Learning & Innovation of Leadership & Culture

Business Times p.B3
Friday, May 14, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Learning & Innovation of Leadership & Culture

AS an entrepreneur you are a skilled leader. You provide the context in which you develop other leaders in your organization. You don’t mandate cost cutting. You make them want to shed costs. You set the example.

This context is commonly known as culture. As a leader one real significant thing you do, according to author and organizational psychologist Edgar Schein, is to create and manage culture and that the unique talent of leaders is their ability to understand and work with culture. He said that if one wishes to distinguish leadership from management or administration, one can argue that leaders create and change cultures, while managers and administrators live within them.

Mandating cost-cutting means that you are trying hard to live within the prevailing situation, reacting to it rather defensively and offending many of your employees. For example, your knee-jerk reaction to financial difficulties is to cut people cost. But laying off people will cost you money and the loyalty and motivation of the surviving employees.

Mr. Lido Anthony or Lee Iacocca was held in high esteem by the business community and his co-employees at Chrysler in the early 90’s for taking a salary cut when Chrysler went through rough times. It was popularly known that as president, he volunteered to receive only $1 per year. He said that he found that being honest is the best technique he could use. This American business icon and author reveals his leadership style: “Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.”

Chrysler emerged triumphant and walked out of bankruptcy soon enough under the brilliant and bold leadership of Mr. Iacocca. He set the example. He influenced the corporate culture by way of his behaviors. He did not just tell his employees to cut costs, he showed the way. He gave them an option. Instead of threatening them, he inspired them to accept salary cut in order to save their jobs and the company.

Mr. Iacocca created a culture of voluntarism or “bayanihan” in Chrysler without much talk. His $1 salary sent a very strong and resounding message throughout the Chrysler organization, among their creditors and other stakeholders.

Likewise, as a business leader, you create a culture where your employees would want to be cost efficient. Mr. Iacocca would say, “In times of adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something quite positive.”

How do you create a positive culture? One is by modeling the behaviors that you want your employees to emulate and by eliminating behaviors that do not work. What do you represent? What do you want to represent? Oooops, I am not urging you to put on a certain persona that you are not. You must work toward developing that image you want to represent.

When you say that your company is sailing through rough times, yet you continue to feed your luxurious taste and expensive lifestyle, you are creating dissonance in the minds and hearts of your employees. What will they believe? Your actions. It does not matter that it is your personal money that you are spending.

Another way you create and manage a positive culture is by sticking to your words. As soon as Chrysler was declared out of bankruptcy, as promised, Mr. Iacocca restored the workers’ full pay immediately. When your action matches your words, that’s integrity (Kailangan pa bang i-memorize ‘yan?).

You don’t just teach your employees to think, feel and perceive cutting costs. Rather your articulation of your very own strong ideas about the subject and how to do it does the work. While your nonverbal language sends very strong signals, still talk is cheap and crucial. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

A reminder here is that your sincerity comes from doing and saying what you feel and strongly believe in while your honesty can be perceived from your doing and saying what you think and know for sure.

As an entrepreneur and a leader, you have lots of opportunities to embed your preferences, beliefs, values and philosophy on cost effectiveness in the various aspects of your business. Don’t just wait for tough times to pass. As Mr. Iacocca used to say, “The trick is to make sure you don’t die waiting for prosperity to come.

Wow, Philippines! Ganda ng Pilipinas, Galing ng Pilipino is the theme of the campaign of our Department of Tourism to lure fellow Filipinos to become tourists in our beautiful country.

I was impressed with the roadshow they did in Davao City last Friday. Producer Boyet Guerrero brought to the appreciative DavaoeƱo crowd the talents of the swinging JYC and the Jukebox Band, the inimitable folksinger Florante and the statuesque Bb. Pilipinas Nina Ricci Alagao. Of course, local talents Music Authority, A to Zinc Band, Maharlika Dancers and DJ Joey were not to be outdone. The very talented John Lesaca treated the audience to his beautiful violin music.

Except for snow, we have all the natural attractions that you could find in other countries. And more at very affordable prices and no need for passport and visa. DOT provides easy-on-the-pocket packages for your whole family and friends.

No, I did not lose my luggage in Davao. Thank God for friends like painter and sculptor Vic Secuya and businessman Jess Dy who toured me around the City in their sleek cars. I also enjoyed doing my one-hour brisk walking exercise along tree-lined Dacudao Avenue. Air smelled good and fresh.

Davao is a wonderful vacation destination or even a permanent residence place. My friends Jojo and Ruth Agullo of Landbank of the Philippines have decided to settle there. They said that even with their joint salary, they will be unable to experience in Manila the comfortable life they are now enjoying in Davao. They have their own house, a wide yard for their child to romp around and, pray for it, their own car this year away from the hectic pace and rat race of modern cities.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, consults on Strategic Thinking & Planning, Innovation, Teambuilding and other Organization Development Programs. Please share your successful cost cutting initiatives with our readers through

Friday, May 7, 2004

Focus is key to entrepreneurial success

Business Times p.B2
Friday, May 7, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Focus is key to entrepreneurial success

Leadership branding is the theme of my educational presentation at the Toastmasters District 75 Convention held last weekend in Cebu City hosted by the toastmasters clubs in Cebu. The Cebuano toastmasters led by District Gov Al Derecho and Discon Chair Alan Olmilla, inspired by DTMs Dodong Baduel and Pawe Uy, made the whole convention worth the trip to Cebu. DTM Pawe carries the distinction of being the first Filipino and Asian to hold the third highest post in the Toastmasters International organization. DTM Dodong is the original Mr. Suave and a formidable leader of Philippine toastmasters.

Never mind that a dishonest taxi driver ran away with my entire luggage that left me with only the dress I was wearing when I planed in. TM Ann Borlaza gave me a nightdress, a t-shirt and other toiletries to keep me looking and smelling decent for two days and TM Edison Gatioan stood by and prayed with me. In my luggage was a precious, precious book on cost cutting which is not available in all Asia and has limited copies only in the United States. Please pray that I recover my luggage and its contents.

The special guest toastmaster from Indonesia, DTM Maimunah Natasha delivered a poignant talk about dreaming, visioning, overcoming obstacles, grabbing at opportunities, achieving and being happy. Her original family was dirt poor and couldn’t afford to send her to school. She dreamed, persevered and now she is one of the wealthiest and most successful entrepreneurs in Indonesia. She has now also a doctorate degree, is a multiawarded toastmaster and is an international director of Toastmasters International.

She made us do this simple, but powerful, exercise. I will use the same exercise to develop a different slant into learning. I also want you to do it before reading the entire article. Ready: Get any piece of paper, crumple it into a ball and throw. Now, stop reading until you do this exercise.

Where did it go? If you simply threw the paper, it shows you lack focus according to DTM Munah. And I say that if you paused for a while, gave the exercise a consideration and chose a target before you threw the paper, you are on your way to enjoying a successful Journey on Entrepreneurship.

I noticed that when this exercise was done by the toastmasters, they were simply being obedient, not wanting to embarrass the speaker. Some were playful and tried to throw their crumpled paper as far as they could or at some friends. In both instances, the significance of the exercise was lost to them until the speaker made the explanation. Then some of them tried to do it again purposively.

Back to our Journey on Entrepreneurship and, as promised, our topic on Cost Cutting.

That is what happens when companies initiate a cost cutting program. In many companies the boss simply declares one day that all operating and administrative units should cut costs by 10 percent or even 20 percent to reach revenue targets or to cut losses. Just like that. Crumple a piece of paper and throw it away. This is how many companies approach cost management—a reactive tool, a cover-up for mismanagement.

The first thing that robotic managers would cut is the people budget-salaries and wages, training, benefits, others. That is why buzzwords like downsizing, rightsizing, early retirement, silver or golden handshake and retrenchment abound. It is the easiest thing to do—throw the crumpled paper at your employees. Touche, you’re out!

Also in many organizations, particularly government entities, they celebrate those who do not spend their budget to the max. They are proud to report that they have a surplus in their budget. When you ask for additional budget, you have to rationalize and justify such request. But when you have extra money at the end of the day, they don’t bother to ask why or what was not done. They are simply happy that you did not spend.

When you did not spend, you did not do your work. That money wouldn’t be budgeted if it were not intended to benefit the company.

The first step in cost cutting, therefore, is to go back to why you are in business—your vision, mission, values, environmental scan, strategic goals, key result areas and key performance indicators—before you cut or stop anything. Are you certain about your metrics? Are they linked to your strategic directions?

Remember that you need to measure or come up with measures (quantitative and qualitative) for aspects of your business that you consider important. Remember the business adage that what can’t be measured, can’t be managed.

Here you can already determine what to cut, stop or throw away if you are experiencing difficulties with your business. Of course, this is systematic, scientific, logical, rational and data-based; but then again, with your reading of the environment and your vision of your business, you can always use your intuition.

The second step is to examine if you are, indeed, implementing your plans and how. AIM president Bobby de Ocampo loves to say, “activities doesn’t bring you anywhere; you need to have a focus.”

In the course of their journey to being a 2003 Baldrige awardee, the Community Consolidated School of District 15, Illinois, USA, learned that “random acts of improvement don’t achieve overall excellence. It requires systemic process, focus, courage and determination.”

You need to examine your objectives and action plans. Do you know what to do? Are you doing what you say you need to do in order to achieve business excellence? Are there gaps and overlaps? Are your processes in place? Are they linked to your strategic directions and consistent with policies? Are these the most effective and efficient processes, tools, systems, procedures, machine? Do your people have the proper and sufficient competencies to do the job? Are you operating at top speed? Do you have a process for measuring and evaluating all these?

You don’t even have to call it cost cutting. It is called good governance.

We’ll discuss some specific, okay, cost cutting techniques next Friday. For example, do you notice that since you installed that copying machine in your office, your company has bought and used more papers? Not to forget the cost of ink, electricity, salary and benefits of the operator, new filing cabinets and others. And look, your whole office is now covered with documents!

GET READY TO VOTE ON MAY 10. Text to check your precinct (Sorry for Globe subscribers only): FINDP , , , MM/DD/YYYY Send to 2958

Example: FINDP VERGARA, ROSA MARIA, GARCIA, 10/07/1954 Send to 2958

Cost per text is only: P2 for post paid and P2.50 for prepaid and is a small amount to pay for avoiding being part of the chaos on Election Day.

Please remember Jun Yasay for Senator.

Remember our little questionnaire last column (Business Tips, April 30)? Thank you, Jack Solidum, for your email:

“I regularly read your articles, and on this particular item, I call your attention to the scoring bracket: the total max score for the entire 7 questions is 21 points, the bracket’s highest level is at 25-35 points. I really enjoy reading the articles, and I also hope you will dwell more on details like key result areas, performance indicators, performance evaluation, quality management.“ I stand corrected, Nonoy. The scoring should have been 5-3-2, not 3-2-1.

We’ll discuss how to brand your leadership in future columns. I will gather more materials at the ASTD 2004 International Conference and Exposition this May 23-27 in Washington D.C., USA. Join me. Call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332.

(Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, consults on strategic thinking, planning, innovation, teambuilding, communications and other organizational development initiatives. If you have done successful cost cutting measures, please share them with her at