Thursday, June 30, 2005

“Bayanihan” at Unilab

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, June 30, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
“Bayanihan” at Unilab

I AM sure you are familiar with that image of men carrying a nipa hut on their shoulders while the women walk beside them carrying food, water and things from the house. Bayanihan is the tradition of working together and sharing the fruits of common endeavor.

Bayanihan has always been associated with Unilab Laboratories, Inc. Unilab claims that bayanihan is the heart and soul of its culture from which it crafted its UL Creed:

We believe that we are UNITED IN THOUGHT AND ACTION, and from this we derive our strength and our spirit of Bayanihan.

We believe in the NOBILITY OF OUR PURPOSE— in the service of medicine, for the welfare of our people.

We believe that INTEGRITY IS LIFE TO US, and to preserve it we must maintain ethical standards of the highest order.

We believe that TRUTH IS OUR CHALLENGE, and our search for truth is our contribution to the advancement of medical science.

We believe in EQUALITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, that our greatest asset is our human asset, whose endeavors must be given meaning and dignity.

We believe in the DIVINE PROVIDENCE, whose love has sustained us, whose blessings give fulfillment to our lives.

Unilab ranks among the Top 50 corporations in the Philippines and is the market leader in pharmaceutical industry with an important presence in Asia. It has 366 brands in almost 900 stock sizes, complemented by 3,000 employees in their manufacturing, marketing and support divisions. The Unilab Group consists of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in 10 countries.

It has a marketing network in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. It has marketing and manufacturing plants not only here in the Philippines but also in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and a biotechnology manufacturing plant producing human-growth hormones in Shanghai, China.

Unilab was built on the concept of Bayanihan. The word comes from the Tagalog words bayan (community) and anihan (harvest). It is a Filipino tradition to have the entire community help at the time of harvest and share in the fruits of their labor. There is another theory that says the word Bayanihan comes from bayani or hero; someone who helps a neighbor tackle big tasks, such as moving a house. Bayanihan in Unilab means teamwork, looking after the welfare of those in need, enthusiasm and excellence at work and sharing the fruits of a common effort. In times of difficulties, it also serves as the anchor that guides the company’s action.

This is actually what guided the company in its Change Journey. Last column we discussed how the company characterized and assessed the prevailing environment in which it operates in 1997. Having done that, the company identified four major areas to ensure organization effectiveness: organization design, product portfolio, systems & processes and people & culture.

Let’s zero in on the people and culture initiatives to attain organization and business excellence. To do this, Unilab anchored its people programs on the strength of the Bayanihan culture; invested heavily on training and development programs; streamlined and aligned its HR systems and programs based on competency development; recruited new talents with the required critical competencies; redesigned its performance management system and enhance reward and recognition program to promote high performance; launched its leadership standards and reoriented its Employees Council toward productivity-related issues.

As an offshoot of Bayanihan, Unilab instituted its Employees Council (EC) in 1959 founded on the belief that no one could best determine the needs of employees than themselves. The EC introduced its employees to a new role—that of managing and taking responsibility for their own benefits program. The EC is acknowledged as a unique and distinctive model of harmonious industrial relations and has been emulated by several companies in various industries.

Now, there is a lot to learn from Unilab for our entrepreneurs. Foremost is that going from good company to a great company requires strategic leadership (who shape the culture) and concerned talent management for recruiting, retaining, motivating, developing and transitioning people. One such program is giving employees just and fair wages/salaries and benefits. An organization is only as good as its leaders and people are.

(Reference for this article is the PQA application of Unilab. Moje awaits your reaction at

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Benchmarking with Unilab’s 60-year experience

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, June 23, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Benchmarking with Unilab’s 60-year experience

I AM sure your medicine cabinet, like mine, is a virtual Unilab display booth: Diatabs, Revicon, Alaxan, Aspilet, Biogesic, Ceelin, Decolgen, Enervon, Kremil-S, Hydrite, Myracof, Medicol, Neozep, Solmux, Tuseran, United Home products and others. Like most of those in my generation, I grew up on Tiki-tiki.

United Laboratories, Inc., has been in the pharmaceutical business for 60 years now. In its website,, president and CEO Carlos Ejercito shares this message: “Fulfilling our promise to deliver high-quality and affordable health-care products and services to our customers has been the basis of our growth as a health-care company.

“It has been the Unilab mission since it started operations six decades ago as a small-corner drugstore. Today Unilab delivers health-care products and services in several major disease and therapeutic categories. Today Unilab is the leading health-care company in Southeast Asia—a pharmaceutical manufacturing-marketing network covering 12 countries.

“The constant reinvention of our business is pivotal to our growth. This has always been our basic strategic response to change and its challenges. And this has meant constant improvements in our product offerings, in our critical processes and in our organization.”

Clearly, Unilab is a product leader in the Philippines and in Asia and has mastered the process of drug making and marketing. The Philippine Quality Award (PQA) recognized Unilab for proficiency in quality management for 2004.

In their application to the PQA, Unilab characterized the pharmaceutical industry as:

Having many players, most of which are multinational companies. The market can be further segmented into categories: cardiology; endocrine/metabolic; anti-infectives; respiratory/pulmonary; pain and oncology; vitamins; gastro and vitamins/minerals.

Pharma companies cater to varied customers: medical doctors, health associations, hospitals, pharmacies/drugstores and the consumers.

The same report identified the following opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry:

Asean harmonization—entry of regional brands and low-priced products. This forced Unilab to hasten the introduction of new products as well as to strengthen its brand equities.

Mergers of competitors—the pharmaceutical industry, maybe, registered the most number of mergers and acquisitions in the past ten years. This also means bigger sales-force size, wider breadth of product offerings, and a deeper new products pipeline.

Entry of low-cost manufacturers—small, not even registered companies, producing pharmaceutical products (passed on as supplement and cure-alls) at, of course, lower cost.

Lesser purchasing power of consumers. This is brought about by the gloomy economic and political scenarios that diminish purchasing power of the peso. Add to that the propensity of Filipinos to buy piecemeal (tingi) as needed.

Emergence of private labels—drugstores and hospitals put their own brand on certain medical or health-care products.

Unilab started its reinvention and change journey amidst this environment. To ensure organizational effectiveness, it distinguished four major areas that needed strengthening: organization design, product portfolio, systems and processes, and people and culture.

In our continuing Journey into Entrepreneurship, we shall take a look at how Unilab achieved organizational excellence.

CEO Summit. The Personnel Management Association of the Philippines and the Management Association of the Philippines are jointly organizing the 2005 CEO summit on August 4 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Makati. The primary objective of the summit is to leverage the rich, first-hand experiences and learning of some of our most successful CEOs and business leaders to provide peer-learning opportunities and insights to current and emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs. For details and to register, please call PMAP at 726-1588.

(Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. Her e-mail address is

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Duties and responsibilities that go with the privilege of being a Filipino citizen

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, June 09, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Duties and responsibilities that go with the privilege of being a Filipino citizen

I OFFERED Philippine flags to some friends and told them to display them in their cubicles/rooms. Only one accepted the flag (though I’ve not seen it displayed yet) and the rest snickered at the thought. At SM, for example, flags are on display because they were given free according to sales people and stall owners to drum up sales for the Independence Day weekend.

The words of Albert Einstein ring true sadly: “Our world has become a dangerous place to live in, not because of some people who are evil, but because of the many people who do not do anything about it.” And from our Dr. Jose P. Rizal: “It is enough for good people to do nothing, for evil people to succeed.”

These quotations were taken from a newly published book, 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country, written by Alexander L. Lacson. In her foreword, President Cory Aquino wrote, “This book is very timely and practical because it is comparatively easy to do the suggested 12 little things to help our country. I really hope that this book will be read by many Filipinos.”

These twelve little things are:

1. Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.
2. Whenever you buy anything, always ask for an official receipt.
3. Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino.
4. When you talk to others, especially foreigners, speak positively about us and our country.
5. Respect your traffic officer, policemen, soldier and other public servants.
6. Do not litter. Dispose of your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.
7. Support your church.
8. During elections, do your solemn duty.
9. Pay your employees well.
10. Pay your taxes.
11. Adopt a scholar or a poor child.
12. Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love our country.

At the moment, I couldn’t think of any thing simpler, more practical, doable, common- sense things that you and I could do at no cost to support our country and our countrymen.

After reading the book, you couldn’t feel apathetic or couldn’t-care-less, as Mr. Lacson proceeded to explain each of the twelve things complete with examples, stories, statistics, excerpts from history and quotations.

One of my favorite example goes, “Yes, we are a people capable of greatness, of making supreme sacrifices.” Dr. Josette Biyo has masteral and doctoral degrees from one of the top schools in the country—De La Salle University—where she used to teach rich college students, and was paid well for it. But she left that and all the glamour of Manila, and chose to teach in a lowly public high school in a rural area in a province, receiving a salary of less than $300 a month, because according to her, “who will teach the children?” In recognition of the rarity of her kind, the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology honored Dr. Biyo by naming a small and newly discovered planet in our galaxy as “Biyo.”

The book is an eye-opener. As Bunny Peña-Gerochi wrote in the copy she gave me, “be a candle and a mirror with me.” My own take is let’s not wait for somebody else to act first, today is a good time as any to start thinking and feeling for our country and our fellow Filipinos in everything we say, think and do. Let us make the Philippines and Filipinos be proud of us!

Compared to big corporate profits and high salaries of our business executives, the salary/wage of a big majority of employees is pittance. The irony is that these low-wage earners are the customers who buy and use those products and services that give Mr. Businessman his profit and that pay the executives their high salaries, etc. Mr. Lacson reminds our business leaders that a good salary to our employees will mean a good future for their children, our youth, our nation’s future.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, PLDT chair and CEO, exhorts, “I encourage every Filipino to do his appointed tasks in life, honorably and well. If all, or most of us, simply do this, we could be making the most important contribution to a strong Philippines, to a better country.”

(Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. For feedback, e-mail her at

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Human resource excellence at NEDA Region I

Business Times
Thursday, June 2, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Human resource excellence at NEDA Region I

Successful entrepreneurs look at unexpected places for benchmarks. They present new and additional exemplary practices.

How many of you have something positive to say about the service and your perceived outputs of our government offices? What, no hands? How many have nothing to say (Following the dictum: If you have nothing good to say, keep quiet). Everybody, please put down your hands (and feet) now.

Let me give you a very pleasant surprise today. The Philippine Quality Award has recently recognized the National Economic and Development Authority Region I (NEDA I) for Commitment to Quality Management!

Marikina City received the award in 1998-99 and Makati City in 2000.

NEDA is the Philippines’ social and economic development planning and policy coordinating body and serves as the technical arm of the NEDA Board. NEDA I, based in San Fernando, La Union, is one of the regional arms of the NEDA Central Office. As such it serves as the technical and administrative arm of the Regional Development Council of RDCI, a regional counterpart of the NEDA Board.

As a regional development planning coordinator, NEDA I produces plans (social, economic, physical), programs and projects, investment/budget proposals, and studies (policy, project feasibility). It also provide technical assistance to partners/stakeholders in development through broad consultation, stakeholder participation and even cost-sharing.

Besides from PQA, NEDA I has consistently received awards, citations, plaques and certificates of appreciation from various clientele groups, e.g. local government nnits, national level project offices, nongovernmental organizations, GOCCs and others. It’s been recognized by the NEDA Central Office for outstanding performance five times.

NEDA I Director Leonardo N. Quitos, Jr., is himself a recipient of multiple awards. Among them are: Civil Service Commission Pag-asa Awardee 2004, Outstanding NEDA Director (several years) from NEDA-CO, Outstanding Alumni of Saint Louis University 2000 and various citations from client groups.

Since its early beginnings in the 1970s, NEDA I has not been remiss in the pursuit of its mandate. In fact, it has always been earnest to improve although the improvements have never been as broad, deliberate and systematic until recently. All these efforts to improve its service delivery and quality of products and services have been paying dividends.

Through the years its various divisions and project teams continue, on the average, to register 100 percent or higher performance. It provides services even under tight budgetary constraints. Feedback from its clients on its performance and client expectations and need assessment show a high extent of usefulness of NEDA I’s assistance and satisfaction of NEDA I’s performance.

As a planning and research agency, it is problem-oriented, addressing not only long-term but also immediate issues and concerns of development. It maintains a professional staff of various disciplines, and oriented/trained in coordination work. It responds to various clientele spanning national, regional, and local groups. It maintains a fluid, flexible structure (matrix system) to respond to various clientele needs and opportunities

NEDA I believes in management guru Peter Drucker’s assertion that its human resource is its only productive resource. Its semestral performance evaluation system show increasing productivity and motivation of its people that explains their more than 100 percent accomplishments against pre-set targets. Its one best practice is its human resource focus enabling them to improve and grow its human resources.

To ensure it gets the best and the brightest, it uses a stringent hiring process (NEDA Technical Exam and Assessment Center) and a deliberate promotion and succession processes.

A regular employee survey reveals satisfaction with the intellectual, emotional and even spiritual factors in quality of their worklife, but a dissatisfaction with low financial remuneration. Primary reason for this is their extensive talent development and management program that covers the whole dimension aspects of being human, not only NEDA-related technical skills needs.

NEDA I has clearly delineated roles/functions of various organizational units and distributed tasks and activities to different staff based on three major factors: functions, the Major Final Output (MFO) or Key Result Areas (KRA) and clientele needs as reflected in the Integrated Area Development Approach. To optimize their manpower, they use the same pool of staff using the matrix structure.

It offers a package of incentives, monitory and non-monetary awards and benefits, not really different from the rest of the bureaucracy. As a motivator, it gives additional incentives to deserving employees in the form of citations and modest cash awards on certain award categories.

(Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation. For feedback, please email her at