Thursday, November 30, 2006

Celebrate good times, come on!

LEARNING & INNOVATION – November 30, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Celebrate good times, come on!

If you think that your organization’s competitive edge in today’s dynamic, competitive global business environment is technology or structure or strategy, you might be heading for doomsville.

True, your strategy (vision, mission, values) provides the impetus for success. Yet, this strategy needs to be translated into rituals and ceremonies to form the core of your organizational culture. On the rational side, you need to implement, measure analyze and compare your strategy according to actionable plans.

Let me clarify that when we say “celebrate” we don’t simply mean corporate get-togethers, parties, food, drinks, decorations, accoutrements, entertainment, games, toasting, speeches, raffle, picnics and outings, dancing, programs, and the like, that are seen as artificial, humdrum, meaningless events, albeit waste of time and money and manipulative. In these occasions employees are forced to attend, listen to boring speeches, endure boring programs and get through with it with a lingering aftertaste. The day after the get-together, people compliment or complain about the food, the program, or anything that is not to their expectations. Employees talk about anything, but the reason for the togetherness.

Starting tomorrow, December 1st, Christmas celebrations will be held everywhere in all forms and of different magnitude and importance. Committees are formed to take care of details, budgets are set and the mood is set. When I asked some people why there is a need for an office Christmas party, the common answers are: it is a tradition, it is an opportunity for employees to get reacquainted, it is budgeted, and everybody is expecting it though some wish that management might just divide the party money among the employees and do away with the party and the potential expenses to the employee. In one company, the lunch conversation at the cafeteria was about “What are you going to wear? What will be the prizes for the raffles and games? Who will be the guest entertainers?” In one organization, the one highlight for the party is an exchange of gift worth Php250.00. There is no talk about the significance of the occasion or even how it impacts the bottom line of the company. Gift-giving is done as mere social obligation or as “pagtanaw ng utang na loob.” Programs are predictable and repetitious.

Whatever, we need these parties. It is when employees reflect and connect. It is when we get away from the daily routine, shake off the drudgery and stress of work, forget the usual shop talk, do away with our corporate mask or personas, enjoy camaraderie and fellowship with our work community, celebrate our survival or successes for the year and affirm the presence of God in our work area.

When we say “celebrate” we mean symbolic events that are timely, well-orchestrated and suited to prevailing situations. Writers Deal and Key (Corporate Celebration) assert that “celebration is not add-ons; it is the center source, the spiritual fuel that ignites performance and propels a culture forward.”

When we celebrate, “there is a fundamental power in this traditional ceremony that stirs the psyche and kindles deep emotions. It brings up core values. Pride exudes for whomever can let the ceremony’s spirit overcome adversity and embrace what is good about life and humanity. Celebration is vital to the human psyche. All of us have an emotional craving, a deep-seated need to participate in ritual and ceremony. Most everyone can recall a celebration where he or she felt truly significant, important, full of emotion and meaning. Our chests swell with palpable feeling connecting us to our inner selves, to others, and to the enduring human spirit.”

I am sure you still have memories of your graduation, Boy or Girl Scout achievement, sports championship, Independence Day, and many other rituals and ceremonies in our life. Next columns let us discuss the attributes that make these celebrations so powerful. Please share with us how you celebrate the special occasions in your organizational life.

As Kool & the Gang sing, “There's a party goin' on right here. A celebration to last throughout the years. So bring your good times, and your laughter, too. We gonna celebrate your party with you.”

(Moje could help you in your journey to business excellence and in celebrating the human spirit. Her email addy is

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The distinction between a job and real work!

LEARNING & INNOVATION – November 16, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

The distinction between a job and real work!
(NOTE: This appeared on November 23, 2006 in the Manila Times)

There’s a lot to celebrate about life if we are in the habit of counting our blessings. They’re endless. Every day brings new blessings and new reasons to celebrate.

In the workplace, there are more reasons to celebrate. Taking time to celebrate is part of doing business. They represent a cultural high point and play a central role in the company’s success. Happy people are happy workers. Happy workers are more likely to be productive workers. Happiness is also infectious.

Tragedies, crises, calamities, likewise, make people gather more tightly in the depths of despair and uncertainties. People seek out healing events during desperate and difficult times. Not a time to celebrate, but a time to grieve through rituals that mend broken hearts, dreams and relationships. Sad people are sad workers. Sad workers can not focus beyond their miseries and might become unproductive workers. Misery loves company and before you know it you have a bunch of sad, sometimes angry, workers.

Simplistic, yes, but let’s dwell on that. Ours is a celebratory society. Our life is a big party waiting for a reason. Authors Deal and Key (Corporate Celebrations) asserts that celebrations infuse life with passion and purpose. “They summon the human spirit. They reattach us to our human roots and help us soar toward new visions. They touch our hearts and fire our imaginations. They bond people together and connect us to shared values and myths. Ceremonies and rituals create community, fusing individual souls with the corporate spirit. When everything is going well, ritual occasions allow us to revel in our glory. When times are tough, cere4monies draw us together, kindling hope and faith that better times lie ahead.”

The problem with our business leaders is that they are focused on the bottomline—profit and more profit. So we pamper our employees with out-and-out monetary rewards that feed their greed and self-indulgence. There’s this company who makes their employees work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with only one day off each month when the whole company shuts down. One vice president says, they love the pay because they are able to buy things ahead of what they need. Gosh, these are young mothers and fathers with infants and toddlers left at home with a maid or an older relative. They are like OFWs because they are away from home most of the time. I suspect that when they are home one day in a month, they spend their time resting or sleeping to prepare of another month of long-hours of work. What kind of children are we raising here? What values are we transferring to them? These are the next generation Filipinos

Deal and Key write, “Workers feel used; bosses are burned out. Those who work for a living don’t always find their immediate situation quite so funny. According to authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, the disciplines of credibility are sorely lacking, for example, appreciating constituents, affirming shared values, developing capacity, discovering your own self, serving a purpose, and sustaining hope. What has become of the human side of doing business? All businesses are people-driven and to tap their full potential, people need more than a paycheck. For too many people, work just isn’t fun anymore.”

People need meaningful work and work relationships. David Whyte, in The Heart Aroused: Poetry and Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, finds the experience of joy in work so incredibly rare that when we experience it, we’re not used to it. “Joy is a vulnerable state, fleeting, a corollary of loss. Loss is manifest in grief, in the daily struggle, at the price of family and personal time. Our personal lives are sacrificed on the altar of drab, joyless workplace. And we can never give enough. Organizations often demand more effort without creating more meaningful, motivating work. The prevailing equation is: Business = busyness.”

In The Reinvention of Work, Matthew Fox draws a crisp distinction between jobs and real work. “Jobs, meaningless work, derive from a mechanical paradigm—piecework where people perform a well-defined task purely for economic gain. They check their heads at the door, do what they are told, and eagerly await Friday’s paycheck.”

Let’s celebrate! Share with us how your organizations celebrate corporate milestones and the human spirit and send them to

(Moje is a management consultant on business excellence and human resource development.)

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Christmas is just around the corner

Business Times p.B2
Thursday, November 9, 2006

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Christmas is just around the corner

So let me be the first to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

As is our wont as early as September 1 my assistant, Virgie Senarillos, and myself already put up our Christmas tree and started sprucing up our house. Somehow the spirit of Christmas is strengthening each day and spreading cheers all over our house and ourselves. We decorate the tree piece by piece each day, hanging one décor at a time making our tree new each day and by Christmas Day, it will be full of Christmas mirth. This year, as in the last two years, our Christmas tree theme is stuffed toys, big and small.

I wish, though, that there are little toddlers dancing around them. (Hint, hint, hint for Adrian and Ronjie, my two bachelor sons.)

It is not that we put up our Christmas décor only at this time. Actually, it is always Christmas in my house. I believe in keeping Christmas every day of the year, physically and spiritually. I celebrate the reason Christ was born and the thought that he will live again.

So I am always in a celebratory mood nowadays. So are many Filipinos here and abroad. Every Filipino is talking Christmas this early, I am sure. However, talks have gone into the commercial and material route—bonuses, 13th-month pay, shopping, gifts, vacations, parties, what to wear, what to eat, where to go, etc.

Coming from two holidays (’Id al-Fitr and All Souls’ Day), people are still reeling from the expense and effort used to commemorate such significant occasions. Yet here we are now excited about the next holidays. Some are even preparing for a Thanksgiving feast as they do in the US of A.

Here we don’t only observe Christmas and other public holidays, we also have special holidays—working or non-working—local holidays, religious holidays, school/office events and many others. Good or bad, we have that holiday mentality. When there is something going on—bad weather, coup d’état and state visitor to mention a few—the first question of most employees and students would be, “May pasok ba?” (Are our schools/office open?)

So for the next columns, we’ll discuss about the central role of celebration in reinvigorating and re-inspiriting organizations and individuals. This is part of our continuing Journey to Business Excellence using the Balanced Scorecard. Remember that the enabling factor for excellent business results is learning and growth and that people are very much part of the financial success of an organization.

How best do we use play, ritual and ceremony to restore elements of fun, zest, joyfulness at work for people to become motivated to produce desired results, to help in their personal transitions and promote goodwill in times of organizational crises and calamities?

In their book Corporate Celebration, authors Terence Deal and M.K. Key write: Having the right strategy and appropriate structure are very important. But all corporate activity requires human energy to succeed, and human energy is fueled in large measure by ritual and ceremony. To excel, captains of industry must now become champions of celebration. Deep down, many would probably rather manage things than people. Things are predictable, efficient, and relatively easy to control, and require only mechanical maintenance.

“People are whimsical, political and distracted constantly by emotions and pressures both inside and outside of work. People require leads of emotional support, and want meaningful work as well as a bountiful paycheck. Herb Kelleher, CEO of Southwest Airlines, once remarked, “A friend’s wife called me just after he assumed a top corporate position. She complained that he was spending 80 percent of his time on people issues. I told her that he must have landed a real cushy job. I spend 95 percent of my time dealing with people.”

“At the end of his career, quality guru W. Edward Deming reduced his fourteen points for leaders to one key idea—the human spirit. And to us, the human spirit is summoned majestically in ritual and ceremony, celebratory side of life at work.”

Join the fun! Please, share with our readers your most cherished corporate special events and how your organization celebrates them. Let’s spread good cheers around.

(Moje is a management consultant on organization and human resource development and could be reached at

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Putting down the betrayal dragon

Learning & Innovation – November 2, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Putting down the betrayal dragon

My favorite taxi driver remarks, “Tayong mga Pinoy nagiging makasarili habang lumalaon. Kanya-kanya tayo, walang pakialam sa kapwa o sa kinabukasan.” (We Filipinos are getting more and more self-centered. We simply act as we want to without care for the other person.)

Sad, but I agree with him entirely. This happens in the street. Pedestrians cross the street anytime they want unmindful of the red traffic light. Public utility vehicles stopping anywhere to pick up or drop off passengers, even in the middle of the street, without regard for the chaos that they are initiating and without thought about the safety of their passengers, other vehicles and their own passengers. Their reason is an uncaring attitude, “nagtatrabaho ako, eh ano ngayon?” (I am working, so what gives?) People using the sidewalks for purposes other than for pedestrians to walk safely on —store, restaurant, beauty salon, garbage depository, parking, garden, and cock-breeding among others.

This is also evident when businesses operate as if there is no tomorrow, as if resources will be available for as long as they are needed, as if profit is the end all and be all of business, as if they operate in a vacuum, as if their operations do not affect the environment, as if downsizing or bypassing someone for promotion is in the best interest of the long-term health of the organization, and the list goes on.

Last column we discussed several examples of betrayals in the workplace.

Can you think of other kinds of betrayal that you see and experience in your organization, team, (family, social) or individual relationships? “What happened? What story do they tell about you? (Your organization? Your family? Your friends? You, as a Filipino?) What did you feel—emotionally, psychologically, spiritually? What did you do about the situation? How did you respond to the experience of betrayal? What short-term and long-term impact did the experience have on you? What key insights, critical issues and areas of vulnerability do you read from them?”

Other than these questions, authors Dennis and Michelle Reina writes in their book, Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace, “we betray others when we are absorbed with ourselves. In our absorption, we lose sight of others. As a result, when we betray another, we first betray ourselves.” Being self-centered and selfish are acts of betrayal. They happen when decisions and are made and acted upon that affect other people’s lives without awareness and sensitivity to their impact.

“When we have been betrayed, we often feel helpless and hopeless. We feel as though we have no control over what was “done to us.” We indeed do not have control over the behaviors of others; however, we do have control over how we choose to respond. We may choose to remain angry, bitter, or resentful or to assume the posture of a victim. We may even choose to betray in return to get back at the betrayer. We may choose to embrace the pain of betrayal. We may seek to understand it and to work through it to heal, to deepen our understanding of our relationships with ourselves and with others.

“Betrayal is often not a result of what happened but rather of the how it happened. Experiencing betrayal is like experiencing a death. We have feelings of loss—of plans, jobs, dreams, relationships, trust in others and in ourselves. Our hearts ache, our capacity to trust may be bruised, and our innocence tarnished. To get over these regrettable experience, we need to go through a grieving and healing process.”

The Reinas recommend seven steps for healing: 1. Observe and acknowledge what has happened, 2. Allow feelings to surface, 3. Get support, 4. Reframe the experience, 5. Take responsibility, 6. Forgive yourself and others and, 7. Let go and move on.

And may I add, do something to rectify the wrong or to prevent it from happening. Alexander Lacson did just that when he wrote his book, 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country. MMDA Chairman is cleaning up the sidewalks of squatters. Businesses are becoming more aware and doing something about corporate governance e and social responsibility. What do we do with jeepney and bus drivers? What do we do with our politicians? Next time around, how will you respond to a personal betrayal?

(Moje is a consultant on organization and human resource development and could be reached at