Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ceremonial support for letting go

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

NOTE. This article first came out in The Manila Times - Business Times Section, and also at the following web address:

One day your company is up there with the stars, next day you're down in the pits. Another company gobbled you up. Your income and profit are increasingly decreasing. A new product did not take off. Your sales could barely cover your daily operating expenses and, worst, your payroll. Something went awry with your products and you have to recall them. Your building burned down. Oh, as Mr. Murphy theorized, "anything could go wrong."

On the personal level, you might experience retirement, retrenchment, reassignment, resignation, even promotion, anything that will take you away from your current work or work station and tear you away from friends and current work team.

On a more personal level, you might lose a love one to another person or to death, lose your treasured personal belongings, be parted with a love one to the lure of challenges in a foreign land, and many other separation events.

What do you do? How do you cope with calamity and loss? How do you let go? What and how do you take the first step to the next level?

Author Terrence Deal writes, "Celebration of victory and success comes fairly easy. But what happens when things are on the wane? Such corporate calamities don't often receive our conscious attention or recognition. Misfortunes are rarely officially acknowledged as part of our everyday work world. Shriveling things are shunted to the side, left to wither away without bothering anyone. Mistakes are covered up or explained away. Yet everyone knows such glitches exist; there are skeletons in every corporate closet. Our failure to acknowledge demise and disaster in the same way we recognize new initiatives and triumphs silently takes its toll.

"Even further outside our conscious awareness are programs or practices that have died on the vine. Every organization has its share of new starts that didn't pan out or old tradition s that fell by the wayside having outlived their usefulness, left behind in a parade of innovation and technical progress. These often decay unburied in the corporate graveyard, universally known but rarely acknowledged. Without any collective ritual to help them grieve, let go, heal, and move on, people often feel a deep sense of loss.

"Historically, human beings have convened ritual and ceremony at life's darkest, as well as its brightest, moments. For individuals facing terminal illness, hospice associations provide rituals of comfort and support. As we lose loved ones or cherished possessions, society dictates transition rites: wakes, funerals, mourning periods, and acts of commemoration and remembrance.

"Yet disaster, demise, and death receive little official recognition in the workplace. Ritual and ceremony are typically reserved for moments of victory or joyous occasions. At such events, the human spirit soars to accentuate a positive moment. But spirit is also a comforting and healing balm. Especially in a world of rapid change, we need to pay as much attention to loss as to gain, to demise as to growth, to disaster as to triumph. Otherwise, people are deprived of the ceremonial support of letting go, reaching closure, maintaining hope, and moving on."

I remember when I transferred from the Comptroller Department to the PAL Development Center. I was ready to simply leave quietly anyway it is still the same company and I will be meeting these same colleagues a lot when they attend my workshops. But I was pleasantly surprised by a lavish farewell lunch tendered for me. Actually, it was their last chance to hear my jokes and roll on the floor with laughter continuously for two hours, non-stop. It was my pleasure to have such an appreciative audience. To this day, I am out of Philippine Airlines, but I have continued to nurture the tie that binds me to my friends who opted to stay.

Letting go made easy with effortless ritual and ceremony.

(Moje consults on business excellence, corporate celebrations and talent management. Her email is

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Indoor park at Benpres building

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, January 18, 2007

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Indoor park at Benpres building

IN most buildings you see the sign, “If you are going one or two floors up or down, please use the stairs.” Some enterprising building administrators would even add, “It is good for your heart.” Yet, unless it is an extreme emergency, nobody bothers to take the stairs.

Most building stairs are dark, dank or dry and hot, dusty, downright stinky, sometimes seemingly dangerous, the flooring and steps are unfinished or slippery, and gives you the feeling of claustrophobia.

I have been to many buildings—high-, medium-, low-rise—and, like all others, I would rather take the elevators, no matter if I have to wait and ride with all types of people. At least I will only endure those noisy and smelly types for a few minutes.

Of course, at the train stations, the best way up and down are the stairways. I don’t know if they are trying to discourage people from taking the elevator. The ride takes a few seconds, but those elevators are really hot, malodorous, super slow and utterly uncomfortable.

Now, there is one building where almost everyone, save for those with health or deadline problems, love to take the stairs. This is the Benpres Building on Exchange Road at the Ortigas Business Center, Pasig City.

There are a total of 10 flights of stairs passing through the six floors, mezzanine and basement. The steps and landing are fully carpeted in verdant green so it is easy on your legs and feet even if you are wearing stilettos or carrying a load.

There are planters and piped-in music. It is well-ventilated and well-lighted. The walls are painted in the sweetest of green and off-white. It is like walking in the park.

You wouldn’t want to walk hurriedly because, “On display are reproductions of black and white and colored prints from the collection of the Lopez Memorial Museum. These prints date back to the 19th century and were taken from Flora de Filipinas of Fr. Blanco, Tipos de Manila and periodicals such as Ilustracion Filipina and El Oriente. Images such as these serve as documentation of the natural and human resources of the Philippines, and the ways of its people.”

Going up and down the stairways is akin to walking through an outdoor museum or a park. There are beautiful prints of flowers, trees, birds and early maps of Manila, Southern Luzon and Asia, The picture of the elegant Haring Ibon or Philippine Eagle dominates the landing between the fourth and fifth floor. One of my favorites is Escenas Campestres del Pais showing ladies doing the laundry at the creek.

This is part of the Environment, Safety and Health (ESH) Program of the Lopez Group of Companies. It is a toast to the elegant spirit of the Filipino, accentuates our hardiness and patience as a people and promotes wellness among the present occupants of the building. It also gives the employees and visitors of the different Lopez companies housed in Benpres a place to simply stand, take in the scenery, think, contemplate, relax, recharge, and, maybe, escape the stresses of work even for a few minutes. Nagmumuni-muni baga. You don’t have to go out under the elements and pollution.

It is an original idea of VP Carrie Lopez, the project head of ESH initiatives, among others, of First Philippine Holdings Corporation.

When you ascend the staircase in the morning to go to work, climbing somehow jolts your adrenaline and boosts your energy. After work in the late afternoon or early evening, the descent gives your body a shake after many hours of sitting still in front of your computer and time for a final review of what went on during the day and what you intend to do first hour next morning. A friend said that it was while descending the stairs that he remembered it was his wedding anniversary, giving him time to get a gift for the wife.

(Moje consults on business excellence and talent management. Her email addy is

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Have a blessed new year, lah!

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, January 04, 2007

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Have a blessed new year, lah!

LAST YEAR we spent anidyllic Christmas vacation in Batangas communing with nature, exploring the marine sanctuary and enjoying the bounty from the sea away from the holiday frenzy of Metro Manila.

This year we are glad to be back from a brief sojourn in Singapore to welcome 2007 here in Manila. New Year’s Eve in Barangay 596, Sta. Mesa, was never noisier and more joyous than before. And the fireworks were very well organized in at least two distinct corners in our small community. That prompted all my neighbors to come out of their houses and celebrate together in the streets. No stray firecrackers to surprise you while you walk.

My mind, though, wandered back to Singapore. The whole of Singapore went full blast preparing for welcoming 2007. As expected, they were planning for a big bang in a very well organized manner. No need to buy your own expensive firecrackers and noisemakers; you just go to the designated places for celebration. Not one killer gun was irresponsibly fired.

How and why does Singapore do that? Well besides attracting millions of tourists during the Christmas season alone, maybe they subscribe to the thoughts of authors Terrence E. Deal and M.K. Key.

In their book Corporate Celebration, they write that we participate in celebrations for the joy they offer and what they reveal to us of life’s deeper mysteries and meaning. Celebrations address issues that otherwise interfere with an organization’s ability to accomplish important goals and objectives. They identified the generic functions and business benefits of celebrations.

• Building relationships among individuals, strengthening bonds across diverse subcultures and knitting the community together. (Remember that Singaporeans are either Indians, Malays or Chinese plus there are all sorts of peoples working or doing business there such as Filipinos and other Asians, North Americans, Europeans, Latin Americans, Middle Eastern. Singapore is truly a cosmopolitan country that needs celebrate for its functional consequences.)

• Leveling the hierarchy to provide a common ground where bosses, managers and employees can intermingle freely without fear. (The Singaporean leadership as always sang and danced to the same beat of the drum.)

• Summoning the collective spirit which creates energy, excitement, commitment and loyalty. (The many civic and church organizations in Singapore jointly worked to make their celebration a success.)

• Establishing a connection between historical roots, current realities and future dreams. (Exactly the focus of the Singapore celebration.)

• Allowing intangible values and visions to be experienced and appreciated. (Ditto)

• Transforming difficulties into opportunities, tragedies into growth experiences, losses into gains. (Singapore uses its being a small city-state as a strength.)

• Providing a safety valve to discharge drives, relieve tension, express emotion and deal with conflict. (Singapore is a “fine” but celebrations give Singaporeans some kind of a poetic license to feel.)

• Creating a forum for sharing stories, breaking bread, dancing and linking joy with work. (Work and life in Singapore are intertwined.)

“In our view, the shortfall between an optimistic strategic forecast and a less-than-robust financial performance has two main causes: (1) individuals who are unhappy, unmotivated and dissatisfied; and (2) an organization that relies mainly on short-term, rationally based management strategies to focus energy and produce results. Celebration helps narrow the performance gap by simultaneously stimulating positive feelings and knitting people together in a well-focused, unified work community.”

And that is exactly what Singapore is doing.

And the Philippines? Kanya-kanya pa rin. The only thing our government does is to warn people not to do this and not to do that. There is no leadership even in celebration.

The one thing that bound Filipinos all around the world this season is Wowowee’s “Boom Tarat Tarat” song and dance.

(Moje consults business excellence and talent management. Her e-mail addy is )