KISSAH AND DAWAT: Mustering modern management practices for Bangsamoro transition

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ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 04 May 2019) – We have the desire to see the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) succeed and even if we are not appointed member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) or in the interim cabinet, we do have business to be involved as citizens.

As citizens, our involvement can be as varied as our interest and competence. Those who can organize themselves can form alliance to advance a cause; those who can organize rallies can march for advocacy; those who can speak eloquently can speak before any of the local board meetings or consultation; those who are members of civil society can serve as service provider or third-party data validator or program monitor; they can call on any local office to improve their services and those who can write can make their views count.

Towards Organizational Development

The last one is the motivation behind this column. As graduate of public administration, organizational development (OD) is always of interest to us, whether it is organizational structuring or reorganization.

The (1) transition from Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to BARMM is just one of three natures of transition BARMM will have to go through. The other two natures are (2) transition from Region 12 to BARMM, as Cotabato City and the 63 barangays in North Cotabato are under the administrative jurisdiction of Region 12; and (3) transition from Central Office to BARMM, as there are program funds, capital outlay and personnel plantilla creation are anchored with the Central Office of line agencies.

We share in the hope that the transition will be smooth and fast and at the end of the day, will benefit Bangsamoro as a whole.

Having understood these three natures, the next step is an objective review of what works and did not work in the ARMM. This can be the starting point and leapfrog the transition based on the OD provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). One relevant document is the research on “Drawing Lessons for the Creation of Regional Governments under a Federal Setup: Case Study on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” undertaken by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) published in January 2018[1]. The only supra-national public expenditure and institutional review in this country was conducted by the World Bank for the ARMM Department of Education (DepEd) in 2015[2]. In this way, the syndrome that contributed to the weakness of the regional education system can be addressed properly. The BARMM can derive recommendations for consideration in what is now the emergent Bangsamoro political entity.

It is also worthwhile to review both the organizational structure of the regular administrative region and the central office of the line agency, for the BARMM is higher than the regular administrative region because of its high degree of autonomy and while lower than the central office of any line agency, it enjoys some devolved functions. However, given that the BARMM is transitioning to a parliamentary-ministerial system, such of which is non-existent in our country, it behooves us to consider overseas political entities enjoying the same.

While we have always argued for cultural sensitivity and local context, we also recognize that across similar entities and in general, bureaucracy at any level have similarities or commonalities. This is where the values of researches, such as those from great universities, can provide us good practice and lessons to learn.

Peter Drucker’s Effective Management

Among the most popular management gurus is Peter Drucker, who is hailed as “father of modern management”. For him, leadership is not simply about charisma and extroversion. BARMM appointees can learn from eight (8) management practices Drucker considered characteristics of effective executive:

  1. What needs to be done is to distinguish between organizational or management ‘needs’ and ‘wants’, a need is necessary and a want is desired. Leaders have to be careful with inherent bias for preferred perspective.
  2. What is right for the organization is to differentiate between ‘subjective right’ driven by personal sensibility and ‘objective right’ supported by consensus and studies. This is why the need for data-driven analysis is all the more important process in the transition.
  3. Develops action plans, that is, actionable vs aspirational plan given the three-year time frame of the transition.
  4. Takes responsibility for decisions by avoiding the blame game and going around the bush.
  5. Takes responsibility for communicating. Frank conversation with stakeholders is imperative to keep everyone abreast with the actual and difficult process of both transitioning and organizational restructuring. While at the same time, keeping away from the push of propaganda, vetting every information coming out of the BARMM so as not to be entangled in the fake news dilemma.
  6. Focuses on opportunities rather than problems. Problem-solving approach is based on a competitive mindset with improvement on weaknesses and focus on limitation; while positive approach is based on a collaborative mindset with improvement based on strength, vision and focus on possibilities. Again, given the three-year transition period, the interim BARMM government will have to make a strategic decision.
  7. Courtesies and meetings eat up a lot of managers and leaders time. BARMM will have to make a conscious decision on why the need for, how to run and determine for itself what is productive meeting. This is selective versus routine meetings, talking around the bush versus forward-moving meetings.
  8. And finally, the leadership and supporters should start thinking and saying “we” rather than “I”, “us” rather than “we”. After the plebiscite, we are in this together. This is us, one Bangsamoro; no more distinction between member or non-member, yes or no voters. BARMM advocates and supporters should stop parlaying that this is just for those who are officers and members of a particular organization or ethnicity. While we recognize the contribution and sacrifice of those who belong to a particular organization, BARMM is not exclusive to one group, it belongs to all Bangsamoro.

James “Jim” Collins’ Catalytic Mechanisms

Given the limited time frame for the transition, the big challenge for the BARMM, collectively, is how to turn its big and audacious goals into desired and felt results among its constituencies. This is not unique to BARMM, this common dilemma among public and private entities alike. Jim Collins, American author and lecturer on business management and sustainability, studied one extremely powerful tool and found it to be the critical link between organizational objectives and performance. He called it ‘catalytic mechanisms’. He identified five parts:

  1. The strategies adopted, to be considered catalytic mechanisms, should produce desired results in unpredictable ways. Bureaucracy is not really known for breeding extraordinary results. It is more an epitome of control, predictability and conformity. In this environment, extraordinary results will never bloom. What research has shown is that when personnel and groups are given elbow room for initiative and creativity, to step outside a constricted path, some delightful, interesting and amazing results happen.
  2. The strategies should distribute power for overall system benefits, and this often results to great discomfort for those in the status quo. Should it remain centralized? Or should it decentralized to bring power and decision-making to the level where they are needed? Catalytic mechanisms force the right things to happen even though those in power have vested interest in the right things not happening or in inertia – letting pointless and inefficient practices to stay in place because they benefit the status quo.
  3. Strategies should have teeth to take the power out of traditional holders and their whims and redistribute them to where change really matters for the people these agencies are serving. It is not fair to blame the frontline staff while the managers are scratch-free. If the frontline staff are to be blamed, the managers should have more of it for they were the ones steering. How many orders and memos were issued at the start of every administration threatening legal sanctions and ended up eating up its own words? Simply put, do not bark if you can’t bite; many have been through with the barking, yet exasperated over the absence of bites.
  4. Catalytic mechanisms are strategies that can ejects viruses, e.g. those who do not share in the organizational values and ethics. Management control has been the default of many previous administrations while producing no sustainable and positive results. What is needed is not just personnel to work hard, but the right ones are hired, put in strategic positions throughout the bureaucracy exhibiting the desired behaviors, sharing the organizational values and contributing to organizational results; and those without these values are either never hired or self-eject themselves from the organization, as explained by Jim Collins.
  5. Produces on-going effects. According to Collins, it is not enough leaders deliver rousing speech, electrifying them in a meeting or creating euphoria out of new buzzwords. These events will not create sustainable effects, the momentum stalls and the excitement of change will pass. Thus, there is a need for buy-in within the organization, developing second liners, and evolving a critical mass to push through the change and reform beyond the transition period.

Having described what strategies can become catalytic mechanisms, Collins has some practical forward steps: (1) don’t just add, remove; (2) create, don’t copy; (3) use funds, but not just funds; (4) allow your strategies to evolve; (5) build an integrated set.

Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Quotient

It goes without saying, leadership is crucial. Psychologist, author and science journalist Daniel Goleman, found out what makes effective leaders alike, they all have high degree of ‘emotional intelligence’ (EQ). Intelligence quotient and technical skills matter as threshold capacities or entry-level requirements for executive positions, but EQ is the essential condition for effective leaders.

The BARMM’s leadership expression on moral governance is a question of developing emotional intelligence. The urgency in public service requires empathy which technical people, who are committed to following pre-determined set of rules and regulations, may not have. Accordingly, the connection between public service and the general public can only be bonded by leaders with empathy in that part of the brain called the limbic system where feelings, impulses and drives are governed. Leaders with low EQ but high on analytical and technical abilities are governed through the neocortex. To develop the managers and staff’s EQ requires in-service training focusing on the limbic system through motivation, extended practice and feedback, according to Goleman. Building one emotional intelligence requires sincerity and effort, thus, requires ample time to internalize.

Towards developing emotional intelligence as a foundation of moral governance requires developing self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. As pointed out by Goleman, we are born with it, and we can strengthen these skills through persistence, practice and honest feedback.

Finally, Peter Drucker’s Effective Management, James “Jim” Collins’ Catalytic Mechanisms and Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Quotient are just few insights on modern management that the BARMM can muster and benefit from. Certainly, not to adopt them whole, but sensitize them to the BARMM context. By enumerating these management tools, it is not to say the leaders are unaware, instead it is the firm belief of this columnist that the Bangsamoro enterprise with its collective aspirations can only be achieved through consultation and consensus-building where everyone in the marketplace of ideas, regardless of status, every Moro is free and safe to express his or her opinion and in putting forward ways to achieve the elusive Bangsamoro dream of peace, justice and progress. BARMM can benefit so much from beautiful and best ideas.

 

[1] http://www.iag.org.ph/index.php/news/228-in-print-now-drawing-lessons-for-the-creation-of-regional-governments-under-a-federal-setup-case-study-on-the-armm

[2] http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/672851468186533357/Making-education-spending-count-for-the-children-of-Autonomous-Muslim-Region-of-Mindanao-ARMM-public-expenditure-and-institutional-review-for-ARMM-basic-education

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