Saturday, 16 June 2007

Playing Nero (part 3)

WE have all heard of window-dressing. For people my age, the years of the Marcos rule chiseled a vivid mental image of its definition into our consciousness, it is impossible to ever forget what it means.

Which is probably the reason I don’t like it much!

Pinoy Votes: Sun.Star Election 2007 Coverage

I remember how the old first lady used to preach about the importance of beauty in our lives, and how all the grandiose mega projects she did in its name were meant to improve the lives of our impoverished countrymen for the better. Well, they never did. The fact that they built the country on the shifting sands of beauty are today largely responsible for the dire straits that the Philippines is in.

The Marcoses were masters at it. And so are many of the politicians who have followed them since their downfall. Presenting a false facade of everything good while inside the true face of decay and poverty remains hidden. Remember the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) convention in Cebu?

Window dressing is easy. No effort at all. No need to address the real problems, just mask the underlying causes of the problem with an acceptable face and we are off the hook.

But only for a short time.

In the end, the fundamental issues inevitably rise to the surface. And when they do, it will be more difficult to address them properly, all we can do is windowdress them all over again.

Call it corporate raindancing. Call it snake oil salesmanship. Call it what you will. But windowdressing is a favorite activity in most business organizations.

Managers taking the easy way out and masking the real problems in their organizations with easy solutions that offer no long lasting benefits, but arguably bring about irreparable damage.

Ever notice how in kids’ football games, everyone always ends up wanting to be the striker? Even defenders who are supposed to keep their opponents from approaching their goal inevitably decide to abandon their posts and try their luck in attack. And who can blame them? Scoring goals is a lot more fun than preventing your opponents from doing the same.

Or perhaps you have seen a group of young girls baking in home economics class? Ever wonder why everyone wants to be the one to put the icing on the cake? You guessed it right. Because it is the easy thing to do. Not only that, it gives the impression of having completed the whole task from beginning to end.

Managers are no different from kids, no sir. In many ways, managers are still kids in the way they behave – doing things either because they appear to be the most interesting, or look to be the easiest. Never mind that they are not really the fundamental concerns of their organizations. Somebody else can take care of that.

Our example last week about the Toyota wanna-bees is a case in point —it is now all too easy to implement efficiency projects with all the documentation available on how to do it. But what if it is not what your company needs?

Never mind, seems to be the answer for many managers. Fundamental problem or not, they will do it anyway. Because it is easy, and it gives the appearance of actually doing something.

It is bad enough if managers fall into the trap of taking the easy or interesting way out. But what if the leaders of the business are themselves similarly inclined?

More on the subject next week.

Published in the Sun Star Daily, Saturday, June 16, 2007 (

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