Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Challenge to Corporate Culture

A measure of service and success: serving the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School on Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Curitiba, Brazil - a model community.

For many years in my youth I worked in a government organization that evolved in three stages - from a bureau to a corporation. I am referring to the National Food Authority. First, it was Rice and Corn Administration (RCA), then to National Grains Authority (NGA), and finally to National Food Authority (NFA).

I worked with the “old guards” and the “young Turks,” young people chosen for their outstanding performance in the academe and in the industry. I belonged to the middle group, the so called technocrats led by Bong Tanco, then the Minister of Agriculture, JD Drillon, top expert in agribusiness, Paeng Salas - the chief architect of the country’s food self-sufficiency program, Catoy Fronda, the brain and brawn of the implementing council of Malacañang’s food production which is the National Food and Agriculture Council (NFAC), and Jess Tanchanco, an organization man who transformed NGA into a giant government corporation, annexing Food Terminal Inc, Grainscor, Naphire, and Quedan.

The corporate structure of NGA and NFA enabled the Philippines to succeed in its food self-sufficiency program. It emerged as one of the most progressive countries in terms of food production. We exported rice, sugar, coconut, fish, meat and poultry, and many others.

In 1989, exactly twenty years with the government, I left and joined the academe as a professor.

What is corporate culture?

Japan is the most cited example, second to the US, when it comes to describing a culture that is shaped by a company’s vision and mission, and incorporated in its objectives. That is why employees are made to fully understand, nearly to the point of indoctrination, the company’s VMO. In fact conferences and seminars continue to instill this culture. Continuing education is needed both as refresher and orientation of new programs and developments, particularly to new members.

We had our corporate logo, motto, uniform, and while we looked alike inside the office we appeared distinct from other organizations. “NFA, yan,” gave an chin-up feeling. In the same way that we would find our models from other organizations. “SMC yata, yan,” “Taga-Meralco sila.” “Sa DA siya.” And our admiration rises when we meet an UN man, or a DBP consultant. One time the NGA played host to Miss Universe contest in Manila. For a particular occasion it was also putting our best foot forward, honing our social and organizational talents. We hosted international conferences with the United Nations, and celebrations like World Food Day, earning prestige to our organization and the country.

The idea of a corporate culture is good. I have been a part of this select world myself which without such experience I would not be as prepared as I am now in my retirement age and as professor. In short, it provided a strong foundation to the later part of life, particularly those like me, who left the organization very much earlier than retirement age. Well, for those who opted to remain to compulsory retirement age, the advantage is more of the retirement benefits.

But what makes corporate culture controversial?

Let us look into the following aspects:

1. Exclusivism – A number of corporations – governmental or private, local and multinational – tend to isolate themselves from general circulation and therefore from the community.

2. Elitism – There is a feeling or superiority developed by members of top corporations. And because of the many benefits they derive, this feeling may develop into elitism.

3. Bandwagon – Corporations tend to become doctrinaire, under the, “Follow the leader principle,” so that individual decisions are subordinated by the company’s direction. Human rights, particularly on the exercise of freedom (e.g. to vote, to worship, to assemble), may remain mute even outside the organization’s umbrella.

4. Homogeneity – While conformity may be good in instilling discipline and loyalty, the lack of diversity may be in the long run more dangerous. Diversity of ideas may mean introducing reform. Oriental culture is based on a less formal social infrastructure yet binding to all ages, relationships and walks of life?

5. Reputation - There is a saying, “Tell me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are.” One interpretation of this comment is that our character is reflected by the reputation of the company to which we belong. For some time the major players in the local fuel industry made a case in point for allegedly ridging fuel prices to their advantage, creating a perception of “insensitivity” to public welfare. I remember at one time seeing employees of a corporation with not-so-good reputation hiding their office uniform, putting it on only when they are inside their building. Is this not true also to non-corporate organizations, in the bureaucracy and schools?

6. Dinosaur Syndrome – Bigness is asset, then it becomes liability. The big Mesozoic reptiles could no longer sustain their body's needs when food became scarce and the climate became unbearable. This syndrome aptly applies to big corporations. And yet there are people who stand big because their company is a giant. It is standing side by side with a big brother. These people earn a lot, they have separated themselves from their class. In fact they seem to belong to another world. We do not feel they are members of the community, and may not know them at all. “That beautiful house is owned by Mr. X who works with Company X.” They are the first victims when the the dinosaur syndrome strikes.

7. Marx Dialectics - Corporate culture wedges people into classes – not only economic, but social and psychological – which leads us to believe that corporate culture is the hidden fuel of revolution. Dialectic Materialism, according to Marx, is a cycle as long as society is alienated by isolation, apathy, poverty, abuse of power, subjugation, many of which lead to socio-economic inequity.

8. Funnel Principle – Capitalism is like a huge funnel. Pour in the resources, and out flow the products to benefit people – workers, consumers, dependents, and all. This is not as simple as this analogy though. A corporation, unlike personal business, treats investments - so with profit – separately. The main reason is to separate corporate and personal obligations on the part of the incorporators and investors. This condition breeds greed. Huge assets, borrowings, undeclared profits find their way through this clandestine corporate channel, draining the legitimate organization, and “robbing” its beneficiaries. This is how a certain Madoff, a shrewd businessman embezzled $10-billion dollars of people’s investments.

9. Efficiency - Corporate efficiency relies on getting the best people to run the organization. Of course this can be said for all organizations - cooperatives, NGOs and even community organizations. But none can compare with the records of successful corporations. Which leads us to to believe that the greatest and most important asset is people.

10. Life Cycle - It follows a normal curve in a graph, and inverted letter C to show three stages of the cycle - growth, stability and decline. This is true to any corporation, or any organization for that matter. Living things make a perfect example. Corporations being organic all the more is subject to such inevitability. It is how one assesses this normal curve that makes judgment of a corporate's success or failure. Above all criteria, did the company serve the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people?

As I look back, the country is presently the largest rice importer in the world. Our electric and water bills are among the highest in the world. The supply and price of fuel are erratic and uncertain. The market is flooded with imported goods to the detriment of local producers. A number of transnational companies have closed shop recently. Salaries and wages are shrinking. OFWs are coming back, this time permanent balikbayan for losing their jobs. Graft and corruption in the public and private sectors has earned the country a very bad name.

How relevant is the corporation in the midst of economic crisis? These ten attributes may help us to know. ~

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