Thursday, August 31, 2006


I’ve bought this magazine, “Great Commanders” about a month ago. The magazine talks about the exploits, the battles and it’s significance in the course of the war, the leadership, and the command philosophy of great Generals and famous Commanders. In every issue, the magazine focuses on one particular general and in this particular issue, the person in question was no other than the great civil war general, Ulysses S. Grant, who later on went to become the president of the United States. Well, being an amateur military historian, I cannot contain my enthusiasm and immediately began to earnestly “study” about the General. After reading the articles, my impression of General Grant was that of an aggressive military leader who believes in the dictum, “offense is the best defense”. His strategies are strikingly simple and rather “straight to the point” creating an impression of boldness, daring, and decisiveness on the battlefield. In short, he is willing to take risk and doesn’t dilly – dally as most generals do at that time. This is the main reason for his success. Upon further analysis, his simple, straight – forward strategic orientation are rooted in his thinking. In particular, 2 of his quotes coming from his experience in the battlefield showed this kind thinking and had struck me the most. The first one is about the encounter with an enemy who had fled upon his approach to the former’s encampment and before any armed confrontation could happen. At that time, Colonel Grant had just assumed command of a volunteer militia unit after a hiatus of several years from active service. He recall the experience on the event in his memoir, stating:
“As we approached the brow of the hill, which it was expected we could see Harris’ camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped was plainly visible but the troops are gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting the enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his.”
The second quote on the other hand was given to a brigadier after the Union army suffered reverses on the battlefield. Here, General Grant scolded the distraught brigadier with these words:
“Oh, I’m heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is going to turn a double somersault and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.”
From these quotes, one would realize that often times we tend to “second guess” our opponent’s intentions unknowingly that our opponents are doing the same. Furthermore, in our “obsession” to “second guess” our opponent, we tend to become mere “reactors” to the situations rather than as initiator and controller of events. We tend to focus on the analysis of the situation trying to figure out a way to “mitigate” the pending yet “changeable” outcome whence in fact, the best solution to the problem was to take it by the horn. We tend to sacrifice initiative in favor of security, or more accurately, false security. However, practically speaking, it is still important that we “second guess” our opponent’s intention because if we don’t we might end up losing control of the event that we intend to gain in the first place. But this “second guessing” shouldn’t come at the price of initiative and control. By initiative, it means that we don’t let our opponent dictate what is going to happen next rather that we should be creating what will happen next. In my conclusion, there should come a point wherein we have to decide if further “accumulation” of information for analysis and evaluation is still practicable as an input in our decision making or we have to decide now even with the limited inputs so as not to give up control of event. Time is of the essence and we have to take risk. Although these quotes are made by General Grant in relation to his experience in the battlefield, it can no less be applied in situations outside the military sphere, specifically in the broader management decision making. Though the marketplace is decidedly less “bloody” than the battlefield, it however has its tense and “heart – pounding” moments. And it is here that Grant’s thoughts could be useful in gauging risk taking and bidding time. There was this term I learned from Mintzberg and that is “paralysis by analysis”, which is in essence similar to what General Grant was saying all along albeit in a more general context. Paralysis by analysis refers to the indecision of a leader in situations where the analyses are inconclusive. No conclusion, no decision, no moves, period. It can also refer to the fact that with “over” analysis, we tend to be overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation and balk at making a move. Frozen with fear leading again to no movements. What we ought to learn here is that situations may not be what we thought to be since there are a lot of constantly changing variables in play that our mind cannot conceive, which would drastically alter the outcome and one such variable is the opponent’s or competitor’s trepidations. Aside from that, indecision makes us a sitting duck to the conspiring events and to our competitor’s/opponent’s machinations thereby losing our initiatives to play the events to our advantage. However, to forgo analysis and instead purely rely on “instinct” is also unwise for according to Mintzberg, there is such a thing as “extinction by instinct”. Not everyone possesses a superior instinct and instinct is not grounded on facts but on unconscious gut – feel or for most people, emotion, which would be pretty unreliable during confusing uncertainty, i.e., one may cower when the going gets tough. The best way to make a decision is to analyze up to a certain degree, trust your instinct, take risk, siege the initiative, and improvise. That however, is easier said than done. And it is in this situation that we had to refer to Grant’s quotes.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Sometime last November, during my mentor’s book launching party, my mentor, Professor Elfren Cruz approach and asked me if I’m interested to help him realize the creation of the De La Salle University – Graduate School of Business – Alumni Association. Because he was my mentor and I couldn’t refuse him, I immediately said yes without thinking. Thus began my foray into this alumni “thing”. I began my foray with a December attendance to the DLSAA meeting, the umbrella alumni organization of DLSU, my alma matter and there I saw and understood what an alumni association is really about and the difficulties associated with “job”. Then followed a meeting with my mentor during a fellowship night this year where we discuss the “vision” of the proposed alumni association. Prior to that, I was tasked to assemble a group of alumni “volunteers” to get the balls rolling. Unfortunately, it was an arduous task filled with disappointment. Many like the idea of an alumni association but none are willing to work for it. It was really a dismal revelation. I figured that I had to “dig deeper” in order to get it to work. Eventually, I was able to clobber together with the help of my professor and fellow alumni, a core team of 15 – something people dedicated to the task. We held meetings every month with me presiding over. It was basically a talking group with each member eagerly contributing ideas on how to build the organization, how to attract members, and what projects to do. However, nothing really came out of it because we don’t have funds to start with. My professor was really vague about the funding source. Second, we are also caught up with the mess that is the structural change that the university is undergoing and hence, the question of “status” of this proposed organization. Specifically, I was told that we will be a chapter within DLSAA first (which is why I was made to attend the DLSAA meeting in the first place), then this was changed into a semi – independent organization under the DLSAA wing, and finally, as a totally independent organization exclusively for GSB. Anyway, the talking group kept on growing as my peers and I were calling up former classmates and friends to join the group (it now has around 30 members and growing). In fact, I went as far as digging up my class directory lists and called up my classmates and friends. Again, we encountered difficulties. It turns out that most contact info listed in the directories is related to work such as corporate emails, office numbers. A few had listed their cell phone numbers, residential numbers, and personal emails. Most of the people I’ve looked for had already transferred to a new job, which makes their corporate contact info obsolete. Others with listed personal contact info had either already changed their numbers, or are no longer using their emails, or had moved out of the country, or got married and thus changed their contact info as well. It came to pass that I only managed to get in touch with a dozen people more or less out of a list of around 200. Pretty tough. Another difficulty we’ve experienced is that of the generation gap. I mean I was able to call up alumni who have been one time or the other my classmate and that spans around a decade or so but we weren’t able to get in touch with the “older” alumni or those who graduated in the 60s – late 80s. Anyway, growing impatient with the slow progress, my professor decided to make a definitive move by calling a mini – general assembly with himself calling up his former students but which only a few arrived. At any rate, the meeting got a stormy start. One of the attendees was a former student council officer and at the onset, she is decidedly political, discrediting people and posturing herself as the “one”. Well, she manages to earn the ire of just about every participant in the room that day. One of the contentious issue back then was the election officers, which during my “talking days” were never touch because what is the point of having a “king” without a “kingdom” i.e., there wasn’t an organization in the strictest sense for there are no members yet. However, it now seems even that didn’t deter some people from “grabbing” power and credit. It came to past that I got so pique and dismayed by the political noise going on that I started to become “scarce” during meetings though I was also pre – occupied with work related problems. It was only recently, after the conclusion of my work – related problems that I began to be active again with the cause and I announced that to my peers through the email group. And to my surprise, things change dramatically during my absence. An election was scheduled this coming September with calls for recruitment of an initial 100 members. Second, the coordinator of the group, a school staff appointed by my professor the “help” out created a parallel email group without my knowledge. She didn’t even invited me to the new mailing group. I don’t know what I did to her but she was cutting me off the loop. Apparently, as one of my peers says, she seems to favor the “politician” a.k.a., the former student council officer. Thirdly, my mentor was no longer part of the loop also. He has “devolve” the task to the coordinator because he is too "busy". My mentor is staunchly against an election of officers this early but apparently he was “convinced” to agree to the idea by no less than the Dean. It happens that with the “structural realignment” of the university, the Dean became “unduly” interested with the formation of a separate alumni organization, one that he could control I guess. The group coordinator was the Dean’s PR person. So the situation is, we are going to have an election this September to elect a set of officers for a GSB backed alumni organization and all hell began to break loose. When my announcement of returning to active duty was sent, I was surprised to get calls from my peers professing their “vote” for me! The funny thing is I wasn’t even campaigning! It turns out that politics have begun to rear their ugly head and as early as now, there are 4 other “wannabes” (not including me) vying to be the first. They all kept on talking but no concrete moves or actions were made at all towards the goal of realizing the formation of an alumni association. This is the reason why some of my peers wanted me to lead because I was “seen” to be doing something about it. It is too frustrating actually to learn all of this development. I don’t really oppose an election right now but I just think it isn’t right at this time. I mean, as I said the core members are mostly my batch mates and we all belong to the same “generation” of graduates. Older graduates, many of them with high standing in business and society aren’t there in the group. It is the “old generations” that has money and influence and they should be the ones running the show while “youngsters” like me should be “making money” and earning our feathers in the cap. Youngsters like me should be helping out the established guys run the organization and not seize it for our own. By doing so, we would be alienating the “older generations” in the organization and this would be detrimental in the long run since we need their connections, standing, and money to function effectively. But hey, this is politics, nobody cares about the outcome until they are in charge. On the other hand, I also understand the wisdom of an election of officers for this would create a formal structure with an identifiable leadership and a solid backing from the university. This would provide legitimacy, credibility, and authority that would help in attracting members and hence, the formation of the organization. It wasn't an idea to be dismissed outright. Well, it is at this point that I am faced with a dilemma. On one hand, I want to run for the leadership of the organization. I would be a hypocrite not to admit that I desire the empty vanity of the post. But on the same length, I don’t want it either. For one, the post entails great responsibility and takes up too much time and effort, something that I found out during my “talking days” and which I can’t afford to provide. Second, my mentor is out of the picture and from the way things are, I was being forced out from the picture too. If I get elected, I doubted if I could get any support from the university much less cooperation. Third, the issue of funding is of paramount concern. Although the university is providing the seed capital, the organization would definitely need more and as the leader of the organization, the expectation is high that one should provide “cover” for any shortfall to make the endeavor a success. Given that, it is only logical that I shouldn’t be getting myself involve in the mess. After all, politics isn’t my forte. I would rather stay home reading a good book rather than play politics with a bunch of power – hungry, do nothing, try to look good politicians. With these “justifications”, I shouldn’t feel anything at all with the coming election, not the least bit interested. In fact, as a testament to this care – free attitude, I didn’t campaign at all neither I make any effort in recruiting. However, I had this sense of unease lately as September nears. I felt I should join in the fray not only because of my own hypocritical lust for vanity but also because of my sense of responsibility. I don’t owe my mentor anything now to see the task through as he himself is out of the scheme but I felt responsible to the my peers for I invited them to join in the group in the first place. They are there because of me. I felt that I would be abandoning them especially those peers in the talking group. We had met a couple of times. We had spent time, effort, and a few pennies in trying to draw up a coherent plan. To not be able to realize those plans would tantamount to declare that what we did for the last 6 months or so are a waste of our time. I would be the person responsible for the failure (if I didn’t run and realize them) because they look up to me to make it happen in the first place (other people may lead but they may not be adopting those plans). Furthermore, as recent activities or inactivity suggests, nothing is really moving without somebody taking the lead. Election dates and venue haven’t been set. There is no registration. No announcement in relation to that has been made. Nothing whatsoever that would make an election work. Nothing so far that I could see (or perhaps, I wasn’t able to see it because I’m out of the loop) to suggest that there will be an election at all (even though the rumor mills is going on full throttle about this). Something has to be done and all eyes are on me because I was the one who recruited most of my peers into the group and I was the one calling the meetings all the time until recently. Funny, I prided myself in being able to make decisions and stick to it. But now, I’m in a quagmire as to what to do. Should I run or not? As Shakespeare would say in one of his plays, “To be or not be, that is the question”. And yes, it is a tough one.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Yesterday, the International Astronomical Union finally gave their verdict on the status of Pluto. They voted to downgrade Pluto from a planet into a class of heavenly bodies known as “dwarf planets” (for more info see along with Xena, Charon, and Ceres. In short, we now have 8 instead of the long held 9 (regular) planets orbiting our sun. I guess its time to change our long held facts. Funny, how a small group of so – called experts could in one swoop change our long held “facts” just like that. Of the 2,500 astronomers who attended the convention, only 300 showed up to vote. 300 “experts” telling 7 billion people about what the universe should look like. Does the job title, Astronomer, really wield that much say? In ancient Greece, such act would be considered an act of tyranny. Anyway, having 8 planets instead of 9 had it’s advantages. One could say that such a move is tantamount to a cost cutting measure. For one, instead of adding 3 more pages to textbooks and encyclopedia about the other “dwarf planets” (Xena and the gang) complete with pictures and details if Pluto were retained. Publishers could now just simply ripped off the page on Pluto and still make sense and money. NASA could save billions because they don’t have to launch 3 more space probes to explore the 3 new planets if it were declared as such. Lastly, we could save money in building our model solar system now that Pluto is gone. Cost – cutting and I thought that only happens in business. Little did I realize that it could apply to science as well.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The International Astronomical Union has opened their annual conference in the Czech Republic’s capital, the Prague last August 16. One of the most talk about or widely followed topic during the meet is the proposed definition of a planet. You see a planet used to be simply defined as any spherical heavenly object that revolves around the sun. That definition however was put into question as technological advances allow astronomers to view the sky more accurately than before. Sometime in 2003, scientists discovered a spherical object much farther away from Pluto, the supposedly “last” planet in our solar system, revolving our sun. What complicates the matter is, the object was found to be larger than Pluto. So the question that begs to be answered was, “is it a planet?” That heavenly object was named UB313 or Xena, after the mythological Greco warrior – princess. In due time, scientists were able to discover other spherical objects revolving the sun and some of them are actually way bigger than Pluto but smaller than our moon. So again the question, are they planets as well? Two rival camps had since sprung up in relation to this question. One camp maintains that Pluto is a planet and therefore any spherical object that is larger than Pluto and revolves a star should be considered a planet. The other camp on the other hand believes that Pluto shouldn’t be a planet at all and it’s inclusion in the first place was a mistake brought about by our limited technology back then. Their premise is that Pluto is too small, smaller than our moon. It is in fact a ball of ice orbiting our Sun in outer fringes of our solar system. This therefore makes any spherical heavenly object revolving a star that is “Pluto – like” should be struck out as a planet. The former argument in favor of Pluto would result in the addition of 3 more planets in our burgeoning solar family, namely, Charon, formerely Pluto’s moon, Xena, and Ceres, which used to be an asteroid in the asteroid belt in between Jupiter and Saturn. On the opposite end, the latter argument would trim the planet list to 8 from the original 9. So what is the fuss all about? Well, it is the implication of this new planet list. On the lighter side (and somewhat comical one), if you are a believer in astrological prediction of which I am definitely not. The addition of 3 new planets should theoretically fine-tune their prediction, which therefore means that one would be able to find their soul mate at the exact time and place as written in the stars. The removal of Pluto shouldn’t be that bad, for a soothe sayer could make Pluto as a scapegoat for their earlier “mis-predictions” since Pluto shouldn’t be in the equation in the first place. Teachers, educators, and textbook publishers would have to revise what they teach to schoolchildren incorporating this latest definition of a planet starting perhaps next year. The implication of this momentous change was the creation of a generational shift much like the generational difference between Baby boomers and Gen Xers. Imagine this, schoolchildren taking up astronomy class next school year would be taught that the solar system is made up of 8 or 12 planets instead of 9 that we all used to accept. By then, we would call these kids and kids after them as Generation 8 or Gen 12 and people before them including old timer like me, Gen 9ers. Science fiction authors, movie and TV producers and even game publishers would have a hey day with remakes incorporating this newfound definition. Imagine Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets having 12 Sol system member planets instead of 9. And instead of fearing a Martian invasion, we should also worry about invasion of Amazons from the planet Xena. But kidding aside, seriously speaking, as a science enthusiast and a romanticist, I had to admit that I felt sentimental about Pluto. I don’t want it remove from my list but then also, I’m not exactly enthusiastic about welcoming Xena and the rest either. What can I say? I grew up knowing that our solar system is made up of 9 planets and it is one of the few “constants” that I hold in life (I’m a person who holds very, very few constants in life with the rest being arbitrary). Now, it looks like it is going to be change. Well, I should have known better. As science progresses, our understanding of our universe expands as well. What was once deemed true and universal may no longer be the case as we discover more of what it is out there. Keeping an open mind and keeping abreast with the unraveling truth is an imperative in our modern lives. There are times however that I wish that I could see a star at night for what it is, the star of our childhood dreams, a star that we wonder about, amaze of its beauty, wish upon during our young life and not the distant solar system light years away. That would however be na├»ve in my age. Guess I had to live with the fact that our solar system will have 8 or 12 planets depending on the outcome of the vote on August 24 by the IAU. But my question is, for how long would this “fact” stand?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Afterthoughts Upon Receiving An Unexpected Phone Call

Two Sundays ago, I received a very, very unexpected call. No, it’s not my ex or anybody else but from someone that one wouldn’t think of in a million years, my competitor or to be more exact, my competitor’s wife. She has an interesting proposition to make, a proposition that I wouldn’t have dreamt of at all. She is offering to sell me their business. Wow! That was a huge offer but I’m not buying because she was asking for a stiff price. Anyway, the point is that I should be feeling exceptionally good about the offer but I don’t exactly felt that way. Instead, I felt disturb for an entirely different reason. I should be happy about the way events had turned out mainly for two reasons. First, is that I got rid of myself of a pain in the neck and second, it is mark of honor and pride that your competitor finally acknowledge your “superiority” by “surrendering” their “kingdom”. As things turn out, the reason that my competitor’s wife sold the business was because she ran out of cash and the circumstances that led her bankruptcy was due to their “internal” family problems. My competitor used to be very big. In fact, they are humongous in our eyes. Well, it is because we were small if not tiny back then. They are actually a medium size firm with several subsidiaries, around 10 perhaps if I’m not mistaken. We are in the same line of business as they are and they are very, very intolerant of competition for they throw everything at us including the kitchen sink. They used every tactics, the dirtier the better; no niceties just to drive us out of business. And in those trying times, I say that they could have succeeded if we weren’t made of sterner stuff. I truly hate them for that. But times had changed, indeed! For who would expect that 20 years later, I would be getting an offer from them? Their business is actually still viable and probably profitable if not for their family woes. It happened a long time ago according to rumors. They are once a happy couple with two kids and then, they had a nasty fight and things turn sour. My competitor, the husband started to had affairs outside marriage and no sooner, he had a string of mistresses. He later went to China and started a business there with one of his trusted lieutenant by his side. In China, the husband took in a concubine and had a son with her. The wife upon learning an inkling of her husband’s indiscretion began actively scrutinizing him, investigating him, stalking him. One time, it was rumored that she learned through a private eye that she hired the whereabouts of her husband and she went there. Climbing over the walls to the backyard and sneaking into the house, she was shocked to discover that her husband was having a threesome with another woman along with his lieutenant. What happens next was anybody’s guess. At any rate, they separated (though they didn’t divorce or got an annulment) and no sooner than later, the wife began to take in lovers of her own even bearing one child after the other for every “husband” she had. Since, the husband was a foreign national and couldn’t legally own assets in the Philippines, every asset and businesses were in the name of the wife. She began to squander the fortune by showering her lovers with gifts and she opened one business after another for her lovers. The lovers only manage to take as much as they can get their hands on and as the oil well went dry, they left her. She was left with nothing except for her bruised ego and their love child. And so it began, she sold off one business after the other to finance her life or what left of it and partly, to take revenge against her true husband for forsaking her. Their children seeing that their parents are squandering their inheritance hiked off with the remaining cash in the bank accounts as well as skimming the company profits and left their mother to herself. In the end, she was left with nothing but the crown jewel that is the business and she offering it to me. For that, I could be more than overjoyed. However, the “victory” ringed somehow hollow, if not illusionary. I prefer to earn that singular distinction of putting them out of business as they tried on us but failed decades ago. I prefer seeing their face on the ground with one of my foot on top of them like a conqueror or even like a buffoon who thinks he is Napoleon but not like this. I don’t want to take the victory “prize” from a silver platter that they handed to me because of their own problems. Not this way. The husband, the last I heard fared no better and was struggling in China. His once trusted lieutenant skimmed profit from the company, took away his clients, pirated his staff and employees, and turn around and almost drive him out of business. Talk about double crossing. This may all sound like a script in one of the popular soap opera but this is no TV act. It is real life. Their story could elicit pity from anyone who hears their tale but I don’t pity them. I simply cannot…… Though I have no love lost for my competitor, I cannot help myself but felt “disturbed” by what had happened. I came to learn a few things from this “story”. First, wealth but is only fleeting. One could spend half of their lifetime amassing their fortune and squander them in half the time. If wealth is the end all be all goal then, I say one is a fool to built their house on shifting sand. Second, business fails for many a reason but ultimately from bankruptcy. However, family problems or marital problems could be just as detrimental as outdated product lines and poor investment choice. Thirdly, I cannot help but wonder about the wisdom of marriage. Is marriage practical? I mean we have two people from different families with different background, different culture, different belief coming together and expects to live happily ever after. How could that be? We are trying to “fused” in two different cultures, two different beliefs, and two different worlds each with their own idiosyncrasies into one. The resulting situation is unstable and conflicts are inevitable. Is it then any surprise that stories such as those of my competitors happen? If marriage were to work, is love enough? Is love all we need to make a marriage work? Or do we consider character of our future mate? Their personality? The chemistry or the rapport between one and his wife? Perhaps…….

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

And They Call It Customer Service

It's been 3 weeks since my phone line cum DSL line went down and until now, it wasn't yet fix. I've been calling the phone company's repair service since the 30th and I still get the same response, "Yes sir, I will report this to the repair service" or "Sorry sir but we are just the call center representatives but I will personally follow it up for you." Crap! 17 days! 17 days!! And my phone line is still out. I got so impatient about the inefficiency that I went to the branch 2 weeks ago to report my complaint and the explanation I got was that the lines were totally messed by the last typhoon. Ok, in that case, I thought that it is understandable for a certain bit of delay but when things didn't improve last week, I got so pissed that I decided to try an "alternative" method. I got hold of a line man's number and asked him point blank to fix my line in consideration for a "tip". The line man agreed and we had a deal but as thing turns out, he didn't show up. When confronted, the line man told me that the phone company is undergoing a restructuring with plans to totally "remove" the repair service department and outsource it to a third party. Guess what? Who is the third party? None other but the former company line men. Pretty bright idea indeed. Turning your employees into your contractual partners and consultants and in one swoop transform your fix cost into a variable cost since the contract line men get paid on a per phone line fixed basis. No overtime pay, no benefits whatsoever. Pretty bright (I would have done it the same way) except that their employees don't buy it! The result is that the line men are initiating a work slowdown to "voice" their protest over the scheme. Their work has grind to almost a halt as a consequence with only 10 lines repaired per day against 200 assigned per team. Talk about efficiency. Damn! I am sandwich in between a labor dispute and my phone line is held hostage by both the nincompoops who thought of the bright idea in the first place but didn’t provide a backup plan in case the entire scheme backfired and the overtly sensitive, egoistic, uncompromising line men! Because of this work slowdown, the phone company’s management has initiated a strict monitoring system, so much so that the line man I’d dealt with couldn’t “manage” to take a time off to fix my line. Damn!!! Talk about customer service. If this case were in the States, probably the Trade department would have already intervened to protect consumer interest but as it turns out, I’m in the Philippines and the only thing I can do is suffer, fume, curse, and write a blog about it!