Middle East Dictators fall one after another: Ben Ali of Tunisia in January of this year; Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in February; Ali Abdulla Salaeh is struggling to maintain his grip on Yemen from Saudi Arabia, and Muammar Quaddafi is a fugitive in Tripoli making his last stand. The United States is downgraded by standard & poors from a AAA long term sovereign-credit rating to a AA+. Steve jobs resigns as apple CEO.
This is change at its blinding speed today.
To say that change is the only constant in this world is such a worn and old cliché that the cliché itself needs to be changed.
Perhaps it is better to say that change is the new normal and consequently, those that do not keep pace with it, sooner than later, find themselves the abnormal or the obsolete.
Change impinges upon us from everywhere and spares nothing and no one.
Take for example the downgrade of the US credit rating. Who would have ever imagined that would happen? Thousands of miles away, the US giant coughed and the Philippine economy caught the flu.
Such is the nature of change. It is more disruptive now than ever, more rapid now than ever. To exacerbate matters, amidst this frenzy of unceasing change, we are expected to consistently deliver excellence.
Change and excellence. This is an oxymoron at its best, it is almost ridiculous!
Or so it seems.
Yes, change is our world reality. In that it happens we do not have a choice. But what we do have a choice about, as we always have, is how we thrive in change.
However, in today’s environment, to say that we can control our reactions to change much less thrive in it is much easier said than done. Control and change - another oxymoron!
How then does one keep from drowning in this forever churning sea of change and at the same time, still be expected to produce excellence?
The answer to this complexity is truly simple. Complexity and simplicity – yet another oxymoron!
Amidst all the turmoil are fundamental principles that have proven to be unchangeable over time. These are the beacons of light that guide us home through every fog and storm that hits us at sea. And it is to this we must turn when all our time-tested landmarks disappear in the haze.
Let me cite as an example the business sector of the Lopez group that i oversee, the communications group.
The brisk and incessant changes in technology in the broadcast, cable, and telecoms industries have spawned new consumer behaviors that were inconceivable as recently as just five years ago.
Today, an eighteen year old will walk into an internet café and Google materials he needs for his homework. Once done, he spends an hour online gaming after which he logs on to Facebook or twitter to catch up with peers.
At home, his mother might be on Skype or facetime talking to her daughter, a nurse in London, about the latest Maalala mo Kaya episode that she was able to watch on a pirated site after her shift. In the next room, her youngest son is playing angry birds on the family laptop as her husband is downloading the latest accounting app on his iPhone.
It is a whole new world. Soon, the days may be gone when the family sits together in the living room to share the experience of watching its favorite drama. Likewise, the days when each member of the family makes sure he or she is home at 7pm to await the overseas call of Nanay may, too, be gone.
Indeed, it is a brand new world.
Today, our customers have the power to consume content as well as connect and interact with each other when and how they want at costs that continue to plummet year on year.
Consumer behavior, empowered by technology, has driven the convergence of the broadcasting, cable, and telecoms industries. The internet sits at the center of this convergence.
How then does a company like ABS-CBN survive in such an environment? How have we thrived and proacted?
Our mantra is simple. Know the customer intimately; strive to provide him excellent service for we are and have always been in the service of the Filipino worldwide.
As far back as 1997, soon after the internet was born, when no one could fully fathom its power and potential, my father already articulated this fundamental, unchanging principle of authentic service, when he said:
I would like to reiterate my belief that our reason for being in business is to render public service. From experience, i can say that as we consciously think in terms of delivering something of value to consumers and the public, the bottom line ultimately reflects the fruits of our labor and the goodwill we generate.
It is on this principle that our business model and consequently, organization model, is being reshaped. Regardless of who our customer is, what service he consumes, whether it be from ABS-CBN, Bayan, or SkyCable, whether he be in manila, the province, or abroad, we strive to provide him services that meet his needs in the way he prefers to consume those services. We seek to provide him converged offerings that create much more value than any service singularly provided by one of the three companies, or for that matter, any pirate alone could ever create.
In the end, we are making changes in how we do business because our customers themselves have changed.
There are three ironies here, as opposed to Oxymorons, which are easily lost on the surface of this discussion but it is these ironies that guarantee our success, and therefore must be highlighted.
The first is that we have made and continue to make far-reaching strategic and organizational changes based on the unchanging principle that our reason for being is to serve our consumers and the public. For as long as we are in business, we will be in the service of the Filipino worldwide.
Second, in intimately knowing our customers, we know that their new and evolving behaviors in the use of ever advancing technology are but ways to better satisfy the insatiable human need for love and wholeness of self. Ironically, in this complex and sophisticated digital world, what we seek to fulfill still remains the most basic of human needs. Ultimately, we continue to remain focused on the person, the Filipino, wherever he may be, who oftentimes gets buried and forgotten in the dazzle and ubiquity of technology.
Finally, when people speak of convergence, they automatically speak of technology. This is the superficial layer of convergence. For me, the true essence of convergence is the mindset we use to recreate our business to serve the consumer. It is how we break old paradigms that treat business units as separate, distinct silos with different workforces, operations, and p & ls, monitoring traditional metrics and paying out rewards in ways that are for a time long gone.
Today, our mindset must allow us to bring together the might of our entire business portfolio using metrics that are meaningful to the customer and rewards that incentivize employees to put the good of the customer before the good of the p & l, accounting rules be damned. Convergence is not in technology; it is in the mind.
Our recognizing and acting on these ironies will ensure our success and this, my colleagues in the Lopez group, is what makes us excellent.
Know your customer intimately and create true value for him by reshaping your mindset. These are the business principles that bring congruence to the concepts of change and excellence. Understanding these principles, one sees that the two are not mutually exclusive and that indeed change and excellence do exist side by side. In fact, one realizes that excellence is often the progeny of change.
Allow me to illustrate this point further.
In September of 2009, tropical storm Ondoy dumped in twenty four hours more water on manila than hurricane Katrina poured on new Orleans in three days. Overnight, mother nature had so changed metro manila that large portions of it were unrecognizable.
Power outages crippled major parts of the city.
Communications were down. Water seeped back out onto the streets because the ground was so saturated it could no longer absorb the water. What were once roads were now raging rivers piling cars on top of each other and sweeping away anything they engulfed.
In Barangay Bagong Silang in Quezon city, eighteen year old construction worker Muelmar Magallanes had successfully evacuated his family to higher ground. He and his loved ones were safe. He could afford to wait out the devastation that Ondoy wrought upon the city.
But he chose not to. Several times over, he went back into the water, swimming against dirt and gravel that made the water thick and heavy; to eventually rescue a total of thirty people. He went in time and again until, according to witnesses, the exhausted Magallanes was himself swallowed by the rampaging floods.
His body was found the next morning with twenty eight others who perished in the torrent the night before.
In the wrath and fury of Ondoy, Muelmar Magallanes, a common, unknown construction worker no different than millions of others eking out a living from this harsh backbreaking trade, committed himself to excellence in the service of thirty fellow Filipinos.
Nothing imposes change more pervasively and instantaneously than Mother Nature. But nothing, not even Mother Nature herself, can extinguish the spirit and mindset of one devoted to being in the service of his countrymen.
Think about it once again: excellence and change - an oxymoron? I believe not.
That we continue to serve and deliver value despite the endless pummeling and battering the forces of change inflict upon us is that which makes us excellent. That we continue to focus on our mission of being in the service of the Filipino, even if it be only one Filipino at a time for that is what we are capable of at the moment, is again that which makes us excellent.
This is the Lopez way – always has been and forever will be. That is why you are here tonight, finalists and awardees. You have demonstrated excellence despite overwhelming and insurmountable odds. This is what the Lopez business excellence awards are about.
To finalists and awardees alike, my congratulations, and good evening colleagues in the Lopez group.