Opening Remarks of Oscar M. Lopez, Chairman Emeritus of the Lopez Group on the occasion of the 12th Lopez Group HR Summit
November 26, 2013
The Rockwell Tent, Rockwell Center, Makati City
Fellow Executives and Staff-Members of the Lopez Group, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I’d like to start my remarks by citing a passage from one of my favorite management books, “Good To Great”, written by one of my favorite authors, Jim Collins. This is what he said in beginning Chapter 3, entitled “First Who…Then What”, and I quote:
“When we began the research project, we expected to find the first step in taking a company from good to great would be to set a new direction, a new vision and strategy for the company, and then to get people committed and aligned behind that new direction. We found something quite the opposite.
The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.” End of quote.
Our own experience, of course, is that even when you know where you want to go, even when you have a clear and robust vision and strategy, without the right people, without the right talent, you have no way of getting there ahead of your competitors.
Today, we accept the reality that we operate and function within a global marketplace. But do we really grasp the meaning of this reality? Do we understand how it impacts upon us as individuals, as members of a corporate family, and indeed, as a people and as an economy?
In the first instance, it means that we must compete globally for the opportunity to do business, even within our own borders. Gone are the days when the right to exploit our markets was a privilege that was reserved exclusively for us. We used to reason that a company such as ours had to be world-class in order to compete in the export markets. Today, we have to be world-class to even compete in our own markets and in our own fields of business.
In the second instance, globalization means that we must compete for all the resources needed to exploit our business opportunities. Again, we used to define this principally in terms of access to capital and to foreign exchange. Today, we have come to realize that our most pressing resource requirement is talent. Jim Collins got it absolutely correct. Getting the right people in the right seats on the bus, and getting the wrong people off the bus, is the first and absolutely essential task of today’s business leader in his or her quest for success.
Over the course of today’s program of presentations and discussions, you will have ample opportunity to gain new insights and share ideas on what it takes to attract the best talent and forge them into cohesive, inspired teams. Visionary leadership, faultless execution, the collaborative workplace, wellness and the management of change will be among the topics that will occupy center stage. But the theme of this, our 12th HR Summit, is “Demistifying Culture”, and it is but right that among all of these important themes, you have chosen to emphasize culture. Culture is what enables you to identify who the right people are for your organization. Let me, therefore, share my take on this particular subject without further “mystifying” it.
I looked for a simple, practical, easy-to-understand description of the meaning of culture and found one in the Harvard Business Review, where writers Frances Frei and Anne Morriss described culture thus:
“Culture guides discretionary behavior and picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tills us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”
If we accept this description as valid, then let me also say that our Lopez Group culture has guided and anchored the behavior and choices, not only of our employees, but of our leaders, myself included, particularly during periods of unprecedented pressure and adversity. If we survive today as a corporate family, after more than eighty years of existence, with our aspirations and measures of success, it is because our culture has guided our choices and has protected us during our moments of deepest crisis, and there have been many over our 80-year history. Most of all, that culture has kept us united, where divided, we would have fallen, piece by piece.
In my remarks to the HR Summit at about this time last year, I referred to our culture as a living legacy left by my father, a legacy of principles and values by which we run our businesses and live our lives, which we have paraphrased and formally recognized as the Lopez Credo and The Lopez Values, to describe and embody what we have come to call “The Lopez Way”. It is our greatest treasure and I call upon all of you to preserve, cherish and protect it. It is my most cherished dream that the Lopez Group of Companies will outlast all of us here, as well as all the succeeding business generation of Lopezes until kingdom come.
Is this dream possible? If we all work hard and fully live up to our Lopez values, I don’t see why not.
Once again, I congratulate our HR Council for organizing our annual HR Summit and for putting together a most interesting program of discussions. Thank you and I hope all of you make the most of what we have in store for you today.