MAP Insights

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

The past 15 months have brought unprecedented chaos and life changes for the generations alive today. We battled and continue the big fight with a corona of thorns that already bled us with grim stories of lives disrupted, jobs lost, businesses closing, and loved ones forever gone without a chance for their families to say goodbye.

The pandemic exposed the weaknesses, not just of physical bodies, but of the structures we all thought wore cloaks of invincibility — in institutions, in governance, in societal norms. It brought to the forefront issues that had been simmering all the time under a veneer of democratic and progressive society — racial discrimination, gender inequality, domestic violence, human rights violations.

It magnified what was glossed over and brushed aside because they would impact the bottom lines — climate change, the protection of the environment, a planet decayed by misuse. It shone the spotlight on inequity and inequality, the widening wealth gap, the exclusive benefits and growth that only a few can enjoy. Finally, it exposed to global derision and applause those that abuse power and those that rise to the call for accountable leadership.

Battling with the biggest challenge in our lifetime took a toll — and the biggest casualty is the economy. It is imperative to train our sights on what lies ahead, to forge a shared future, albeit in the present tense. The domain expertise of management is planning and execution; and while the end is not yet in sight, it is too costly to keep leaving everything to chance.

To paraphrase what a contestant from 2021’s edition of America’s Got Talent, Jane “Nightbird,” said during her audition, “We cannot wait until life becomes less difficult to start planning.” The future stretches ahead and the longer we keep ourselves imprisoned in the moment, we end up sacrificing the ones that are yet to come.

Planning for the future in these present times will require reflection from three perspectives:

HINDSIGHT. What could have been done differently? The pandemic placed everyone in a reactive, even panic mode that elicited knee-jerk responses. When facing a common enemy, most countries looked inwards and adopted a national instead of global response to a global threat. It was a singular moment that needed unity and cooperation, when strengths should have been capitalized, and weaknesses minimized by extending helping hands so that those who have more can help lift those with resource constraints. This generation is writing its history on how this pandemic war is fought. Maybe the call was to restore humanity in a world that has lost it. The future will judge if we “seized the day,” or if we squandered that moment.

INSIGHTS. What have we learned from these pandemic challenges? The global crisis showed that people can rise to the challenge to fight for survival, proving conclusively that what we do individually, how we respond, how we act, can make the difference to the collective whole. Organizations became followers rather than leaders — and that triggered introspection about purpose, accountability, and the responsibility for inclusive development. Trust became the driver for consumer patronage and where actions are deemed wanting in terms of social responsibility, business is taken away.

As we start to pick up the threads of recovery, we can build on these new perspectives and take advantage of the chance to right the balance. We need to reflect on the lessons that we hopefully learned from our months of enforced hibernation. There is no going back to what was, but there is also a huge opportunity to change what will be.

FORESIGHT. What should we change? What stopped the world can change the world. Building on the hindsight and insights, the future will be an opportunity to do better. It is accepting that we all must adapt to a different world and our past experiences may just be reference footnotes in a new chapter of our life book. We can choose what to do with this experience — expand our ingenuity and creativity, and help find solutions to the past and present problems in our spaces, and thus change the narrative of our future. If we keep chipping, the rock will eventually be shaped into a beautiful sculpture.

It is difficult to plan when the time horizon appears to be nailed to the here and now, but it is possible because the alternative is to live in a vacuum. What will we do with the gift of second chance?

CIRCUMSTANCES, CHANCES AND CHOICES. These are three words that come to mind. We go through life’s circumstances — many times unexpected, quite a number we bring about deliberately, others caused by our actions, inactions, and conscious decisions. Always, they will be accompanied by chances, by opportunities to do what we must to make life a little better — not just for ourselves but for others, especially those that need them the most.

We do have to make those choices though — to seize these chances and rise to the call, or to let these chances slip by because we prioritize power, position, prestige, popularity, and profit. It is the eternal clash between self-love and greater good. In the end, those choices will always be on us. Even if it comes down to the devil or the deep blue sea, we always will have to make that choice.

The 2021 International CEO Conference of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) is taking place on Sept. 14 this year. Its goal is to be the springboard for taking the present pandemic discussion to the next level — The Future. It is about saying enough of “what is” and “what ifs”; it is way past time for “what will be.”

The theme chosen for this year is timely: Hindsights, Insights, Foresights: The Future In The Present Tense. It is time to move forward and get out of this pandemic vacuum that COVID-19 has “imprisoned” us in. It will say let us accept that COVID-19 will need to be factored into our reality, and configure our steps in managing its risks, its after-effects, and how to live in a future where this will be part of it. The MAP CEO Conference aims to be a call to action, with the participants invited to:

• Be part of a community that will plan for and transition to a new future;

• Look beyond information, and identify directions, beyond ideas to thought leadership; and,

• Be one of those who will help shape the changing world order.

Join the MAP CEO Conference 2021. Hear it first-hand.

 

Alma Rita R. Jimenez is Chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, Vice-Chair of the MAP Health Committee, President and CEO of Health Solutions Corp. and former Undersecretary of the Department of Tourism.

map@map.org.ph

alma.almadrj@gmail.com.map.org.ph