No matter your occupation, status, position, from street hawker to jeepney driver, to street sweeper, to student, to traffic cop, to teacher, to lawyer, to physician, to department head, to councilor, to mayor, to governor, to congressman, to senator, to president, to fortune 500 CEO, you churn out decisions every day. And the end result is directly related to the quality of the choices made at each step of the way. Unsurprisingly, making decisions is a unversally important skill business, life, and governance. Clearly some decisions have bigger impact than others, but the underlying skill remains the same: the difference lies in the comprehensiveness and extent of the process you undergo to reach your decision.
Making decisions can be problematic because more often than not, the most critical decisions tend to be made expeditiously with little room for cautious deliberation. Pressure and anxiety abounds. Shortcuts are taken, prematurely jump to conclusions, or relying heavily on gut to show the way.
We have often heard about people who made it to the top based on gut decisions. At the other end is the one person who can’t make a decision because he is struck with paralysis-by-analysis. Still, at the end of the day, not only does one have to make a decision, it has to be a good decision, too. Poor decisions are bad for the family, the company, the economy and governance. Worse, a bad decision can lead to more bad decisions, and before you know it, you have a steam roller running amuck racing to cause more problems down the line faster than falling dominoes.
Decision-Making Time is Between Now and May 10, 2010
In May 10, 2010 Filipinos will once again take to the polls, and will be asked to make a very important decision – to elect the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Once made, this decision will have an impact on the policies and directions (or lack of one) of the Philippine government and ultimately, Philippine society.
Despite the fact (and the law) which states that campaigning should start in February 2010, the various candidates are already in the process of positioning and are working to consolidate their base. Thus, expect more media ads and blitzes as each campaign exerts an effort in reaching out to its perceived base. Noynoy, obviously, has the backing of oligarch owned media ABS-CBN. He also has the benefit of having a celebrity sister who can join him in the campaign soirees pro bono. Other candidates like Villar, Teodoro, Escudero, Perlas, Aguirre, etc already expect that they will get minimal airtime on ABS-CBN and are recalibrating their media plans to negate the comparative advantages provided by the Lopez-owned media conglomerate.
This is topped off by the fact that previous Philippine electoral cycles have been driven mainly by personality cults of winnability at the national level and the 4 Gs – guns, goons, gold, and girls – at the local level.
Winnability and the 4Gs
Arguments driven by “winnability” and the “4 Gs” aim to dazzle the electorate with a nationwide machinery that can roll out dog and pony shows spiced with sleaziness to make it appealing to less sophisticated less educated audiences.
|Trapos (Traditional Politicians) in Hell
While walking down the street one day, a Trapo head of state is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
“Welcome to Heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”
“No problem, just let me in.” says the Trapo.
“Well, I’d like to but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in Hell and one in Heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”
“Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven,” says the Trapo head of state.
“I’m sorry but we have our rules.” And with that, St. Peter escorts the Trapo to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to Hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a club and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him, everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, hug him, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar. Also present is the Devil (a Trapo, too), who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes.
They are having such a good time that, before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves while the elevator rises. The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on Heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
“Now it’s time to visit Heaven.” So 24 hours pass with the Trapo head of state joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
“Well then, you’ve spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Now choose your eternity.”
He reflects for a minute, then the head of state answers: “Well, I would never have thought it, I mean Heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in Hell.”
So Saint Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to Hell. Now the doors of the elevator open and he is in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. The Devil comes over to the Trapo and lays an arm on his neck.
“I don’t understand,” stammers the Trapo head of state. Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and club and we ate lobster and caviar and danced and had a great time. Now all there is a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.
The Devil looks at him, smiles and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted for us!”
And so it goes – Cory as the face of freedom became Cory the matriarch of Kamaganak Inc and an epitome of ineptitude; Estrada’s “Erap para sa Mahirap” campaign wound up making more people “mahirap” while he made himself and his cronies “mayaman”. At the LGU level, the stories are too familiar. Husband runs for mayor, when term-limit ends, wife runs for mayor, until all the members of the family have become Congressmen, Councilor, Mayor, etc. That’s the only change there is, a change in faces – but definitely using the same tired old scripts, methods, and approaches devoid of substance that result in the same lackluster performance.
These approaches aim to create a perception of the candidate as a patron who can provide for the most external goodies that will delight the target benefeciaries, – a relationship built on a master-servant relationship.
Essentially, it tells the voters – “if you bow down before me, you will share in my glory and become masters of the world”. The spoils of war go to the victor. The fruit of “winnability” is harvested via political patronage – a type of corruption or favoritism in which a party in power rewards groups, families, ethnicities for their electoral support using illegal gifts or fraudulently-awarded appointments or government contracts.
We know how that stuff goes – Just say NO. By saying NO, you are saying YES to better opportunities, better alternatives. Saying NO isn’t always easy. However, if you think that’s bad, consider going something you don’t like to do – but you had to because you didn’t say no. Stand up for YOURSELF – its better for you and your community.
After saying No what next?
There are at least six months between November 2009 and May 2010 – use it well. Use it to know more about what each candidate brings to the table.
Nothing Beats Due Diligence – Do Your Homework
Expect more people to put pressure on you to choose now. How do you know when pressure is being applied to you and what are the various ways one can respond?
A few simple guidelines can help you protect you from the scamming ways of the Trad-Pols (or Trapos) campaign teams who more often than not use High Pressure Tactics.
- When in doubt, DON’T
If you have a feeling that something is wrong, or a little doubt sets in – that’s a very good indicator that you should not, at this point in time anyway,make a choice. Your wisest choice would be sleep on it and to postpone making a decision.
- Remain in command ALL THE TIME
It is your vote that they are seeking – you should take command of the dialogue. Allow the candidate to make the presentation, but be confident to ask the hard questions and evaluate the answers for consistency and accuracy – do your due diligence.
- Don’t Be Fooled EVER
“You win by choosing _______” may be totally misrepresented. For example, if you are a landless farmer you better think twice before selecting a hacienda owner as the person who will have your best interests at heart. Many have been fooled, and have been left holding a piece of paper instead of actually owning land they can till. Campaigners are resorting to all kinds of tactics to get your vote, from dangling a bait under your nose – a can of sardines, liquor, variety shows – to ‘full-artillery’ tactics – “no vote, ibut”/vote-buying/intimidation applied to informal settlers. Don’t be fooled or pressured in to voting for a candidate you don’t really want.
- Vet the Candidate Thoroughly WITHOUT LETUP
Review the candidate’s track record, accomplishments, credentials, public pronouncements, speeches and articles written. Review the people who are behind the candidate – remember the Council of Trent, the Kamaganak,Inc., the mistresses and mansions, all the verifiable “scandals”. Make sure you are NOT voting for a stooge or a crook or a crooked stooge.
- Ask for the Candidate’s Platform, ALWAYS
A platform is a statement of governmental principle and policy. It is a list of the actions which a candidate supports in order to appeal to the general public for the purpose of being voted into office. This often takes the form of a list of support for, or opposition to, controversial topics. Individual topics are often called planks of the platform. Remember that the platform is an essential first step in transforming ideas into laws, and in determining the party’s direction and velocity. It is estimated that platform amendments of winning parties have been enacted into law at least 50 percent of the time. Furthermore, where competing platforms agree—and disagree— continues to reflect points of consensus and conflict in the political system.
At the minimum, ask for the candidate’s position on the following topics:
- The Economy
- Human Capital
- Foreign Policy
- Public Infrastructure
- National Security
Handling Responses of Campaigners Whose Candidates Don’t Have a Platform
Often times when the high pressure tactic campaigner realizes you will not budge on your demand for a platform, he will attempt to make it appear that platforms are irrelevant. Hoiwever, nothing can be farther from the truth. The campaigner will try to do away with platforms, specially, if there is none. These are actual replies to the pitches made by a campaigner :
Campaigner (MCB): All candidates must present their platform by February, that’s when the official campaign season starts. That, and not Benigno’s timeframe, is the deadline for platforms. And honesty of the candidates and his trustworthiness must be the bottom line of all those platforms
- Comment: This is a dishonest reply. While the campaigner attempts to convince voters to vote based on gut, he blocks suggestions that voters vote based on platforms because it’s not February yet.The point is there is already an attempt to convince the voter BEFORE february – the campaigner already uses “gut” and emotional buttons. Why should asking for a platform be any different, because it’s not February? It does not make sense.If it will take February before a platform can be reviewed, tell the campaigner to come back with his gut-driven pitch in February, along with his platform.
Campaigner (MCB): Manny Villar may have the greatest platform ever but it’s who he is that really counts. People who listen to the sales pitch without taking a good look at the salesman always end up as fodder for the unscrupulous. Look at what happened to those who bought Bernie Maddoff’s spiel.
- Comment #1 (Benign0):If you think Villar is cr@p, then of course you won’t go to the next step of calling for his platform. Noynoy obviously isn’t an alleged “crook”.Having decided that aspect of his character, the next logical step in the process of evaluating his candidacy is to demand that he show us a platform. The very fact that you are considering voting for someone all the more puts the onus on you to DEMAND a platform. When you decide to let a salesman into your home, the next step is to ask that he show and describe the product he plans to sell you.
- Comment #2 (Real Deal): Whether a person is a “crook” or a “good guy you can trust” is somewhat like a multiplier – a number you can multiply another number with. Let’s say “crook” is a negative number, while “good guy you can trust” is supposed to be a positive number.The other factor in the campaign is quality of the Platform or “Manifesto” or the “list of what the candidate claims to stand for and/or what he or she plans to achieve and how.”That factor is also a multiplicand… Thus, a platform would be something that is like a positive number.(Character) X (Quality of Platform) = Projected PerformanceNow, what happens to those candidates who DON’T HAVE PLATFORMS?Multiplying a number by zero results in zero.Thus, you can say that guessing that their so-called “character” as good, or bad becomes irrelevant. Not having a platform just shows that they don’t know what they’re going to do when they’re in office, and shows that they most probably don’t intend to achieve anything other than get pushed around by the many interest-groups that will flatter them to get concessions.So yes, you may wish to say that a “platform is irrelevant when it comes to a crook like –insert name here–”, but likewise, the converse goes as well:“Perceptions of a candidate’s character as ‘honest’ or ‘trustworthy’ become irrelevant if the candidate clearly has no platform.”
- Comment #3 (Filo): While we’re on metaphors, it shouldn’t be limited to taking a good look at the salesman because he could present himself deceptively to the buyer. His prospective buyer has to take a close look at what he’s really buying, and that is the product or service the salesman offers. Such product must be examined closely for flaws or any possible cause for disappointment. To remain fixated on the salesman distracts from the product, and that alone sets the buyer up for getting misled.
- Learn a Decision-Making Technique
Decision-making is a skill set that one can learn and improve upon. There is a middle way between pure instinct and paralysis-by-analysis which is a rational and practical approach that does not require endless rounds of analysis while helping you weigh the alternatives and the impact. One such approach is called the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix. An application of Kepner-Tregoe methodology in selecting a candidate for the 2010 Philippine Presidential elections is provided here.
Kepner-Tregoe is a stable and well-tested process with decades of proven capabilities. There are worksheets, training programs, and consulting firms all trained in the technique. You can take courses at your local college, too. NASA used Kepner-Tregoe Problem Analysis to troubleshoot Apollo XIII – the technicians followed the process, even though they did not believe the results, and saved the mission. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gut-feeling the Way to the Gutter
Immature endorsers use hunches, instinct, intuition, and emotion. These individual acts may seem brilliant, but they can also result in more difficulties since jumping to conclusions often compounds or expands problems instead of solving them.
Failure to understand what the issue is often results in generating excessive (and expensive) precious time. Many immature candidate endorsers consider this step as unnecessary effort since they know what they are going to do – and this is a critical mistake that have sent many on the road to perdition. Preconceived notions (like gut and winnability) often result in increased deterioration duration and even deterioration expansion due to poor judgment.
Leveraging the combined knowledge, experience, intuition, and judgment results in faster and better decisions.
Stop. Take Stock. Say No. Think It Over.