Aguilar: System vs leadership

Against the current

TWO weeks ago, I wrote an article about a pathetic signage of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) office at Lacson and 7th streets. To my thought, a whiteboard stand with a handwritten office signage was outright mediocrity for a national office whose mandate was too crucial to be brushed aside.

It reflects the kind of commitment of those who are manning the office in question especially that such basic signage would not really even cost much.

Apparently, the office took such challenge to man up as they now placed a very decent and respectable signage out their office. They must have felt slighted for being called out on such public platform as they have not had the chance to explain their side, but the fact that they nevertheless acted on it showed their commitment to improve. It was facing the issue head on and taking criticism on a constructive note. Just the perfect attitude of leaders who can forge genuine change. For that kudos to NCIP-Bacolod! May you be an effective instrument of empowering our indigenous community who have always been marginalized.

While the issue on the signage was more of a leadership initiative, I doubted if it would have been a problem at all if there was a well-defined system in setting up of regional or provincial offices. With such system, budget are well allocated beforehand and regardless of who is sitting as the chief, the office set up will surely be in place. And this issue can very much be related to local government units as well.

You see, leaders can only do as much and each official has his or her limitations as well. While it is commendable for a leader to make initiatives, things are better galvanized if they are institutionalized. For instance, a mayor or a governor may be very good with implementing projects and programs but if those programs are not institutionalized through laws or executive orders, they cannot be sustained long after the mayor is gone.

This brings me to my point that what we really need in government offices both local and national are effective systems more than effective leaders. Effective leaders are great but if they are taken away from the equation as they periodically are then everything collapses. But if we put in place effective systems, all things would run smoothly even if leaders get replaced. Progress and development are always due to the collective efforts of the people following a system and not because one politician or one consultant is better than the other.

It is therefore high time to look into all the systems that are put in place in all offices especially in our local government units if there ever are. Do they have a well defined system of setting priorities? Do they have a system of performance evaluation? Do they have a system of rewards and punishments? Or of hiring the right person?

Are the systems responsive to the changing problems of the community or have they become outdated? Do the systems promote efficiency? Are they output and outcome driven? Can they still be improved? What practices in the system that needs further polishing? What needs to be removed? Can it be implemented easily? Are they realistic or are they too ambitious? Do they give room for improvement of skills? Do they undergo periodic evaluation? And most importantly do they have teeth?

That said, there is a great need for our department heads and consultants not only to be effective managers but also to be crafters of systems. Because truly, leaders come and go, but systems ensure the sustainability of the gains.


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