Keeping your cool amidst crisis: The CEO can’t afford to panic


Our class had its first case study “The COE can’t afford to panic”.  The analysis is not just about coming up with the best course of action from a business perspective but also considering the ethical implications of one’s decisions.  The Kaspa Gerald Smarten, CEO of Kaspa Financial Services (Kaspa) is having a dilemma. While presiding over the usual Tuesday meeting of the company, a bomb exploded at nearby train station causing confusion, uncertainty, and even fatalities on the area. Given this circumstance, the city requested whether Kaspa is willing to help to the community by providing its space to become a triage center and a temporary morgue. Standpoints of the members of the management team also exists at this point with some agreeing to the city’s request and others arguing against it.     Smarten as the CEO has to make an important decision in a short period.

Our group assessed the case using the Marrkula and Triple Bottom Line Frameworks, the group recommended for Smarten  to offer the company’s lobby and cafeteria to the city to help the victims of the subway bombing incident.

The group believes that going beyond the boundaries of the ordinary course of business, as traditionally set by society, is the best action to take.  This is because in the realm of ethics, moral conscience and civic responsibilities are expected to be exercised and mere compliance with regulations and a good achievement of one’s financial performance are outweighed by different things affecting society.

The business arena is getting more and more competitive and managers, especially CEOs must be in the forefront of making an effort in differentiating their organizations from the rest.








What I have learned from my Action Research

For most part of our class, we listened to invited speakers and picked their brains too.  We had the chance to learn as much as we can from the experts in the business industry but the time has come for us to take center stage and share our very own story specifically our action research.  Before I go on and on about action research, I will define it first.

Action research is participatory inquiry focused on improving the organization and its processes.  Members of an organization can engage in this research to improve their own practices and performance.   It is a four-step cyclical process comprised of 1) constructing, 2) planning action, 3) taking action and 4) evaluating action (Coghlan & Brannick, Doing action research in your own organization, 2014, p. 9). 

Below are some of my learnings while doing the first cycle of my action research:

  1. Doing an insider Action Research is not an easy feat.  It takes more than just data and related literature to establish a problem.  One has to take a deep and thorough into what is going on with the organization and see if they can improve it.
  2.  Preparing an action research proposal has been very challenging for me.  I don’t have much background in research.   Selecting my issue didn’t come to me easily.   I had several issues in mind but finally settled with one after some contemplation.
  3. Looking for related literature is another major challenge for me.  I find it very hard to find studies and publications that are related to my topic but I kept on looking.  As I am just beginning on my action research, my related literature is quite limited; however, I intend to keep reading more while I am continuing on this action research.
  4. Addressing an issue within an organization is quite complicated and involves several stakeholders.  To be able to conduct the action research, I have to gain the approval and cooperation of the people involved.
  5. Implementing one cycle of action research is definitely not enough.  The initial cycle served as a preliminary inquiry and will pave the way to a clearer picture of the situation.
  6. An action research is involves a group of people with different personalities. It is very challenging to work in a group while keeping the integrity of the action research.  Collaboration is very important in this type of research.   This research is more than just presentation and presentation of date, it also includes social interaction.

The Marshmallow Challenge MBA style

Our class started with a little challenge  called the Marshmallow  Challenge.


Our marshmallow structure after 18 minutes.  We failed to build the tallest one but ours is the sturdiest. It stood tall long after other structures fell. 

Our group quickly planned a way of putting up the highest marshmallow  structure  in the class.  The materials are limited so have to maximize every piece.  We have to make sure that there will be enough material for the structure  we have in mind and waste nothing.

We started with a square base so we could have a stable foundation but the spaghetti  pieces we used were so small we can barely hold it.  A stick broke at some point  which reminded  us how fragile the material is.  We decided then that we need a bigger  base and opted  for a triangular  base.

The challenge seemed easy at first until we started building our tower.  It was tricky and the constant  reminder  how much time we have left is quite unnerving but as MBA students  we are used to working under pressure.  We have to focus and stay  calm otherwise  our structure will fall.  We didn’t have a leader who took charge. We were open to ideas and tried another approach once the first one turned out to be not so feasible.  We had our own task such as tying the straw  rope around the sticks, cutting tapes/straw strips  and holding the tower while it is in progress.  We have to keep a steady hand all throughout the process.

Despite the tricky challenge  we still had fun.  It was not a matter of making he tallest taller but making sure that it remain standing.  We didn’t  win but our tower stood tall long after other groups’ fell.  We were so proud of our tower and ended up with a group with high morale and respect for each other.

The challenge  thought me several things such as: listening  to other members as they might have better ideas, trying a different approach when the current one is not working, staying calm and composed amidst pressure and chaos and enjoying the process instead of obsessing about it.

Learning a thing or two

Learning is a lifelong process.  Sounds cliché but true.  The moment we took notice of our surroundings when we were just babies, we started collecting data and transforming them into useful information.  Every waking moment is a chance to learn, whether we acknowledge it or not.  Continuous learning is essential for everyone especially leaders and that was the major key take-away from Ms. Chiqui Escarael-Go’s talk.

Chiqui Escareal-Go is the President and CEO of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., an advocacy-based marketing, sales, innovation and strategy training and consultancy company.   When Chiqui first started in Mansmith, she was not an expert in marketing at all.  On the contrary, she needed to learning almost everything from scratch.  That didn’t stop her from aiming for excellence.  She worked tireless to study how things work in that field.  She took things to heart and wanted her work to be a reflection of the standard of their professionalism.

As an MBA student who wishes to excel in my field, I was awed by her story.  She exudes charisma and confidence.  Her passion to continuously improve herself in the world that keeps on changing is really inspiring.   She attended programs to compensate for her lack of practical knowledge in the field of marketing and pursued higher learning both here and abroad.

It is important to be aware of what you already and what you still need to know, to be humble enough to admit that you still have room left for improvement and make a commitment to pursue continuous learning even if it means leaving your comfort zone and throwing yourself in the abyss of the unknown.  I believe that not knowing what to expect is half the fun of learning such as my own adventures in the MBA program.  Term after term, I would meet new professors and classmates, work with new set of group mates  and face challenging academic requirement.  Most of the time, I don’t know how I survived but I am still here, better and a little bit smarter.   While graduate school has taught me a lot already, I am fully aware that learning is not limited to the four corners of the classroom.   Reading is a great way of learning and winding down (at least for me).  I believe that even the most mundane book has something to teach us.   Keeping up with what’s going on around us, both here and abroad, is another way of learning.   Talking to someone who is an expert in a particular field is another opportunity to learn something new.  I would love to have a sit down with an astrophysicist and ask her/him questions from the most profound to the silliest.   Even younger generations can teach a thing or two about the evolving society we live in.  It’s good to sometimes go out of the rock you live under and see how the young ones are behaving.

Learning from the Pro

What will get our of listening to a CEO with decades of experience under his belt? A lot.

Mr. Ramoncito Fernandez, the current CEO of Maynilad Water Services Inc., has definitely taught us a lot during his talk.  Mr. Fernandez has been in several industries and that only made a well rounded and competent.  He managed packaging, telecommunications and even government regulated business tollways.  Different businesses have varying systems and landscape and it honed his management skills.

While he had shared so many useful insights both in business and in life, there are a couple lessons that stuck to me until this very moment:

  • When leading, do not forget your advocacy. Just because you are so busy with your career it doesn’t mean you will no longer champion your advocacy.  You can still make it work.  In his case, he kept on promoting the engineering technical field by sponsoring scholarships.  It is also another way of adding vale to the corporation.
  • Management, especially leadership, is a life long learning.  He might reach the top of the corporate ladder but it didn’t stop him for doing and learning more.  Interaction with new people and engaging in a different situation also brought new knowledge   In life, we may think that we already know everything there is to learn only to realize that we know so little.  It is only prudent to be as eager to learn something new as you were when you were just beginning.
  • Know when to let go.  A leader has to know when he has to stay close and when to let a subordinate fly on his own. It is alright to let your team make decisions on their own.  If they made mistakes, it is also part of the learning process.   We don’t have to always be there all the time.  We have to learn to have faith in people, knowing that the will do what is best not just for them but for the organization.

The CLFG way

Maria Ester “Maret” Follosco Bautista is not your ordinary businesswoman.  She is not simply busy making money for her businesses she also make sure that her efforts contribute to the national development.   A daughter of a visionary, Ms. Bautista works hard to continue her father’s legacy.

CL Follosco Group came from humble beginning as Ms. Bautista shared during her talk.  Dr. Ceferino Follosco established Alpha Machinery & Engineering Corporation in 1996 with minimal capital and only a P.O box address in Manila.  The founder’s efforts paid off and slowly his sole business turned into a group of companies and was incorporated as a holding company in 2009.

Ms. Bautista’s talked centered on these topics; her father and his legacy, CL Follosco Group’s effort to contribute to the national development and family values.

Ms. Bautista’s regard to her father is apparent in the way she speaks about him.  She shared how her father started a business and how he made it grow.  She talked about the values he inculcated in her and her siblings.  It is evident that Dr. Ceferino Follosco’s legacy will stay long after his gone because his family embodies it.  As she goes further into her talk, I realized exactly why she is so proud of her father.

CL Follosco Group’s is more than just earning profits, it is also keen on helping the country.  Most people see national development as something that only concerns the government.  We see so many things to improve on but we rarely do anything about it.  CL Follosco Group of Companies is different.  They works hard to contribute to the national development of country and it is not as simple as providing jobs to Filipinos.   They also go to far flung provinces and see if there is something they can help the local with.  Since the business specializes in industrial clustering, they also employed the same idea to some provinces they have been.  One of the fortunate ones is the sardine industry in Dipolog.  The sardine community used to work independently and as result they produce products that varies in sizes, ingredients and packaging.  With the help of CLFG and funding from DTI and JICA, the industry  now have a common facility, uses the same oil and produces same sizes of bottles.  It is also their way of unifying people.

Ms. Bautista also shared her family values and how it was intertwined with the business.  They have policies that govern them on how to run their business and because they stick to their core values they don’t a hard time following said policies.  The next generation don’t have it easy just because the business is working well already.  They also have to work hard and contribute to the business such as coming up with new business ideas.  Every member of the family is expected to do his/her part and not simply live off the family’s money.

One of the key take aways from her talk is that business models can be innovated.  You can come up with your very own business model by considering your resources and values.


Mindfulness and Business

Our next speaker, Mr. Robin Bradshaw, is the Country Manager of Cathay Pacific Airways with a  degree in Philosophy and Theology (How cool is that?).  He has been with Swire for 21 years.  Swire, a highly diversified global group, is a 200 years corporation which is established as a trading company in Liverpool , UK by Mr. John Swire.

Mr. Bradshaw have moved around a lot and has been assigned in Indonesia, Hong Kong Singapore and Papua New Guinea (where he met his wife).   He shared that the downside in moving around a lot both in territories and functions is that he cannot share any technical expertise.  However, he said that the  best managers in the business are the people who get the best technical people.  He added that if you can manage people and finance then you can work in any business.  It is about finding the best people and bringing out the best in them.


Mr. Robin Bradshaw

Swire’ motto is to be rather than to seem to be.   They stay in the background and  and let their brand and product do the talking for them.  Humility is one of the core values of the organization and something that is evident in Mr. Bradshaw.

He also made the conducted some sort of a pop quiz about Cathay Pacific and it definitely woke the audience.  It was like “The Price is Right” where you have to give the right number (like how many aircraft they have).  I even got a prize 🙂

Mr. Bradshaw share some of his defining moments:

  • Being pressured by his manager to do something he didn’t agree with.  He shared that in situations like this, you need to stand your ground and do what you believe is right and fair.
  • Having to terminate a long serving staff that kept on disrupting work.  It was very difficult for him because he knew and worked with that person for a very long time.   How you handle the conversation of this nature is very important.  He made sure that the person being fired understands the situation and make him see that it is also for his own good.  Getting fired is never a good thing but it will also free you to pursue a new job  that might be a  better fit for you.
  • SARS – During the SARS scare 80% of their flights has been cancelled and Cathay Pacific is on its way to bankruptcy. They were forced to to send employees on unpaid leave but when the business got back on its feet they paid them all back.  This move has earned the trust of the employees.

Our class with Mr. Bradshaw

Aside from his business insights, Mr. Bradshaw also tackled work-life balance and how he is able to make it work.  It find it refreshing to hear someone of his stature talk about meditation and mind-fullness.  It was a reminder to never sacrifice everything else in your life in favor your career.   He also shared that being able to help people feels so much better than closing a huge deal with a client.

My favorite part was when he talked about being true to yourself and keeping your sense of boundary.  Who are you? What do you really want to do? Know yourself. Be honest with your self.  Being aware of who you really are is vital in everyone’s journey through life.  We sometimes get distracted with so many things that we lose sight of what truly matters.  We tend to get so busy chasing our goals and dreams that we forgot to stop and stay still for a while and listen to what our hearts say.  We also need to take the time and contemplate on how  we are living our lives and the paths the we chose to explore.  We don’t want to work hard all our lives for something only to realize that it is not really what we want.