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Excellence or Mediocrity?

Please do not be offended by my article. It may be scathing to those who may not be aware of it but are actually promoting a culture of mediocrity in the local security industry. But it also promotes hope and a means out of this mess that we Filipinos are sometimes known to create. At the end of the day, the choice for all of us in the industry (and even society) is really between choosing either a culture of excellence or a culture of mediocrity. Which culture do we promote in the security industry?

In the continuing struggle of humanity, the tug-of-war between accommodation and adherence to best practice standards appears not only to be a reality but inevitable. In whatever field there is, the inertia to allow in just about anyone who is willing to pay collides with the equal passion to not only sustain standards of excellence but protect them as well. In the field of education for instance, I see so many providers wanting to participate although many among them are more interested in making money than providing quality education. In a certain province where I was once invited to teach, I was shocked to learn about a school which was providing education to people in mass production style – meaning it did not see anything wrong with lowering quality standards just to accommodate and pass so many paying students! Where will you find an educational institution which can waive the writing of papers as a graduate school requirement? The person who ran the institution even claimed that he was actually helping people from the provinces by allowing them easy access to even advanced education. Of course, he did not mention the fact about promoting sub-standard education and never mind it so long as he reaped the profits. And never mind if his graduates will eventually be unable to successfully compete in the international or even just national job market due to incompetence despite a high-sounding degree! Of course, it would all be due to accommodating a market for profit by relaxing excellence standards. And of course, I tightened the screws on the students and the flimsy educational program that they had over there. And of course, they never invited me again. Actually, this experience has not been unique as I have also received the cold shoulder treatment from some other educational institutions as well which were challenged by my excellence-promoting requirements.

In our own local security industry, I dare say that mediocrity has been gradually creeping around enough to threaten the universal quest for professional excellence if we do not arrest it now right in its tracks. Please allow me to be very clear on this. It is one thing to help promote career advancement by first identifying best practice standards and then supporting aspirants adhere to these standards which likewise enhance their professional careers. But it is also another to just seemingly support aspirants by accommodating more and more of them through lowering standards. In the end, this culture of accommodation may promote mass production but it will not boost universal competitiveness because the quality is not there. Ultimately, it is a disservice to all the security professionals who pass through our associations and continuing education and training programs if they will bear the seemingly lofty titles appended to their names but none of the corresponding knowledge, skills, and character that will allow them to be practitioners of value to their employers, here or abroad. And I might add that this consequent reality will also reflect on the institutions and programs that made them so. There is nothing wrong with accommodation per se. But there is everything that is wrong with it once it becomes the primordial concern due to its impact on the bottom-line and ignores quality standards which are the real product and the very essence of all professional advancement programs.

Observers say that the local security industry is only a microcosm of Filipino society. Therefore, the industry merely reflects the values of the society it is embedded in. True. No arguments there. In fact, the same can be said of just about any sector in this God-given land of ours. When we were fighting for reforms in the military, the conclusion was the same. It almost sounded like a cop-out. It sounded as if there was nothing that could be done to the inevitability of man’s sinfulness that was already there from the very beginning; that, in the end the finality will be just as the beginning had been. If that were true, then there is no point in us doing what we do – aspiring to become the better versions of ourselves. And isn’t this the very point of all our aspirations? If the environment is imperfect, shouldn’t we as an industry at least try to be better and more than our environment? By becoming more than our environment, will not the industry be in a better position to influence not only itself but those outside to also become better? I almost recall this same thesis again argued back in the day when I still wore a uniform – about what happens when the values of duty, honor, country or courage, integrity, loyalty of the military clashed with those of its civilian masters! There was no argument about the constitutional guarantee of civilian supremacy over the military. After all, the civilians are the people – the democratic masters of the civilized world. But, there had been every argument about how massively corrupt many in the bureaucracy or among the elected officials had become impacting effective governance.

I say we march to the beat of the drum of professional excellence! The fact is that today we are so lucky. Best practice standards are all published. Even if there are some questionable local associations around, there are also many good organizations which promote these standards and help members adhere to them for the betterment of their professional careers and even personal lives. Technology is fantastic. It allows everything to become possible at a much faster pace than before and to practitioners worldwide. We do not even have to reinvent the wheel. Why reinvent when we can all just as easily learn from the experiences of other practitioners everywhere and need not commit the same mistakes they already made! We not only learn from the knowledge and experiences of global colleagues online but have the opportunity to network with them face to face through national and international conferences and exhibits. We even have so many local and international publications now like Security Management, La Guardia, and SecurityMatters which bring to our awareness the latest in the security field on a regular basis. How luckier can we get!

Excellence also means our ability and capacity to pursue both professional and personal goals in our lives. After all, among the core reasons we even wake up early in the morning to work is just so we can adequately provide for our families and loved ones. Our improving behavior therefore should not be limited to just the workplace or the home but to both. I often say to the people who work for me that I may be hard on them at work but outside of that we are all just friends. “Trabaho lang, walang personalan!” I have worked for the promotion of people who performed marvelously. I have also not hesitated causing the transfer or termination of people who lost our trust and confidence or who did not behave according to organizational policy and procedure. But, I hold no grudge against any of them personally. “Hate the sin, love the sinner!” If we say we value excellence, integrity, respect for people, and the like in our workplace we should also do the same at home or anywhere. In the same manner, if we in our professional associations say we value this or that then we should also be practicing the same in our personal lives. What good is all our nice talk if it is all just that, nice talk! We have often heard it said: “Walk the talk!” We are mostly Christians here in the Philippines and it is actually also what the Pope meant when he advised all priests to be good shepherds not only at ‘preaching in the synagogues’ but at living the faith in the dioceses as pastors of the flock.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with titles for as long as these really convey excellence. And these titles can only convey excellence if they have been hard-earned and not merely bought. And we must not lose our heads due to these earthly titles. Many of my classmates both in the military and police services are now becoming generals and of course they are so happy and proud about it. I recall once having blogged about this to the following effect: I congratulate and am happy about your promotion. But let us not get too carried away by it thinking that we are already more than the sinful creatures that we really are. To those serving honorably, I salute you but to those who are undeserving of the public trust you may boast all you want but you may not expect edification from us taxpayers who pay your salaries and who expect nothing but honorable public service from you. Anyway, they were words to that effect. So, choose excellence my friends!