Bernardo M. Villegas
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Corporate Culture of A University

           As a management consultant or board member, I have been involved in a good number of efforts to foster the appropriate corporate culture in some leading Philippine firms such as United Laboratories, DMCI, Insular Life, Benguet Corporation and Alaska Milk Corporation.  I have attempted to operationalize what is known as Management By Mission in the creation of a corporate culture based on integrity, hard work, competence and teamwork.

          I think I owe it to both my students in the various programs of the University of Asia and the Pacific and the business executives who turned to me for coaching or mentoring to describe in greater detail the corporate culture that those of us who started the Center for Research and Communication in 1967 deliberately nurtured.  Hopefully, what I write here can inspire both academic and non-academic institutions to strive to build their own corporate culture along similar if not identical lines.

          Attention to the smallest details, team spirit, the dignity of work and human elegance are in the very DNA of the University of Asia and the Pacific.  This is so primarily because its foundation as the Center for Research and Communication in 1967 was upon the personal instigation and inspiration of St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei, who encouraged a  group of professional people to establish a think tank that should eventually evolve in time to a full-blown university.  From the very beginning, it was clear that the undertaking would be carried out and promoted by the faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei in close collaboration with individuals--whether Christians or not--who understand, appreciate, and live the spirit of the Work.  As St. Josemaria always emphasized, big things start small, and great things can be accomplished if every little thing is done with perfection. There were very few of us who started CRC, all convinced of and enthused by the teachings and spirit of St. Josemaria.  Through the years, we were joined by other individuals who consciously and deliberately made the effort to assimilate such aims as spelled out in the mission and vision of UA&P.

          There is a historical and anecdotical reason, however, why those four features of the spirituality of Opus Dei mentioned above were evident from the very first institutional activity of CRC, which was to organize an international conference for business and economic journalists coming from different parts of Asia.  CRC had just moved into the headquarters that it would occupy for the next fifteen years, in a rented residential house on Jorge Bocobo St. in Malate, Manila.  At that time, CRC's economists were giving classes to the members of the Business and Economic Reporters Association of the Philippines (BERAP) that was asked to organize an international seminar for Asian journalists.  Without much advanced notice, BERAP decided to hold the international conference in the new premises of CRC, that had just been vacated by an international aid organization.  As the day of the conference approached, the skeleton staff of CRC--including the Executive Director, Deputy Executive Director and Corporate Secretary--had to help the one janitor employed in cleaning the premises which were not exactly well maintained by the previous occupants.  Because of the short notice given, it was only the day before the conference that someone noticed that the elegant chandelier in the living room had glass parts that  must have been last cleaned years ago.

          There was no question:  the chandeliers had to be polished. The management staff, researchers and janitor all put their hands literally together, taking the glass components apart one by one, cleaning each one until they glittered and then putting them back also one by one.  Those of us who were involved in that tedious work were very thankful for the opportunity to experience first hand was St. Josemaria started to preach since 1928, that every human work--even the most menial task--can be a means of sanctifying oneself.  The team of intellectual and manual workers had to work till the wee hours of the morning to finish the task.  When the journalists arrived at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the conference, the chandelier, as well as all the function rooms that were to be used by the delegates  were worthy of a five-star hotel.  I can say that because our standard was the Manila Hilton, which at that time was just a few blocks away from Jorge Bocobo St.

          These features that those who started UA&P tried to live from the very beginning have been embedded, among other values and virtues, in the environment and culture of the University of Asia and the Pacific, which is pervaded by a spirit of industriousness and the desire to do things well.   Because the management staff and the academic personnel are the first ones to live the values and virtues enshrined in the corporate culture of UA&P, order, seriousness in study, and good use of time are fostered in students.  In addition, through the spirit of solidarity that is at the root of the service that UA&P and CRC are rendering to Philippine society, the students' sense of responsibility towards their family, immediate community, country and the University itself is awakened.

            There is great emphasis on responsible study habits, study being the primary duty of the students who are provided with the proper conditions and atmosphere as well as the means to do their work well.  Team spirit is fostered by reminding each one in the academic community to contribute to the creation and maintenance of an atmosphere of work, e.g. keeping silence in the library or in the faculty rooms to enable their colleagues to work in peace with excellence and intensity, enabling them to perform their tasks well and deliver what is required by justice.

          The culture of work at UA&P is based squarely on the philosophy and theology of work as expounded by Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical Laborem Exercens and in the teachings of St. Josemaria.  Every member of the UA&P community, from the President to the cleaning staff, exerts effort to put into practice these ideals.  Human development--both a corporate and individual goal--is attained through relationships with colleagues, subordinates, superiors, students, and teachers.  Moreover, work is an indispensable means for the development of human and supernatural virtues, the highest of which is charity, respect and concern for others.           Importance of little things, team work, doing ordinary things extraordinarily well, concern for others, human elegance, hard work and perseverance.  These are traits that are common to many other effective and efficient organizations.  I am reminded of the many books that have been written, especially in the past year or so since the passing away of  Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, one of the most successful business enterprises in recent  memory.  He, too, inculcated passion for little details, the spirit of cooperation, service to others, hard and persevering work, product elegance, etc. into the organizations he founded.  What was his inspiration?  Zen Buddhism.  In many parts of Asia, one can find excellent organizations imbued with the Confucian philosophy.  The people who work at UA&P find their inspiration in their Christian faith, as concretized in the spirituality of Opus Dei. They see in work as a means of sanctifying the work itself, sanctifying oneself in one's work and sanctifying others through their work--the three-fold dimensions of work popularized by St. Josemaria in his writings.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.ph.