|Dole And The Culure Of Excellence|
By Abraham V. Llera
Every company, it seems, is infatuated with “excellence.” It is in the lobby of every corporate headquarters etched in stone or enshrined in glass as its mission statement. It is evident in the ambience of these places. It is found in catchy slogans that adorn every room and cubicle.
Yet, like the Holy Grail, it can be elusive. How else can one explain corporate snafus like Talidomide and Tylenol, environmental disasters like Chernobyl and Minimata, and human foibles like wars and global warming?
Happily, there is enough to show that excellence thrives. There is the Olympics. There is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There is the Toyota Prius. All are fine examples of the heights that man can attain when excellence is demanded.
On Saturday, July 7, 2007, I had the privilege of observing excellence in action firsthand. It was not in the magnitude of the preparations for the Olympics, nor the Dreamliner, nor the Prius.
In fact it was nothing more mundane than one company’s bash. Yet, in the short time that it lasted, it gave me a glimpse of the heights man can attain with excellence.
It was the culminating activity of the Dole Asia Gimik. I came driven by curiosity. Three months earlier when Dole first approached us with its activity, I have been intrigued by the absence of the usual event coordinators that are staples in events of this magnitude. Surely, Dole wouldn't want any surprises that would spoil its party?
As it turned out, my apprehensions were totally unfounded. Everything fell into place that day, working like clockwork. But perfect execution is one thing. Asking employees to perform as accomplished band members and dancers is another thing.
That's why I came. I wanted to see how ordinary employees keeping the company’s books, manning its production lines, and bringing the produce to the market the rest of the year can transform into consummate band members and dancers overnight.
At the very first number, my jaw dropped. The band—which I learned later calls itself Rolls & Resins and was composed of staff from Dole's box and plastic plants — started out with a slow, skilful electric guitar plaint to break into a reggae version of George Michael's "Careless Whisper."
“Surely, these are not ordinary employees but professionals seconded to this event,” I said to the lady standing next to me. “They are, everyone of them,” she answered.
Dumbfounded, I could only mutter: "It couldn't get any better than this."
One after another, the remaining thirteen bands dished out numbers with the flair of seasoned professionals. Ocean Horizon-- composed of Dole wharf operations employees-- did Santana's
"Corazon Espinado" so well I could swear it was Carlos himself at the guitar and Karl Perazzo at percussion. The vocalist was especially riveting, a more mesmerizing presence on the stage than Andy Vargas himself. He had the audience-- all 1,500 of them- up on their feet, stomping and dancing.
Belisario’s Hausmates put in another outstanding performance. Lead vocalist Ayllin Monreal-- at once sultry and ethereal-- sizzled onstage with her version of Starship’s “We Built This City.”
I thought it would be a toss-up between Ocean Horizon and Hausmates for first place, until Kutang Bato-- composed of staff from Dole's North Cotabato operations-- did Europe's "Final Countdown."
At the end of their number, I felt like genuflecting.
The band contest was an exhilarating experience, intoxicating in the way it held surprises with every number. All the bands put in sterling performances, but at the end of the finals, it was Kutang Bato which romped with first place through its powerful rendition of Steel Heart’s “She’s Gone.”
Nor were the dance numbers any less impressive.
Like the band contest, the dance numbers were a dazzling display of originality, synchronized movement, and oomph. The last one was evident in the sophistication of the choreographies, the grandeur of the sets, and the embellishment of the costumes.
Panabo and VHT operations collaborated to come up with a masterpiece that bagged the first prize. Doing a medley take off of Michael Jackson in his Bad, Dangerous, and Thriller albums, the group jazzed, hip-hopped, and punked its way all the way to the bank.
Luna operations in Davao del Norte displayed technical know-how of ethnic dance with its quaint fusion of neo-ethnic and jazz in a superb performance which not only showcased the best of ethnic dance, but passed muster with the judges, at least one of whom is an expert on ethnic dance.
North Cotabato's Kutang Bato Dance Company presented the dances in Dole's market countries: Japan, Korea, China, and the Middle East.
As I told my wife and kids and everyone else I had the chance to brag to the following morning, the performances would have been hardly surprising had the band members and the dancers been professionals. BUT THEY WERE NOT. Even the Jong Oville-led organizing team which pulled off this herculean feat was strictly homegrown-- no professional events coordinators here.
All the people involved were ordinary Dole Employees, on "shore leave," in a manner of speaking. Yet they shined, all because of Dole's culture of excellence.
It has to be Dole's culture of excellence. As I learned later, all of Dole's corporate activities are employee-led, -planned, and -managed, and the Dole Asia Gimik-- an annual event of Dole employees from laborers all the way up to its top executives -- is no different. By insisting on this little detail, Dole's events become not merely occasions for fun, but for learning as well. Here accountability, planning, and teamwork can be honed to perfection.
I would not hesitate to tell travelers to take the Dreamliner, nor my friends to buy the Prius. In the same way, I would never hesitate to ask my wife to buy only Dole from now on. A company that oozes excellence in its fun moments can only have more in its products.