Matai System [Management] the Same as Military [Management]?

The hot debate in Samoa presently has to do with the Police Commissioner equating the faa-matai (chiefly) management model to that of the military.  As a result, the Commissioner has come under fire from some government officials, cultural specialists, etc. and demanding an apology for “insulting” the matai establishment. Many (including myself) have opined and expressed their positions on the matter over the airwaves and online news sources - the Samoa Observer being the main one, so far.  Most seem to support the Commissioner while those who are vilifying him, had either taken his comments out of context or just bent on impetuously defending the matai system against an innocuous misunderstood claim.  These vilifiers are trying their best to protect and defend the matai system against any association with what they think is egregiously evil - the military.  And that’s the root of all their impetuosity, if not their blatant ignorance. They even blame the Commissioner for his lack of knowledge of the matai system and how it operates, and attribute that to him not having ever sat in a council meeting (fono).  Baloney!  I say.

It’s an irony that the vilifiers make such accusations and yet, they, conversely, do not understand either how the military management model works - the oldest management model in the world and whose elements are found in many management models; including the faa-matai. Apparently, their only limited and insular impression of a military has to do with guns, tanks, ammo and killing.  For example here’s what one so-called Cultural Specialist said in objection to the Commissioner’s comparison and comments:
“We don’t have guns or weapons to rule the village.... The military system can get people killed. They give orders and people follow them, but in the fa’amatai system we don’t. We don’t give demanding orders.”
Well, that’s flagrant denial - if not an outright lie - right there. But even with such an equivocation, he’s still wrong. Where has this “cultural specialist” been in the last few years when a number of villages had standoffs (bearing arms) with the government?  Where has he been in the hundreds of years when the matais had been “giving orders” - even “demanding orders”?  Was this guy living under a rock?  This is the direction of jumble and muddle that the vilifiers have taken due to some foolhardy interpretation and lack of understanding.

One of the letters (here) by an opponent of the Commissioner went as far as calling those who side with him (Commissioner), “idiots” who “[open their] foolish traps.”  I have submitted a response (below) to the letter.
Dear Editor,

I'm writing to respond to RK's letter dated 5 Jan 2016 in your Letters to the Editor section.

With RK's spites and ad hominem jabs aside, let me address some of the pivotal points of, hopefully, a more civil and respectful discussion.

I think one of the points that may have been misconstrued in the discussion thus far, is the nuanced interpretation and application of the military reference within the context of the Commissioner's comments. It seems the military management model is cast in a very negative and scornful light. The implied and assumed stigma resulting from associating the faa-matai to the military is overblown and obfuscated. This may be derived from the negative perception and authoritarian context of the military, especially those of dictatorial and rogue nations and countries. It may also stem from an insular perception - with Samoa not having a military of her own - of wars and conflicts around the world. Not all militaries are bad or evil. Some are benevolent in their undertakings and effective in their operations and logistics. The military model is perhaps the oldest management model and one on which police force managements are based.

Now what about the comparison to the faa-matai? Allow me to expound.

Not all villages have the same power structure and configuration. For some, power and authority are distributed among individual matais or groups and/or alliances (e.g. taauso, falefia/tolu, usoali’i, etc.,). The standard and more common model, however, is the one to which the Commissioner alluded, the one with the “big matai” or a paramount chief (ali’i sili, tu’ua, tulafale ali’i, etc.,) who has, at least ideally speaking, irreproachable authority (pule). In this model, any consensus by the fono will have to be either in alignment with the will of the “big matai” or would simply have to acquiesce. This acquiesced authority is bequeathed on the tu’ua via village history and traditions.

Moreover, on the aiga level where the matai is selected through deliberation and consensus, the process also endows the matai with similar acquiesced authority. This is true in all if not most of the aiga decisions. This authority stems from the fact that a matai is vested with the pule in a type of social contract arrangement where the aiga entrusts the holder with the matai title (hence power and authority) and in return he/she will “provide” for the aiga (in today’s society) and administer the aiga affairs.

Therefore in both cases (village and/or aiga), the basic elements of centralized power structure and configuration including the hierarchical and more vertical chain of command of the faa-matai are those that are also found in the military model. So the Commissioner has a point, at least to those who truly understand the entirety of the issue. His analogy/comparison, in totality, may not be comprehensively accurate. And guess what? It’s not totally false either. Furthermore, I don’t think that the Commissioner’s intention was to denigrate the fa’a-matai, considering the essence of his claim and the more popular elements of the military management model. So, again, I honestly feel that he does not owe any one an apology.

And by the way, on consensus and democracy, although the two can co-exist, they actually, in their very nature and essence, are more mutually exclusive than not.

In conclusion, let me say to those who still may not be convinced, to please lighten up! Again, I’m sure there are a lot more serious and urgent matters that need to be addressed by government officials than to insist on an apology from someone who seems sincere in effecting change in a critical branch of government, especially in light of the rising crime occurrences in the country.

Ma le faaaloalo lava,

LV Letalu


World's 50 Most Important Management Thinkers: 10% are BYU Graduates

Excerpts from a Deseret News article.

“... for the first time, 10 percent of those on the Thinkers50 list are BYU graduates — Christensen at No. 2, Ulrich (27), Liz Wiseman (43), Hal Gregersen (46) and Whitney Johnson (49).”
Like a smaller boxer who succeeds against bigger fighters, "BYU outpunches its weight," Ulrich said.
But how? Why does BYU make up an outsized portion of the Thinkers50?
The answers range from the mundane — how lists are compiled — to the intriguing — what the dean of BYU's business school calls the Clayton Christensen Effect. Christensen earned an economics degree at BYU and went on to write "The Innovator's Dilemma," which "deeply influenced" Apple's Steve Jobs. His ideas on innovative disruption have had such a broad impact that "disruption" is becoming a household term describing, for example, what is happening right now with cable TV cord-cutting. Gregersen and Johnson have worked directly with Christensen.
Ulrich said a better and perhaps more interesting answer includes the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on all five BYU alumni in the Thinkers50.
"Five LDS people on the list is amazing," he said. "I credit the LDS learning system. BYU, I think, through the missions served by so many of its students, gets that benefit. I don't think the world understands how great missions are for learning. Gospel and theology learning, of course, but also social learning, organizational learning, personal management learning. An 18-month or two-year mission is like five years working at one of the world's best consulting firms."
LDS impact
The idea of an outsized Mormon impact in business and business management has been explored before, most famously in a 2010 Financial Times article, which said LDS culture has given birth to "a professional elite." In 2012, Harvard Business Review published a piece titled, "How Mormons Have Shaped Modern Management."
Two Mormons, Christensen and the late author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey, made the first Thinkers50 lists in 2001, ’03 and ’05. A human resources guru, Ulrich joined them on the list in 2007, ’09 and ’11.
HR Magazine named Ulrich the father of modern human resources in 2012 after calling him the most influential international thought leader for five consecutive years. Last year, speaking.com ranked him the No. 1 speaker in management and business.
Ulrich, who earned a master's in organizational behavior at BYU, is prolific. He is the author of more than 25 books."
The BYU 5
After Covey died in 2012, Christensen and Ulrich were joined on the Thinkers50 2013 list by Wiseman, who developed the idea of leaders as multipliers and diminishers. Multipliers are people who double the brainpower inside an organization by attracting talent and making people around them smarter.
Wiseman earned a bachelor's degree in business management and a master's in organizational behavior at BYU and was the global leader of human resource development at Oracle. She has written three best-sellers in the past five years, including "Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter."
This year's new BYU additions to the Thinkers50 are attached to Christensen.
Gregersen is executive director of the MIT Leadership Center. This year, the Forbes list of the world's most innovative companies was based on methodology Gregersen created with Jeff Dyer, a BYU business professor. Gregersen, Dyer and Christensen were co-authors in 2011 of "The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators."
Gregersen, who earned a master's in organizational behavior at BYU and is a past BYU faculty member, is working together now with Christensen studying "the power of questioning and how the most successful leaders are able to identify the right question — rather than the solution — to unlock a vexing challenge," according to the Thinkers50 site.
Johnson is the co-founder with Christensen and past president of the Rose Park Advisors' disruptive innovation investment fund. She took Christensen's theory of disruption and applied it at an individual level. This fall she published "Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work."
"She's revolutionizing career change," said Lee Perry, dean of BYU's Marriott School of Management. "She did a nice pivot with disruption and applied it to individuals."
She earned a music degree at BYU before moving into business. Last year, Fortune listed her as one of the 55 most influential women on Twitter. She has more than 51,400 followers.
Nice validation
Perry said having five BYU alums in the Thinkers50 rivals Harvard and Stanford. "It's pretty elite company," he said. "It's a nice validation when things like this happen. It's validation that you're doing the right thing and you're getting better. They're happy surprises for us."
Perry was careful not to ascribe too much credit to BYU.
"These are primarily individual achievements," he said. Like Ulrich, he credited what he called the LDS Church's focus on leadership and leadership development. Mormons don't have a paid clergy but their congregations are highly organized. Girls and boys begin to serve in leadership positions when they turn 12, and those opportunities continue to grow for women and men throughout their lives.
Christensen wrote about the concept in an essay a few years ago. He noted that a story about the organizational efficiency of the LDS Church in response to a flood missed the larger point — that organization is on display every week in every Mormon congregation.
"I think the experiences we have in church help us become more sensitive to leadership and organizational issues," Perry said. "I don't think it's just happenstance BYU had one of the earliest and strongest organizational behavior programs. We basically have a laboratory for leadership opportunities in the LDS Church that come with maybe even some additional challenges because it's a volunteer organization."
Perry taught Wiseman in a class at BYU, and he's proud of her. He said every Mormon will have had leaders who have been multipliers and others who have been diminishers.
"They've done this by themselves," he said of the five Latter-day Saints in the Thinkers50, "but I think their LDS and BYU backgrounds provided a nice little jumpstart."
Ulrich, who teaches at the University of Michigan's business school, agreed.
"I think the LDS culture creates an organizational DNA," he said. "BYU magnifies those early instincts. For me, BYU was life-changing.”

Happy New Year ...

...some pics from our Church (ward) New Year's Dance