OpinionsBow and ArrowPortability of managers

Portability of managers


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When a General was appointed Undersecretary of the Department of Health, not a few individuals and organizations expressed their dismay.

In a statement, the Alliance of Health Workers strongly denounced the appointment of Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan as Health undersecretary, saying that it shows President Marcos Jr.’s lack of concern for the lives, health, safety, and welfare of the health workers and Filipinos in general. “The appointment is a huge insult to our health experts, who are most qualified to administer and run the affairs of the DOH,” the AHW said.

Some health workers said they would rather work with a Health Undersecretary who is an expert in helping eradicate deadly and infectious diseases.

A well-known Manila lawyer poked fun by posting in his social media account a picture of Doc Willie Ong (defeated senatorial candidate) in a General’s outfit with a sarcastic statement, “Praktis lang. Baka ipatatawag as chief ng PNP!”

Former Health Sec. and now Iloilo Cong. Janette Garin, however, sees nothing wrong with the appointment of a retired police general to the Health department, saying the agency also needs non-medical managers.

To her, “DOH is also involved in delivering essential health services to people which does not only involve those in the medical and sciences field and that delivery of health services is not just about doctors and scientists working together.”

“What is equally important is reaching the grassroots and feeling their pulse. The management skills of General Cascolan have long been proven in his several years of untainted service. Quick and timely response during calamities as well as the coordinated implementation of programs under devolved healthcare, not to mention the gigantic task of logistics and planning, are important factors in DOH,” she added.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa also supported the President’s decision, saying that being in the DOH does not necessarily mean being able to cure the sick.

This article is not meant to criticize nor defend the appointment of General Cascolan as undersecretary of DOH but to consider the idea that hospitals and the Health department are not only for medical doctors, much as construction companies and the Public Works & Highways department are not only for engineers and builders.

The question here is the portability of managers. Can an executive’s skills be readily transferred from one setting to another?

Theoretically, when an organization hires a new executive, it gets a bundle of abilities and experience. Some general management skills such as setting a vision, motivating employees, organizing, budgeting, and monitoring performance have been shown to translate well to new environments.

Conventional wisdom holds that a second category of management skills–those specific to a given company, such as knowledge of idiosyncratic processes and management systems–don’t transfer as well.

Switching employers, it is thought, leads to a short-term decline in a manager’s performance until the individual develops new skills specific to the new company.

But executives who come from institutions known for strong leadership development processes can be expected to have first-rate skills of the transferable type–general management skills.

Some researchers found that company-specific skills can prove valuable in a new job, under the right circumstances. They uncovered several other types of skills and experience that shape performance in one job and may influence performance in a new one, again depending on the circumstances.

These types fall under three headings: strategic human capital, or the person’s strategic expertise in cost cutting, growth, or cyclical markets; industry human capital, meaning technical and regulatory knowledge unique to an industry; and relationship human capital, or the extent to which a manager’s effectiveness can be attributed to his experience working with colleagues or as part of a team.

The advantages conferred by these skills are more likely to transfer to an executive’s new role when the new environment is similar to the old.

As regards General Cascolan, the issue could be only on the industry human capital as he is from the police organization.

Industry-based technical know-how is only one of the many human capital qualities which include, among others, education, health, mental and emotional well-being, problem solving and communication skills and people management.

The economist Gary Becker identified two types of human capital capabilities: general, which have potential value to more than one employer, and company-specific, which may be useful to a single employer only.

So in addition to the industry-specific alleged weakness of General Cascolan, he may initially find lacking in the company-specific human capital.

Appointees with more generic leadership capabilities will be better able to port their talent across from one organization to another, unlike those with more company-specific capabilities.

However, if the company with that new job is similar, in terms of organizational culture, to the one that the candidate is about to leave, then porting their talent has a higher likelihood of success.

I am sure that while PNP and DOH have wide differences in organizational mandates, operation-wise they share many commonalities.

During the pandemic, while many may refuse to recognize it, the experience of the military man in the person of Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. contributed much to the success of the Philippine fight against CoViD-19.

It is reported that lately, many companies have placed at the center of their talent management strategies the promise of the portable leader, which can be summarized as “working here today will make you a leader elsewhere tomorrow”.

Using the promise of portable leadership can attract talented people in companies, motivate them, and build valuable networks of alumni outside the firm’s walls.

US President Reagan was not an economist nor a graduate of political science. He started working after graduation as a sports reporter, and later became an actor. Yet, he became a celebrated state governor, and did well as the oldest politician who became president of a world superpower.

Sen. Mark Villar had a good record as DPWH Secretary, even though he is not an engineer. He was a graduate of Economics, Political Science and Philosophy, with an MBA.

In my hometown, the COO of one of the more popular private hospitals there is not a medical doctor. My college contemporary, who was with the SU College of Business Administration, was president of the Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center; he is now its chairman of the board.

The Department of Labor & Employment is known to be a haven of lawyers but an Agriculture graduate of Silliman was actually recognized as one of its outstanding executives.

Portability is a characteristic attributed to a computer program if it can be used in operating systems other than the one in which it was created, without requiring major rework.

Porting is the task of doing any work necessary to make the computer program run in the new environment.

Is porting then acceptable in the management of corporations or public institutions?


Author’s email: [email protected]



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