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Building a contingent of officials at strategic level in Vietnam at present - Concepts, characteristics and contradictions to be resolved
8/6/2018 16:12' Send Print
Officials have the role of leading the country's development. Image:

Concept and characteristics of Officials

Officials are a component at the top of the personnel pyramid, holding key positions that decide the revolutionary cause. The word "strategy" itself implies the special importance of Officials. As far as semantics of the word "strategy” (“chien luoc" in Vietnamese) is concerned, "chien" is "fighting the battle", "luoc" is "main", "critical", i.e. the main, critical component; although they are few in number but have a decisive role in the revolutionary cause of the country, and during war time. It is not today that we have raised the concept of strategic level, but in feudal state regulations there has been a division between kings and ministers. Understandably, the king is a leader at strategic level, while the ministers are leaders at tactical level. The identification of Officials, including posts under the management of the Politburo, and the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee (610 people), is a way to identify personnel management bodies. The concept of Officials is used to distinguish them with official at tactical level, middle-level cadres, grassroots-level cadres who have the task of concretizing, executing and implementing decisions on leadership and management of Officials, commonly limited to secondary organizations, units, localities or communities.

The role of Officials is regulated by their positions, stature, and responsibilities. They form the top of the organization's personnel structure, responsible for planning strategic decisions for the entire Party and the country; develop strategic programs to optimize the ability to execute strategic decisions; collect, analyze, process and synthesize feedback from leaders and managers to adjust and change political decisions. They constitute the pillar, commanding all cadres of the political system and the country, representing the ruling institution. Characteristics of Officials include:

Although few in number they are the elite, holding key and crucial positions in the political system and the country, representing the institution; most of them are heads of the country, sectors, and localities.

At the top of the power structure, they play a decisive role in the survival, success and failure of the Party, the nation, and the cause of revolution, so all their decisions and activities are strategic.

Objects which regulate their leadership and management are extensive in space, long-term in time, varied and complex in content, and change frequently due to the pressure of large number, high uncertainty, and unpredictable context.

Their "outputs" are lines, orientations, policies at strategic level so they must possess corresponding virtues, values, qualities, and capacity.

Staying at the top of the personnel pyramid, often away from the masses and realities at the grassroots level, leading and managing mainly through indirect intermediaries, they must have corresponding methods, tools, ways of leadership to be able to keep contacts with real life in the grassroots, with the masses, and limit bureaucracy.

Having great authority in allocating resources and welfare, if they are upright, righteous, objective, they can create development; if they follow individualism, localism, and group interests, then the allocation of resources and welfare becomes distorted, ineffective, wasteful, causing power corruption. Thus, there must be a mechanism for effective control of power and special incentive policies corresponding to their contribution.

Three contradictions in building Officials in Vietnam at present and some suggestions for settlement

First, contradiction between the extensity, complexity, and changeability of leaders and managers with their capacity limitation.

Specific manifestations are: 1. The space under their leadership and management is not limited to one area but nationwide, and sectorwide with mixture between national and international, branch and intersectoral, regional and inter-regional; local and national elements; 2. The time of leaders is not only something seeable but also a long-term future that can only be perceived by prediction based on past and present data. 3. Leadership and management issues are complex inter-regional, inter-sectoral, inter-country issues; 4. The wider the space, the richer the contents, the longer the time, the more the uncertainty, when one sector is affected by other sectors, the situation in the country comes under the pressure of international development. All these make it difficult to identify and forecast the situation, seize opportunities to make a strategic breakthrough or turn challenges into opportunities.

Therefore, Officials with normal capacity cannot be able to cover extended space, have long-term vision, make overall and systematic assessment, especially lead and manage changes, overcome challenges, take advantage of opportunities to create strategic breakthroughs for development. To resolve the contradiction, clearly they must have corresponding capacity as follows:

They must possess sharp strategic thinking to observe and explain the rules and trends of large, complex subjects; understand the nature of issues before any change to manage the change without becoming a victim of the change; be able to predict the future trend though not always having sufficient information; have firm acumen to face, bear pressure and ability to overcome challenges; quickly grasp opportunities and turn challenges into opportunities, creating strategic breakthroughs. In short, Officials must have strategic thinking, different from tactical thinking which only looks at short-term, narrow-scope, and simple issues. That capacity is basically formed, developed, trained through special mechanisms and methods, including theoretical training, practical experience, and self-training. That capacity cannot be acquired by people who are lazy in learning, disrespect theory, and have no capacity to summarize practice. Unlike studying through books by professional researchers or through practice by officials at tactical level, Officials must adopt a different learning style, the facilitating learning, lifelong learning, and mainly self-learning; base themselves on basic theoretical knowledge to shape their own styles of learning, from learning through books, experts, practice, from people, to learning through summarizing successes or failures in their or other people’s daily lives, and social life by analyzing, and summarizing into theory.

They must have the capacity to criticize, any issue must be considered both theoretically and practically without overlooking any angle, without bringing benefits for one sector at the expense of the other, taking into full account international elements when working for national interests. Critical thinking makes thinking constantly dynamic, creative, and less tied into old thinking. All cadres must possess capacity of criticism, but officials at tactical level mainly implement tasks, so for them criticism is to find solutions and methods for effective implementation; meanwhile, Officials have to involve in developing lines and orientation; without criticizing capacity, it is difficult for them to create breakthroughs for national, sectoral and local development. They must be critical of existing things and options advanced by other people, collective or by themselves to see that whether existing things are reasonable or not, why they exist or need to change; criticizing other’s opinions requires a person to have acumen, firm point of view, improved arguing capability to constantly innovate their thinking, being able to discover unreasonable things in others’ opinions to make change; being self-critical is to look at oneself for something that might be correct earlier but is of no value and need changing for the moment. Self-critism is prompted by delay in subjective awareness while objective reality is constantly moving and changing. People are often critical of others' faults but easy with their own shortcomings.

They must have strategic organizational capacity to ensure "inputs" for forming strategic lines as well as "outputs" to be turned into reality, not just stay as lines. Officials lead and manage mainly through intermediaries, from collecting “input" information for issuing decisions to organize the implementation of strategic lines, strategies and decisions. In order to ensure that political decisions are always sound, and correct, it is necessary to organize a large, complex and diversified system of information supply, reception and processing. To this end, Officials must know how to use talented and honest subordinates, and think tanks (high-level experts, consultancy organizations to support decision makers in solving problems they are facing) to seek for new and creative ideas. If subordinates are not honest, they may convey misinformation to superiors, thus decision-makers may easily be subjective, voluntary, mistaken when planning strategies. In addition, Officials must establish an information verification system to screen reports from subordinates, distinguish true from false information, discover what is valuable among the real and the unreal. Under today's conditions, it is necessary to use information technology to gather information and interact with the world, supplement and verify feedback through intermediaries. That is just to mention the strategic organization of "inputs" for strategic planning. Another important step is strategic programming of all ideas, and lines already planned to be optimally implemented. The ideas, lines, and orientations of Officials can only reach the grassroots and people through intermediaries. Only scientific programming can ensures that ideas and lines are realized, otherwise they will remain on paper. Thus there is a need for an ability to choose loyal, honest, diligent executives and specifically who are capable of realizing ideas and tasks. Loyalty and honesty ensure that right ideas maintain their direction to reach final goals, not deviating or going astray. Diligence and capacity guarantee that ideas of Officials are implemented effectively and consistently by subordinates, especially in dealing with problems arising during the implementation of ideas which is not always favorable. Therefore, to ensure that the right strategic thinking is carried out in the long run, Officials must have the authority and ability to choose successors so that strategies will not be broken or interrupted or confined to only one term.

They must have the ability to create values of life, dedicate and inspire comrades, colleagues, people, international friends about the values that they have committed and pursued. They have an important function of representing the institution. Their behavior, through the media, can inspire not just their associates, but also people and international friends. It is possible to measure quite accurately the public’s sentiment, admiration for politicians concerning their diligence, integrity, honesty, impartiality, devotion, sacrifice, although they have not met face-to-face. Vice versa, political jokes or puns are used to attack and ridicule those in opposite cases. It shows that a leader at strategic level must always know the limits of power transmission through the institutional apparatus, supplement by using soft power to inspire, and influence by the values they commit and pursue. In order to do this, they must create values, and raison d’être transparently to be publicized and committed before people, and consistently acted upon. It is very important to use the media to convey messages, values, raison d’être and actions through words and deeds. Of course, it is not for the purpose of "polishing", "branding,” but to convey values and aspirations for devotion to people, some of which, due to distance, time or bureaucratic apparatus, are initially refracted. Those values are crystallized in work and life ethics, in everyday behavior, in programs of action they committed at the promotion ceremonies, in political messages of the year, in small gestures but are of much public attention especially when it comes to virtues, such as integrity, selflessness, devotion, sacrifice in association with the goals and ideals that Officials committed to pursue. In the age of globalization, these values must be shared and used to influence internationally in order to win support and assistance of international friends for their righteous cause.

Second, contradiction between maintaining relative stability of the system and creating strategic breakthroughs for development, between changes and management of change.

Officials are the top of the apparatus, and representatives of the ruling institution, leading the people to achieve chosen ideals and commitments. This contingent develops strategic plans, if the strategies are correct the revolutionary direction is maintained, if the strategies are erroneous, the state may run into disorder or even collapse. Maintaining stability must not be understood as standing still, inertia, passivity, but a state of development in harmony that does not cause disturbances in the system. Thus, the responsibility in leadership and management of Officials is to maintain the relative stability of the system, of which the core is to maintain the nature of the political regime. In order to do so, they must be trained in basic political theory to be deeply imbued with and act self-consciously upon ideal, persistently following Marxist-Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thought, a persistence based on scientific beliefs.

On the other hand, they must be able to seize opportunities and turn challenges into opportunities to create strategic breakthroughs. Breakthrough thinking of officials at all levels is important, but for Officials who relate to the development and future of the nation, this thinking needs to be given special attention to. Breakthrough thinking and capacity do not come to those who are content with their slots, follow old ways of doing things or only care for their "safety." Strategic breakthroughs do not mean to do things recklessly, rashly, and "daringly" but means to do things on a scientific and practical basis. People with breakthrough thinking are few, so they can easily become victims of breakthroughs, if the majority of people disagree, do not support, share, or oppose. Thus, they must possess the ability to persuade collectives and superiors on the feasibility of the breakthrough plan with scientific and practical justifications, and their own political life. They must know how to use the media to create public opinion, explore social response towards the draft plans. All these help set the stage for strategic breakthrough opportunities to arise and when strategic opportunities come, they must seize the opportunities, bravely and resolutely take actions without hesitation. Generating strength, creating situation and grasping opportunities are necessary qualities of leaders at strategic level. Failing to do so, strategic breakthrough ideas cannot be turned into strategic breakthrough ability; development opportunities will be missed or challenges will grow, putting pressure on the country and the regime.

Breakthrough thinking must be linked to systematic thinking. Among various multi-dimensional interactive objects, and possibilities to chose, Officials must be able to identify breakthrough (breakthroughs) to focus resources and the highest political will for successful implementation. The strategic breakthrough is the key point, if it is cleared, other things will be resolved according to the "automatic" principle. The breakthrough thinking is different from “jackfruit spike”-like "scattering" thinking which spreads resources to achieve too many objectives. This will not allow focusing resources and concentration of will on key point, and this will result in failure of strategic breakthrough intentions.

In order to maintain the relative stability in breakthrough, the fundamental problem is to persistently realize objectives and implement the breakthrough in an ethical and conscientious way. When there is a strong scientific argument, ethics and conscience will keep the balance for the breakthrough to move in the right direction, which will ensure collective’s support and sympathy. The collective cannot "lay a bet" of belief on those who are unsure, and may bring about risks, especially if the breakthrough initiators’ ethics is not guaranteed. In fact, it is not always having sufficient scientific basis to persuade the collective to accept breakthrough ideas, in many cases the collective place their confidence in the initiators whose ethics and personality have been tested in previous cases.

Breakthrough thinking always wants to change old, and backward things which restrain development, but breakthrough thinking must be accompanied by the ability to manage change, because any change implies risks, collapse, disturbance of the existing system. It often makes beneficiaries of the existing regime and people who are content with their slots and hesitant to change oppose or not cooperate. Thus, breakthrough thinking to generate change must be accompanied with the ability to manage change. This capacity first demonstrates the ability to convince the majority of the feasibility of the change plan without risk. It is no less important to program the change process, ensure that the strategic breakthrough occurs in order, prevent and control risks. Officials must have the ability to adapt quickly to change, because in today's world it is difficult to predict accurately. Here, adaptive ability is not the adaptation of an individual to an evolutionary change in the natural world, but the ability to make sharp and flexible decisions that fit the changing situation and environment. Adaptive ability does not come to those who lack theoretical, intellectual, cultural, and experience backgrounds. Thus, equipping sufficient theoretical knowledge, general knowledge, experience for Officials is an important basis for enhancing their adaptive ability in face of unpredictable changes of the time.

Third, contradiction between controlling power, preventing power corruption and creating spaces for Officials to innovate and acquire the ability to make strategic breakthrough.

Officials always hold key positions in planning lines, orientations and policies, allocate resources and welfare; arrange, transfer, promote lower level officials. Therefore, if they do not think and act in a transparent, righteous and integrity manner, power is easily corrupted; policies promulgated not for public benefits but for the benefits of individuals, localities and interest groupa; resources are not unequally and ineffectively allocated causing waste of property; bias and subjective placement and use of cadres will make the apparatus operate inefficiently. To optimize efficiency in the use of public power, it is necessary to effectively control power, prevent power and authority abuse, in broader term prevent power corruption. But controlling power without diminishing creative and innovative capacity, ability to make strategic breakthroughs of Officials is a matter of power organization science and art.

Settling the above-mentioned contradictions can only be possible by building ruling ethics and creating an institutional framework that nurtures and protects strategic breakthrough ideas. Ethics are necessary for all types of officials, but the higher the authority, the higher the requirements for revolutionary ethical standards, because it is ethics that make personal capabilities work in the right direction, for the benefits of the Party, the country and the people; ensure that political decisions are always impartial, free from personal motives, right and transparent; guarantee that Officials really set example for their subordinates and lead the people. Ethical deviation of officials at the tactical level causes consequences in a small scale, but large scale at the strategic level, relating to the image of the regime as a whole and legitimacy of the ruling power. Ruling ethics are established values that with them Officials always win the trust of the collective, associates and people toward their thoughts and behavior. The ruling ethics are also the invisible cord that binds every Official to committed values, including sacrifice and devotion. As innovation, breakthroughs always face with risks, thus people with acumen who dare to sacrifice their political life for changes because of sacred values are needed.

Control of power as well as creation of space for creativity by ethics are very abstract, which can only be attained by those who foster themselves all through their lives. Therefore, the prevention of the danger of power corruption and creating space for innovation must be based on the institutional framework designed and built in a scientific way. The institutional framework facilitates Officials to be innovative and creative, especially aware of what must be done to create breakthroughs for development, what must not be done because they have the duty and responsibility to set example for people. It is important to clearly define the authority, responsibilities and obligations of individuals before the organizations, and the people to help Officials always think and act in accordance with their minds, for the interests of the Party, and people and be ready to sacrifice for revolutionary cause. At the same time, the institutional framework also binds all the activities of Officials to a set of consistently established principles and scientifically designed mechanisms to ensure that they are always think and act properly and wisely, prevent them from committing any possible mistakes. Control of power must be secured by binding individual behavior to organizational principles, especially the ruling values they commit and devote to, by mechanisms, institutions that create the framework for proper thinking and acting, by ensuring the leading role of collectives, organizations towards individuals, by examination and control of the State and laws, by supervision within the Party, social and people’s supervision and criticism, and supervision of the media and public opinion.


This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 906 (April 2018)
Doan Minh HuanPGS, TS. Alternate member of the Party Central Committee, Editor-in-Chief of the Communist Review