By Gomolemo Kololo Manake
Banker: Retail and Affluent
In the last edition of the Banking Metarmorphis, we discussed some elements that easily frustrate strategy execution in motion. These elements include unclear strategic direction, unaligned leadership, unaligned talent, poor rewards and recognition, poor vertical and horizontal communication, as well as poor coordination across businesses. These can contribute negatively to the execution or any strategic intent in the organisation.
There is more, unfortunately, but the most important revelation is how executives or strategy managers mitigate against the strategy killers. A strategy is vital in any given organisation, no matter the size or purpose. It is a game plan that helps an entity to determine its long term direction for its survival. Other strategy killers include the following:
Stifling Innovation in the organisation
In most cases, a new strategy calls for a departure from the current comfort zone to an unknown zone. Sometimes old pieces need to be dismantled in order to usher in a new wave of thinking, systems and doing things. We previously discussed how rewards and recognition can excite and inspire members in any given organisation to heed the call and innovate.
Besides this, the existence of the innovation in an organisation should not be stifled. Barriers should be discouraged and totally removed. Leaders need to create and espouse the innovation philosophy in their organisations and fully enable it. Employees can be allowed time off from their regular work schedules to pursue projects and innovations that will help the organisation to achieve strategy milestones or simply to gain a much-needed competitive edge.
R&D a priority
An obvious predecessor to innovation, Research and Development helps to interrogate the current reality in juxtaposition with realities outside the organisation, be it new industry trends or recent findings in academia. R&D can easily create a new future for the organisation. Unfortunately, most organisations do not prioritise R&D as an important component. This is a huge missing piece.
Who then looks at the performance of the organisation’s current products and services and learns from the best in class. If an organisation is just stuck and not moving forward or evolving for the better, then the conclusion is that either there is no strategy or the current strategy is totally ineffective. Organisations that have made R&D a top priority are the most innovative and we constantly see them gaining more and more competitive advantage. R&D is lifeline of such organisations.
Disabling organisational culture
The plight of fresh graduates and those new to an organisation often consists in being told: “This is how we have been doing things for years and it works well for us.” It is crystal clear that the people in such an organisation are okay with the status quo and are not willing to accept and learn new things. The most likely outcome is a stagnant organisation that will have no competitive advantage. The culture has become disabling for the organisation and it is the extroverted individuals or those with power who will share their inputs while the introverts and freshmen will be relegated to a little corner and watch everything play out. A disabling culture eats strategy for breakfast quickly, hence it has to be a top priority for managers to break down these cultural barriers and evidence of disabling organisational culture. However, management is “the usual suspects” in most cases of creating unwanted and disabling cultures that are adversarial to strategy execution.
Many would remember the story of President JF Kennedy and the janitor. John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor excitedly responded to the President: “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”
Without a doubt the janitor got it and it was kudos to NASA as this demonstrated a great organisation culture where each member of the team has a buy-in in the strategy, regardless of the pay grade or job title. All crew members need to have a simple understanding of the vision and the role they play in support of the bigger picture.
Not keeping it simple
Leaders or those bestowed with the responsibly of strategy formulation and execution need to understand that a requisite of a great strategy is total understanding of it. The bigger vision needs to be known while the elements and the tactics to support the bigger picture need to be clear. An organisation is but an organism with many systems working together. None can be considered less important or more important than another. Each member needs to understand how his/her input fits in that big picture. You surely still remember our friend, the NASA janitor.
It is a process, not an event
Strategy is certainly not be “Usain-Bolted” because it is more of a process than an event. Strategy should not be about doing things at a lightning speed that will be an event or just as though it is a one off occurrence to be quickly forgotten. Strategy execution should always be a process that observes many elements such as planning, feasibility studies, risk analysis, communication, stakeholder engagement, measuring and tracking and any other important ingredient for the success. It is the whole nine yards.
Let us say Rest in Peace to all the amazing souls whom we have lost to COVID-19 and other causes. For us in life, this is time to unite in prayer for ourselves, our country and our leaders. Let us marshal the resources we have to support the government of the day. Amen.
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