NELSON SEMANU & ELIZABETH ABENA BOANDOH-KORKOR
Managing Partners, Strategy & Strategy Consulting
WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO
The name Michael Eugene Porter does not need introduction when it comes to the subject of organizational strategy. He is [popularly] credited for creating the Porter’s Five Forces Analysis, which is instrumental in business strategy analysis.
Professionally, Michael Porter is an American academic known for his theories on economics and business strategy. He is currently the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School. Porter is also credited for being one of the founders of the consulting firm The Monitor Group and FSG, a social impact consultancy company based in (now part of Deloitte).
Michael has a popular quote on strategy that says, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” To wit, it is important to clarify which actions to take and which ones to avoid in a time this when rethinking your organizational strategy.
The coronavirus outbreak is affecting the global economy and its impact on corporate organizations cannot be overemphasized. It has thus, become necessary for leaders of corporations to revisit their strategy and rethink the way forward.
We are of the opinion that it would be out of place for organizations to take hasty decisions instead of clearly re-thinking their competitive strategy in times like.
RESPONSE TO THE “NEW NORMAL”
Timely decisions are needed now in order to come out victoriously! Obviously, as the PwC’s Global Crisis Centre put it, “COVID-19 (coronavirus) presents significant challenges to people and organizations around the globe and the disruption continues to evolve.
It’s important that businesses prepare for and respond to this “new normal” in order to ideally emerge stronger”.
The celebrated global business leader and former General Electric Chairman, Jack Welch says, “Strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.” But the question is: what to do and what not to do.
At a time like this, every business leader is concerned about the welfare of their employees and organizations.
This makes organizational decisions more sensitive. Particularly during this pandemic, any miscalculated step could further complicate issues regarding the wellbeing of corporations.
The focus of this article is to assist leaders of corporations to revisit, re-strategize and redeploy an effective organizational strategy going forward.
It provides strategy ideas on how corporate leaders can re-engineer growth amid COVID-19.
WHAT IS AN ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY?
An organizational strategy is a detailed roadmap of an organization’s plan of action towards achieving its main goal or core objectives. The strategy plan could be for a short period or a long term.
That notwithstanding, to develop a comprehensive organizational strategy, corporate leaders must access their current state and the economic environment vis avis their long-term plans.
THE FIVE ELEMENTS IN AN ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY DOCUMENT
It is important to identify the basic elements of an organizational strategy.
- STRATEGY POSITIONING
An organization’s strategy should not remain static regarding its positioning. It should not be a cast in stone document.
This is very important because for some leaders, until there is a “pandemic” or a serious disruption in organizational activity, they rarely revisit their strategy document. It is important to review the strategy document from time to time and senior managers must be on top of the elements therein.
Thankfully, the global pandemic has made this easier for most firms now. This is a good time to rethink your strategy. For a corporation to be able to achieve its goals, it is important to review its strategy document regularly.
- STRATEGY PRIORITY
Where is the organizational strategy derived from? From the company’s vision and mission statement. A clear vision is therefore an important asset for a forward-looking corporation.
Unfortunately, some organizations are yet to get a clear vision of where they are going. Every activity in the company should seek to fill this purpose, the mission thus guiding all strategic decisions.
A company’s vision describes what the company will have achieved in fulfilling its core mission. From the vision follows the long-term goals of an organizational strategy. Institutions that lose sight of their core mandate in the marketplace are not likely to make any meaningful impact.
- STRATEGY PERSONALITIES
The key personnel to be involved in developing the strategy document should be the senior level management. However, it is important not to totally sideline the participation of middle level decision makers and even the rank and file of the organizational.
Of course, this document is then presented to the board for approval before implementation.
An important aspect of the strategy development should include the consultation of an expert or a professional. For instance, it is best for get a finance expert to advise on the financial issues on the company. Also, today’s highly digitalized world, it won’t be out of place to consult experts on digital marketing, social media management and the likes.
It is an open secret that most firms in developing economies are yet to digitize their operations, including public sector organization, and this is a good time for them. In as much as most organizations try to run from these costs, it always pays in the end.
Remember that the expert knows a lot of things which you may never consider, and so it is vital to tap into their wisdom.
- STRATEGY PACKAGING
The way corporate leaders package and deploy strategy matters as far as organizational productivity is concerned.
Most often, organizations fail to achieve their core objectives because, they it wrong when it comes to strategy packaging and deployment.
On strategy packaging, respected business leader Jack Welch advises that corporate leaders must insist on putting the right people behind the right jobs. By this, he emphasizes that there must be an alignment in the deployment of skills and strategies regarding tasks.
In other words, there must be a perfect. This is very important because, for an organization to have guaranteed results, the most competent people must be rightly positioned within every level the organization. Skills and expertise must match positions!
- STRATEGY PURPOSE
The last element in the organizational strategy is the strategy purpose.
It is important not to forget the original intention of the strategy, which is to improve organizational culture and performance.
Put in another way, the profitability of your organizational depends on your corporate strategy. Corporate leaders must therefore keep an open eye on the implementation of the strategy and continually ask themselves if the purpose of the strategy document that was developed is being achieved.
DOES AN ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY DOCUMENT MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN ANY WAY?
Yes, it does! There are too many leaders with “systems, structures and organizational secrets in the heads!”. Strategy needs to be documented and effectively communicated for it to work in an organizational setting.
The most effective and efficient organizations are the ones with clearly stated organizational strategy that is well conceptualized, documented communicated and executed excellently!
Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, Inc., and author of the book, “The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy.”
In his article tilted, Why You Need a Plan: 5 Good Reasons – Strategic Planning,
he itemizes five important roles that an organizational strategy document plays in achieving success in business.
According to him, an organizational strategy:
- Sets the direction and priorities for the company
- Helps to rally everyone on the same page
- Simplifies the decision-making process in the organization
- Helps to match skills with the appropriate tasks
- Helps in better organizational communication
WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS TO CONSIDER IN DEPLOYING ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY?
We believe that there are five factors to consider in every strategy development implementation process.
- STRATEGY CONCEPTUALIZATION
Strategy conceptualization is the most important part of the entire process. When you get this wrong, your entire strategy can jeopardize the chances of your success. Simply put, your concept strategy won’t break the ice in the marketplace. The conceptualization of your strategy must be premised on a highly intelligent information gathered and not just on hearsay.
Too many business leaders fail to read and make highly intellectualized decisions. Your plan must be based on relevant data collected through research and not on assumptions.
Probably, it is time organizations revisit the importance they give to research and development.
It is important to also note that developing strategy takes time and resources.
It requires the time and commitment of some of the most highly paid and highly experienced people in your organization.
So, if your team isn’t willing to invest what is needed to achieve your strategy objectives, we recommend that you don’t do it.
- STRATEGY CONSULTATIONAL ENGAGEMENT
There must be consultation from the top to the rank and file of the organization. It is vital to state that this stage helps when you have a culture of corporate intelligence in place.
According to SmallBusiness.Chron.com, “senior management creates the company’s larger organizational strategy. Its middle managers, on the other hand, adopt plans and goals to fulfill the strategy step by step”.
Of course, that does not mean that those at the bottom will not be contacted before the development of the strategy concept. Your organizational strategy must not be a secret document as far as your employees are concerned, unless in special cases.
We like the way author and business adviser, Greg Satell puts in a recent Harvard Business Review article titled “Strategy to Achieve Organizational Change”:
“Perhaps most importantly, managers need to understand that transformation is not about decisions made in a boardroom, but about what happens on the ground.
To succeed, transformational efforts need to empower line-managers and employees with more than just lip service, but with real resources that help them solve the real problems that come with adopting new practices.”
- STRATEGY COMPETITORS
This is the most sensitive and valuable part of the organizational strategy implementation.
Corporate competition is real, and of course, no business is an island! Every organization [depending on its range of products and services] has its own competitors and yours won’t be an exception.
Even if you think you are not competing with anyone, others are, so you should pay attention to it when executing your strategy. It is worth noting that it is not just about competing. Having said that, it is important to state that, organizations can compete better by collaborating.
This is called collaborative competition.
An organization’s competitive advantage refers to what business it does best and how it does it. In other words, an organization’s core competency – along with the sum of what it knows through experience, talent and research.
However, during this pandemic, entrepreneurs must review this aspect of the plan and re-streamline the list. Who are our main competitors? How do we reposition our business to lead our competitors? How do we improve on my competitive strategy in this marketspace?
What emerging technology tools can help us to compete better and how do we deploy these? Which new talents do we need in our team? Which organizations do we need to collaborate with in order to become more competitive?
Which departments do we downsize? These questions provide an essential guideline to developing a comprehensive competitive strategy for an organization to thrive.
Without this, most organizations end up with the ‘copy and paste approach”. Remember that your strongest weapon in the marketspace is your competitive strategy.
- STRATEGY CULTURE
In our book titled, “How to Set Goals and Achieve them With Ease”, we opined that, “The key to driving great organizational performance is a culture of goal setting”.
To wit, organization culture is the fiber that holds the entire company together and empowers it to deliver results. A poor organizational cultures stutters growth, and profitability.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
“An organization’s culture defines the proper way to behave within the organization.
This culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors and understanding. Organizational cultgure sets the context for everything an enterprise does”.
Because industries and situations vary significantly, there is not a one-size-fits-all culture template that meets the needs of all organizations.
A weaker organizational culture will therefore, gradually and silently destroy the strength of the entire organization.
An example of a weak organizational culture is one with a strong politics and weak corporate intelligence and poor structures and systems.
In implanting your organizational strategy, you must ensure the system creates a happy and productive workplace that encourages employee growth and rewards performance.
- STRATEGY “COME-BACK”
There is always a need to come back to the strategy document and review it from time to time.
This is one of the most important keys to making strategy work. It is not enough to develop a great strategy document and leave it on the shelves, which is what most companies do. Both public and private institutions are guilty of this.
In fact, the difference between African organizations and those of the west is not really the lack of ideas but the implementation of those ideas.
As the leader of your corporation, you need to refer to the strategy document regularly in your daily, weekly and quarterly meeting and ensure that everyone is on the same page as you are. You must encourage your team to ‘walk the talk’.
This is how to make organizational strategy a success.
NELSON SEMANU & ELIZABETH ABENA BOANDOH-KORKOR are entrepreneurs, author-publishers, bloggers, podcasters, speakers and organizational strategy consultants.
You can reach them on +233 549 76 22 33.
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