A new year is already under way and we are shortly heading for elections; this means two months are gone and you very likely haven’t looked at your strategic plan for 2016 because your key people were on holiday, came back to an overwhelmingly loaded in-trays and still can’t lift their heads off their desks. By the time the Christmas and school break backlog is sorted, you are likely to travel to avoid being in Kampala during the elections. So your first real strategic session for the year will happen somewhere in March, falling three months short for planning and delivery. That’s Ugandan business in any given election year.
With elections out of the way, life inevitably has to go on and you will crave to answer a few questions about the business you run. Questions like “where are we going?” then “How do we get there?” and “What resources are required?”
These three questions are the simplest form of probing your business for strategy. I can go into complex details on how to create a business strategy; I’m sure you’ve done it many times before yourself and you are still very likely searching for the right and the easy way. And this is totally allowed – we need to drive ourselves as managers and leaders to always find simpler, easier and more efficient ways of doing things and the process of creating strategy is never cast in stone. Improvise, engage, read, learn and implement – this would be my advice, always.
When defining your strategy, look at defining your company’s direction. Direction alone is not a strategy; direction merely spells out where you are heading and where you wish to be. Strategy largely delivers answers to the questions on how to get where you want to be. But direction is essential for selecting the right means of transporting your business from where it is to where it should be. Same as if choosing to travel to South Africa on a bus – you will undoubtedly reach there but how long will it take and what toll such a trip will take on you is the thing you must consider before you decide to walk out of the airline office because business class ticket is too expensive.
Time, comfort, cost, wear and tear – things to consider when thinking strategy.
Review the desired outcomes for the year. The big picture, the abstract, intangible statements like “become the market leader” or “grow the brand love”. Think of your business in context of the market place, competition, economic conditions etc, while trying to see yourself through the eyes of your customers. What is the image you want your customers to see at the end of the year?
Now bring in the more specific goals. What percentage of increase of turnover? What particular certifications? New territories, departments? New products? While at this, also try to set some priorities. Priorities are great to keep you in check and guide your way forward.
Finally, you have to look at resources. Do you have what is required in terms of assets and finance? If you do, great! But if you don’t – look at another mini-strategy on how you are going to get them. And look at the people who are supposed to carry out your strategy from a piece of paper to a large, fat bonus for everyone at the end of the year. Do you have the right people to execute your strategy for 2016?
In one of my roles I do not have the right supporting staff to help me with the execution. And you know what? I’m fine with that. The role is too important to be handled by someone unfit and I’m prepared to wait until the right person is available. Critical roles have to be supported by highly competent people, otherwise you risk to lose credibility. Less critical roles (or processes) can easily be used as a training and testing grounds under strict supervision by the seasoned team members. But the overall aim is to have in place people who will deliver what is required to correct specification and in the shortest period of time.
This is where organisations have to use tools like Capacity Grid to determine who the top performers are and who requires training or a boot. Without the ability to determine who is who on a scale from zero to hero, you and your strategy are left in total darkness.
The right person in the right job is every manager’s and every leader’s dream. The tool I use to put the two together is Predictive Index, where I can define the job and then look for the right personality to fill the role. There is a level of accuracy that sounds like magic and I’m certain it is magic – this is what we thought most sciences were just up until a hundred years ago. Now that science is finally making clear connections between human behavior and needs at workplace, managers can rejoice because the style of management has changed for the better – based on understanding the abilities and capacities rather on senseless enforcement or rules, demands and targets.
Once a manager is able to define strategic jobs in the company, determine the talent required to run those jobs, outline the kind of human support the team leadership needs and identify perfect match for each job – he will deliver on any strategy – provided the employees know what is required and believe in the outcome.
So even with the right team, communication is imperative. Constant engaging and briefing brings clarity and enables people share and most importantly exchange information. Strategy, simply, isn’t a job for one person and one day. If you really want your employees to deliver on your strategy, take your time to define strategy together: Your employees will be the best source of insights to keep your ship sailing firmly on course.