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Achieving Results through Insights, People and Strategy

by Kevin Tan

As Mark Twain once said, people with hammers will treat everything like a nail, even when the job at hand may be better accomplished with a drill or saw. In designing the right solution and right strategy, there are no quick xes and de nitely not one size ts all. In this second part of the series of articles, I will be sharing the remaining two components to our IPSR (Insights, People, Strategy, Results) consulting methodology: Strategy and Results.

Most strategies and grand plans look picture perfect and awless on paper; however when it comes to execution and implementation, it is not surprising that the plan may not turn out as expected. Let us look at several recommendations in translating a strategy into execution, and implementing the plan effectively and successfully. Below are several considerations to be taken into account when formulating the right strategy: a. Assess the phase of the business (Start-up, Growth Acceleration, Maturity, Sustaining, Decline, Turnaround). b. De ne the strategic intent, compelling vision, priorities and set a realistic time frame. c. Appoint a project steering committee and project sponsor to be the internal champion and change agents. d. Allocate resources (internal commitment and external resources for consultants). e. Identify possible roadblocks, challenges with political landscape, problems with infrastructure, current environmental issues and practical countermeasures.

a) Assess the phase of the business. The challenges of building a business strategy for a company, which is at its start-up phase compared to one which is at sustaining success, are very different. One major difference for a start-up company, is that there is likely to be very little or no structure and systems in place, resulting in lack of clarity in the business framework and where each person's boundaries start and ends. As for a company at its sustaining success (or maintenance) phase, the challenge for any project or strategy is to do better than what was done by the former leader, and managing the expectations of the team that was created or left behind by the former leader. The new leader will always be measured against what was done by the former leader, especially if the former leader has left a legacy of success and achievements. In the case of de ning and building a strategy for a start-up phase company, the opportunities are that you can do the right things and do things right, from the beginning. The Project Sponsor and Project Committee must be of credible character and respected in order to be effective `agents of change'. In addition, change agents must be able to create impact and in uence as well as energise people of the new possibilities. As for a company that is sustaining its success or is in its maintenance phase, the strategy should be practical, slightly conservative (defensive) and should avoid embarking on too many new initiatives at the risk of overwhelming the existing team, or causing too many undercurrents that could jeopardise the entire project. However, the opportunity in

implementing a strategy in this phase is that, most likely, a strong team is already in place. They are motivated to ensure their continued success; they understand the business and know what works and what does not. The project committee and the consultant must work closely with these key stakeholders in pivotal positions to ensure their buy-in and unwavering commitment to ensure the success of the strategy. b) De ne the strategic intent, compelling vision, priorities and set a realistic time frame. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. To do this, one must ensure that the strategy and its successful execution of the plan will result in a positive outcome that will signi cantly contribute to the business performance, pro tability and productivity. The main thrust for any strategic initiative to be meaningful must be anchored to business performance. Linking it to anything that is not measurable will mean playing in a eld with shifting goal posts. When it comes to ideas and innovation initiatives, everyone will have something that they want to improve. However, due to limited resources and because time is of essence, project committees need to exercise discipline and focus in order to prioritise the strategic initiatives. For example, Malaysian Airlines MD/CEO, Dato' Seri Idris Jala terms these "Key Business Activities or KBA". At MAS, he will only sponsor strategic initiatives and KBAs that will signi cantly improve the company's bottom line and business protability. c) Appoint a project steering committee and project sponsor to be the internal champion and change agents. The strategy will not work and the implementation guaranteed to fail, if various parties with direct or indirect vested interests (stakeholders) are not on the same boat. Thus it is important to rst identify who these groups or individuals are that the Project Sponsor or Project Committee need to engage beforehand, and solicit their opinions, thoughts and feedback before proceeding with the appropriate strategy. In legacy or monopolistic organisations that have enjoyed unrivalled success, the existence of `mini-Napoleons' and their in uence on the internal political landscape should not be taken too lightly as their resistance to change can undermine the cooperation from the grassroots level. d) Allocate resources (internal and external). Be practical and realistic about what the organisation can commit with internal resources and what you need exactly from external consultants. Given such challenging economic times, it would probably be best to reassess the availability of excess manpower in certain divisions in the business, and encourage multi-skilling and transfer of knowledge and technology from external consultants while at the same time saving costs in doing so. While leveraging on internal excess capacity will undoubtedly be costeffective, one must ensure that the competency of the internal facilitators and implementers does meet the required level to carry out the execution of the strategy, given the time frame. e) Identify possible roadblocks, challenges with political landscape, infrastructure, current environmental issues and practical countermeasures. As Sun Tzu once said, "Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the in nite variety of circumstances." A strategy that has worked in the past does not guarantee that it will work again. Hence, it is imperative that the implementation team or project committee considers the above variables and carry out scenario planning especially for strategies that have high impact (drastically positive or drastically negative) to the overall business performance. A case in point is Toyota's recent reporting of its rst ever operating loss, caused by its

overly aggressive and ambitious expansion of assembly plants across the world, resulting in poorer quality control standards and higher vehicle recalls. In 2005, Toyota recalled 2.38 million vehicles in the USA - slightly more than the entire number of cars and trucks it sold that year. In 2007, Toyota had ve recalls in Japan, totalling more than 800,000 cars and trucks. In October of that year, America's Consumer Reports magazine lowered Toyota's rankings on its authoritative annual car-quality surveys. In short, it is a must to involve and engage the ground staff who can give valuable data and input on how the strategy and plan will pan out, given their experience. Senior level management can be amazed by the type of suggestions or innovation that can emerge from shop oor staff. The perception of a successfully implemented project may differ from one stakeholder to another. Different stakeholders with varying degrees of expectations will have different de nitions of what is deemed to be a successfully thought-out and executed strategy, thus affecting the overall success of the project. Here are several factors to be taken into consideration when evaluating the results and outcome of a strategy or project. i. ii. iii. iv. v. Have clearly de ned clear goals and deliverables at the beginning of the project. Regularly manage expectations. Evaluate and reward. Seek feedback from stakeholders (post-mortem) through survey. Communicate results to sustain momentum.

i) Have clearly de ned clear goals and deliverables at the beginning of the project. The objectives and deliverables of the project must be speci ed, syndicated and endorsed by the Project Sponsor or the Committee before its implementation can take place. This is to ensure that there will be no dispute on what the expected outcome should be at the end of the project. In doing so, one should identify measurable targets or indicators as a bell weather to assess if the implementation plan and strategies have succeeded or failed. ii) Regularly manage expectations. Evaluating the results and outcome of the project or strategy should not be left till the nal stage of the project. Regular meetings with the project committee to provide updates on the current development and milestones achieved are crucial to ensure that `workinprogress buy-in' is obtained at every critical point. If this is done, the nal outcome will almost be automatically accepted by the stakeholders. The importance of regular updates is to provide timely, relevant and accurate information to the project committee members in order to better anticipate possible pitfalls and be prepared for any consequence management during the course of the implementation as well as to make whatever necessary decisions. iii) Evaluate and reward. To implement a project, one will still have to perform daily operational duties, thus such additional responsibility is not something that everyone looks forward to. In some organisations, it is even a challenge to get volunteers to be part of a project improvement or strategic initiative. Volunteering can at times be known to some as `tactful coercion'. In such circumstances, it is not unusual to hear that most organisations don't reward project members for their contribution in terms of time, energy and ideas in a suf ciently motivating manner (monetary and non-monetary). In an example shared recently by a government-linked company (GLC), the CEO decided to reward each of the project members with one month's salary for their excellent contribution to several strategic

initiatives resulting in increase in business pro tability. This type of reward will continue to encourage staff to share their intellectual capital and motivate them to be willing to do more for the organisation. iv) Seek feedback from stakeholders (post-mortem) through survey. After the desired results have been obtained, it is recommended that a survey be conducted approximately three months after project completion. This is to assess the overall experience of the project members and stakeholders, and the general feelings of the employees. The survey should incorporate parameters such as meeting stakeholder expectations, effectiveness in implementation, observable changes, overall success or failure of the new initiatives, and estimated level of improvements. v) Communicate results to sustain momentum. As with any beginning, there must be a closure. The project committee's job is not done until the nal outcome and results are communicated and shared with the organisation's employees. Although there are employees who have not been directly involved the project, the results still have some implications on their work and overall well-being; hence, these employees will be interested to know about the project's impact on them and require some airtime for their queries to be answered. During this communication session, engaging the employees and soliciting their feedback is imperative to ensure majority support for the initiatives, thus sustaining the momentum for the strategic initiatives to form part of the culture and way of doing business for the organisation. What if the end results do not meet the projections? What should you do? As articulated by General Electric's Chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, in such times, we step up each business unit review and "everything we used to do weekly, we are doing daily and everything we used to do monthly, we are now doing weekly". Based on most of the research that I have reviewed, generally it is widely accepted that 40 to 50 percent of a strategy's potential success is lost due to poorly formulated plans, misapplied and misallocation of scarce resources, breakdown in communication, unclear lines of responsibility and ambiguous accountability of results or other failures in execution. In short, most people who have actively participated in projects and strategic initiatives will probably agree that it is a constant paradox between strategy and execution. Both are important. Sometimes one may take slightly higher priority and urgency from the other, but to succeed, both are critical. I personally believe that awless execution of a good strategy is anytime better and far more sustainable and superior to poor or average execution of a perfectly thoughtout strategy.

Building Organisational Capability Using the Holistic Integrated Management Model


By Dr Wilson Tay

The Holistic Integrated Management Model (HIMM) identifies the different levels of organisational capability and competencies required to build strong, growing and profitable organisations. Most organisations experience the various levels as they progress through their organic growth phases. The model also demonstrates the interface and management dynamics within and between each level, which requires organisations and their people to gain the relevant competences that correspond to their growth stages and learning needs.

Overview of HIMM An organisation comprises a conglomeration of people whose base productive unit is the individual worker. To produce optimal results, each individual must strive towards competency or personal mastery in his/her own work area and internalise his/her values, ethics and pride of work as part of the whole in general accountability. An individual has to work and co-exist with other workers; hence understanding how to work with others becomes important in terms of getting work done. The work unit may comprise one or more people. Several units would form a team, and with other groups will then form the third level which is the functional group or department. A combination of functions forms a division or business unit. A number of business units make up the corporation or organisation which must have the competency to deal with industry challenges. To be successful in the industry, the organisation has to manage effectively in the global environment. The HIMM is a systemic approach of total management based on the premise that if each organisational competency is developed and strengthened as the individual and organisation grow, then all parts within the total organisation will operate more synergistically. The science, art and practice of management ensure that all integral parts function in an optimal manner. Therefore the challenge is to understand the competence and capability requirement of each organisations at its different stages of maturity and allow it to select the training

needed to meet the competency requirement. The following are 10 insights on the competences that organisations must build at each level of their growth: Management Insight #1: You must be proficient in managing yourself and be competent in doing your job. The first level involves Personal Management. Irrespective of one's rank in the organisation, every individual is a manager because to be effective, one must manage a number of key resources well - time, money, roles and relationships. Stephen Covey prescribes habits for self-management: "Be Proactive" - take the initiative, just do it, "Begin With The End In Mind" - set goals and "First Things First" - set priorities. Further, Daniel Goldman advocates emotional intelligence which implies self- competency or personal management. In short, you must be competent and manage yourself well, then only can you manage others. Therefore the first level of managerial training and development entails acquiring individual management skills including effective verbal and written communications, thinking, presentation, time management and proficiency in relevant technologies that enhance productivity. Individuals must also develop skill sets for solving problems, thinking generatively and managing relationships at the workplace, besides developing management leadership skills and inculcating ethics and integrity as core values to guide work performance behaviour. Management Insight #2: We do not work and function alone; we have to work effectively with other people. The second level of a firm's competency development, Unit and Team Management, concerns tasks best performed by a group of people. Here, unit and team members and managers must learn to work effectively as a unit and team, manage conflict resolution and encourage team learning. For individuals, development would include competences in inter-personal relationship, facilitation and negotiation. Management Insight #3: To get things done and achieve results, we form specialised functions. At the Functional Management level, specialised functions are developed to achieve optimal results. Workers in each function must possess specific competences or domain knowledge e.g. marketing, finance, logistics, etc. Hence, training and development at this level must equip individuals with the knowledge, skills, expertise and experience to fulfill their specific functions. Moreover, all departments must work in concert to become an integrated organisation that achieves corporate objectives. Management Insight #4: We must survive and prosper collectively as a business corporation. At the fourth level, Corporate Management, there must be long-term strategic direction where the organisation (re)formulates its vision, mission, goals, values and action plan. This requires competence in dealing with competition through change management, innovation and new ideas; enterprise risk management; strategic business planning and business modelling. The organisation must become a learning organisation and inculcate a culture of participatory management with shared values and knowledge sharing. The management style should be transformed from one of "command and control" to "enroll and enlist" to attract and retain the best talents in the organisation. A high performing culture must be created to ensure that the organization is productive, competitive and growing. Management Insight #5: Today, we do not just function in our own corporation. We must also understand the industry we are operating in, in order to survive in that industry. At this fifth level, Industry Management, managers must understand trends within their industry and monitor new developments to ensure their organisation can evolve, adapt or

flex according to impending changes. Managers must learn the science of strategic planning, change management and deal with sophisticated knowledge-based workers. As change gets faster, more random and less predictable, managers must recognise that discontinuous change and disruptive technology can de-stabilise even successful businesses. Thus training in identifying new opportunities, new products and services, new markets and new innovations including new business models is crucial to being a successful industry player. Management Insight #6: The new economy is operating in a borderless world and firms are changing so fast in the global economy. This level is about proficiency and dexterity in Global Management. The tough realities and economic impact of globalisation pose either a threat or opportunity, depending on how the organisation responds to global pressures. To be competent at this level, managers must be exposed to new trends, developments and what some management experts call the "next practice" as "best practice" would now be surpassed by a newer and better practice. Management Insight #7: Prepare your organisation for business success in this fast changing business environment. Organisations must know their core competences and understand their business intimately. They must grow, innovate, develop people and build sustainable business models to survive and compete successfully in global markets. They must also explore strategic alliances with other parties to accommodate changing needs and customer demands. Management must be on their toes to keep their watch on the horizon to see the trends and change coming. They must also constantly review their business model and look for opportunities. Management Insight #8: Know the critical key success factor that you must invest in. The critical key success factor for organisations in the knowledge economy is their human capital. Human capital development and management must now be a strategic function to support the strategic imperative of the organisation. Hence, managers must learn how to recruit, develop, manage, engage and retain high performers to drive the organisation's business for successful long-term sustainability. Management Insight #9: Keep abreast of "best and next practice" and the use of appropriate technology and know-how to ensure your organisation stays relevant and resilient. Rapid changes in business models and technologies could signify a threat or opportunity depending on how ready the organisation is. Organisations that enable themselves through technology to facilitate Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management, Knowledge Management and Enterprise Risk Management are more competitive and responsive to environmental changes. As such, there may be a need for organistions to re-invent themselves and stay relevant. Management Insight #10: Contribute towards community development and in bettering society. If organisations are growing well and generating profits, they should contribute to the community in which they operate in, as part of their corporate social responsibility and value that they create for society.