Development and Strategy
Development & Strategy in a competitive and resource constrained world
The traditional means of meeting the challenges of long term national and organisational planning focuses on improving the ability of countries, companies and other entities to survive, compete and prosper in the globalised environment that arose from the Anglo-American reforms of the 1980s. Some entities have fared better than others, in particular the tiger economies of East Asia have consistently outperformed their counterparts in Sub-Saharan Africa. The question has often arisen: “why”?
FJP’s response, based on our extensive three year research being disseminated through our social investment vehicle (Strategies for African Success Limited) is that:
“Countries and Companies do not Compete, Cultures do!”
Prevailing attitudes and behaviours are transmitted through cultural preferences and thus control the relative productivity or otherwise of all entities – public, private and not-for-profit.
These attitudes and behaviours can, for example, manifest themselves in differing approaches to planning and control. Entities vary greatly in the way in which they attempt to control planning outcomes. The attempt to control and evaluate national, sectoral, company or not-for-profit planning outcomes is complicated by the degree to which planning has been undertaken in the first case. “Loose Control” entities, in the sense of the classification of the planning and control matrix below, may have a cultural pre-disposition to high planning influence but adopt a flexible approach to evaluation and control.
Simply put, they plan, but seldom deliver. In these cases, managers are not provided with the type of incentive and evaluation which consistently relates their actions to the overall purposes of the strategy. They may end up as freebooters acting on their own account, rather than in the interests of the national, sectoral, company or not-for-profit entity.
A Planning & Control Matrix
In times of economic prosperity, as in the decade leading up to the global financial crisis of 2008, loose control countries and entities can often survive whilst relying on external injections of aid. In a harsh competitive environment, such as in the period since the 2008 financial crisis and the 2010 sovereign debt threat, survival will require much more!
In the middle of the matrix is the entity which uses a variety of control, attitude and behaviour modification methods and gives a balanced weighting to planning and control influences to achieve “strategic control”. This can be the difference between survival or economic collapse in a demanding and harsh economic environment. As the European sovereign debt crisis of 2010 shows, this reality applies to all forms of entity – private, not for profit and public.
The importance of building a common base of values and behaviours that are consistent with achieving national, sectoral and organisational strategic goals for survival and prosperity are at the core of FJP’s Development & Strategy practice.
Making survival and prosperity strategies work demand processes that are consistent with the following framework:
The role of each element of the process can be summarised as follows.
- Mission: the highest level objective(s) to be achieved.
- Environmental analysis: systematic identification of barriers, with careful attention to value and behaviour based cultural factors, to achieving the mission or enablers that assist in its achievement, now or in the future.
- Strategy: how to harness the enablers and overcome the barriers in order to achieve the mission (easier said than done).
- Critical Success Factors (CSFs): the limited number of things that must go well in order for the strategy to work.
- Critical Activities (CAs): the activities that must be carried out well in order to achieve the Critical Success Factors.
- Organisational design, processes and systems: grouping of activities into an organisational structure, and organisation of internal processes and systems to support the effective and efficient execution of the critical and other business activities.
The final phase is where planning interfaces with the demanding realities of implementation. Many plan, successfully. Too many especially in West Africa, fail in implementation.
Development and Strategy interventions, especially in the West African context, often require far reaching cultural, value and behaviour change that is consistent with the demands of national and organisational success and prosperity. A serious challenge is the forging of a common base of progressive values and behaviours from a diverse, and often conflict ridden medley of ethnicities and religions and other diversity fault lines. Resistance to change from vested interests, often disguised as protectors of “traditional values” are often deeply embedded in influential decision making positions.
The challenge of a capable adviser is to strengthen your entity’s ability to recruit supporters of positive change, in part by convincing resistors that there is a win/win outcome in supporting positive strategic culture change. A major hurdle can be the presence of narrowly bounded rationality where resistors apply logical processes on an inadequate base of information to arrive at irrational choices that are bad for all concerned – including themselves.
If you are ready to move beyond traditional deployment of development and strategy advice for private, not-for-profit or public sector environments, then you need to talk to FJP.