The importance and indispensability of strategy, strategic planning, and strategic management has been proved and validated over the years and, in fact, over the centuries. Yet, organisations are not always readily open to embracing a culture of strategic management. This training is yet another effort by the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration aimed at ensuring that the Lagos State Public Service is not one of those organisations that, having realised the importance of the culture, still refuses or fails to embrace it.
At many fora before now, I have had no reservations whatsoever to laud the notable and high-flying performance of the Lagos State Public Service. Indeed, our Public Service favourably compares with those from leading democracies and other global cities. For this, I commend the leadership and officers of the Lagos State Public Service, both past and present. However, there is a place called ‘better.’
I posit that the map to that ‘better place’ for the Lagos State Public Service is a culture of strategic management. In this Opening Address, I will begin by listing the benefits of strategic management for the Lagos State Public Service after which I will highlight five of the essential attributes of a strategic management framework.
In an article titled ‘Introduction to Strategic Management,’ Ryszard Barnat listed the benefits of strategic management for organisations such as the Lagos State Public Service as follows: It provides a way to anticipate future problems and opportunities; and provides officers with clear objectives and directions for the future of the organisation; It results in more effective and better performance compared to non-strategic management organisations; and increases officers’ satisfaction and motivation.
It results in faster and better decision making and; results on cost savings. Moreover, the article also stresses that strategic management offers the following process and personal benefits: It allows for identification, prioritisation, and exploitation of opportunities; and It provides an objective view of management problems.
It represents a framework for improved coordination and control of activities; and It minimizes the effects of adverse conditions and changes. It allows major decisions to better support established objectives; and allows more effective allocation of time and resources to identified opportunities; It allows fewer resources and less time to be devoted to correcting erroneous or ad hoc decisions; and It creates a framework for internal communication among personnel. It helps to integrate the behaviour of individuals into a total effort; and provides a basis for the clarification of individual responsibilities. It gives encouragement to forward thinking. It provides a cooperative, integrated, and enthusiastic approach to tackling problems and opportunities; and it encourages a favourable attitude towards change,It gives a degree of discipline and formality to the management of an organisation.
Indeed, the benefits enumerated above clearly validate the following quotes and epigrams: An unknown author wisely observed that, “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.” The famous genius, Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” William A. Foster noted that, “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” And, of course, popular wisdom says that only the unwise embarks on a journey without a map. Next, I will like to call attention to the five essential attributes of strategic management. These are distilled from the thoughts of a leading management consultant, Mr. Mark Rhodes.
First, an effective strategy should be deeply understood and shared by the organization. Rhodes argued that the ancient Mongols defeated far larger Armies because they were able to make adjustments on the battlefield despite ancient systems of communication that limited the way orders could be delivered to warriors already in action.
He then stated that the secret was instilling battle strategy in the hearts and minds of all soldiers so that they could make correct tactical decisions without direct supervision or intervention. Like the mission statement published in the annual reports or guiding principles framed in the lobbies of organisations, a strategic plan itself accomplishes nothing. What matters is whether the people of your organization understand and internalize the strategic direction you have articulated and can make tactical choices on their own. Strategic plans must be articulated in a manner such that operational and tactical decision-making can follow suit.
Furthermore, the leading strategist must count on the employees or members of the organization to make sound tactical and operational decisions that are aligned with the desired strategic direction. To ensure that these decisions are well made, the articulated strategic direction and strategic plans must be applicable and clearly related to the issues that people face.
It is always helpful to remember that an effective strategy provides a picture of the desired long-term future. In order to make sound day-to-day decisions, all members of the organization must be able to begin with the end in mind. All steps must ultimately keep the company on course toward the long-term objective.
In the second place, an effective strategy allows flexibility so that the direction of the organization can be adapted to changing circumstances. Rhodes explained that, watching the rise of Napoleon’s French Empire in the first decade of the 19th Century, the Prussian Generals were anxious to do battle with Napoleon’s Army because their soldiers were highly trained and disciplined in battle tactics that had succeeded for Frederick the Great fifty years before.
It turned out, though, that the Prussian Army was designed to fight “the last war” while Napoleon’s innovations, including soldiers carrying their own provisions instead of the supply train of impedimenta typical of the traditional European Armies, allowed Napoleon’s troops to react and adapt to conditions far faster than could the Prussians. When the Battle of Jenaoccurred in 1806, Napoleon’s Army out-maneuvered their slow and plodding enemy and destroyed the Prussians in that pivotal confrontation.
The lesson to learn from this, Rhodes argued, is that a rigid strategic direction seldom turns out to have been the best course of action. To assure that your organisation is nimble and able to react to changes, it is essential that your strategy is flexible and adaptable. As a strategist, you will count on timely and accurate information about prevailing relevant conditions. It is essential to build and employ effective mechanisms for observing and listening to what is going on in the environment. Real-time information, in turn, must feed on-going strategic and operational shifts and deployments.
Dr. Benson-Oke writes from Lagos