The 21st century business organization is involved in multiple ecosystems and the key to remaining sustainable and resilient is to be agile and have deeper sense of understanding and appreciation of how these ecosystems function and apply the appropriate strategies and tactics to adapt and compete for space and dominance. To emphasize on adaptability and strategy brings to mention the Cheetah as a perfect animal for strategic case study.
The cheetah is relatively a solitary animal and have spotted coats, which help it blend, hide and keep safe in its surroundings. Cheetahs don’t roar and their noise are not scary either except that, they are built for speed and have eyes that help them hunt. The Cheetah normally hunts gazelles for food.
Notably, gazelles do not walk alone but in herds, so for the Cheetah to spot a weakling among the multitude, target and hunt down as its prey requires precision, speed, energy and strategy to accomplish this monumental task. But for the special characteristics of the Cheetah being the fastest land animal in the world with great tactical and strategic abilities and focus, makes it prevail in all its adventure for food.
Quiet essentially, the great lesson these characteristics of the cheetah could teach, adopted and applied by both small and large businesses with the aim of causing transformational shift in operations and a turnaround in business for this business age is to remain strategic and be perfect at it.
Therefore “The Last Stretch” mission of the Cheetah seeks to define the strategic principles and guides for organizational transformation, understanding the nature of the business ecosystem for appropriate strategy adoption and implementation, the need for strategy in organizational buildup and the executional discipline for success remain the focus for this article. Let’s talk Vision as a Strategy!
Strategic Principles for Organizations
In dealing with how great strategies impact organization structure and performance, it’s imperative to understand Strategy principles and how they equally guide the strategy formulation and implementation processes of every organization.
To start with, strategy principles are the fundamental rules and guides that serve as a foundation for reasoning and decision making about the longer-term direction for the organization. These principles provide an understanding and guidance to think and practice the key objectives it intends pursuing.
For example, the purpose of organizing, causes for organizing, the structure of the organization and the processes are but a few strategic principal considerations. In part one of Strategic Leadership series, “vision as a sight” I highlighted vision as the ability to think or plan the future with imagination and or wisdom. And we saw that, Vision speaks about the organization’s purpose and why the organization exist.
The vision is translated into a statement defining and guiding the core reasons and conduct of that organization. The vision again serves as a bridge between the mission and the strategy. The part two of this series, expands to consider strategy and how great strategies impact organizational transformation and fortunes.
Besides, most organizational strategic planning ability is influenced by two major factors namely the core ideologies (core values and purpose) and the envisioned future of the organization>Vision (Values + Purpose) + Expectant Future.
Therefore, the organization on one part must run with a vision and a coherent strategy to ensure the vision is achieved. This is because, the crafting of the vision into a strategy will clarify the direction to pursue and then serve as a factor for mediating those that are impacted to take action in the right direction.
Moreover, once the strategy ensures the vision is achieved by providing a unified roadmap, It’s worth noting that, without a strategic plan the change objectives (vision) of any organization, teams and groups would be short-lived. The Vision alone is not enough…
Vision has become a much talked and used terminology within the fraternity of teams, groups and organizations. The concept conjures up all kinds of images pertaining to understanding achievement, deeply held values that bond groups together, an audacious goal that galvanize the people, an underlying reason for an organization’s existence, something that pulls the best efforts in us and or dreams of what one wants to achieve.
That notwithstanding, organization vision speaks of leadership’s ability to visualize, plan, lead and make the best out of the resources they have to execute strategies efficiently and successfully? A strategic mindset reflects what I call strategic agility-the ability to see how the big picture relates to the here and now.
In the strategic leadership framework, leadership is demonstrated as command where direct instructions and control is received or as an embodiment of the strategic decisions of the organization. At this level of leadership, the leader is the decision maker who sets the vision and core beliefs and weighs up the options and decides which way to go. The leader is the vision carrier and decides on all plans, directions and choices.
It is at this epicenter that all strategic thinking and planning and tactical decision of the organization take place. In the part one, I emphasize that in the VUCA world, where resources are limited with increasing expectations, limitations of time yet in need of fast decisions, strategic leadership is much desired to ensure excellent decisions regarding planning and implementation, structuring and processing and the discipline for execution.
The Core Values & Purpose
Attempts to deal with the strategic principles of any organization raise the fundamental issues of what the core values, purpose and goals are for such an organization. How well the core values and purposes are crafted, known by employees of that organization really determine how its strategies would have to be couched to meet its goals. The guide by core values and principles help navigate the path to stay the course and garner support for commitments. An organizations’ core values and purpose are the deeply ingrained principles that guide its actions and serve as its cultural cornerstones. It drives or informs its strategic initiatives and plans (team building, aligning team performances, communication strategies, human capital development).
The Expectant Future
The future they say belongs to those who create it and drive each day’s commitments to meet the expected. That’s why a written vision is good but not enough to see any organization through. Achieving great results and making phenomenal progress are an act of first seeing what it looks like succeeding with daily motivation to bring the picture into being. What happens in between the picture and the realization of goals are the commitments, discipline, hard work and the application of good strategy. Having said that, let’s deal with the strategic thinking process of any organization.
Strategic Thinking vs Strategic Planning
To emphasize on the organizational vision and the mission sets the whole organizational apparatus into thinking about how these objectives and goals would be achieved and that calls for strategic thinking and planning.
Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities through the mental creation of value by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect an organization direction. This process encompasses the setting of vision for the organization, investing resources, focusing on identified opportunity, leveraging a breakthrough market impact and performance results that pays back.
Meanwhile, since every business framework is understood to be a continuous cycle with each stage informing the next, the development of a strategic plan is the best place to start. During Strategic planning process, an organization builds or modifies the foundational strategic vision and mission, ensures it develops a long-term plan to achieve its goals as well as committing to goals that drive the overall health of the organization. A strong strategic plan positions the organization for success and clearly defines it at every level.
Strategic planning cycle: The need for Organizational Strategy
Unlike the cheetah, adopting the strategy for speed, focus, precision and tactical discipline to pursue the ambition of catching its prey is non-negotiable. Great organizations with great ambitions equally have implementable strategies aiding the achievement of their organizational objectives.
The future of every organization desirably focuses on, its goals, the strategic planning, tactical and executional planning capacity details. The obvious question however is, is your organization capitalizing on its capabilities by competing, leveraging and building the optimal organizational capabilities and commitments, building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation?
Most organizations are managing multiple projects simultaneously. However, the key to a change effort is not in focusing on each piece in isolation. Rather, it is in understanding how the pieces balance off one another, how changing one element affects the whole structure, and the potential it has to perhaps eventually making it fall. Organizational change is a web of interrelations and as such changing one area will impact and throw a different area off balance.
Managing change is not like operating a machine which requires managing a fixed set of relationships. Change is dynamic with fluid relationships, and the journey will be full of unexpected challenges and wonderful learnings. It takes concrete plans and effective strategies to hold all changes together.
The Building Blocks of a good Strategy:
Let me build the case that businesses that execute prosecute with vigor, intensity and depth. Essential to building a good strategy communicates to whether the team observes and critically are guided by the following:
The Strategy Process:
This process discusses an open conversation of team selection, technical, production and the financial resources needed for the execution. There must be a robust dialogue to surface the realities of the business where accountability, follow through and reward mechanisms are instituted to incentivize the best performers so to ensure the plans are on track.
The Operational Process:
An organization’s ability to transform its inputs into outputs is core to its implementation agenda. Each institution or organization is made up of interrelated processes (value chain) and as already mentioned, must be seen to align to hold the core (marketing, production, finance etc) together to address wastefulness (Capacity) and ensure efficiency. Admittedly, excess capacity is wasteful and costly, too little too means dissatisfied customers (stakeholders) and lost revenue. The right capacity building must have accurate forecast of demand, the ability to translate into capacity requirements and process in place capable of meeting expected demands. This operational process in the value chain is the fulcrum for the actualization of all intended plans, therefore needs greater attention.
The People Process:
The People process in the strategic implementation agenda of any organization addresses the question of who to select, recruit and or employ to perform what (roles). A great strategy with wrong caliber of people is a fiasco. Hence, having great people to compliment a great strategy ensures phenomenal results. In consequence, it is also possible to experience the following scenarios in a polyvalent organizations. Where we have….
Understanding the Business Ecosystem
Today’s business ecosystem is characterized by the rule of competitive advantage and this is not different from the jungle experience by the cheetah. What’s changed is that most of the fast growing companies are constantly positioning themselves as ecosystem players, as hubs within networks of customers, suppliers and producers which live industry observers and regulators wonder if the competition among these industry players could lead to a new way of doing business, challenge the convention of how businesses create and capture value. To survive this enduring advantage requires that, organizations continually play by different set of strategy rules and guides.
To survive again, is to keep evolving, give employees reasons to stick around and to keep customers flowing in. It is equally important for organizations to have access to information about the entire ecosystem to enable for strategic decision shifts and policy guides. To survive means adaptability to change and understand what’s going on in the environment to identify what uncertainty it being faced and figure out how it can adapt as it goes on. In a typical agile organization, the big focus is the development of appropriate structures to provide solutions. Solutions evolve through collaborations between self-organizing cross-functional teams utilizing the appropriate practices and structures. The key to survival is adaptability or the ability to adapt to emerging circumstances in a volatile and uncertain business environment as clearly emphasized.
The Strategic Building and Implementation Plans within the Business Ecosystem
Every organization exist in multiple ecosystems. These business ecosystem are dynamic networks of entities interacting with each other to create and exchange sustainable value for participants. The challenge is deciding how your organization will survive and thrive in its ecosystem. Again, the ecosystem is driven by strategies, common goals and shared interest. The openness of an ecosystem has two implications. The degree of change is dependent upon the possibility of new entrants and disruption to relationships and value. It will also define the nature of the relationships in the ecosystems and how they are formed, maintained, the collaborations and competitions.
With increased connectivity however, organizations will need to figure out how to integrate things like smart advisors and business intelligence into their ecosystem. The constant situational change in the ecosystem will determine how solutions are defined and supported. In addition to monetary-based value exchange, ecosystems may dynamically leverage information, reputation, services and other monetary forms of value. It is important to understand the definition of value that ecosystem create so to adapt. Discussions about ecosystems can be overwhelming as such the leverage of digital platform success will require a strategic integration of technology, information and business processes. Organizations that do not work toward understandings their ecosystems risk falling into a participatory role only, enabling other competitors or partners to take the leadership role and thus define the rules for engagement in that ecosystem.
Now the question, Is your organization trying to transform into a global business or scaling its business to enable it compete within its industry? How might your organization perform business analysis in a way that allows it to create and respond to change and deal with all the uncertainties that may confront it? The answers to these questions sits within the key strategic lessons the Cheetah proffers to share:
LESSON 1 – That to survive is to Speed
Speed is what allows predators to catch their prey, or prey to escape from predators. All out speed gives the cheetah the highest predatory success rate on the Savanah. Right now the leaders in every industry are under a greater threat than ever from new market entrants seeking to define entirely new business models.
LESSON 2 – Most enterprises are not built for speed
Today’s incumbent enterprises, (the buffalos of the digital economy) are powerful but slow, and digital innovation has made it easier than ever for smaller, more agile businesses to pose a threat to their survival. But how do these agile businesses differ from big enterprises? Like the cheetah, disruptive digital businesses aren’t weighed down by rigid legacy systems, complex operating models, or the pressure to minimize risks. They are open to new ways of doing things, especially if it makes them different from everyone else. So for today’s big incumbent enterprises, diminishing these very limitations is essential for survival.
LESSON 3 – That, it’s what’s hidden that needs to move the fastest
When embarking on any business transformation, many businesses focus only on the most visible part of their business, the front end user experience, the consumer website or the mobile apps. But the customer experience is often made up of many touchpoints with a business through a variety of channels. Therefore, it is advisable to think about the other structures that may need facelift. All of these channels rely on the underlying technology infrastructure of the business – the processes and technologies that keep the organization moving. The lesson we can learn here is to focus on enabling agility in the underlying business technologies. Today’s wrapper technologies allow businesses to add agility where it is needed in order to get the best from legacy systems.
LESSON 4 – That, real agility requires rapid changes in direction
Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in an uncertain and turbulent environment. The cheetah’s heavy tail gives it the ability to quickly change direction – ensuring that it can catch other incredibly agile targets. This is a real challenge for many organization of today. Arguably, all digital economy is driven by rapid shifts, accelerated by new digital players that reinvent and disrupt stagnant sectors. For any successful business, change is hard, and the bigger an organization grows the harder it becomes. The lesson that businesses can learn here is that a straight path is not the path to innovation. Businesses need to think differently, and be ready for constant course corrections.
LESSON 5 –That, to move fast everything needs to work together
The truly rapid pace of a cheetah is only made possible by the coordinated movement of a body optimized for speed. Imagine if your business was genuinely working in perfect harmony towards a single common goal. For most organizations, the reality is a disparate organization of silos that really struggle to collaborate effectively. Looking at the cheetah, every one of its specialisms is important, but each on its own would be far from enough to achieve such hunting success. In an organization, no individual team can deliver against the goals of the business. Any strategic transformation absolutely must be collaborative and organization-wide.
Discovery….Thinking solutions, shaping visions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The writer is the CEO and Strategic Partner of AQUABEV Investment and Discovery Consulting Group. He is an Executive Director and the Lead Coach in Leadership Development and best Business Management practices for Discovery Leadership Masterclass CONTACTS:
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