By Akintola Benson- Oke
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.
Yet, wisdom dictates that one should never rest on one’s oars. Improvements are not only important, they are also critical and fundamental. Furthermore, individuals and organisations must always ensure that they are on the path to actualising their vision and fulfilling their stated mission.
An unknown author wisely observed that, “In the 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.” Also, 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.
At the end of any rigorous enquiry, one finds that to have an effective strategy is half the battle and to effectively manage a good strategy is everything. This is evident from the writings of Aristotle to the compiled wisdom of Oriental philosophers such as Sun Tzu, and from the Ancient History of Europe to Regnant Modern-Day Business Philosophies.
Indeed, 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. This is why, in pursuit of the vision of the administration of His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for the Lagos State Public Service, enormous value and investment have been given to the impartation of knowledge and skills.
I will highlight three concepts that have been suggested and, in fact, established as sine qua non components of any strategic management framework.
The first of the components is the understanding of, and adherence to, a well-thought out code of corporate governance. It has been said that an effective organization is often one that has initiated programmes and services within its structure that ensure open communication, good management and effective leadership.
Without these hallmarks of corporate governance, it is difficult to manage strategically because the basic framework of goal-setting and decision-making are missing. Setting up a control and reporting mechanism is also important to strategic management as part of a wider corporate governance push. This allows the organisation to make changes when they are needed to constantly monitor its own progress.
The second component is the identification of, and capitalisation on, an organisation’s or department’s core competencies. As Edward Russell-Walling notes in his book, 50 Management Ideas You Really Need to Know, a core competency has three key factors: it is not easy for others to duplicate, your organisation, department, or unit can use it in a number of different products or services, and it provides a benefit to your customers.
Thus, each department and unit of the Lagos State Public Service needs to identify and capitalise on its core competencies. These competencies then have to be developed and enhanced. After this, the Public Service must ensure that the competencies are not unnecessarily duplicated unless when compelled by exigencies.
The third component of strategic management is a framework for creating and adhering to clearly defined set of goals for the organisation. Knowing what your core competencies are is good from the standpoint of understanding your strengths in the global scheme of things, but this also helps you to identify areas for improvement and set goals and objectives based on those weaknesses.
If you know, for instance, that your department business is lagging behind in utilizing the power of the Internet to serve our esteemed citizens, one of your goals can be to revitalise or introduce an online platform to connect or communicate with the segment of the population that your department serves. Importantly, the goals set should be measurable, specific and have a time frame attached to them. Setting goals in this way helps to strategically position the organisation for continuing and future successes.
Now, having established the importance of strategic management and the vital components of a standard framework for strategic management, I now turn to briefly highlight the fundamental steps involved in developing a framework for strategic management. Indeed, there are many different frameworks and methodologies for strategic planning and management. While there are no absolute rules regarding the right framework, most follow a similar pattern and have common attributes too such as:
(a)Analysis Or Assessment, where an understanding of the current internal and external environments is developed;
(b)Strategy Formulation, where high-level strategy is developed and a basic organisational level strategic plan is documented;
(c)Strategy Execution, where the high-level plan is translated into more operational planning and action items and;
(d) Evaluation or Sustainment / Management Phase, where ongoing refinement and evaluation of performance, culture, communications, data reporting, and other strategic management issues occurs.
Finally, I will like to emphasise that no framework for strategic management can be effective in the absence of team work and synergy. This is another aspect of growth and productivity that the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions has been emphasising in the different trainings and workshops organised. I will briefly highlight its importance and elements .
Luis E. Romero is one of the foremost thinkers on this subject. He brilliantly identified the factors that make synergy work. He said, “just as the numbers of protons, neutrons, and electrons define the potential for chemical synergy, the combination of common interests, common values, and complementary talents defines the potential for team synergy.” He thereafter elucidated on these identified factors as follows:
(a)Common Interests. When people share common interests, they align their individual efforts toward the same goal. More specifically, they find personal affinities that help them work together, seek opportunities to leverage each other’s talents, and measure the results of their collective efforts with respect to their common goal.
(b)Common values. When people share common values, they can forge strong, long-lasting alliances. More specifically, I have found that people who share the values of humility, honesty, trust, and discipline achieve the highest synergies.
(i)Humility is the capacity to acknowledge one’s own truth. This allows every team member to have a clear image of the self and address all personal growth and professional development needs in a timely fashion.
(ii)Honesty is the capacity to share one’s own truth with others. This allows team members to know each other more closely, develop trust, help each other, and carry out team improvement initiatives with further reach.
(iii)Trust is the ability to focus on one’s task while letting others focus on theirs, thus optimizing efforts. Equally, trust also allows for team members to check up on each other to make sure all tasks remain aligned with the common goal. Likewise, trust leads naturally to loyalty and solidarity.
(iv)Discipline is the ability to continue to work toward a goal regardless of the circumstances. Discipline requires commitment, courage, resilience, and drive.
(c)Complementary Talents. When people have complementary talents, they can overcome adversity, stay focused, and achieve success more efficiently. In my opinion, every team’s ideal portfolio of talents is masterfully summarized in Dr. Ichak Adizes’s famous PAEI model. PAEI stands for: “Producer, Administrator, Entrepreneur, and Integrator.” Not one person will have all four talents. Even the so-called Renaissance men or women, known for being multi-talented, will hardly be able to develop and apply all talents successfully within a team. Everyone needs help and teamwork is based on team members helping each other.
Below, each talent in detail:
(i)Producers focus on the end result and make sure the final product or service meets all customer or client expectations. Producers are ultimately responsible for quality facing the market so they will make sure all other team members understand the importance thereof.
(ii)Administrators focus on how the tasks are completed and make sure all other team members are in compliance with current policies, procedures, mandates, and guidelines. They are ultimately responsible for the overall sustainability, effectiveness, and efficiency of the organizational system.
(iii)Entrepreneurs focus on envisioning and creating the future. They are inspired and inspiring. They often come up with new ideas about products, services, and ways to do everyday task. They are essentially behind every major innovation and are ultimately responsible for helping organizations stay current, move forward, and introduce market- disruptive innovations.
(iv)Integrators focus on bringing people together and helping build personal and functional bridges among all team members. They are ultimately responsible for creating an organizational culture based on the vision and values shared by all team members.
Dr. Benson-Oke, is Lagos State commissioner for Establsihments, Training &Pensions.