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Strategy: The be-all and end-all of business

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Strategy is the determinant of success in any business.

BY SIMON TAPFUMANEYI
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It is often the case that as much as it is highly valued, strategy is poorly manifested in daily operations. We need to debunk the notion of exclusivity and bring it forth to the generality of all within and across business.

Broadly speaking, strategy refers to how to achieve given ends. It, thus, becomes an integral and invariable aspect of the entire planning process.

I will go on to postulate that the reason why most objectives, desires, goals and targets do not come to fruition is lack of knowledge and definition of how they can be achieved. This engenders a paralysis and stagnation, which puts paid to our vision. A strategy has to be practical (pragmatic), relevant, well-considered, viable and understood. A definition of what one wants to achieve is foremost and fundamental. What the destination is, thus, the question. Upon reaching a consensus or resolution, we must address how to get to the destination.

If it is decided that the destination is, say Bulawayo, is it not the most logical step that a decision has to be made on how to get to Bulawayo? Is it through walking to Bulawayo? Catching a bus? Driving there? Perhaps flying to the city of Kings?
However, for one to get to the city, considerations such as the cost and resources clearly come into play. One will not get to Bulawayo by simply wishing to be there! One has to decide and act on how they will reach it and follow through.

Similarly, strategies have to be formulated as to how objectives will be achieved, targets met and missions accomplished in business and organisations. It has to be done pragmatically, exhaustively and competently. Decide, if you will, where you want to be. Importantly, define in clear steps how you will get there. This is the essence of strategy, without which there can never be movement towards a goal or destination.

How does one conceivably hope to achieve tangible results without a strategy or roadmap?

How can one ever get to a destination without an inkling of how to get there? How does one get to a predetermined goal without the conception and direction of movement toward it?

Conversely, one can achieve tangible results with a strategy and roadmap. One will get to one’s destination with adequate appreciation of the methodology. Indeed with conception and goal-directed movement, one will arrive.

Strategy formulation is as important as execution. There is need to devise the strategy after establishing clarity of objectives. At corporate level, management should be engrossed with strategic issues at all levels including formulation, execution, review, modification and alignment.

Like everything else, the true test is in results or performance.

Skill, knowledge and experience play a key role in strategy formulation, especially within large and complex organisations with grand goals and invariably have elaborate systems. In such instances, strategy formulation is an exercise in synthesis and simplicity. The demands are understandably broader and the tasks more exacting. The numbers are larger and potential returns higher.

At the formative stages, it is essential for the process to be inclusive and extensive as a number of issues and considerations come into play. Various players, diverse disciplines or departments and multiple actors should all have input and therefore ownership of the said strategy.

One of the abiding strengths of smaller operations is quick decision-making and so it is with strategy formulation where usually an individual decides how he/she intends to define the strategy and its execution. It is substantially and inherently quicker, easier and cheaper to do so.

It is of infinite value to make the strategy simple and clear so it finds resonance among employees, who, to a large extent, will determine its success. Simple and progressive steps invite success in strategy.

A revolution of the mind, it is said, is no revolution at all. This is precisely because if it does not become manifest, benefits will not accrue. In the same vein, a strategy is only as good as its execution. A brilliant strategy not executed is of no material value. It is tantamount to having no strategy at all.

An array of factors affects successful strategy execution or implementation.

Worker buy-in is an essential element as it has been observed that employees can even go the extra mile if there is real or perceived ownership of the strategy. Commitment levels are therefore unquestionable under these circumstances.

Speed is a defining factor, as it is with most business processes. There is always a clear and present danger of being overtaken especially in today’s fast-paced business world where every minute counts. Rapid and radical changes sweep across an entire globe.

Ensure, too, that those implementing the strategy have the requisite competencies and motivation to do so. The human resource factor evidently has a bearing on outcomes. It is to be noted that superior strategies do not on their own account for differences in performances and results.

Rather it is the right people in the right jobs who underpin successful strategy execution.

Clarity of objectives should be guaranteed. There is absolutely no way one can apply themselves with verve and vitality to a process one does not fully understand. It is critically important to ensure that everyone is on the same page, singing from the same hymn book, so to speak. This is only consequent upon effective communication, which is sadly just rhetoric in a worrying number of business entities.

Due cognisance should be given to the importance of strategy at various levels. It should be a priority toward which time and resources are directed. Strategy demands deliberate and conscientious effort and an elevation to priority status which should permeate entire entities.

Execution by definition is action-oriented. Inordinate time is spent in meetings, yet results are not forthcoming.

Brainstorming sessions are necessary and consultations are crucial, but ultimately there has to be action.

Act and execute your strategy, nothing else will do.

As with a significant number of processes, strategy has to be periodically reviewed, to ascertain the degree of efficacy. Every process should yield the desired results. It is often the case that after this review process, modifications have been effected where necessary. Strategies should be aligned to realities on the ground. This is as it should be, for certain addition, subtraction, amends and refinements consistent with practicalities are inevitable. Do that to ensure a robust strategy, for nothing is cast in iron.

Strategy must occupy an eminent position in businesses. For through it, entities accomplish set goals. It defines how vision and dreams are translated to reality. A great number of brilliant ideas and concepts either die prematurely or never find full expression because of lack of strategy, its execution, review or modification. When we prioritise and persist in our strategic endeavours, the desired results will be forthcoming.

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