CORE APPLICATION INFORMATION
PART 1: OVERALL RATIONAL
Why do you believe your organization is deserving of the 2019 Richard Goodman Strategic Planning award? Why is your application unique and particularly exemplar (e.g. industry-leading, revolutionary)?
We believe few strategy development consultancies in the world do what we do in formulating national strategies to help nations firstly understand and then tackle their most resistant issues facing the nation. This is not done in half-measures but a complete turnaround of the matter and places the issue squarely on its head. With a view to eliminating it. It is often the missing piece between that which allows the nation to reach both its strategic imperatives (what its citizens need) and yet meet global goals in sustainable as well as meaningful ways. This award for us not only offers a testament to the work happening in the last twenty-three years but we believe, will pave the way for regional and global uses of the methodology. Which is the next step forward for us.
I have found the five disciplines of the Learning Organisation powerful when used by nations in understanding and turning around issues that persist (e.g. unemployment, quality of education, GDP growth rates, and so on).
Persistent issues are like the energy we feel in our hands as we pull the rubber sling back on the catapult. The energy as it builds up stops the stone from flying. At this point, essentially, it retards growth from happening.
However, when we learn and understand the reason for their persistence through systems thinking, team learning, mental models, personal mastery, and shared vision, the energy that the sling releases in shooting the stone forward become unstoppable! Till we understand this, any measure will be a half-measure.
Here’s a study on unemployment as a case in point that I did just before the onset of the COVID pandemic. The reasons have, however, remained intact, regardless of time and space. That’s the nature of understanding and using The Fifth Discipline.
PART 2: STRATEGY FORMULATION, PORTFOLIO, AND REALIZATION
Q1. Please articulate your top-level (corporate) strategic aspirations. What are the specific business objectives/goals that the aspirations entail? Across what time horizon do you aspire to achieve the strategic objectives/goals?
The primary top-level strategic aspiration was and continues to be to allow groups of persons to learn ways to shift towards their desired realities in creative ways. We do this by providing tools that allow the group to:
- create systems of organization that can better withstand the effort required to learn as organizations;
- clarify where they want to be, both as individuals within it as well as organizations as a whole, while also;
- understanding what is happening around them today.
These three aspects would create the space that the group then learns to hold the tension that exists in the space between (the gap) the two realities, i.e. current and future realities as the two become progressively clearer in people’s minds. The clearer the two realities are, the more willing the system is to hold that space (and develop patience) in spite of the tension and develop a deep desire to move towards the future. Often, it is not an emotive experience, and therefore costs less to apply. It is also creative and therefore attracts better revenue streams for the organization. This means we now have organizations that continue to stay on a path of growth despite global ups and downs.
Q2. What are the key strategies you have designed/selected to target the attainment of the strategic vision/aspirations? Which trade-offs/alternatives did you relinquish in favor of the selected strategies and why?
I have selected and enhanced the use of the practices and specifically the tools of “The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of Learning Organizations” authored by Dr Peter Senge, of MIT in my practice at developing national strategies (this is the step before planning).
My contribution to the field has been to develop a planning template that guides the systemic use of their ten system archetypes on typical persistent issues that faces a nation and reverse their effects. When these are reversed, their detrimental effects are diminished and in their place growth of nations begins to take place.
This guide came about as a result of building on the idea that systemic structures do not occur haphazardly or at random. There seems to be an order in which they happen and so as one system archetype when left ‘untreated’ (system archetypes are bad news!), it triggers another, eventually interlocking the ten of them (think the onion), reinforcing the problem and therefore causing them to grow, and become increasingly resistant to our efforts to correct them. These entrench themselves as persistent issues.
These issues have been growing for a rather long time, across the globe, sapping resources often resulting in seemingly wanton behavior as corporates, nations, and individuals resulting in behaviors we believe on our part therefore just (think the “Yellow Vest Movement”) in “revolting” back. That is the reinforcing causal structure / inter-relationships riding out its play. And so, for as long as we rotate the ‘chairs’ that ‘handle’ these issues, the resistant traits of these issues often go undetected quite easily even for the best amongst us.
Q3. What are some of the key assumptions that surfaced to underlie the selected strategies? What “early warning signals” system is in place to facilitate rapid response to changing events? How have you tracked/validated the veracity of the selected assumptions?
The process that uses the five disciplines comes with an underlying design to bring in the set of causal factors that impact the persistent issue from all around it. If at first, the factor is not obvious, the process will continue to seek them out. This reduces unwanted changes or events and their arising costs as a result of not yet identifying them sooner.
The process accords time in the beginning, to uncover ‘the signals’. In that way, non-inclusion or non-systemic causal factors do not detract from the client or cost the system later. These non-inclusions often prove expensive and sometimes even lead to the abandoning of the strategy(s) altogether. Systemic analysis often makes the process both robust and resilient with time and significantly improves the confidence with which the clients go forward with the strategy and their action plans.
Q4. How have these strategies specifically helped you to leverage your competitive advantages (e.g. core competencies/capabilities) and refine/enhance your competitive positioning? How have the strategies directly contributed to differentiating your value proposition from others in the marketplace?
I have found it most helpful to enter with any group on this work at the head of the state or at the Prime Ministers’ Office. They are often saddled with persistent issues. Conventional management concepts are not designed for long-standing issues (those are made to look good at dealing with short-term issues). These are issues that have resisted all other forms of management to date.
Heads of state can often be lonely people. They had clawed their way up to the top with their agenda only to find when they got there, that there are already a plethora of issues waiting for them that claw their way to the top (which was the goal for them) had not prepared them for. They are usually dumbfounded and find themselves saddled.
And so, when we go in with the five disciplines to the head of state, they often become very clear what to do because they begin to throw a very clear light on why the issues have stayed resistant for the nation. They begin to feel less lonely and less afraid of failures.
These can be issues such as unemployment, poverty, crime, diseases, land conflicts, human-wildlife conflicts, droughts, education attainment by population, productivity, and so on. These are not corporate issues. They are state, national/federal, or regional issues that touch the people of the land. Here’s where I keep a list of national resistant issues and the ones I have opened link represent issues where a fair amount of research has begun or its analyses have been completed: https://pinnacleacademy.weebly.com/stldiafrica.html
We provide a focus (throw light on) persistent national issues, learn to build an alliance with the heads of states, provide a rigorous working environment on handling the issue and allow word-of-mouth to precede us have proved helpful for us as leading competitive edges that work for us.
Q5. Please characterize in detail how the selected strategies have contributed to your organization winning in the marketplace (or in making radical progress towards achieving your mission)? What hard numbers (specific performance gains/”needle movements”) would you attribute to each strategy? Please provide both quantitative and qualitative performance shifts.
This practice is still in its early stages. Both practitioners and consultants have been using time in the past thirty years since the work was first published to learn, understand, internalize and then apply for the works externally to others. That included the time that was needed to define the practice spaces as well as develop practice case studies.
Dr Peter Senge equates the work of articulating the five disciplines of Learning Organization to as when the Wright Brothers invented the plane in 1903. The journey between invention and commercialization where it reached a critical scale that allowed commercial air travel to become a major industry represents a search for synergies among diverse developments. Each step, an example of a case study or an activity represent a prototype that allows its users to learn to find the synergy of the five disciplines in management innovation.
In spite of the above, governments in different parts of the world have been showing curiosity about the work and for others, have advanced in creating case studies and sets of recommendations that influence policy making. A case in example, for the latter, includes the Government of Botswana. As we speak, we are making inroads in reaching out to the prime ministers’ offices in Singapore, India, and parts of Europe for this year and we intend to reach that of the US, Canada, and Australia in the coming year eventually the Middle East. Various groups on the ground are being mobilized to create a supporting structure for the different parts of the world.
PART 3: STRATEGIC ANALYSIS (E,G, INTERNAL & EXTERNAL, TREND) RIGOUR & RELEVANCE
Q1. What were some of the most pressing strategic (underlying) questions that were necessary to answer in order to inform the development of assumptions and design of strategies? What were the key learnings/insights from such strategic analysis and how were the findings integrated into strategy formulation/design or selection?
The key question we ask is not what the problem is. Instead, we ask, “What is causing the problem to persist?”. These are two different sets of questions. This work is focused on dealing with issues that keeps coming back in spite of efforts to ‘solve’ the problem.
The reasons that cause the persistence have now gone beyond just what is directly causing the problem. We are now learning and treating its persistence. Many of the causes of issues when it has become persistent have influences that are distant in time and space and have assumed a vicious (circular/reinforcing/ interlocking causal structure) causal nature. As such, this causes the problem to recur and therefore persist.
The beauty of ‘treating’ it by way of strategies from ‘that far’ is it would cost and uses less time needed to correct the problem. This is since; firstly, if we allowed the causes to become less intense, their impact on the problem becomes less so too. Second, circular causalities that span space and time, behave more like the way a spiral would. The effort at the beginning ‘from afar’ starts small but the outcome at the end is greater than the effort required to do so at the beginning. It assumes the behaviors of a lever. We begin to get far more results with far less input.
In a world that has become accustomed to building ‘short-cuts’, this is still a language that it can understand but unlike the short-cuts and the quick fixes we use, this has the potential to come with far better returns, more so with time and with fewer inputs required to do so with time. This can become mind-blowing to some as a way of conducting strategic planning where we are used to ‘the big bang theory or on the reverse have become tired of them or just do not have the resources to carry out the bang in a big enough way.
A case study … highlighting insights
In a study that I did to deal with the national unemployment situation of a nation, we discovered where six out of every ten were not employed gainfully, the female part of the population circumvents her situation by bearing children, and in doing so, hers and the child’s immediate bread and butter concerns become sorted as government and the men who fathered her children and family members ‘chips in’ till the child is able to stand on its feet. Which can be for sixteen years. She too would have a better chance at steadying her personal life but sometimes not without withstanding emotional and physical abuses along the way.
For some, it toughens her but for others, they fall off. The population sustains severe shrinkages for their above 35 years, age groups. Both men and women in the society assume a much more lackadaisical approach to matrimony and the building of intact families.
Rolling the story forward, the children who grow up “within the system” form parts of huge segments of the population with a less than average understanding and therefore develop adequate skills in the subjects of English, mathematics, and sciences. This begins to undermine the nation’s capacity to build its agriculture and manufacturing bases, i.e. the two segments of the economy that represent broad-based employment opportunities for a nation.
These two segments would also have allowed the economy to produce goods at lower costs and therefore lower the overall cost of running the economy and therefore be better able to create more jobs in it. All of these efforts now stay undermined.
Instead, the economy loses the capacity to create jobs throwing even more people out onto the street looking in vain for jobs. We have a case of runaway population increases relative to the capacity of the nation to create jobs for persons born twenty years ago. So what do you think happens for women of the next generation, as these children grow up, so as to survive? Did you say, bear more children? You are right! Well, we have now come back full circle, have we not?
What could we do to intervene in the situation? Would inviting foreign investors to set up corporations ‘solve’ or even alleviate the situation? What do you think? Or would the government keep getting more desperate, making the best it can out of narrower parts of the economy but that is producing, but not very successful at diversifying from it? Do these present themselves as high leverage? From the study, we now recognize that these are not relevant in the case of policy formulation.
We will not ‘treat’ unemployment or cause it to reverse its statistics without treating the vicious nature of the circle of causality within which it traps ‘the factor’. Today, the real unemployed has grown to 60% of the working-age population. It had not started out that way.
The key question in policy formulation now includes: “What would it take for the country to create broad-based employment opportunities in manufacturing and agriculture economic sectors given its population is relatively unskilled in mathematics and sciences and suffer severe shrinkages in their mid-30s and has a tendency to outproduces (faster than) relative to the rate at which it creates jobs?” Have both lawmakers and citizens answer the question, we will have credible national strategies that everyone can work with.
These causalities simply went undetected until a systemic study was conducted. It now really just requires the nation to see and reflect on the story as a whole before it can turn it around, by and for itself.
Q2. How do you identify drivers of disruption or game-changing forces capable of materially impacting industry/organization performance (e.g. transforming competitive dynamic)? How do you map the implications of rapid/potential “power shifts” in your value chain and the emergence of new opportunities & threats?
The “drivers” that are capable of causing (we refer to them here as ‘systemic causal factor’ material impact on the industry are identified with the help of the strategy planning guide based on ‘the onion’. They are drivers of the vicious nature of the circle as well as of the problem.
We first notice where “the problem” is on that chain and in knowing how the ten archetypes stack up against it, we find our way back to NOT just the source/root (which is really relative to your position on the onion), but the entire vicious causal structure in itself. This treats the entire ‘causal systemic structure’. This is now seeing the forest (the whole), and not just the trees (the parts).
“The onion” is a map that potentially maps all key causes / changing forces, opportunities, and threats and casts a light on their interrelationships. The short of it is, when working with circular causal structures, one has less concerns about the need to map the above as the process would ensure the causes are taken naturally and systematically into consideration.
Q3. What are your organization’s top competitive advantages? How have you ascertained the relative strength (versus marketplace) of these competitive advantages? What are you doing to sustain the “moat” (e.g. prevent erosion) of your competitive advantages?
- to work with clients as they learn to hold the tension between where they want to go and where they are today;
- Learning to hold the tension is key to engaging all sides of the issue;
- take the risks out by taking the time by sharing case studies and noticing their short, medium and long-term impacts;
- take the time to learn and appreciate the situation collaboratively
- encourage the client to uncover the strategies collaboratively
To sustain the ‘moat’, I work at:
- as the organization develops and shares the processes that were used and the results that had been gained in different cases, contexts, and studies, these allow them to deepen and inspire their own practices;
- provide regular sharing sessions of lessons that were learned as an organization with regards to time, resource, and process management;
- provide a hands-on approach to uncovering causalities as a team.
Q4. What are some of your best examples of highly innovative/ insightful use of internal/external data analysis (please describe the framework, methodology, approach, and/or tools and their specific impact on making decisions and enhancing strategic performance)?
For details of a case study on the national unemployment situation in Botswana, please refer to the case study listed above here. For the rest of the questions please see below:
Framework: Click here.
Methodology: Click here. Refer in particular to the segment marked “Ten-Step Action Plan”.
Approach & Tools: Click here.
Impact on making decisions & enhancing strategic performance. Refer to the segment above ‘The case study” and scroll to the part describing: “The key question in policy formulation is …”.
PART 4: OPERATIONALIZING THE STRATEGY
Q1. Describe the practices used to translate your strategy into action. Specifically, which critical capability gaps were successfully addressed to achieve the strategic aspirations?
There are several ways these happen and are structured along three broad ways:
National Policy Formulation: Share results of the research methodology adopted, analyses, findings and results at different levels of the country’s organization structure, at the office of the President, Head of the Public Service, the Vision Council, the National Strategy Office, to the wider general public to practitioners, trainers, consultants and members of the public.
Broadcasting of results to the masses: This may be done in direct and online presentations, public discussion sessions, via the media on TV, radio, and print;
Develop and monitor turn around the strategy with the situation on the ground: Develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) spreadsheet that would continue to capture data as comes live, using data points used for developing the analyses to monitor the change in the behavior of these data points over time;
Q2. What was particularly unique and effective about the way your organization achieved synchronized alignment of resources (e.g. funding, human resources, IT, change) to enable execution?
To achieve synchronicity of resources in this instance would mean taking the time to engage the results of the study across various sides of the country. In today’s age when protestors can fill up the streets at the touch of a post on Facebook and Twitter it really is not as difficult as we think it is. What is more important is to create a clear representation of the visual that would help to capture the imagination of the people and the sense of hope that the strategy will bring for them.
All efforts at coordinating the strategy were then effected from the office of the president/prime minister’s office.
Q3. Which areas of the strategy were critically dependent on IT capabilities? Specifically, which IT solutions were delivered and how did they enable required strategic capabilities?
The use of IT capabilities was primarily in collecting and organizing the data to develop data sets so as to develop the behavior of the data over time and then develop the findings and maintain the data sets to capture live data as they come on stream to monitor and evaluate changes in behaviors of data and their response to strategies.
To share the findings and to continue to stream live changes to the data sets as they unfold to the members of the public.
Q4. How do you cascade your organization’s strategic imperatives down to the front-line levels? How does each front-line staff understand/articulate how their day-to-day work contributes to the execution of the strategy?
Since the work targets the highest office of the land, the public media, the national television, radio stations, and print media are effective in first sharing the strategic imperatives and for them to see how their actions contribute to the execution of the strategy;
Use of social media and media blitz but particularly it is important that citizens and people are seeing the changes happen to them, are just some ways to allow the ease at which the work makes a mark in people’s lives.
PART 5: STRATEGIC PRACTICES OPTIMIZATION
Q1. Describe a strategic planning practice or activity that you have discontinued, given you have identified it as being obsolete or less relevant in today’s business operating environment.
Working the work at corporate levels. My initial practices were conducted at these spaces but discovered that their capacity to complete the works at findings and analyses were severely handicapped and the effort that was applied did not match the outcome of its use. It was waste of time and resources compared to the results we are able to garner when we apply the discipline and tools at the national, regional and global levels.
Q2. Describe a strategic planning practice or competency that you would particularly like to incorporate/leverage during your next strategic planning efforts. What are you seeking to enhance by adopting this practice?
I would like to take the application of this methodology beyond the national spaces to regional and global working spaces. Certain issues straddle beyond the borders of one country. Examples of these include behavior of education attainment, rainfall pattern levels, reversing drought conditions, forestation, behavior of wildlife and ensuing concerns of human-wildlife conflicts, lifestyle health concerns by cities, and so on.