For the past few weeks after seeing a common struggle with some of my clients I fashioned a program to walk them through. The program is a simple series of exercises to help organisations clearly define their vision, operational model and long-term plan.
This was a process I had also gone through to establish my new business. I was able to do this in exactly four weeks. It gave me the clarity and focus I needed to streamline my operations and build a very clear business model.
We are now in week four of the sessions with clients and some are stuck. I realise now why a lot of organisations really struggle.
Vision is blurred – I am not just talking about a vision statement most of which are sentences that really don’t explain much. I am talking about a clear reason as to WHY your organisation (business or non-profit) exist. What most of us do isn’t really that new, but what we tend to do is innovate to provide new market solutions in the form of products or services. But we need to clearly articulate WHY you do what you do. Because if your CEO can’t explain to staff why you exist, the likelihood of staff shifting to a better competitor is high. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” And what you believe also sets the tone for your organisational culture.
Fear Driven Decision making – people may hire expensive strategists to help them develop 5 to 10-year strategic plans, but deep down I believe that most organisations do it as a requirement of good business practice, not because they understand its value. I have started to understand that most organisations are afraid of planning beyond 5 years because of the uncertainty of it. They are not sure if they can make or fundraise enough money for their operations.
Because of that, they rely on hoping for the best and limit planning to a year to a maximum of three. Some would call this scarcity mentality. You know you are constantly limited to a five-year cycle because of the stupidity of African politics. You are afraid that funders or investors may not find your line of work ‘sexy’ enough to invest in etc. The list is endless. But should this really determine how you should dream, or should you just dream and work backwards in five-year tranches to achieve your dream? You’ve heard the age-old adage; “where there’s a will there is a way.” The beauty of a clear vision is that it fuels the roadmap to realise it. No matter the obstacles you will always be driven to achieve that vision.
Wrong Operational models – I have come to realise people take the cookie-cutter model of hiring. They have bloated staff and convoluted departments which have roles that duplicate functions. This is why even if you have a great vision and a clear roadmap nothing ever gets done. Like they say; “too many cooks spoil the broth.”
I have worked with organisations which have a staff of almost forty when they only needed about 15 people. It’s a waste of time and resources, and it’s because people are not focusing on the vision. I live by the phrase, “the machine determines the driver.” If your organisation is a rugged Lorry you find a driver who can handle the bulky and complex machinery it is. If your organisation is a Lamborghini, then find the right driver and team to steer it to the finish line of your big dream. Your dream is that machine, you need the right staff and business operational model to steer it right. The machine determines the driver.
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