The last months I’ve had a lot of discussion about strategy and whether and how much it
matters in organisations, especially from a management point of view. I’ve been a keen believer that this is the essence of management. However, I’ve heard a lot about how this sounds all too theoretical and is not practised in real life. But isn’t it? Let’s take an example of a family trying to cook a dinner.
I like families – they’re small organisations which tend to face similar issues that companies and other organisations do. So, let’s take a family of four and let’s say that one person is responsible for cooking a nice dinner. Let’s call that person the ‘mum’.
The mum has a task, which she got by talking to the family. To cook dinner. And naturally she wants everyone to be pleased with dinner and if she’s a good cook, she wants to spend as little money as she can on it but not on the expense of the quality of the food. That’s the vision she has and what she got from the others – to cook dinner everyone loves.
The questions is how to get to that ? How can she make sure that everyone is happy afterwards, fed well and wouldn’t spend too much money on all of it?
How to get there?
She has two ways to ensure that everyone likes the food. She can either ask them what they feel like eating and agree on something or she can just guess what everyone likes.
Depending on her knowledge of the family and her ability the second option might work. But it still wouldn’t be as sure as the first. However, she could still more easily get to an agreement due to that knowledge and experience.
Naturally she talks to all of them – the people who care about this dinner, also called ‘stakeholders – and agrees on a dish she thinks would not be too expensive and what would fit everyone. Thus, she sets a goal of cooking the dish by talking to the stakeholders.
How to know how you’re doing?
The next step is to check what needs to be bought for making it happen. And how to make it exactly, who does she need to have to make it happen. In the end, how much does it all cost.
In the evening, she gets to the point where she can actually see how it all went – did she get to her vision of making everyone happy and fill her goal of cooking a dish for that.
How can she know that – most likely, she can see how successful she has been by first evaluating whether she cooked a dish or not and secondly – is everyone happy with it? And as a subgoal – could she actually afford it as was planned?
For that she has set metrics – ‘cooked a dish’ or ‘not’, ‘how many people were happy’ and ‘how much did it cost – in her head and evaluates them to know what to do the next time, right?
Why don’t other organisations do that?
To summarise, what she did:
- Talked to the stakeholders
- Formed a vision
- Talked to the stakeholders again how to achieve it
- Set a goal
- Allocated resources to achieve the goal
- Measured how did it all go
This all equals to living by a strategic plan – creating the framework to do what you need in the best possible way.
And this is exactly what companies and other organisations quite often miss. They do not talk to their stakeholders like the mum talked to her family, they quite often don’t have a clear vision where they want to go or what to do and they don’t set clear goals. Yet, it’s very normal in our everyday life.
Don’t the companies love their ‘family’ of clients and workers and stock holders as much as the ‘mum’ does? Or is it just because the ‘mums’ aka the managers are not in their right positions? What do you think?Jarmo Siim