The Sunday Mail
Hunt for Greatness
A strategy that is not reviewed often becomes stale. Most people passionately hate stale and mouldy bread. The best bread is always the one that is fresh.
In one of my early trips to Harare, I travelled in a heavy truck. I went for this option as I was trying to stretch the little means I had and had to be in Harare the next day for an interview. Today, I shall not describe the journey, save to say those who have never taken a lift in those heavy trucks whizzing past should never underestimate the crowd-carrying capacity in their front cabins.
As we crawled through Harare’s Simon Mazorodze Road, watching the bustling crowds, I silently made some resolutions that were going to change my life. I knew with every fibre of my being that I would never again take another overnight truck ride of that nature unless under extreme pressure. I decided that this city that I was entering would soon welcome me as a denizen.
As we passed a popular bakery, I saw a large billboard sign that read: “Take a fresh look at bread!” This became a living motto — taking a refreshed look at everything that I do often. This same dictum should be applied to every strategy. A fresh look at any strategy should always be done through the eye of execution. Unless a strategy is executed, it is not a strategy, but a mere assignment.
Take a fresh look at your context and environment. The environment that you operate in is dynamic and always in flux. Check the environment often to see if your cheese is not moving. Check whether you are executing the right strategy for your environment.
Things, factors and personae in the environment change, and new developments emerge. New information, concepts, models and forces emerge. Socio-political winds shift, so does technology. Weather patterns change, and so does the pressure of pests and diseases. Fixed things in shifting contexts leave your strategy stale. The opportunity map is always changing. Some opportunities are best seized while fresh. New competitors and threats emerge. The economy has a tendency of throwing a few unexpected tantrums. In the midst of these winds and shifts, new opportunities arise for those who are willing to see. A strategy is a distillation of insight.
The environment is never constant. You cannot tame an environment that you do not understand. A strategy is a playbook that is always tested in the field of execution. Strategy steering is as important as strategy mapping. Accelerating execution puts fuel and momentum towards valuable results.
You must always have your right eye on the business and two other eyes must look outside. One looks at the past and the other at the future. You analyse the past to learn and gain wisdom for better execution.
By looking at past events to gain hindsight, trends start being clearer, and you test cyclical issues and see developments that are impacting the profit pool of your industry. Look further back and also zoom in on more recent developments. Look at what is happening at the fringes, because what is fringe today could likely be mainstream tomorrow. Keep thinking and taking a fresh look. Look at the future to gain foresight.
A strategy is preparing to play in the arena of battle. As Sun Tzu says in the “Art of War”, “He will win who prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”
A strategy is ensuring that you are prepared and ready to engage. Take a fresh look by thinking deeply and reflecting broadly. Look at your recent failures, to ground yourself in humility. Look at your recent successes to validate your strategy. Interrogate emerging events to gain insight and review trends to gain foresight.
Take a fresh look at your organisation. Run away from hubris and eschew vainglory. Stop believing in your own advertisements and in your strategy. Seek out the brutal realities. It is always easy to think you are doing your best.
Doing the so-called best with an antiquated adding machine cannot compare with the processing power of a freshly minted high-power computer. Clinging onto old inefficiencies and fruitless business models is strategic suicide. In strategy, your loyalty is to results and not history. What worked in the past will not always work forever.
In leadership, the challenge is doing your own thinking and seeing differently the things you view daily. Live your strategy and keep taking a fresh look. One of the helpful questions is: What is not yet perfect — about the strategy, product portfolio, processes, technology or people?
Take a fresh look at the assumptions underlying your strategy, business and operating models. Assumptions simplify reality, but they could also distort reality. Assumptions make it easy to prioritise and focus, but they could, if wrong, lead you to doom. How have your assumptions changed? Do they still hold when tested through strategy execution? It is a disaster to hold onto a strategy whose assumptions have lost relevance and timbre. This would be more like putting on sunglasses in the dark.
Take a fresh look at your capacity and competencies. Good strategies are ambitious by design. Strategy must articulate clear bold moves and big bets. Some articulate BHAGs — Big Hairy Audacious Goals — that become a rallying cry. The question of capacity should never be ignored. It is important to be brutally honest about your capacity, skills and competencies. Ambition alone without a good assessment of capacity and capability is a frustration in waiting.
I have always admired good athletes. Although I can think positively, do all my affirmations and set great strategies and articulate motivating BHAGs. I know now that I will never be an Olympic long-distance runner who will take on Kenyans and Ethiopians in the next African marathons. My legs and my makeup will just rebel. This also holds true for any strategy. Strategies that ignore native competencies lead to massive losses and corporate failure.
You developed your strategy, but are you executing it? When was the last time you reviewed it for the goodness of it? What have you taken a fresh look into?
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author and a virtual, hybrid and in-person workshop facilitator. He is a cutting-edge strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and his website is: www.miltonkamwendo.com