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Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

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February is here and 1/12 months is gone already. I trust that we have gathered pace in implementing our strategies for 2020.

In this bulletin, I would like to address Strategy and Culture, two sides of the same coin. They have direct impact on each other and are on the critical path to organizational performance. If aligned both have tremendous potential to yield great outcomes for our SACCOs.

Strategy is a more mature discipline in our SACCOs. Majority of us are on the 3rd or 4th strategy cycles. It worth however, to reflect on the degree of success with regards to strategy implementation. 

From work with SACCOs, we register a mix of success and failures especially in strategy implementation. Our observation is that decision rights and information flow top the list of challenges since they have not been well mapped. We have also observed that while most strategies are growth oriented, the SACCO structure adopted remain more managerial with regards to maintenance of the status quo.  Further, people are neither well incentivized to make the right decisions nor are they sanctioned for failure to decide or when they make the wrong decisions resulting to losses. There are also cases of SACCOs that are over managed and under led.

Strategic Plan must assure SACCO viability and sustainability. Everything else is configured to align with the set strategic themes and objectives. As a SACCO CEO, you must always be concerned with the SACCO’s capability to deliver on the planned objectives. This part we have found it missing in many plans that we review during the development of the transformation framework.

Culture is one of the enablers of strategy execution. Developing and executing strategy and setting the right culture are the primary responsibility of the CEO. The CEO must ensure they are aligned and configured for results and long-term sustainability of the SACCO. 

Culture is the implicit social order in our organizations. Unlike strategy which is documented and can easily explained and understood culture is the ghost, the shadow that shapes organizational attitudes and behaviors. Cultural norms defines what is encouraged, overlooked, when we make decisions and or postpone decision making. You can see then that when it is not aligned with strategy, the results are threatened.

Culture affects people interaction in the work place meaning how we relate to each other, compete with each other, whether we collaborate or have greater autonomy and this is how it affects the effectiveness of teams. In tandem, culture affects directly our readiness to embrace change. Perhaps this is more noticeable. This is manifested by behavioral tendencies that emphasize stability, maintenance of status quo on one side and the other flexibility and receptiveness to change.

From the work we have done with SACCOs with regards to our SACCO Transformation Program, culture, is one of the areas we tackle in order to align it with organizational objectives and set out goals. We refer to it as climate for action. Indeed for you to hatch eggs successfully, notwithstanding that you have the best quality eggs and a hatchery, you must set the temperature correctly to the required degrees. Otherwise you will hatch still eggs meaning no results or dismal ones.

This is a big issue to SACCOs as we all need to adapt to the changing societal needs and advances in technology and all manner of disruptions in financial sector including more regulations. The Board, CEO, Heads of Departments and Branch Managers need to align with the right culture for “chicks to hatch”.

Maintaining the right climate for action is the role of the Board and the CEO. Largely the CEO must take the lead without delegating this to Human Resources. In the SACCO case, HR function is actually in CEO’s office.

All progressive CEOs are concerned with performance of their organizations and whether they achieve the mandates that necessitated their formation and existence. To sustainably achieve or surpass targets, CEOs must concern themselves with enablers, catalysts for performance. Culture, talent management and technology are the ingredients of performance in SACCO case.

As we start month number two, I trust you will make it your duty to align culture with strategy otherwise strategy will be served for breakfast at the culture’s table.

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