Why It's Important to Think Strategy: Despite All the Sound Theory, Seminars, Articles and Encouragement, New Zealand Senior Managers Still Don't Get the Best from Their People, Those Who Carry out the Day-to-Day Work of Their Business. (Nzim)

Article excerpt

The recently released NZIM/Wevers Index of Human Resource Management and Organisational Effectiveness 2001 contains a wake-up call for managers looking to improve their organisational performance and meet the current exigencies of our economic and political environment.

The results of this and previous surveys are a stark reminder that managers maintain an undue focus on short, rather than long-term issues. This is shown in two ways:

* failure to adequately communicate the vision, mission, values and goals of their organisation, and

* a focus on managing short-term performance issues rather than encouraging staff to understand an appropriate strategic context.

The survey clearly shows that while CEOs might very well understand the purpose and role of their organisation, they are poor at communicating the message to the rest of their people. This lack of awareness on the part of the `workers' can seriously inhibit an organisation's ability to be effective or even survive in the market place.

While those at the coal face of the organisation must concentrate all their efforts on producing results every day according to the immediate goals set for them, those at the 'top' need quite a different perspective. If board members and CEOs do not have a long-term, strategic perspective, who else does?

Hard though it may be, senior management must divorce itself from the day-to-day issues and concentrate on the vision, mission, values and goals. Their most important role is to ensure that these are both well understood by everyone and embedded so firmly in the ethos and consciousness of the organisation that they influence every decision and action.

Grow and thrive

Organisations do not exist in isolation. They are part of a total complex and constantly changing environment which they both contribute to, and draw from. Their continued existence depends on understanding the various factors which make up the total. Such understanding takes time, effort and care; but is essential if an organisation is to grow and thrive.

There are many terms given to this process, but all involve strategic thinking--that is, the ability of the board and senior management to continually assess the `big picture' and apply those assessments to strategies and policies, which enable the organisation to best realise its vision.

Strategic thinking means asking the question: "Are we doing the right thing?" and involves the ability to:

* be well informed about the current total environment and how that is likely to develop;

* hold a clear vision of the mission, values and goals of the organisation;

* understand the organisation's vision in terms of that part of the environment within which the organisation exists;

* have a strong sense of perspective, in order to see beyond current issues to the end purpose(s) of the organisation;

* assess the likely implications of current strategies, policies and actions to ensure they are in line with the organisation's vision and mission;

* think creatively, so as not to be locked into the past;

* know the difference between long--and short-term planning, policy and goals.

Strategic planning and strategic management are often confused. And strategic thinking is all too often ignored altogether. Strategic planning is only useful if it is supported by strategic thinking and enables strategic management. There is a kind of `circular hierarchy': thinking--planning--management--(re-) thinking all of which, if used properly, require constant attention to be of value. Each is dependent on, and follows from the other. But in a sense, all are underpinned by the thinking part of the `circle'.

Strategic plan

Strategic management is the continuous application of strategic thinking, in tune with a strategic plan used to lead an organisation. It means paying constant attention to the 'big picture' and knowing what to do when the environment changes or is about to change. …

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