Linggo, Enero 29, 2012

The Taste of Strategy by Jolito Ortizo Padilla



Twenty years ago I was talking to my son Jol, a young entrepreneur selling homemade sweets to his friends. "So what is your strategy son?" I asked. "And how do you ensure the quality of your sweets? "Strategy? Quality?" shrugged Jol. "Dad! That's all Greek to me. Uncle Toto makes them , I sell them. Simple."

Well Jol was half right. Strategy is indeed Greek in origin being derived from Greek word strategies, meaning general or army leader. Quality, however, is not Greek, being derived from Latin word qualitas being an attribute or property. And Job had a strategy -albeit a simple one- but his grasp on quality appears somewhat more tenous.

So what impact would Jol's limited grasp of strategy- and even more limited grasp of quality- have on the success of his enterprise? Is it set to be a roaring success or a dismal failure? And what does it mean for Toto. With Jol's simple strategy Toto could make biscocho one week and pinasugbo the next. She could make round ones , square ones, fat or thin ones packed with flavoring or using natural fruits. He could wrap them in tin foil, clingfilm, or expensive gift wrap. Does it matter?

In pondering this scenario, let's start by thinking a bit more detail about these words, strategy and quality, and their importance to an organization. In the context of its Greek military use, strategy is distinct from tactics: while tactics are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, strategy is concerned with how different engagement are linked. How battle is fought is a matter of tactics; the terms and conditions that it is fought on. Whether the battle should be fought at all is a matter of strategy.

Strategy is therefore, directional in nature. It describes where your organization want to get-its vision or desired future state-and how it intends to get there. Quality, being an attribute or a property, more closely relates to the tactical and operational aspects of an organization-how effectively and efficiently the operations work to achieve the strategy. So does that mean that leaders should only concern themselves with the strategic aspects of management? Is Jol right to gloss over the details of how pinasugbo will be made? Should Toto concentrate purely on making pinasugbo or should he take an interest in who Jol wants to sell them to, why and how?

In the 1930's Haribo's aim was to "make children happy." This was changed in the 1960s to: "Kids and grown -ups love it so; the happy world of Haribo." What difference does a few words make? And how important is this statement of purpose? For a start , the change in Haribo statement would have stopped Toto using chemical flavorings because strategy defines the terms and conditions the battle is fought on. The statement could also influence perceptions of the appropriate values and behaviors associated with the organization.

In fact, having a clear statement of purpose underpinned by measurable objectives and the defined strategy for achieving them is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of any management team. When these are "right" they are often so elegant that they seem obvious -but this can belie the effort required to get to even this stage. A real understanding of the organization, its stakeholders, their needs and expectations and how they can balanced can be anything but easy.

It is only when this strategy can be stated and commonly understood that the more traditional aspects of quality can add real value. Quality can ensure that appropriate products and services are developed and offered at prices that provide value to all stakeholders, that processes align to achieve the agreed purpose, that working practices are effective , efficient and consistently implemented and that organization has the capability to deliver with people who have the appropriate skills and knowledge to undertake their roles with sufficient and suitable resources.

In essence it is the leader's role to ensure that the strategy is defined and the infrastructure to support this is in place. However, it is the skills of quality professional that can ensure strategy's effective and efficient implementation. The two fit hand in glove and both are essential for a fit and healthy organization.

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