In the previous article we talked about how businesses can survive in the face of difficult economic conditions, the likes of which we are currently facing in Pakistan these days.
Let’s face it, businesses exist not just to survive but thrive. In difficult times too, we need to remain positive and look for opportunities to progress towards our goals and objectives. For businesses and individuals, it is essential that we keep our vision and dreams alive even in circumstances where things appear to be extremely challenging.
The fact is that every major achievement always starts with a dream. No matter how ambitious or fantastic they appear at the time, a combination of the right approach and a good deal of perseverance has the power to turn these dreams into reality.
But alas, to dream alone is not enough. It takes strategy, persistence, commitment, and endurance to make a concept tangible. For businesses in Pakistan, developing a vision, especially currently is not enough. What will determine your success and even your survival is your ability to execute under the current economic environment.
Many organisations spend a lot of time crafting a vision, however, most of them fail to bring the vision to fruition, due to a lack of focused effort that inevitably arises from inadequate planning and follow-up. The action steps required to achieve the vision are frequently not properly spelt out to even the most senior team members, let alone the rest of the staff. The end result; they fail to implement the strategy and the vision remains a dream.
Let’s be clear, without the right action and implementation, the vision and the strategy are of no use whatsoever.
A key part of the business leader’s role is to be actively involved in the strategic planning process that helps in developing vision and the strategy along with the framework for its implementation. I must also emphasise the fact that strategic and business planning is not just about financial goals and objectives. It is much more comprehensive than the budgeting process for instance. Naturally, the financial plan and budgets will form a key part of the exercise, but the budgeting process fundamentally evolves from the strategic and business plans.
My experience with Pakistani companies has shown that while there is a lot of time spent on developing budgets, there is often no link with the company’s overall strategy, goals, and objectives.
We all appreciate the rapidly changing political and economic conditions in Pakistan and the challenges that they create for businesses. To manage the risks that arise from such a rapidly evolving environment, it is important that comprehensive risk analysis be undertaken as part of the strategic planning process, so that the necessary risk mitigation strategies can be employed. Such analysis will help you in guiding your organisation through difficult times and in foreseeing the sorts of challenges that may arise and knowing what to do.
The rapid changes in government policies, technology, social dynamics, economic factors, etc. can evolve in minutes. Remember the harrowing impact of the global financial crisis or more recently the pandemic. The speed and the extent of the crises has taught us to be always prepared for unexpected, just in case. In business terms, we need to ensure that a Plan B is ready as a backup. As they say, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Developing Plan B is not always an easy task and requires a lot of creativity and brainstorming.
The result of the strategic planning process should be a comprehensive document that is used as a road map for the implementation of strategies and to ensure that the team remains focused on the real goals and objectives.
Our firm was asked to help in the development of the strategic plan for a Pakistani company. The business had been doing well and was enjoying a major growth burst. During our discussions with the leadership team, we found them to be justifiably content with their achievements. Even though the business seemed to be flourishing, we had a feeling that there was something not quite right. It was as if some unseen problem lay waiting somewhere to pounce on them when least expected. As part of reviewing their Supply Chain issues, we asked them to arrange a focus group, consisting of their principal suppliers. This move turned out to be an eye-opening experience and one that was immensely useful in guiding the company.
Initially, the suppliers were very reserved and did not want to say anything offensive or controversial. But as the discussions progressed and trust was established between us, they became less reticent and shared a lot of concerns and issues that had not been raised by the company’s management. Their frustrations and anxieties turned out to be quite genuine and, in most cases, required only a minor change in the approach from the company.
As a result of their feedback, a series of new initiatives were introduced by the management and supplier satisfaction became a high priority. The company realised that without the full support of its suppliers, there was no way it would be able to achieve its future growth targets.
The key point is that whether it’s your customers, suppliers or even your employees, you must not assume that all is well. You need to keep asking; how can we do better?