The more effort you invest in planning your strategy workshop, the more likely it is that your workshop will be successful. Here are some questions you may like to ask yourself (or your team) prior to briefing your strategy consultant.
WHAT BENEFITS DO WE WANT TO ACHIEVE?
WHAT END RESULT DO WE EXPECT FROM THE WORKSHOP?
A full strategic plan we can give to our board of directors?
A common vision to which everyone is committed?
A vision or set of goals?
Specific action plans to achieve our goals and vision?
A few creative ideas regarding new opportunities for our business?
WHAT CONTENT BENEFITS DO WE WANT TO ACHIEVE?
Content benefits result from doing comprehensive strategic analyses: of your stakeholders, the external environment, your industry, your competitors and your business and then creatively developing a focused and comprehensive vision. Content benefits could include:
A clear competitive advantage.
A clear common vision.
A clear focus on a few priorities (80/20 principle).
A framework within which future decisions can be made.
Clarification of the target markets within which we will and won’t operate.
Identification of new opportunities from changes in our external environment.
An identification of our core strengths. Knowing what makes us special.
Creation of new value added products and services we could be offering.
Creative, ‘out of the box’ thinking.
A change of mindset or paradigms.
WHAT PROCESS BENEFITS DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE?
Process benefits are the ‘people’ or ‘team’ benefits you can get by cleverly designing your workshop. For example the way you select delegates, mix smaller groups, encourage participation, work with group dynamics and design workshop activities could result in the following benefits:
Cross learning between people from different functions.
Synergies between different areas.
Break down ‘silo’s between different divisions or between your company
and the parent company.
Building of teams. Reducing conflict.
Greater creative out of the box thinking? (The more diversity in your teams,
and the more you mix teams, the greater the creativity.)
Positive energy. (This results from the energy of the participants, the style of the facilitator, and what is actually achieved during the workshop.)
- Commitment. (The greater the participation during the workshop, the greater the ownership and commitment – and the easier the implementation!)
WHAT FACTORS COULD PREVENT US FROM ACHIEVING THESE BENEFITS?
There are often issues within the organisation that have the potential to sabotage your strategy workshop. Examples include:
An impending merger or takeover.
Impending structural changes.
Stress, or conflict within the top team.
A key player who is about to resign from the company.
It is important to identify and deal with issues like these before you hold your workshop. Otherwise you will find that delegates will insist on using the time together (at your workshop) to debate these issues! This will take valuable time away from working on the goals you wanted to achieve. Should you urgently need to develop your strategic plan before you are able to deal with these issues, talk to your facilitator about them up front. Then together agree on new goals for the workshop which include solving some of these issues.
When is the best time to hold our workshop? Consider the following factors:
Deadlines – do you need to submit your strategic plan to the board by a certain date?
Choose a time when issues that could sabotage your workshop will have been dealt with.
Choose a time that helps strategic implementation. E.g. there should be no operational deadlines straight after the workshop, so you can begin implementing your strategy immediately. Similarly don’t do strategy just before a major holiday period.
The best consultants get booked up months in advance. So book ahead to ensure the availability of the consultant you want to work with.
If we were to have the most successful strategy workshop ever, what would make it so special? What are the success criteria for our workshop?
FACTORS TO AVOID.
Think of the worst strategy workshops we’ve ever attended. What made them so unsuccessful? What should we do to ensure that our workshop is successful?
WHO SHOULD ATTEND?
Your choice of delegates can affect both the group dynamics of the workshop, as well as the level of commitment to your final strategy. So consider carefully whom you choose to invite as delegates. (See How to select delegates for a strategic planning workshop.) for more information.
How should we group our delegates into teams to help us achieve the process benefits we want? (When in doubt go for diversity. But ensure this is something you discuss this with your facilitator.)
What criteria are important in choosing a venue for this workshop?
How should the room be arranged?
The process benefits you want should guide your choice of venue. E.g. If you are looking for participation and creative thinking choose a venue that:
Promotes a feeling of informal relaxation. The ideal venue is away from the office and has space for groups to work both indoors and outdoors. Ideally it should be in a 'natural' environment.
Good lighting. Natural light.
Good air conditioning – especially in summer!
3-5 round or square tables for small group work – arranged casually.
Food that suits your delegates’ dietary requirements. (In a cross cultural environment, this is more important to group dynamics than you can imagine!)
What requirements must our facilitator meet?
Who can best help you to achieve the content and process benefits you want to achieve?
There is a shortage of good strategy facilitators. So book them well in advance.
BRIEFING OF THE FACILITATOR
What information will the facilitator need to know about our business, to design an effective workshop?
What documents contain that information?
Who will be responsible for briefing our chosen facilitator?
Typically an external facilitator will need information about your company/industry and about the participants of the workshop.
Background information from annual reports, pamphlets, web sites, marketing material or research helps the consultant to customize the workshop to suit your organization. Anything that provides answers to the following questions would be useful:
What industry are you in?
What products and services do you sell?
How do your customers use these products/services?
Who are your customers or target markets?
Who are your competitors?
How has/is the industry changing? What issues is your company or your industry facing right now?
What technology are you using now? How is it helping you achieve a competitive advantage?
What challenges/issues are you currently facing?
Information about the participants
Who will attend the workshop?
How many delegates will be attending?
What are the delegates expecting from the workshop?
- What could affect the group dynamics at the workshop? E.g. describe any conflict that occurs between individuals or between different groups.
The experience or career history section of your resume is a vital ingredient in being selected for an interview. Recruiters and employers are not only looking for experience in specific roles but also what you were able to achieve while in those roles.
There are two aspects to describing your career experience in a resume; a description of the responsibilities that shows the scope and level of authority of the role you held and your key achievements while you were in the role. These two parts are not equal.
There are very few unique roles, so most require very little description. An accounts payable team leader for example does not need to describe what accounts payable is. A single paragraph describing the number of team members, volume of processing and size of budget accountability is enough to explain the role.
This is where your effort needs to be placed when illustrating your experience. For every achievement you need to think about the benefit that was delivered to the business and be specific about what that was. For example a statement that you improved the accounts payable process by converting 80 per cent of suppliers to electronic funds transfer is specific but it does not highlight the benefit.
Instead start with the benefit to the business. “Reduced costs by $50,000 by converting 80 per cent of suppliers to electronic funds transfer,” grabs the reader's attention in a way the earlier description does not. It shows the value you can bring in tangible terms that a prospective employer can relate to.
While an employer can work out for themselves approximately what value your achievements would have provided it is more powerful to identify and state the value of the benefit yourself.
You do not need to describe every job you have ever had. Limit the description and achievements to your last three roles or 5 years experience, anything prior to that is too old to be of much relevance.
These earlier positions should not be left out entirely. You need to show a complete picture of your employment history but you do not need to describe them in detail. List the title of the role, the name of your employer and the dates you were employed in the role.
Target your employment history to highlight the benefits you have delivered to previous employers and your resume will stand out from the crowd of other resumes clamoring for attention.
Thought leaders in politics, economics and business recently gathered at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) to forecast how the world will change in the year ahead. They concluded that the global economy will continue to tremble and the South African political arena will once again endure many highs and lows.
Adrian Saville, CEO of Cannon Asset Managers and a senior lecturer at GIBS, identified the greatest challenge for the world in 2011 as being whether or not the traditional powers could break free from the fetters of the recession.
In Saville’s view the developed economies, the US and the EU in particular, had failed to see that this is “no ordinary recession.” The ever-increasing mountain of debt these countries are having to pay off will eventually lead them into a situation similar to that experienced by Japan in the 1990s and 2000s, where endless debt obligations hampered long-term growth.
“The fact that our three largest trading partners, and our three largest investment partners, Japan, Western Europe and North America are going to continue to stutter causes headwinds for South Africa,” he cautioned.
But potential openings also existed for South Africa out of the re-alignment in the international political economy. “We tend to be enamoured with the China and India story, yet Sub-Saharan Africa is growing almost as fast as India and the per capita incomes of Sub-Saharan Africa are higher than India.” he noted. “So we are imbedded in an incredible opportunity.”
Phuthuma Nhleko, Group President and CEO of MTN, also marvelled at how the tectonic plates of the global economy were shifting. Like Saville, Nhleko saw a chance for SA, Inc to take advantage of this crisis, especially as corporations begin to engage more actively in the continent (as MTN had done to great success). "Africa is in effect the best-kept open secret from an investment perspective - and a return perspective," he said.
Nhleko also commented on the decline of some of the formerly venerable institutions of the West. “If you had said five years ago that some of the sovereign funds would be taking over Citibank and UBS and so on, somebody would have said ‘you’re smoking something’, but the reality is that this has happened and I think for me that is a fundamental change.”
For Nhleko, demography was a key barometer of future competitiveness, with Europe and Japan rapidly ageing, and the youthful populations of India and China swelling the size of their workforces at a remarkable rate.
Focusing on the public sector and the political realm back home, executive director of FeverTree Consulting, Roelf Meyer argued that the issue of service delivery would be one of the defining points of the coming year and beyond.
“There are huge, huge problems in this area, and they are not decreasing,” he said. “On a daily basis there are more and more local authorities that can’t supply some sort of service that is desperately needed by the people that they are supposed to deliver to.”
Water, electricity and sanitation were all affected, he noted, and those who suffer the most are those who cannot afford to pay for alternative services.
Meyer also observed that this deterioration was not confined to remote areas, pointing to the supposedly developed town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, which is experiencing severe capacity problems. Meyer speculated that campaigning for the local elections in 2011 would lead to even greater delivery shortfalls.
Gauteng MEC for Education, Barbara Creecy discussed some of the immense challenges that have arisen in education, particularly following the prolonged public sector strike that gripped the country in August.
Creecy explained that although the question of “redress, access and equity” in the education system had largely been resolved since 1994, the issue of learner performance needed to be addressed, particularly in maths, sciences and literacy.
Creecy said that institutional factors and the impact of poverty were affecting the state’s ability to make these improvements, and that internal migration and deteriorating facilities were taking their toll. “So not only have we not managed to address historical back-logs, but the back-logs in fact get greater and greater.”
Compounding the problem, approximately 60% of this year’s curriculum simply wasn’t covered owing to an inability on the part of teachers to fully engage with course material. The problem is teacher understanding and knowledge of curriculum content, the MEC said, and not teachers’ level of qualifications, which are relatively high. As an illustrative example, Creecy admitted that in 2008 the department had a sample of matric maths teachers write the grade 6 maths exam and only 60% of them passed.
Shaka Sisulu of Cheesekids argued that young people would react strongly to the increasingly more testing and rapidly evolving environment bestowed upon them by their elders. Sisulu warned that the current establishment will resist some of the pressures of this transition.
“Even though we have always seen the youth being vigorous, and vigorously challenging the status quo, there is [now] a lot more at stake for the status quo globally, but particularly in South Africa.”
Gary Morolo, Chairman of Datacentrix, spoke about the general feelings of anxiety in the country when looking to the future. “As South Africans we have extreme sentiment swings. We are either wildly euphoric or we are deeply pessimistic and we are in one of those phases where we say ‘this country is going to the dogs’.”
While many of these problems are cause for concern, Morolo said it is possible to be vigilant in guarding against abuses of power without resorting to hysteria. To do this the country needs strong checks and balances.
“What we have to ensure is that those important structures of state that are constitutionally protected continue to be that way, that we don’t find ourselves in a position where our institutions are perverted…where we allow the Constitution to be subverted in any way. So long as people are not touching those institutions then we have recourse to do something about it,” he said.
MBA's and Business Schools in South Africa have been ranked over the years in various ways and by various institutions. Since I did my degree the South African MBA landscape has changed significantly and the ranking research methods has seen a major change. The latest South African MBA Ranking research included here conducted by Financial Mail include a MBA ranking among management and a student rating.
Included are the South African MBA rankings as published in Financial Mail, Sep. Based on a study done by Ipsos Markinor.
South African Business Schools as ranked by Management, Best reputation among business.
1. Cape Town 21%
2. Stellenbosch 18%
3. Wits 13%
4. Gibs 12%
5. Unisa 9%
6. The rest has 1% each
Top of the Class "Rated by their own graduates"
Enjoyment of the course: Gibs, Wits, Free State
Quality of Curriculum: Free State, Gibs, Henley
Quality of Lecturers: Free State, Gibs, Henley
School Status: Gibs, Wits, Stellenbosch
Value for Money: Nelson Mandela, Potchefstroom, Free State
Leadership Skill's: Gibs, Wits, Cape Town
Cutting Edge Research: Henley, Stellenbosch, Gibs
Supervisory Support: Nelson Mandela, Potchefstroom, Milpark
* The above rankings could have been influenced by students generally scoring higher in a specific program.
Source: Financial Mail, Sep 2010
Read the Financial Mail MBA Rankings article here: MBA South Africa
Comment in our MBA Network Forum hereFM
Outsourcing is not a new phenomenon, since the industrial revolution business has outsourced activities in order to concentrate on their core capabilities. Transport into store and delivery to customers is a good example of this. Few large businesses run their own fleet anymore preferring to utilize transport companies who specialize in distribution and have the critical mass and expertise to deliver goods in the most efficient and effective manner. The word outsourcing however is relatively new and was created to describe the decision by businesses to find external suppliers to either perform their transactional processing or to provide their customer contact services. The supplier market for these services is relatively young with the first companies entering the market in the late 1990s. Although the industry is still in its infancy transactional service and customer contact companies are developing expertise in their field and using state of the art technology to provide high levels of service at a lower cost than companies can do it in house. No other outsourced industry has had artificial constraints imposed upon them so why would we consider placing artificial constraints on this new industry? The two arguments for imposing constraints usually relate to the levels of service being obtained from these new companies and the loss of jobs to overseas locations. Preventing companies from outsourcing transactional processing or customer contact activities will not guarantee high standards of service. The service level provided to customers is set by the company and in the case of outsourced activities is underpinned by either contract or contract and service level agreement. The best way to address inadequate service is to complain directly to the company and if dissatisfied change your brand. Artificially constraining a company from outsourcing is more likely to cause the company to become uncompetitive and force an increase in prices than an increase to service levels. Some companies have chosen to move these activities to outsourced providers located overseas where arbitrage costs are lower and as a result local people are made redundant. Since the time of the industrial revolution jobs have been lost to more efficient or lower cost methods of producing the result and over time the population becomes retrained in more highly skilled fields. Every day people are made redundant because of the introduction of new technology. Jobs in photographic film development have all but disappeared due to the introduction of digital cameras, should we recall all digital cameras and ban their sale because their use has caused people to be made redundant? It is also worth noting that in the field of information technology there are companies in the USA who provide around the clock support and disaster recovery facilities for companies located all around the world. Should we prevent these companies from taking on foreign clients because people in those countries will be made redundant? For employees working in the field of transactional processing or customer contact the new world of outsourcing actually opens up new opportunities for career advancement. Not all outsourced companies are located overseas. IBM and Accenture have well developed shared service centers that operate in the USA, Europe, Australia and other countries, they hold large contracts and see service as their product. Under this model activities that were once considered back office are now the primary purpose. No longer do employees have to do their time before getting a 'real job' in sales or production and for those who enjoy customer service a long term career path is now available within these service organizations. Outsourcing of customer contact and transactional processing activities is barely a decade old. As a strategy to remain competitive it is so far proving successful. Short term some job losses are experienced however in the longer term the employment market will adjust to these changes as it has done in the past. To place constraints on outsourcing will restrict companies' ability to operate competitively and will result in many more job losses than are being experienced now.
Suggested Reading: Smartsourcing: Driving Innovation and Growth Through Outsourcing
Africa presents myriad opportunities for growth and investment in the near future and beyond. So says The McKinsey Global Institute, a think tank focusing on business and economics research worldwide. McKinsey partners presented the findings of their June 2010 report Lions on the move: The progress and potential of African economies at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) on 14 September. Their conclusions were both surprising and encouraging.
Mutsa Chironga, Engagement Manager in McKinsey’s Sub-Saharan Office observed that in the global political economy most growth has come from emerging markets, and that Africa forms part of this new dynamic fold. “Growth has headed South, while debt has headed North”, he said.
A Degree of Recognition - Financial Mail MBA Ranking Article
Welsh-born former rugby referee John Powell is dreaming of the Triple Crown. But it has nothing to do with the 15-a-side game. Rather, he is pursuing the triple accreditation crown for Stellenbosch University Business School, of which he is director.
The school has already been acknowledged by the UK-based Association of MBAs (Amba) and the Equis accreditation arm of the European Foundation for Management Development in Brussels. Now Powell says it has cleared the first hurdles for acceptance by the US-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Success will confirm his view that Stellenbosch is “unquestionably” SA’s leading business school.
Advertisers pay millions of dollars to air TV ads that, by some estimates, more than a third of viewers skip over with digital VCRs or by switching channels or tuning out altogether.
New research by HBS professor Thales S. Teixeira offers a simple, inexpensive solution to help marketers hold on to some of those consumer eyeballs.
In "Moment-to-Moment Optimal Branding in TV Commercials: Preventing Avoidance by Pulsing," forthcoming in Marketing Science, Teixeira and coauthors Michel Wedel of the University of Maryland and Rik Pieters of the Netherlands' Tilburg University use data that tracks the eye movements of nearly 2,000 participants over 31 commercials to show how various branding patterns of activity influence consumer "zapping," or ignoring, commercials.
On September 9th prospective MBA students were able to inquire about various South African MBA Programs and sample the offerings of some of the best business education institutions at the SABSA MBA Open Day at the Sandton Convention Centre.
Why embark on an MBA? Does it add to your professional development or is it an expensive way of multiplying your stress levels? Crucially, how do you choose the institution that best fits your interests, your career objectives, and your budget? On September 9th prospective MBA students were able to ask these questions themselves and sample the offerings of some of the best business education institutions at the SABSA MBA Open Day at the Sandton Convention Centre.