Kayode Komolafe, in his article, “So, What is the Grand Vision?” (THISDAY of November 18, 2015), has again demonstrated the importance of starting with strategy in the management of the economy. By the way, strategy is one of the words that is most abused in modern management science. And that explains why organizations, public and private sector alike; confuse strategy with programs and projects. This practice is however, more prevalent in the public sector and non-profit organizations which often confuse initiatives completion as the target rather than improvement in mission objectives and agency effectiveness.
During the recently completed Ministerial Retreat, President Muhammadu Buhari spoke of the Administration’s main task: “… to turn our manifesto promises to practice and results”. He further spoke of the expectation to make “… the running of government at all levels as lean as possible, avoid waste and conserve resources”. These are laudable statements of intention of the government by the President. However, in order to actualise them, it will help the President and his team far greater to start with strategy.
Simply put, strategy, for whichever organization, private or public, is about making hard choices of the main focus areas the entity must excel in order to deliver value to stakeholders. This will typically address two key questions – where do we play and how do we win? For the government, the operating space is obviously the whole of the country and her people, but how to win in this space, means that the government and her policy formulators have to design countrywide and sectors-wide game plans of delivering specified results that would impact positively on the citizens and stakeholders.
So, we start with a grand vision, to use Mr. Komolafe’s expression. A cursory review of APC’s manifesto states the party’s Mission as follows: “to construct and institute a progressive state anchored on social democracy, where the welfare and security of the citizenry is paramount”.
From the language of the statement, it sounds as the strategic destination of the country as desired by the APC, the country’s envisioned future. I believe that with some tweaking on the need to revamp the economy, the statement is sufficiently broad to cover all sectors and stakeholders of the economy and may therefore pass for a grand vision. But the key question is – what is the strategy for operationalising and achieving the vision? Under the current circumstances, one can see at the minimum, two strategic themes – ‘excellence in government service delivery’ and ‘economic abundance’.
The next thing we need to do is to distil clear performance results from the vision and strategic themes. What does success at achieving i) improved social democracy; ii) improved welfare of the people iii) improved security and iv) improved economic development, look and feel like? How do we know that we have achieved the grand vision? Because at this level of the country’s vision, the results are broad-based, they will constitute the Presidency’s result scorecard, nevertheless with clear performance measures and targets set. Let’s take as an example, a performance result tied to “improved welfare of the people”. A clear performance result could be: proportional achievement of the UN sustainable development goals by the end of the Administration in 2019. For the strategic theme of economic abundance, a performance result could be say, reduction in unemployment.
The achievement of these performance results, being broad, will be imparted by performance of many sectors, health, education, agriculture, etc. but they sit in the Presidency’s result scorecard by virtue of this fact and it will be the responsibility of the Presidency to monitor and ensure that all contributing sectors deliver supporting results. Following this is to cascade the vision and the Presidency’s scorecard into the various sectors to develop sectors’ strategy with clear results, performance measures and targets. I assume that each sector will invariably fall under the responsibility of a ministry/minister who would be held accountable for the results.
The sector strategy is thereafter cascaded into departments and agencies’ strategy (for each department/agency under each ministry), again with all the highlighted strategic elements and accountability can be achieved at those levels also. Aligning all sectors’ and reporting departments/agencies’ strategies to the President’s vision follows a deliberate process. Otherwise, we may end up with a situation, as it often happens, where you have the sectors and other MDAs strategy being completely at variance with the President’s vision and strategy.
In addition, there will be need to put in place a robust monitoring and evaluation system and performance reporting system that ideally should be technology driven. This in a nutshell, is how the President’s intention of turning the party’s manifesto promises to practice and results may be achieved and to ensure that the running of government at all levels is as lean as possible to avoid waste and conserve resources.
Projects design should be informed by strategy and performance results. However, the performance of government or a sector is determined by the extent to which the government or MDA has delivered on set performance results and targets, which translate to benefits for the people, not on project milestones achieved or percentage of project budget expended.
So why do we have to keep our focus firmly on results? Keeping our focus firmly on results will facilitate much better project planning and efficient implementation. It will enhance efficient resource allocation. Governments and MDAs are held accountable for results, which have been clearly defined ab initio. In short, government works smarter.
Mr. Sufianu, the CEO, Balanced Scorecard West Africa