Almost all entrepreneurs without exception want their businesses to grow. Almost every premier of a country wants his/her nation to do well. This is a wish. This may get fulfilled or may just remain a wish. It will depend upon vision, strategy and plans. Based on our management practice over 16 years, let us examine what contributes to sustainable growth. Jim Collins, in his path-breaking book Built To Last, found that companies and even nations that had a compelling vision became very successful over a sustainable period of time.
For example, Toyota’s vision is to be the best and biggest car company in the world. British Airways always had a vision to offer maximum passenger comfort and make fliers very comfortable.One mistake that people sometimes make is expressing their vision in numbers. Vision is a statement as to what the company or nation wants to become and be known for. The vision must inspire people to succeed and should be detailed as to what they want to achieve, in what time frame, etc.Joel Barker, a great thought leader, has shown that nations, school children, corporations, etc., that have succeeded always had a compelling vision.
You may think vision only applies to corporates or nations. But that is not true. Verghese Kurien’s vision to transform the lives of poor farmers in Anand, who were being exploited in selling milk, led to the forming of cooperatives and the creation of Amul as a company. It then went on to become the National Dairy Development Board or Operation White Flood, which gave the rural poor the correct price for milk and ensured it reached every corner of India. The standard of living, health and education of farmers has substantially improved in Anand.At the same time, if we look at social movements in India, we find most of them historically did not have a clear vision, be it an environmental movement like the Narmada Bachao Andolan or tribal ones. They definitely did well to raise consciousness but did not achieve much results to reduce inequality or increase development on a sustainable basis.
In the global arena, the recent Black Lives Matter movement in the US is an example of one without a clear vision, strategy or plan as to what it wants to achieve. However, if these movements develop a clear vision and come up with a strategy to institutionalise or form a political party to give a definitive structure, they can create social change.The second important area is strategy and planning. The idea of having an effective strategy is to be better than others and have the ability to forecast and anticipate the future.The US is now thinking very strategically on how to build capacity to deal with China and compete with them in a positive way. President Joe Biden’s strategy is not to be reactive like his predecessor, but to have a positive planned effort to get back America’s lost glory.
We do a lot of work in creating vision, strategy and plans for companies and we find most organisations don’t have much data about the existing competition, knowledge of alternatives and substitutes that will enter the market in the near future, and what their customers and suppliers want. They hope by continuing to do what they have done so far, they will survive and succeed. However, in a changing environment, that is the greatest mistake to make.Research demonstrates that the more successful a company has been in the past, the greater is the chance for it to go down. This mostly happens because
it develops arrogance and has mental models called paradigms, which block its ability to see the future.
Review the present Covid-19 crisis in India wherein we now have a shortage of vaccines, oxygen, hospital beds and medicines, and people are dying without medical attention. This has happened mainly due to a lack of strategy and planning.
Every country had witnessed a second and third wave of Covid-19. Therefore, it was reasonable to presume that even India will go through it. The planners had one year to think and plan. They did very little.While other countries had given advances to vaccine manufacturers, we were expecting Serum Institute to put its own funds in and get money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.The Covid task force and the health ministry did not make plans for building hospital infrastructure, vaccine and oxygen capacity, etc.. They could have invited private industries to help. But they did not.
When we worked in Shell, we used to do scenario planning. Shell forecasts different scenarios that can arise, make projections based on that and make plans. Our nation’s planners did not forecast or create scenarios.Luckily, we have a capable prime minister who takes ownership every time, who has taken charge this time as well and is now speaking to the industrialists and other nations to try and solve the crisis. We will get over the present crisis, but it was totally avoidable with better strategy and planning.
Ashoke K Maitra
Founder and CEO, Sri Ramakrishna International Institute of Management