Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Applying Strategy Concepts to the Public Sector

A company’s growth is often accompanied by convolution and unwieldiness.  Eventually, goals between business units and workers misalign, ultimately setting a business off its intended trajectory.  This week's readings gave me new perspective on how to breathe life into a company as it grows and evolves in two key ways: 1) By recasting its vision and 2) finding value in strategic planning.  It also gave insight on how public sector organizations might benefit from business strategy. 

“Building Your Company’s Vision” asserts that creating alignment may be a company’s most important work, and that the first step is to recast the company’s vision by developing a I) core ideology and II) an envisioned future; the former represents what an organization stands for and the latter represents what the organization aspires to achieve. 

Personifying the company as an entity that adheres to core values and purpose achieves what I call breathing life into an organization.  In other words, as a company grows, information grows overabundant and disorganized, muddling employees’ understanding of the company’s purpose.  By creating a clear vision, as opposed to a rambling mission statement, goals are aligned and employees can operate on the same page rather than in disparate and uncoordinated business units.

The federal government could benefit from clarifying goals both inter- and intra-departmentally.  For example, when George W. Bush invaded Iraq, there was not a clear goal in place once the bombing of Baghdad was complete.  Was it to rebuild the Iraqi government or confiscate alleged weapons of mass destruction and leave? Furthermore, how was the US military supposed to transition the country politically? 

Meanwhile, the State Department generated thousands of pages in analyses on how to transition the government, and what factors to consider when nation-building.  Yet, none of these reports were ever read or implemented by the Executive Branch or military.  Such a large-scale attack warranted a clear vision, not only for clandestine military operations, but also for the other federal departments to understand how best to support the mission and communicate their findings.

The second takeaway I derived from the readings is that strategic planning, if calibrated properly, will be the difference between a company that sinks or floats.  First, identify the business’s I) degree of predictability (i.e. the company’s ability to forecast) and II) degree of malleability (i.e. the company’s ability to influence what they forecast.)  Then, derive value in formal planning by including the right people in the process, timing the planning correctly, and following up as needed.

These readings essentially discuss how to eliminate red tape by including only those who are relevant to the business’s decision-making in strategy discussions, and by effectively communicating strategic plans to the company.  Similarly, I think federal agencies have accumulated so much red tape that they act independently of each other and at a much slower pace than is efficient.  Perhaps strategizing and organizing in a private-sector manner would serve to cut the red tape of public sector organizations and help them operate more efficiently.

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