Harvard Business School professor and author of “The Balanced Scorecard” Robert S. Kaplan says most organizations fail at strategy execution. This results in companies not being able to measure their own success or achieve their objectives. The trick is to have the tools that measure performance aligned with strategy execution, so people will know if they’re doing things right. It also serves as a reward for things done in accordance with the organization’s objectives.
It’s like having a Balanced Scorecard. The proof after all, is in the pudding; not on the recipe hanging on the door of the fridge.
Unfortunately, as the old English proverb states, “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” Not just in companies and organizations, but in managing a country, the gap between strategy and implementation is often a yawning chasm seemingly impossible to bridge. It’s not for lack of good ideas or strategies — look at the plethora of road maps and blueprints the government has produced in order to fix the country’s infrastructure, transportation, education system and the economy — but rather the inability to bring these ideas to fruition.
Infrastructure is an obvious example of this failure. If we had managed to implement a little of the road map proposed at the infrastructure summit a decade ago, maybe our capital city wouldn’t be drowning in floodwaters. Instead, protracted dilly-dallying has resulted in a worsening of the situation, where a bit of rain these days is equal to a fortnight of torrential downpour a few years ago in terms of damage and inconvenience.
For the first time, we witnessed the president with his trousers rolled up as the flood waters entered the palace area. This is not a symbol of the leader suffering alongside the ordinary family in Kampung Melayu, however. Rather it is a testimony to what happens when problems are not properly addressed. A sorry display of the powerful finding himself out of his depth.
The failure to implement ideas can also be seen in our education system, like when making nine-year schooling compulsory for all was proposed almost two decades ago. It would have brought the education standard to an international level and improved the quality of state schools. Rather than finding ways to implement these ideas though, policy makers, failing to execute them, chose to blame the strategies, chopping and changing and eventually abandoning them.
In the meantime, as the education system becomes hostage to our policy makers’ inability to carry out proper reforms, the children continue to miss out on the precious years of an improved academic standard that would set them up for a better future. One year is long in a child’s life. A decade, and we have lost the opportunity to create a valuable member of society.
Imagine if we had built up our mass transportation a decade ago, dredged our rivers, built the canals, dug the tunnels and created the green areas in the city to protect our water supply. Then perhaps we could mitigate some of the impacts that climate change and rising sea levels bring, not to mention the pressures of a rising population and increased traffic.
But things cannot get done without proper alignment of the strategy with the execution, which includes, in Kaplan’s strategy map, aspects of finance, customers, process and people development. This also applies to running a country. The leader needs to know how to use the right tools and mobilize the right people for results that are measurable and accountable.
This is too complicated for most of our politicians. When choosing our leaders, we also tend to look, not for a CEO, but for a White Knight, the Magician, to wave his wand and magically make things better. So we shouldn’t be disappointed when what we get is not a savior, but those who are better at clinching the job than getting the job done.
Desi Anwar is a senior anchor at Metro TV and can be reached at desianwar.com or dailyavocado.net.