Paul Griffith: How to Build Resilient Organisations Amid Nigeria’s Uncertainty – THISDAY Newspapers

The London Business School-trained Paul Griffith, the world’s first professor of management to lead a team to launch a rocket to space, shares insights into how leaders can build resilient organisations irrespective of adversity and volatility. Prof Paul Griffith, Ambassador Charles Crawford, and John Peters will help deliver the sessions of the programme, slated to hold between August 22 and 25 in Birmingham, UK. He also explains why executives should attend TEXEM UK’s forthcoming programme on Building Resilient organisations for sustainable success in this interview
What are the core challenges facing businesses operating in Nigeria and Africa? 
There are many challenges that Nigeria faces specifically, and I know that there is a lot of overlap with the challenges faced in other countries. One is uncertainty. All human beings, but it seems leaders find significant discomfort in uncertainty. Uncertainty in the global economy, uncertainty in the credit markets, uncertainty in how new regulations will affect business, uncertainty about what competitors are doing, and uncertainty about how new technology will affect their organisations—are just the start of a never-ending list. The bottom line is that uncertainty leads to a short-term focus. A failure to plan strategically in the long term can destroy value. The forthcoming Nigerian elections have raised the level of uncertainty a notch higher. The TEXEM’s upcoming programme on Building Resilience For Sustainable Success In An Age Of Disruption will offer actionable insights on how to address this. 
Another is innovation. The problem to be solved is becoming more innovative while maintaining a sense of control over the organisation. Organisations could turn challenges into opportunities if they could develop a culture of intrapreneurs and collaboration.  
There is also the issue of government policy and regulation. A changing regulatory environment is always of concern in specific industries, but uncertain energy, environmental and financial policy complicates the decision-making for nearly all organisations-government or private today. In addition, exchange rate fluctuations and the scarcity of forex required for organisational input make it challenging to make long-term strategic decisions. Also, the Nigerian government’s expenditure on oil subsidies means there is less revenue to invest in infrastructure and human capital. The current Academic Staff Union of Universities’ strike is a good example. This strike in which able young citizens are idle has immense implications on the nation’s long-term competitiveness. Note that social unrest and industrial actions are the new normal even in developed countries. For example, the transport workers in the UK will go on strike next week, and teachers and doctors might soon join the strike too. What is required in these turbulent times are strategic leaders that are authentic, trusted and can negotiate symbiotic outcomes in an era of limited resources. Attend TEXEM’s forthcoming programme to learn how to influence sustainable outcomes for all stakeholders strategically.
Does the disruption of digital technologies also have to be considered? 
The pace of technological improvement is running at an exponentially increasing rate. In Nigeria, for example, 99.99% network uptime is a tall order. According to most surveys, broadband penetration is still below 50%, and the enormous informal sector characteristic of developing countries makes banking penetration very low. This offers immense opportunities to organisations that can roll out products and services for those selling agricultural products, some of whom generate huge revenue but are unbanked. While the CBN has done a lot in encouraging banking inclusiveness, this contextual reality also offers more opportunities for the regulators to develop regulations to encourage investment and stability in this area utilising big data. 
In addition, is the aspect of diversity. A particular subset of human capital planning is often found in our research and is worth mentioning. Diversity brings many challenges, making it far more likely that people disagree, and the lack of agreement makes leading any organisation complex. At the same time, the lack of diversity within many large organisational leadership teams leads to a narrow view of an ever-changing and diverse world—contributing to groupthink, stale culture and a tendency to live with the status quo for too long. The problem to be solved is first to define what diversity (and we’re not talking about satisfying government statisticians) means in your organisation, then foster the expansion of differing ideas and viewpoints while ensuring a sufficiently cohesive environment that efficiently gets things done. 
 Does global complexity play any role in all this? 
There’s no doubt that life and business have gotten more complex, even as specific tasks and activities have become more accessible due to information technology. The pace of change is quickening. The global economy is becoming more connected, creating a much larger and more diverse population of customers and suppliers. 
Global political tensions (e.g. China/USA, Russia/Ukraine and Europe, UK/Brexit) and isolationist policies combined with inflationary and low GDP growth economic forces are creating a difficult terrain for all organisations to navigate. 
Manufacturing and services are increasingly targeted at smaller, specialised markets due to the flexibility that IT provides in these areas. The 3D printing revolution is a perfect example. We know from our knowledge of the patterns of evolution that, in reality, systems tend to become more complex as they evolve, then become simplified again. The problem is how to develop better systems-thinking capability to design your business models, processes, products and services to minimise unnecessary complexity. In Nigeria, challenges with access to power and the very high cost of diesel make the operating context more complex. There are many examples from other contexts of organisations that have successfully managed complexity which we will share during the forthcoming TEXEM, UK’s programme. Lessons from these examples will help shape winning strategies. 
What about supply chains?
Supply chains are vital. Because of uncertainty in demand and the need to stay lean, companies carry smaller inventories than ever. At the same time, supply uncertainty driven by wildly changing commodity prices, an apparent increase in weather-related disruptions, and increasing competition for raw materials make supply chain planning more challenging than ever. This is leading companies to hedge their inventories against the inherently rising cost of supplies. 
What should companies resolve to do now?
To navigate the future, companies must resolve that strategic thinking and problem-solving are the keys to a successful business and develop a robust capability at all levels. 
How can an organisation prepare for an unknown tomorrow in the post-pandemic age? 
Leaders operating in the strategic domain need to be curious and constantly exploring the external business environment to spot the ‘weak signals’ of powerful new forces that will shape the world. Tapping into these weak signals early on allows the organisation to experiment and consider the implications for their organisation – if appropriate, they can scale effectively to take advantage of these new forces ahead of their competition. The forthcoming TEXEM programme on Building resilient organisations for sustainable success in an era of uncertainty will help equip leaders with these requisite skillsets for success. 
What are the best practices for an organisation to be or remain on top of their competition? 
Creating a sustainable advantage over competitors is at the heart of any winning strategy. The cornerstone of such successful strategies is the ability to resolve a complicated issue that is novel and hard to copy. How do we do this? Firstly we need to understand the external business environment and address questions such as what industry we are in, how attractive it is, and what macro-forces are shaping the industry. Being able to look outside the organisation and sense the significant changes are essential practices. Also, we need to consider our organisational objectives – are they sufficiently ambitious and stretching? Are we communicating these goals effectively in the organisation, and is everybody aligned around them is a second practice to focus on? Do we understand the critical uncertainties in the future and how the situation might evolve? A third good practice is the ability to create plausible future scenarios and determine how the organisation can respond to them. Finally, what is the value we are creating for our stakeholders? To outperform the competition, we must continuously seek to understand our stakeholders (e.g. customers, regulators and employees) and identify new ways to solve their ‘pain points. 
Should an organisation be more concerned about investing in human capacity than losing human resources? 
In the 21st Century and the post-Covid world, the focus continues to be on the ‘war for talent’ – finding and retaining great people to take the organisation forward. New skills – particularly in digital technologies – need to be acquired or developed as well as a mindset that embraces a customer-led approach, an innovative approach to problem-solving, a collaborative working style, a culture of learning and a growth mindset. 
It is common knowledge that many businesses are profitably reaping from the new order into which the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered us. 
So what is the solution for organisations struggling to harness the opportunities of the post-pandemic era? 
Some observations are that strategic leaders have been: First, clear on their organisation’s purpose- this has been the ‘touchstone’ for decision making; able to let go of ‘old mental models’ and adapt/pivot to the new reality of the business environment – organisations need to adapt to 21st Century models for success and not spend time ‘looking in the rearview mirror’; and embrace a more innovative rather than mechanistic management approach. 
To learn more on how to develop a strategic leadership quotient in these increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times, join John Peters, Ambassador Charles Crawford and I on the programme Building, Resilient organisations for sustainable success at Birmingham, UK. 
Why should delegates attend this forthcoming programme on building resilience for sustainable success? 
Executives will engage in a powerful, engaging, memorable and impactful programme where they can develop strategic capabilities through exposure to fundamental concepts and frameworks and experiential learning processes delivered by world-class faculty. These insights can be applied directly to their organisation for immediate impact. These world-renowned faculties will leverage TEXEM’s tested and proven pedagogical methodologies that have helped over four thousand executives and their organisations across different continents to win. 


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