Setting the scene:
Many businesses and corporations will over their existence experience a decline in performance. Such a period is characterized by harsh conditions, low morale and lack of zeal and enthusiasm with employees throughout the corporation. Some corporations recover from this and bounce back stronger than before, and some don’t. There are many factors responsible for such a lackluster state of affairs;
* Internal Factors: these are factors that are self inflicted such as, lack of innovation, poor corporate culture, incompetent management or poor financial control
* External Factors: these are factors that are extraneous to the corporation’s affairs such as government intervention, recession in a vital product(s) or service(s) that the corporation produces or renders respectively, or poor performance of partners with which the corporation cooperates with on a long term basis
The continuous survival and success of an organization or corporation greatly depends on managing these forces internally and externally.
The purpose of this presentation (working paper) is to show how, in less than 3 years, CSPH Cameroon has experienced a high performance culture within the organization. We shall examine and suggest along the way, how this turnaround strategy has come about along with restructuring and re – orientation. It is a bold and legitimate vision moving forward.
NOTE BENE: Turnaround strategies are not only for loss making companies. All companies that face declining business performance need turnaround actions and/or corporate transformation. CSPH Cameroon was no exception.
Process and pillars:
The first place to start if your corporation is in decline or failing is to look within the company. This is known as self – evaluation or self – assessment. You have to know what the situation is to better decipher the problem(s). When one knows the circumstances, one can take appropriate action(s). When looking within, focus on the following key areas:
Does the corporation have a direction? Does the corporation know why it exists (does it thrive within its defined specific missions assigned to it by the board?) Does the corporation know what key problems it solves and for whom? Is the business focused on the right things?
Are the right people running the company? Are the right people in the right places? Are employees committed to organizational success? Are employees properly incentivized to share in the ongoing success of the company?
Are difficult policies; internal strife or behaviors of specific individuals driving down the collective spirit of the company? Are there bad eggs in your company that are contaminating the whole organization?
Are marketers satisfied? Do they know and trust CSPH and the services CSPH offers? Is CSPH focused on profitable marketers versus those marketers that are not so profitable and therefore difficult as partners? Is CSPH targeting the right marketer base?
Is CSPH offering innovative services? Can the company better utilize 21st century technology to offer better services, reduce costs and improve competitive advantages?
Are systems in place to get work done efficiently? Are things being done in the right way? Are policies, practices and procedures facilitating work or hindering work? Is the company structured for high performance?
Is CSPH competitive and profitable? Are cash flows sufficient to sustain ongoing commitments and operations? Is CSPH largely indebted or overly leveraged?
Re – evaluation is the most critical point of turnaround strategy; without it all other things are just frantic moves that will yield little at best. Before one begins to act, one has to know why, what and how the corporation shall be affected.
Challenges are not always evident at first glance. Problems take time to identify and evolve rapidly.
Creating a Value – Centered Culture: The CSPH Turnaround
The core problem
* Lack of rigor
* Professional indiscipline
* Lack of deadline in tasks
* Lack of inclusive meritocracy
* Lack of incentives
* Lack of team spirit (The LION’s spirit)
The solution moving forward/Strategy
* Transformation of the CSPH corporate culture (having the right people with the right attitude and in the right positions) to achieve its value creation goals
* Showing employees that by applying analytical thinking to their actions they could directly contribute to the strategic outcomes of the company as a whole (they should be bold in their thinking; think macro and not micro)
* Cultural transformation using visual techniques designed to align performance indicators with clear corporate targets moving forward
Re-inventing HR by Implementing a High Performance Culture
For a company to be competitive and grounded in its strategy and vision, CULTURE is EVERYTHING!
Respect and professionalism:
CSPH should embody colleagues who have genuine respect for one another, people who respect each other and get respected from others. A great workplace is made of stunning colleagues. What they do, and more importantly, how they do their work (in a professional and ethical manner) should define who they are.
A strong sense of inclusiveness should be the norm at CSPH. Directors should be akin to coaches; who train, observe and encourage colleagues in order that we have corporate stars in every junior position.
Honesty at all times:
Employees should be honest with themselves, their colleagues and bosses. For the Managing Director (MD), he should periodically ask his directors: “if I told you your position was in jeopardy, how hard would you work to change my mind to stay at CSPH?”
Hard work is not directly relevant:
Work smart NOT hard. It’s about effectiveness NOT effort. Performance should not be measured by how many hours employees spend in their offices. People should be graded by how much, how quickly and how well they get work done, especially under a deadline. Working under pressure is a measure of how effective employees can think well and deliver within a restricted time frame. (Working smart
Why performance is so key:
* In procedural work, the best are 2x better than the average
* In creative work, the best are 10x better than the average
Hence there is a huge premium on creating effective teams of the best and brightest.
The Essence of a High Performance Corporate Culture
High performance corporate cultures have 2 central characteristics:
* Each company is unique. Some companies such as MTN and Guinness Cameroon have a powerful organizational personality – a “soul”- derived from a deep heritage. Others such as SNH and Schlumberger Cameroon create their own distinctive environment. This strong combination of values, character and inclusive meritocracy creates a deep bond with employees, making their work unusually meaningful and rewarding
* The 4 cited companies above foster a similar set of behaviors. Their respective set of “corporate personalities” may be distinct, but they all encourage remarkably consistent patterns of behavior. People in these corporations care passionately about winning! They orient themselves outward, focusing on delivering sterling results and being a good corporate citizen in the community in which they do their business than on internal office politics.
They think like owners/shareholders and have a bias to action. They are about teamwork that wins and are more open to change.
CSPH should be reflective of such tenets moving forward.
Highlights on Corporate Culture & Performance:
* The culture of a company is not a vague set of principles which are pasted on boards and personal computers. The culture of a company is defined by a set of clear tangible vital behaviors, through which the identity and DNA of the company is established
* Culture is pervasive and palpable to outsiders
* Culture is imbibed by living the Vital Behaviors in every aspect of the business.
The foregoing above should be seen and respected as the corporation’s core values.
The overall framework for corporate transformation: from vision to achievement
Alignment of organizational culture, strategy and structure
In order for an organization to succeed, the three elements of strategy, culture and structure need to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Of the three elements, CULTURE is widely accepted as the most difficult aspect to change, but is the most critical.
Breaking down the 3 steps of business transformation:
This means what the organization will utilize in order to achieve its core objectives (implement strategies and value propositions)
How we organize ourselves in order to support the culture and strategy (restructuring and processes)
‘How we do things around here’ in order to achieve the desired corporate strategy
One cannot talk about creating a high performance culture without talking about the people behind it. A corporation cannot function by itself, people make it function. People make or break a corporation or business entity.
A high performance culture is not dependent on one single factor or as a result of one or two things. The entire context you operate in greatly impacts your results. This context includes, but is not limited to, how things get done, how decisions get made, what works and what does not work and what gets rewarded and how.
It is pivotal to incentivize staff. This, in part, brings out the best in people. And when people are highly motivated, they will deliver for you and be there by you. People should have a sense of belonging to the company, a sense of inclusiveness that has a tendency to establish employee meritocracy.
The key to building a high – performing culture is to make sure you consider “what” and “how” you will get to your destination points – the clear definitions of where you are going in a specific time frame.
Strategy matters, no doubt. But without a winning culture to drive it forward, your strategy is taking you nowhere.
In the famous words of Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast…every single time.”
N: B The culture of an organization, and hence the quality of its people is the most sustainable competitive advantage
Leadership is crucial in creating and sustaining a high performance culture. Cultural change won’t happen until and unless leaders (The Managing Director and Department Directors) themselves model their behaviors and values that define the new culture.
Below are a few principles that should guide CSPH’s high performance culture and discipline philosophy as visualized by the current Managing Director:
1. Cultural empathy
For CSPH leaders (Directors and Chiefs of Service), “sensitivity to culture” (so called cultural empathy) is a key requirement. Cultural empathy requires a degree of putting one’s ego aside for the greater good. This essentially means, within our context, that a leader has to surrender the notion that his/her tribe/culture/region/alma mater or point of view is always the best. A leader needs to be open minded, embrace the inclusiveness of others and by all means, embrace and encourage diversity of thought. A leader has to at times see through the eyes of others and reason through the brain of others.
2. Align the leadership team around a common vision and required behaviors
While many factors influence a performance driven culture, a very important one is what leaders do and say (in that order) consistently over time. Employees that are reticent to the new cultural change envisioned must be weeded out in order for the novel culture to take flight and empower the corporation. Remove “leaders” who are obstacles to change.
3. Focus the organization on delivering the corporate agenda
At CSPH, we should apply a culture of accountability, which is best achieved by holding people accountable for actual delivery, rather than spending energy on a formal “culture change” program. Culture is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
4. Manage the culture by managing the drivers of culture
At CSPH, we should encourage directors and chiefs of service to;
* “walk the talk”
* Clarify roles and establish a clear system of accountability and transparency
* Replace people where necessary and incentivize initiative and creativity
* Encourage an open dialogue environment. Let people say what they think. People should respect hierarchy and not fear hierarchy.
* Letters of congratulations should be the norm from the Managing Director (MD)
5. Taking the time to celebrate
A winning mindset and cultural change in a corporation can be a long journey- and one that requires tireless leadership.
Consistent, sustained clear communication of the required behaviors is critical. At CSPH, we should celebrate victories – large and small – but we never declare victory outright. Such is the vision and mindset of our Managing Director (MD) and it is a winning strategy moving forward.
So, globally, CSPH should believe in a philosophy of success as a result of both the individual and collective efforts of its employees. Employees should represent CSPH’s most significant asset and performance management creates the right environment for people to perform to their full potential. Responsibility for performance management lies both within the Department Director who drives performance and provide support and necessary resources for his departmental staff under his control, and the employee who should take ownership of his/her development and contributes positively to the realization of CSPH objectives. Performance management is not the responsibility of Human Resources.
The Integrated Performance Framework (I.P.F.) Notion
An Integrated Performance Framework (I.F.P.) is the process that engages and develops individual and teams in the delivery of aligned corporate objectives that will result to sustainable growth.
By this is, is meant;
Connects, communicates, interacts, involves, enables and challenges
Empowers, educate, value added skills, identifies and creates growth opportunities for the team and the individual
* Individual and team
The identity, values, and blend of strengths that makes each person and team unique
* Sustainable growth
Enduring performance that continuously anticipates and meets the expectation of marketers and other partners in the sector
* Aligned corporate objectives
Objectives that are both results and behavioral oriented, translated from corporate strategy
Corporate Strategy Translated into SMART Goals
* Define performance expectations and clearly define strategy moving forward
* Avoid being vague. Clarity is key
* Define the cost of the corporate strategy on year going basis. This should be objectively measured.
* Ensure that corporate goals are reasonable and legitimate
* Avoid assigning too many or too few goals
* Ensure that corporate goals are relevant to the strategy, levels of work and functional roles
Time – bound:
* Assign specific deadlines to all corporate deadlines
* Avoid making all deadlines to be at the end of the year (December)
* Spread deadlines throughout the year
Dealing with Resistance to Change in CSPH
Examples of questions leading to resistance to change in CSPH:
• Wait it out, this clamour for cultural change will go away
• Will the culture really change or is it a fad?
• Don’t believe in the leadership vision of the new General Manager
• If it’s not broken, why fix it?
• Let’s keep the status quo, it is more comfortable than the new ways
• Don’t know if I can trust this new future
Typology of Resistance to Change:
Three signs of resistance to change to look out for, and address, are;
• Silence and passive resistance (or refusal to engage) – The affected staff see internal passive harmony as more important than the change. Doing the strict minimum which allows these forces of resistance to stay below the radar of detection. No “extra mile” effort to be expected.
• Cynicism – Always looking on the bad side of things. Keeping your head down, ignoring it, and this shall pass.
• Collusion with passive resistance rather than confrontation
Dealing with Resistance to Change in CSPH
Solutions to overcome Resistance to Change…and to create a High Performance Culture:
• Transparency (CEO/MD Newsletters to share the state of the corporation with staff)
• Setting of targets (Review of Annual and Quarterly CSPH performance. Encourage employees to go the “extra mile”. The more you expect from people, the more they will achieve.)
• Change of role (Colleague peer reviews and role play reversal)
• Rewards (Reward employees who excel and embody the core values of CSPH and who go beyond the normal call of duty. CEO letters of congratulations to deserving employees is a worthwhile initiative. CEO awards for acts of selflessness that epitomize the CSPH spirit should be encouraged)
• Effective communication (Corporate General Assembling can be a powerful tool when a CEO wants to drive organizational change and performance improvement. His discourse in the form of inspirational talks/speeches can be motivating and inspirational to employees to help them achieve more than what they thought possible)
• Celebration of victories, big and small; It is important to celebrate milestones once they have been reached. Taking time to celebrate is relevant because it acknowledges people’s hard work and makes them feel they are an integral part of the overall success of the company. Annual bonuses to staff should be encouraged in proportion to annual corporate profits. And end of year party is also a good idea to boost corporate morale among employees.
3. Consequence Management
• Performance (Implement a Performance Improvement Plan “P.I.P.”. In addition, CSPH should have a business performance metrics)
• Behaviour (Cultural slammers have to removed in order to better implement the new culture)
Critical Do’s and Don’ts
• Always prioritize culture over strategy and structure
• Clearly define vital behaviours to create the desired culture
• Spend a disproportionate amount of time on cultural issues
• Deal with individuals who are obstacles swiftly and thoroughly; remove them!
• Get the right leaders in senior management positions
• Get change agents (influential employees and opinion leaders) to assist in the transformation. The head of HR is critical to corporate success in transforming the culture
• Instill a passion to win and excel. Let excellence be a habit
• Align the Performance Framework to the Culture of the company
• In setting performance agreements, make them tangible and measurable. Avoid vague objectives.
Tracking the Execution:
It is may be trite, but it is simply true; there is no way to turn around a slumping company into a performing one by mere words. One needs to do the work! And, CSPH as a corporate body has not been working as it used to work before. For almost 3 years, under the new leadership and vision, CSPH has re-invented itself as a corporate entity. For a long time, the corporation had been engaged in random work rather than focusing on performance-driven, goal-oriented and timely mannered work.
It is one thing to work in a diffuse manner and it is quite another thing to align your work with the strategic goals of CSPH.
Every objective has been broken down into processes, with a project leader and has been structured to have a goal or key indicators to track performance.
Given that CSPH is not a profit making corporation, it has not deterred CSPH from being internally competitive and making the company strive for better days ahead. CSPH has adjusted and improved our bottom line (which is the CSPH “compte d’exploitation) in order that the company experiences a better financial fitting. This has been the pride and joy of the board of directors, the Director General/ MD, and the employees at CSPH. All benefactors have seen their bonuses increase by virtue of the remarkable corporate turnaround.
Mr Ananga is a cadre at CSPH and is Vice President of the Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action (CACLiTA)