Our Thoughts

Are incorrect Strategic Objectives a waste of resources?

Posted by David Manyanza on Jun 18 2013

I wrote in my previous blog post that based on, though limited, data collected from strategic plans of public organizations, many strategic objectives are incorrectly formulated. If objectives do not properly focus organizational efforts on meeting customer needs or delivering the required service, then such strategic plans are less helpful in making organizations perform effectively and efficiently. But what does having incorrect objectives actually mean? Does it, for example, mean that organizations implementing such strategic plans are simply wasting resources?

Unfortunately, the answer is not as clear-cut as that. While incorrectly stated strategic objectives are a problem because they blur the focus of organizational efforts, the correct answer is that it may not be a total waste of resources. It does, nevertheless, constitute inefficient resources use resulting into considerable wastage. We have come across organizational objectives such as, "Staff capacity improved" or "Management systems improved." These are not objectives at organizational level; they are strategies that may result into outputs such as; staff provided with computers, staff trained and human resource management systems developed. However, one may ask, are they the right strategies?

Questions such as "What specific competencies do we need the staff to have?" and "What constraints are the current human resource systems posing?" can only be usefully asked and rightly answered within the context of the results to be achieved. The results to be achieved determine the strategy to be employed and the activities to be carried out, which in turn determine the competencies, tools and financial resources required to carry out the required activities. Without clear identification of the results to be achieved, less needed or even unneeded staff training, or any other activity may be conducted resulting into inefficient use or even waste of financial and other resources.

It is results and not strategies that set the goals to be achieved. It is also results and not strategies that constitute service delivery to service beneficiaries outside the organization. Results are not what we do or directly produce but the outcome of a range of outputs produced by the various activities that we implement and which benefit society. Prior identification of results to be achieved thus determines the outputs to be produced along the way and the activities that they will be produced from. The sharpness of this relationship determines both the effectiveness and efficiency of organizational activities.

It is important to remember that every organization was established to meet a particular need in society on an on-going basis. Meeting such an on-going need entails that organizations must deliver the required service all the time. When organizations achieve this, they are said to be effectively delivering or performing. But this starts with prior identification of results upon which efforts will be focused or concentrated in a given period of time.

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