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“Maintaining organisational effectiveness in challenging times”

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Juliet Ehimuan

Organisational effectiveness is an organisation’s capacity to produce desired results with a minimum expenditure of energy, time, money, human and material resources. In less turbulent circumstances, the measure of an organisation’s effectiveness is typically expressed by growth, impact, profit margins, stakeholder and customer satisfaction levels. However, in challenging times like the COVID-19 global pandemic and its subsequent lock-down, organisations must pivot: change the way they do business and measure success.

To thrive, organizations must redefine success, digging deep to rediscover their vision and sense of purpose. They must take a broader view of growth and profit expectations, and work to restructure targets, investing both time and money into staying in business while leading the charge for the New Normal. Organisational effectiveness becomes visible in a company’s ability to be agile and resilient. This includes embracing digital technology and redesigning organisational structures and networks to ensure they can innovate and react quickly.

In order for organisations to thrive, they must exhibit strengths across five areas: leadership, decision making and structure, people, work processes and systems, and culture.

Leadership
Organisational effectiveness is anchored in good leadership. From fostering an inclusive workplace with a nimble approach towards innovation, to leveraging digital discoveries for greater productivity; an organisation’s leadership can truly steer it through stormy waters to emerge a more robust company on the other side. Transformational leaders continually presence a vision for the future and inspire and guide their teams to achieve set goals. They focus on motivation and morale, individualized consideration, personal development, and creating a collective identity which aligns with the company’s ethos for the team.

Decision Making and Structure
Beliefs and mindsets, the inherent assumptions across the organisation that drive the culture and behaviour, can also affect decision-making and structure within the company. Sacred cows and rigidity within an organisation  – an unwillingness to see things differently, consider emerging technology trends or to develop creative ways to tackle new problems – can restrict innovation and ultimately hamper an organisation’s ability to differentiate itself and stay in the game. This may lead to a drift into a state of survival. Organisational effectiveness requires a willingness to pivot flexibly, making use of all available data about the business and workforce to make the right decisions.

People
In order for any business to thrive even during periods of disruption, its people must actively buy into the company’s vision and mission, and consider it their personal responsibility to contribute to its success. When a culture of inclusiveness is perpetuated at the workplace, staff and leaders alike feel that “we are all in this together”, and knuckle down to meet targets. Ideas should be encouraged from across the organisation and people’s strengths should be leveraged even if not for their core roles. Initiatives that focus on staff wellbeing are central to workplace stability as they lead to staff retention during peaceful periods and staff innovation during turbulent times. Far from being simply motivated by salaries, reports indicate that people are more likely to be committed to an organisation if it offers some or all of the following:

  • Actively supports innovation
  • Enables quick decision making
  • Fosters an inclusive culture
  • Provides relevant coaching & development
  • Promotes collaborative working
  • Focuses on staff health & wellness
  • Rewards a range of contribution
  • Encourages internal mobility

Work Processes and Systems
In order to survive the New Normal, businesses must be agile and learn to respond quickly to changes in business processes, outlook, competition, policy and market challenges. They must be prepared to innovate around external threats such as business shutdowns or even issues like COVID-19. In order to achieve this level of organisational effectiveness, companies must establish fluid work processes and systems, leveraging technology for success. Companies must be aware of processes that slow down their business and actively pursue ways to improve them. Adapting to new technologies and being open to new solutions can aid process improvement. Getting work processes to work more efficiently may also be about programming existing systems to work more strategically, retrieving more impactful insights from gathered data.

Culture
Organisational culture is the system of shared beliefs, values and assumptions which governs how people behave in organizations. Over and above the elements listed above, the organization’s culture determines whether a company can make it through challenging times. An understanding of organisational culture is essential for effective leadership and capable navigation through difficult times. Leaders and managers will be better placed to implement strategy and achieve their goals if they are intentional about creating the right culture within the organisation, one that encourages out of the box thinking, problem-solving, ownership and responsibility. Positive, effective organisational culture includes listening to your employees and implementing their smarter suggestions, being transparent, keeping communication open and honest, keeping promises, focusing on what can be controlled, eliminating toxicity, and finally, getting creative with solutions.

Disruption can come in all forms from various angles. Sometimes, they are internal as a company seeks a new structure or a new path. Other times, unavoidable external events such as the coronavirus pandemic exerts a pressure that the company must overcome. The organisations most likely to thrive are those that are nimble and adaptable; companies that keep their visions, their culture and their people at the heart of what they do, leveraging technology to ease constraints and increase productivity.

Juliet Ehimuan is Country Director at Google leading Google’s business strategy in W/Africa and Next Billion Users initiative in Africa. Named Forbes top 20 power women in Africa, featured in the London Business School Review as one of 30 people changing the world, and also featured in BBC Africa Power Women series; Juliet is a thought leader on digital business strategy and leadership.  She is the Founder of Beyond Limits Africa, a leadership and organizational capacity building initiative. Juliet was also featured as a Guardian Womanand is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.Follow Juliet online: @jehimuan.


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