CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

Kenya: Pressure Testing Corporate Strategic Plans

Formed 11 years ago by two ex military commandos, McKinney Rogers has a military heritage. The company consists of a group of business execution professionals who assist organizations, both medium and large enterprises in achieving their goals and objectives through strategic guidance and consultation. The Nairobi office serves as a hub for the African region.

The company operates across different sectors, not necessarily as experts in them, but principally to help organizations build a strategy, and then deliver it over a period of 3 to 5 years. McKinney works with big and small companies, for instance stores like Woolmart, banks like JP Morgan, players in the beverage and alcohol such as Heineken among others.

Richard Watts, who sits in Europe as a key executive for McKinney Rogers says before engagement, the client organization should be clear about what it stands for, what are the organization's values, purpose, and it's DNA. "We then look at where the organization is going and if it is clear about its vision. We then help align the vision to the financial year and activities needed to be done to deliver for that year", says Watts. Investigating individual behaviours is also important, particularly to the leadership team.

Lastly, McKinney Rogers has its own propriety technology - a dash board which helps measure performance and contains all the information about the plan within it. "Clients use this tool to drive the business and performance. This also increases transparency and accountability throughout the organization", says Watts. The dash board is also web based andsecured to internet banking standards.

An organization makes a plan, but technology comes on board as an enabler. Chris Stephenson, a McKinney Rogers partner says people make plans on the back of a cigarette packets while others draw them on a PowerPoint presentation. However, all these are usually static. "What technology does, it enables a group of people to be able to see the same dynamic information, which changes all the time", says Stephenson.

"When we look at an example of a car dash board, it has the same principles; it has got some key performance indicators goals and targets. Similarly, a company needs to be measured as per where one is".

Ultimately, this cannot be done on a piece of paper. McKinney Rogers was however there 12 years ago before graduating to Microsoft Excel spread sheets. This then became complex and sophisticated and then they went a step further and turned it into a web based tool. This enables their targets to be measured and visible to everybody.

The system gets to a point where organizations can share data across several geographies, under a wide range of people. For instance, the manager of KCB doesn't have to travel to Tanzania to have meetings with the heads over there - he can do this over the phone with all of them looking at the same screen.

This how McKinney Rogers has grown automated management performance over time. They also have developers at the global level who are taking this sophisticated platforms.

The system generates score cards, which Richard says shouldn't be a tool to cane people, but a measurement of why one region is not doing well compared to the other. This helps the peer groups share expertise on how to improve performance among the different regions. "Score cards enable leaders to focus on their executions" says Richard. It is a link between cost and effect, because the plan is embedded into the software, "If a company has a poorly performing measure, we are able to look at the task behind this and have a conversation on what can be done".

"It's more of a dynamic execution, rather than just having a score card that says we are downing on a certain date. With the same example of a car dashboard, it measures the speed all the time, not after every 20 kilometers. It flashes yellow meaning you have to add more fuel - you have to make a decision. It enables you make a decision based on facts and that what we are aiming for," he says.

Before helping companies, McKinney looks at strategies. "Does the organization have any strategies in place? Quite often we enable them develop fresh strategies, for fresh destinations. Secondly, we look at cascading and unleashing the same strategy to the organization at the point where the rubber meets the road. This is where it is pertinent for every manager or leader of the organization to take care of their tasks and roles", he remarks.

The third element is business performance. McKinney helps organizations monitor and measure performance in order to adjust their costs and plans. Most of the companies write their strategy at beginning of the year, have a strategy session and forget about it. They never process and execute what they said that they are going to do.

McKinney is involved in strategy development, alignment, performance and behavioural change, making sure individual behaviours are going to champion and deliver the strategies because the plan itself isn't going to deliver the strategy, but the individual themselves.

The final bit McKinney helps companies in is pressure testing their plans, rehearsing them and looking at contingencies. The consultants call this "operation rehearsal". Using technology tools, they take organizations which have plans and make them play their plans over a two day period, say, one month's plan per hour. In what is more like a game, dubbed a "war game", a team represents the micro environment, the oil industry, the politicians and a third team represntes the competitor, of that organization.

"We wire the three teams into one network under some stress, but the leadership team plays under its own term. Our technology helps them play moves against each other and calculate the economic encounter of all this moves and decisions," says Chris.

Peter Nalika

Peter generates technical content for CIO East Africa and the International Data Group News Service, he also contributes to PC World and Computer World. He is classically trained in computing and information management, follow him on twitter @peternalika

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