Strategic management involves planning and executing the planned activities to obtain the desired results. Many organisations can complete designing and planning a strategy; however, implementing the strategy is more challenging.
Nigerian public sector organisations are mainly service-oriented, partly or wholly owned by the government, providing services in education, transport, healthcare, waste management, security, electricity, economics, aviation, media etc. Recently, these organisations are increasingly adopting a strategic management approach to discharge their obligations to society, which entails adherence to the three generic phases of strategic management: strategy creation, implementation, and evaluation. Following the essentiality of the services offered by public sector organisations, the implications for performance are relatively high, as these tend to correlate with citizens’ expectations. There are several barriers to strategy implementation in the public sector, and they are:
Barriers to Strategy Implementation in the Public Sector
Strategy implementation in the public sector is constrained by resource inadequacy. Resources may include budget, technology, and tools. A recent survey of public sector organisations revealed that insufficient funds account for the most cited reasons for unsuccessful strategy implementation, which is largely due to unanticipated budget cuts by the government stemming from a struggling economy.
Another noteworthy limitation is public sector organisations’ lack of standard processes. Some public sector organisations still operate archaic/outdated processes, paper-based processes, or obsolete process automation; hence leveraging this system in implementing a strategy designed with current scenarios will be challenging.
A recent study revealed that the inability to attract specialised talent is the main barrier to technology adoption in government and public sector organisations. Other barriers include skills gaps in the organisation’s leadership, shortage of investment capital, the rigidity of the regulatory framework, non-interest of leadership and ignorance of opportunities.
This is a broad umbrella of people-related issues that hinder strategy execution that covers:
- Lack of link between performance management systems to strategy,
- The employees who are charged with the implementation of the strategy are incompetent
- Incessant strike action and brain drain; the emigration of rare, highly skilled staff to the private sector or overseas significantly perforates strategy implementation efforts. E.g. migration of skilled doctors, lecturers etc
- Conflict of organisation goals and interests against personal beliefs, values, interests, and priorities
- Bureaucracy in public sector organisations is not uncommon, and this often puts a hold on the smooth execution of strategy.
Management and Culture Barrier:
The management structure of public sector organisations in Nigeria are often hierarchical; as such, there are usually; complicated chains of command which can slow down decision-making. Public sector organisations are less flexible in adapting and reacting to environmental changes, such as a change in government. A new regime has its plan, as this destabilises the existing structure set by the preceding regime. Team rivalry also exists in these organisations, fostering difficulty in collaboration with other departments. Given the nature of the organisational structure in the public sector, employees are disconnected from top-level management, leading to insufficient support and participation from C-suite officers to their subordinates in the strategy implementation process.
Another deterrent to strategy implementation in the public sector is an unhealthy organisational culture. Public sector organisations tend to have a risk-averse culture, which implies that public servants are resistant to venturing due to the fear of the consequences of risk-taking, irrespective of the positive impact the risk would have on strategy implementation. Hence employees stick to old practices and standard operating procedures (SOP) that are not necessarily the best fit for the precise situation under the avoidance excuse that the task is not in the Job Description.
This is a critical barrier to strategy implementation in public sector organisations. Strategy formulation rests with those in top management roles; however, implementation requires the participation of every employee in the organisation. An ineffective communication leaves grey areas in the implementation process, allowing employees to make assumptions and take actions in isolation that do not help the implementation effort.
Ambiguous and Misaligned strategy:
An ambiguous or vague strategy would throw the employees into disarray as the formulated strategy is not well defined with the relevant requirements and key metrics and would not be understood by those tasked with carrying out the assignment. Also, a non-convergence of organisational aspects to the formulated strategy hinders implementation as there is no arrangement between processes, work systems and other dimensions of the organisation with the new strategy.
Public Sector organisations must execute measures to ensure their formulated strategies are implemented successfully to guarantee desired results.
- Strategy implementation would be more effective if organisations are in a position of resource autonomy, guaranteeing independence from the government’s influence and interference.
- To build capacity, public-sector organisations should be deliberate in human capacity development, especially by exposing employees to management courses offered by external facilitators or competent internal colleagues. Reward schemes should also be employed to keep employees motivated and productive
- Effective strategy implementation requires a good organisational structure that limits administrative drawbacks and duplication of roles to the barest minimum. This can be driven by the automation of some organisational processes, which is a sure way to eliminate unnecessary administrative challenges and duplication of activities
- To mitigate the negative effect of a bad culture on strategy implementation, organisations can leverage change management and leadership workshops to overcome cultural barriers to strategy implementation in the organisation
- Communication is key in every situation; hence, to avert the communication barriers to effective strategy implementation, organisations can implement an open-door policy that encourages employees to seek clarity from superiors on issues as often as possible without fear of repercussions or prejudice. Also, organisations should ensure that organisation’s strategy and implementation plans are made available on internal communication platforms.
- Public sector organisations must ensure all stakeholders are involved in their strategy formulation and implementation. Stakeholders’ engagement and collaboration are good ways to gain valuable support and contribute to a more effective strategy implementation process.
At intervals, public sector organisations must evaluate and develop adaptive strategies to remain resilient amid economic uncertainties.
At pcl., we have extensive experience and skills in providing bespoke solutions to public and private sector organisations, leveraging our proprietary pASETM framework. This framework has birthed collaborative and high-level solutions for organisations spanning diverse industries.
If you are experiencing difficulties implementing your strategy, put a call or mail us; let us diagnose your peculiar situation and proffer valuable solution.
The post Challenges in Implementing Strategy – The Public Sector Organisations’ Viewpoint appeared in the Phillips Consulting on February 15, 2023.