Building strategies

How can leaders provide for the short term, while formulating a strategic long term plan?

Andrew Tan
Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore

In a world of constant change, effective leaders are expected to achieve immediate results while also building future value.

The short-term imperatives are always pressing.

Consequently, many organisations operate in the trenches. They lose sight of the larger goals of what their roles are and how they should keep themselves relevant. These are existentialist issues that every organisation should ask itself from time to time.

To create long term value without compromising the short term, organisations could consider three things.

Firstly, have a good mix of people whose roles are to tackle the present as well as to plan for the future. Management needs to stand back from the fray from time to time, take stock of the competitive position, and adjust strategies.

Secondly, no plans are ever static. Management has the role of integrating the various functions within the organisation, and making sure that the strategies are executed well. Too often, the enemy comes from within – silo mentalities and turf boundaries – which undermine the effectiveness of the organisation. We need to guard against this.

Thirdly, leaders need to be in touch with the ground. The people closest to the customers are the frontline employees. They will be able to tell you where the problems and opportunities lie.

Everything starts with self-awareness, avoiding mission creep, and focusing on the basics while pursuing excellence relentlessly.
Fong Yong Kian
Chief Executive, Tote Board (Singapore Totalisator Board)
Many of us have no problem fighting fire at the office! After a busy day with meetings, phone calls, and shooting off memos, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we have accomplished a lot. But what we really struggle with is devoting the time and effort needed to build a better tomorrow for the organisation.

When I see staff being overworked because of daily operational routine, I challenge them that they can enjoy high performance and work life harmony at the same time.

This requires having a clear vision of the future. Where do we want to be and what do we want to do three to five years from now? With this strategic perspective, it becomes easier to know what is important in everyday work and what we should stop doing. Without a clear goal, all work seems to be important and without a destination; any direction seems to be the right one.

Besides having a strategic plan in the drawer, another important aspect is to get staff ready to embrace the future. In all the organisations I have worked in, I have stressed on developing agility as a strategy to meet the challenges of an uncertain, complex and constantly evolving future. Going beyond traditional staff development, our staff need to have an outward-orientated mindset sensitive to external changes, continuously learn and unlearn, and be able to look for opportunities and collaborate with multiple stakeholders, both internal and external.

No organisation can go beyond where its people can take it to. It requires a people-centric approach that constantly focuses on engaging, valuing and developing staff.
TM Nagarajan
CEO, Minor Food Group Singapore
At Minor Food Group, internally, we are very focussed on people, system and process. These are three key areas, or pillars, that we focus a lot on.

In terms of people development, we have a whole talent management development programme in place. We invest a lot of time and effort in terms of process and putting a better Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in every area so that we can scale better.

Secondly, in terms of system and technology, the constant question is how can we be more productive? The goal and vision of the organisation is to be a global and multiple food operator.

One of the major challenges we have right now is expansion into Malaysia. Our goal is to expand there focussing on Thai Express and that particular brand.

As we progress and move along in that area, we tend to have challenges. The long-term is to expand into Malaysia but in order to manage those challenges, we go back to our three key foundations.

The governance system, founded on the three pillars, helps us to mitigate short-term situations. Whatever the challenges are in the short-term, our governance process means we always have our weekly operations meetings, our monthly operations meetings and we also have our competitors’ visits.

For example, if we have a challenge with people, such as if we do not have the 60/40 talent requirement that the government wants us to have, we immediately go back to our system again and look at where are we right now.

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