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The ‘parking-the-bus’ workplace

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My articles on result-oriented leadership and the use of the recent happenings in the Premier League has generated a lot of engagements with the readers than I ever envisaged. A C-level officer who had read this column with keen interest is asking how strategy in the workplace fits into the leader’s desire to achieve results with and through his people.

Before I delve into strategy as the wheel for achieving institutional results, I will like to emphasise the effects of culture on the strategy as noted in my article titled culture eats strategy published on September 13, 2018. No matter how powerful a business strategy is, the culture of the organisation will eat the strategy for lunch or dinner if the strategy is not in alignment with the culture. For example, a good strategy to be the market leader with poor employee engagement and welfare will make a mess of the strategy since all the strategies for market leadership are dependent on people for implementation.

A recent social media outburst by Olivia (@oliviaabland) is a typical example of how diverse culture and strategy might be. Olivia had a job interview with a company where the CEO of the company at the interview shredded and named her an under-achiever.  She was verbally abused and made uncomfortable at the interview. The next day, she received an offer for the job which she declined in writing outlining how the CEO’s behaviour at the interview showcased the culture of bullying and lack of respect for people within the organisation. No doubt the CEO could have seen something good in her but his desire to hire the best for the company conflicts with his attitude toward the staff including the potential new hire.

A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve objectives, be it short- or long-term. It is an important element of a business process without which no company can survive in the market place. The incubation room for any strategy is the workplace. A strategy can be for the different segments of the company: the employee strategy, the production, customer service, market dominance, investors relations and social engagement strategies just to mention a few.

Back to my football analysis and on the manager, I respect so much, the strategy Jose Mourinho used to achieve his successes has been attacked by footballers he was meant to achieve the result through. I could recall Christiano Ronaldo did challenge his defensive-oriented strategy when he was the manager of the Real Madrid. Guillem Balague, one of the British Broadcasting Corporation sports writers queried the continued relevance and use of a coaching methodology called ‘tactical periodisation’ by Jose Mourinho. He further asked if Mourinho is an analogue manager in a digital world.

In its simplest term, tactical periodisation is a coaching style that centre the play from the defence. All the four aspects of the game- defensive organisation, offensive organisation, the transitions- defence to attack, and attack to defence are all anchored on the strength of the defence. Thus, Jose uses his defence as his team’s strongest link and the core strategy of his game plans and expects all the players to have a defensive mindset irrespective of their role. In training, the use of this style exerts mental and physical strengths from the players and often drags the players’ emotions downward where the opposing team is more of an attacking side.

Mourinho has recorded success with tactical periodisation in the past with many trophies to show for it. His team was accused of not entertaining the audience but focus on winning at all cost. This has earned him the parking-the-bus name and he talked a lot about it when he used this style effectively against Barcelona FC during one of the champion league games.

But things are changing, and the players of today are happier being in an attacking team. Rather than exerting all energies on defending why not be a result-oriented team with attacking flairs and let the other teams be at the receiving end. This was the argument of some of the players against Jose who never want to mind the emotions of the tools that are meant to achieve the result for him.

Just like in football, some workplace is no different from parking the bus in their strategy for employee engagement and market dominance. A manager who still uses the theory X by assuming their staff are lazy, unmotivated and will do anything to avoid work rather than creating a result-oriented and motivating workplace for them to strive is leading with the dead tactics. Leaders that use abusive words, label people with their mistakes and castrate their employees for no good reasons are like football coaches who use strategies relevant in the machine age in the age of emotions and social interaction. As leaders, we should know that people in the workplace especially the millennials (the generation Y) are not robots and would rather dump or endure inappropriate business and social engagement styles for a short period instead of being engaged employees to organisations.

Research on employee engagement and happiness index has shown employees working for companies that are market leaders with the flexibility to changes in the ways the stakeholders are treated are happier and more fulfilled than their counterparts in other companies. If your organisation does not operate with a specific identity and strategy to win in the market but will rather prefer to chase others, your employees will be footballers under the tactical periodisation methodology using their strengths with no optimised results but frustration. Leaders in this situation tend to ignore the fundamental problems and push their employees to produce magical results. The solution to the above scenario is to redefine the business identify, cave out specific objectives, align the tolerable business risks with the anticipated outcome, play in the relevant market and empower employees to function maximally.

Leaders who do not respond to the changes in the work relevant to their people, products, business environment and customers are the ‘Mourinho’ with huge capacity but losing the relevant contents for effective optimisation of resources in the current dispensation. The right word and mindset to overcome the parking the bus syndrome is changing in line with the trend. A change in the strategy relating to people, products, process, customers, market engagement and the execution of the strategy will improve all the performance variables as well as making the workplace the best place for the employees to work and thrive.


Babs Olugbemi

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