It is the third week of April, only a half month to go until the Philippine national elections. In the AIM classrooms where I teach, the discussions have focused on execution and, more specifically, on managing change.
In the last two weeks, my classes have been in the area of strategy implementation. For some reason, my schedules had managed to bunch up and I was teaching strategy to four different classes: our full-time MBA program, our evening Executive MBA program, the four-week Management Development Program, and senior executives of a power company. They all agreed that while formulating strategy is not easy, execution is even more challenging.
As we discussed the challenges of strategy implementation, I posed the question I normally ask. I start off this question with an illustration, essentially an upside-down triangle that I call the engine of strategy. I tell them this: Let us think of the engine of strategy as having three distinct but interconnected components: (a) First, there is the hardware component, the tangible assets such as cash, building, and equipment needed to implement strategy; (b) Second, there is the software component, the policies, processes, standards needed to operate the business, and finally, (c) the “liveware” component, the organization piece, the people piece. Then I ask this question: Which of these pieces is hardest to manage? Which is easiest? Which piece, if you do it well and can make it a source of competitive advantage, is toughest to copy? Which is easiest?
To the question of easiest, the typical answer is the hardware component. That part is a matter of finding enough capital – not, of course, that capital is not scarce. In fact, because capital can be scarce, there is sometimes argument concerning whether hardware or software is more difficult. But to the question of which is toughest to manage, and toughest to copy, the usual overwhelming majority opinion (in fact, typically unanimous) points to liveware.
When I was starting out in my career, one of our managers carried a mug that sported this statement: “Managers get things done through people. Engineers get things done through machines.” That one actually made me laugh out loud. To this day, when I talk about strategy, I like to joke that the great thing about dealing with machines is that machines are perfectly obedient.
In fact, the challenge of managing organizations is akin to the challenge of leadership: that a leader is defined by having followers, and that following is the decision of the follower, not the leader.
In real life, even when you have formal authority, there are many ways an employee can superficially comply with the requirements of his job without actually being on board in terms of executing strategy – especially radically new strategy.
There are, of course, what Rick Maurer calls the levels of resistance to change: (a) cognitive resistance: “I don’t get it;” (b) emotional resistance: “I don’t like it;” and finally, (c) the social level, the one that many managers often fail to take into account: “I don’t like you.”
The challenge of leading change really involves not just eliciting buy in to the change itself, it involves buy in to following the change leader. This explains why much of the negative campaigning around the current presidential candidates focuses on their personalities and not their capabilities.
The other part of managing change that has implications for the presidential elections is that, in every change effort, there will always be three types of individuals: those who support the change, those who are against the change, and those who are undecided. For the most part, the change leader’s effort should be around harnessing those who support the change and on convincing those who are undecided. This is especially important when those against the change effort have taken a hard line.
In the last SWS Bilang Pilipino survey conducted April 13 and 14, to the question of whether they are likely to change their minds about who to vote for, about 61% of respondents said they will definitely not change their minds, about 22% said they have made definite decisions, about 11% were still undecided, and about 6% said “I don’t know.” What this means is that, theoretically, about 17% of voters can still change their minds about who they will vote for. The same poll had Poe at 34%, Duterte at 33%, Roxas at 16%, and Binay at 15%. If this survey is representative of the voting public, this means that Poe need only keep her current followers plus sway a small amount of those in the undecided/swayable segment in order to win. The path to success for Roxas and Binay is much tougher. In order to win, they must hold on to their own votes, win virtually all of the undecided and potentially swayable, and take away votes from other candidates.
At this point in the campaign, much of what can be said for and against candidates have been said. Unfortunately, the rhetoric has been skewed heavily to the negative. In the beginning, the brunt of the negative campaigns focused on Binay. As election neared and it became clear that the support for Duterte was growing, the focus of the negative campaigning shifted to Duterte. This negative campaign has been so aggressive and widespread that it is hard to imagine that those who are not adamantly behind Duterte would still be voting for him. The unfortunate rhetoric of this campaign is contained in the statement “anybody but -.” The reality is that it is Poe’s name that occurs least frequently at the end of that statement. What that means is that even if the Roxas or Binay campaign manages to sway voters away from Duterte, all they might end up doing is giving Poe the win.
What many candidates forget is that convincing voters they shouldn’t like the other candidate is not the best way to win. The best way to win is to convince voters that you are the better choice.
Readers can email Maya at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit her site at http://integrations.tumblr.com.