Brett Chulu: One-stop shop doomed without strategic HR

THE One-stop Investment Shop (Osis), under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Investment Authority was expected to become operational on the stroke of the New Year.

Osis brings under one roof a number of key institutions such as the Deeds office, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Mines ministry, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), Environmental Management Authority (Ema), Local Government, Immigration department. Osis’s mission is crystal clear — to expedite the processes required for an investor to set up shop in Zimbabwe. Its customer value proposition is equally lucid-convenience. 
The bane of many an initiative is a hidebound view of the abilities of the organisation, the core competences half. For the uninitiated, core competences refer to the technical abilities or advantages a business possesses to deliver on its mandate. Very often, the cultural abilities (or simply capabilities) of the business are ignored.
Capabilities are what an organisation is good at doing and what it is known for. To customers, capabilities are the brand they experience. To investors, capabilities are the intangibles that give confidence in future earnings. To the employee, it is the desired culture that delivers value to stakeholders. To the community, capabilities become the organisation’s reputation.     
Osis’s biggest challenge
Osis’s single biggest challenge is neither the dearth of human resources nor the want of financial resources.  The poverty of core competences is out of question. Those,  Osis has in abundance. Its mammoth challenge is dealing with the multiple cultures imported from its various constituent entities. What is needed to ensure top-class strategy execution is an Osis culture and not a Zesa or Ema culture. Building an Osis culture requires the expertise of strategic HR. Having been involved in a strategic HR project in a nearby Sadc country where a new parastatal had just been set up by merging two bodies, I became acutely aware of the importance of culture.  The myriad challenges besetting the merged entity were due to the collision of cultures imported into the new organisation. On paper the organisation was a single legal entity, but, de facto, two separate entities.  Osis needs to guard against this cultural competition by embracing strategic HR from the get-go.
Osis needs to coalesce around three capabilities namely: collaboration, speed and accountability. These capabilities are to be Osis’s desired culture, its desired reputation, its deliberate identity, its brand, and the intangibles the investor desires.  That gives stakeholders the confidence that Osis will meet and exceed their expectations again and again.   
Collaboration capability
Collaboration as a capability means: we are good at and we are known for working across boundaries to do and achieve more with less. Osis must make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.  Osis has promised that any application will be processed within five days.  Instead, Osis needs to commit upfront the overall turnaround period the investor can expect to set up shop. This signals unequivocally what Osis is promising to collectively deliver. This should override what individual entities promise to deliver.   That, in one stroke, kills inter-entity competition.
Opportunities for collaboration exist operationally. Osis should create a shared services centre where information technology, expertise and administrative services are shared. Here is a simple test of collaboration. A would-be investor should be able to get information about their electricity connection application from Ema, the Deeds office, besides Zesa, for instance. Similarly, we do not expect an investor to get as many invoices as they are entities in Osis.
Speed
Speed as a capability means: we are good at and we are known for making important changes happen fast. This is a governance issue. Governance is about making decisions and that is Osis’s stock-in-trade. Osis is expected not just to make decisions. It will have to make those decisions fast. That is the culture, brand and reputation Osis has to establish. That means the decision protocols of individual entities have to be reconstituted and realigned to enable Osis to deliver on its mandate. That calls for HR expertise in the form of organisational design. A basic principle of organisational design is that decisions have to be made as close as possible to where relevant information is located.  Tough choices will have to be made. Employees working in Osis may have to be empowered to make critical decisions without referring to their line supervisors. Some decisions can be automated. The many layers of decision-making within organisations, where V needs W and W needs X who needs Y to consult Z to make a decision should not be replicated in Osis. Relevant government ministries may have to issue statutory instruments to enable Osis to wiggle around bureaucracies. Organisation design should decisively address potential governance contests between the Osis project and individual organisation structures.
HR must identify and remove non-value added work.
Accountability capability
Accountability as a capability means: we are good at and we are known for ensuring that we always deliver on what we promise.  Strategic HR delivers that. If an application is to be processed within five  days, as Osis promises, it must be just that and nothing else. That means all Osis’s stakeholders must be kept informed about how well promises are being kept. This is the law of the scoreboard. People need to know how they are playing the game as a team. The scoreboard communicates just that.  
HR centre of expertise
Osis needs to establish a centre of HR expertise, housing experts in performance, knowledge and talent management — acting as Osis’s internal consultants.

 

 

  • Performance management is the key to achieving accountability and executing the Osis strategy. Performance experts will be tasked with creating standards of performance and rewards for employees working in Osis. Osis cannot leave the issue of performance management to the individual entities. That would be disastrous. Osis has a strategy and any practices must flow from its strategy. Thus Osis cannot escape the logical step of crafting performance practices different from the separate entities that make it. Performance experts will transform collaboration, speed and accountability capabilities into specific behaviours that become standards to be measured and tracked. Teams and individuals are to be rewarded or punished against the delivery of these standards. Without this, the Osis strategy becomes SPOTS (strategic plan on the shelf).
  • Osis needs to create the position of a knowledge officer. The knowledge officer will be tasked with documenting learning and best practices. The knowledge officer makes sure that best practices are transferred across the entire Osis structure. Hiring knowledge officers is an emerging HR practice that seeks to formally capture and share ideas (internal best practices) generated within the organisation.
  • Delegations that will go overseas to market Osis must have strategic HR experts. In their presentations to potential investors, HR experts will be tasked with the responsibility of clearly demonstrating how Osis is managing its culture to deliver value to the investor. HR experts’ message will be that Osis hires, inducts, trains, assesses performance, rewards/punishes and fires employees based on Osis’s desired cultural capabilities (collaboration, speed and accountability).

Without strategic HR, Osis will be dead on arrival.

  • Share your views on this matter at brettchulu@consultant.com.

 

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