Time for appraisal

Taiwo Odukoya

Taiwo Odukoya

Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 15-16).

The end of a year often offers us a unique opportunity for taking appraisals. We appraise our lives and endeavours to know how well or not we have done, to strengthen areas of productivity and effect changes where we are lacking results. The truth is, knowing when to change is as important as persevering in an endeavour. History is replete with the stories of leaders and organisations that refused to change course, or didn’t change fast enough when it was obvious the tide had turned. It is also replete with the stories of those who shifted paradigm to great success.

In her book Founders at Work, Jessica Livingston talked with PayPal founder Max Levchin about the trajectory of the company. According to Levchin, PayPal was originally envisioned as a cryptography company. But after several years of trying and failing, and endless deliberations about staying the course, the company’s leadership decided to change paradigm and switch its business model – transforming the company into an online payment system. Five years later, PayPal went public and subsequently sold to eBay for a whooping $1.5 billion.

Nokia and Blackberry, on the other hand, went from being leading technology companies to has-beens, because they resisted change. The companies were aware of the industry changes taking place all around them, and though they had the resources to redirect their operations and change strategy, they hesitated to make the decisive change until it was too late.

Things will not always go the way we plan or envisage them to. There will sometimes be shifts in the macro and micro environment we operate in, and sometimes there will be factors we just didn’t take into consideration, that will make our current strategic direction untenable, be it a business or a country. The leader’s responsibility in this regard is to know when to change strategy, and to be flexible and willing to do so when necessary.

There are a few indicators that tell us a shift in paradigm or a change of course is imminent:
• When you are way behind measurable goals and indices
• When there is persisting negative feedback
• When expert opinion suggests a different approach
• When you are not solving the problem(s) you set out to solve

As we approach the end of another year and stand on the precipice of a new one, I think it is time for adequate appraisals of the different areas of our lives as individuals, organisations and as a nation; to double down on areas where we have been productive and make the appropriate changes where needed. Whatever strategy, however, long, that has not yielded results and that is inimical to the integrity and progress of the people we serve, should be revisited. As a nation it is time to take a closer look at every area where we haven’t achieved the results we set out to achieve and promptly begin to explore the possibilities of alternative ideas. The truth is, oftentimes, there is no single solution to solving a problem. We have to be open to alternative approaches. Business consultant Al Pittampalli argues in his bestselling book Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World, that in a changing world, the willingness of leaders to change their minds is the real competitive advantage. The Meiji Reformation that transformed Japan from a feudal state into a modern economy was occasioned by a shift in paradigm; Deng Xiaoping’s decision to open the Chinese economy was a needed change in policy direction, and there are numerous other examples in this regard. So, as we take stock, reflect and review, let us find the courage to embrace alternative ideas and solutions where necessary, as individuals, organisations and as a nation.

Nigeria Has A Great Future

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Taiwo Odukoya
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