Solid strategy must map roots of problem areas

Friday June 17 2022

Knowing that between location and destination one must identify obstacles and how to overcome them is a key attribute of transformative leadership. PHOTO | FILE


My article last week kicked off with the question, 'How strategic is your strategy?' The article was focused on the fact that what a lot of people call strategy is merely a list of goals. Any initiative that has not identified the obstacles to a goal with possible ways to overcome the obstacles is not a strategy. Using Nigeria as a case study we identified the fact that the president had goals but no realistic strategy for dealing with corruption and terrorism.

So going back to the Nigerian case study we have a president who has attained the highest level possible in the military. He is a trained officer of the Nigerian army. He was elected based on these credentials that he had what it took to deal with the security situation that had plagued the nation.

On the day of his inauguration he outlined what he would do about the problem and one of the things he said was that he would move a major command post of the army to where the insurgency was taking place. On the surface that seems like a great idea but the insurgents spread their tentacles across the entire nation and went into new locations and continued their terror.

Last week they invaded a church in the south west and killed worshippers in cold blood. Delusional yes-men and sycophants keep singing the praises of an administration that has recorded the worst insecurity in the history of the nation. Why could a military general who was elected for this very purpose not succeed in this area?

Universal principle

A strategy that does not deal with roots will not prosper. People got excited with what appeared to be a strategy but was merely a pile-up of goals. Take a look at the promises that were made to Nigerians. 'We will deploy the army to trouble spots… buy more guns for police… set up an anti-terror unit… send our men for more training' et al. ad nauseum.


None of these strategies touched the roots. Terrorism is sponsored and its sponsors known, yet nothing was said about naming, picking up and jailing them. As long as the roots remained untouched, nothing was going to happen. That is why today, eight years later, not only have things not changed but they are worse.

Foreign governments shared a list of the sponsors of terror with the Nigerian government but nothing was done and those who were exposed went through a charade of being arrested but were quickly released for lack of evidence.

Without an understanding of the How, the best of intentions will not deliver. This is why it is important to always look for the root of the problem and be sure that your remedy is addressing the roots. The root of terror in Nigeria is corruption, which is fuelled by a very weak judicial system that offers no consequences for corruption.

I have used a nation as a case study because this principle applies to individuals, organisations and even nations. A plan for change that does not identify the obstacles to the desired result and how to overcome these obstacles will not deliver. This is why many organisations go on strategy sessions that do not deliver transformation. Most are nothing more than in-depth discussions around where the organisation wants to be. Each idea brings forth goal after goal.

Personal experiences

Proper articulation of the obstacles to a vision and how to overcome those obstacles lies at the heart of a great strategy. The best strategists, however, have one thing in common. First they have experienced some level of personal transformation either from failure or loss. You hear of generals who lost battles or had dangerous encounters. Or investors who lost millions at some point in life. And of leaders that fought through challenging situations to get to where they are.

After personal transformation there is the phase where they ignite others with their new form. They mentor others and they lead them on their journey to personal transformation. Then they join forces and build teams for transformation on an even larger scale.

Ever wonder if the reason for leadership failure in Africa stems largely from the fact that many find themselves at the top without going through the process of growth?

Character and capacity to handle the top echelons is developed through the process of growing and rising to the top.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks; Email: [email protected]