Monday, January 21, 2008

Re-orientating for Culture Shock!?

Nigeria can be great!
Nigeria will be great!!
Now, why did I start with these words? Well, it’s because many people and sadly, many Nigerians still believe our country is somewhat beyond redemption and that expecting a speedy change is tantamount to a wild goose chase.
Reality is that anyone taking such pessimistic position is practically demonstrating ignorance of subtle structural and fundamental transformation taking place all over the land.

I recently accepted employment in one of the leading energy companies in Nigeria and this necessitated my relocating from Lagos to a small island in Rivers State. I and my colleagues boarded a chopper at the Port-Harcourt Air-force Base as there aren’t any bridges linking the island to the mainland. The beautiful aerial view of the islands and adjoining water bodies was an unforgettable experience, and I could only wonder what enormous potential and opportunities lay there-in in efficiently harnessing and effectively redistributing the vast resources available in this land.

On arrival at the helipad of the facility, we were immediately received by designated staff who verified our identities, picked up our luggage, ordered for one of the official taxis (I’m talking about new air-conditioned Toyota Condors and Hiace trucks, not those ragged cabs we Nigerians are used to!). We subsequently drove through the silicon-valley like streets of the facility (in this Nigeria o!) and were accommodated in an exquisite apartment, reminiscent of the 5-star Hilton suites.

We held meetings with several members of the management team. The unusual thing was the level of composure, intelligence and excellence exhibited by ALL of them.
The first thing they would tell us is that ‘this isn’t a Nigerian company!’ The GM of Production (Caesar of the facility) reiterated that “our aim is to be one of the best companies to work for in the world because we are probably the best organization to work for in Nigeria at the moment”. The spirit of contentment amongst staff is also unmistakable. The organization’s main concern is to provide staff with ALL the support and resources they need in order to consistently deliver. They believe the less personal and need issues you have to worry about, the more focussed you are and the higher the quality of work done.

I remember vividly in a meeting we had with the Management of the Health Centre, we were informed that whenever there was an emergency in which a staff needed blood, they would depend on other staff (with same genotype) to donate blood. One of us (new recruits) then asked a question ‘how much do we get paid for doing this’? The doctor quickly replied and said “the culture here is quite different. Whenever we need blood, people are more than willing to donate and we always get more than we require!”
Of course, our poor colleague felt embarrassed!

A staff of the HR department went ahead to inform us on why the organization frequently funds and provides staff with international training opportunities. She said “we are currently working out the logistics for your international travel, and we hope to conclude on this soon. We believe you need this in order to mitigate the effects of the culture shock so you can integrate with the people and culture in our organization”

You guessed right! The question is why a culture shock???
Well, the answer is simple! Over 90% of organizations in Nigeria currently do not provide world class working environments (most banks, insurance companies, government and energy downstream companies inclusive). You might want to ask what world-class means, but simply put, world-class in the 21st century means an organization that has a clear cause, extremely values her people, has the right resources, has intelligent and always- learning staff dedicated to the corporate cause, delivers quality, adds value and is a responsible corporate citizen.

I could go on and on, but the moral of this story is that right in the midst of prevalent mediocrity, there are still organizations in our Nigeria that are committed to excellence in every sense of the word, and believe that what they have to offer is equally or even more important than what they have to gain in a capitalist and increasingly selfish and narcissistic world.
One more thing: I’m proud to work in such world-class environment. Those that are committed to excellence will reap the rewards of excellence and the mediocre, though seemingly prosperous today will eventually have themselves to blame in the emerging prosperous New Nigeria. As Fela Durotoye says, “whenever I’m given an opportunity to make a presentation or perform a task, I BLOW IT TO PIECES!!!” Wow! It’s time to blow those tasks into pieces and re-invent Nigeria in your own way.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Classical VS 21st Century Leadership Imperatives

Leadership in the 21st century has taken on a new dimension and is significantly altered from what was obtainable in ancient, medieval and the pre-2nd millennium era. The demands placed on today's leaders are unique and unconventional, meaning that those who would be effective in this mordern and hi-tech era would have to do 2 things quite well.
Learn and acquire the new required skills swiftly and equally important, unlearn and discard old, traditional and no longer effective ways of exercising and manifesting quality leadership.

Classical leadership traits and fundamentals:

  • Influence
  • Charisma
  • Lineage/family line
  • Eloquence
  • Physical ability
  • Reactive
  • Positional

21st century leadership cornerstones:

  • Information
  • Technology
  • Change/innovation (agility)
  • Opportunities (foresight)
  • Communication and strategic intent
  • Effectiveness
  • Proactive-ness

This is basically self explanatory. I would elaborate on how each of these traits fit into their respective classifications in subsequent postings, but I’ll let you ponder upon these and draw on the power of your most-prized asset (your mind!) as self discovery is often the best way to learn.
Each of these traits (particularly those of the 21st century) can be further understudied to reveal how they strategically fit into the core-requirements for delivery and exceeding performance in whatever projects or engagements undertaken in the global/information society and capitalist/free-market place of today.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hallo Friends. Welcome to the Strategic Year of 2008

Hello friends. I believe it’s been a great start into the New Year for you, and believe me, 2008 would be the best year yet (say Amen now!) Well, I want to apologise for failing to update my blog page regularly. Some have visited my site a number of times expecting to see something new (but were disappointed), but be rest assured, there’s going to be something new at least every other week this new year. (I should let you know that I changed my job about three times last year, and was involved in quite a lot of relatively disconnected activities but this year has been declared one of greater glory (by my pastor, Rev Yinka Ojo – obviously echoing God’s mind) and experiencing this Chabod and Shekinah requires focus and consistency.

Alright, let’s shoot! I will use the first quarter of 2008 to share my thoughts on Strategy, Leadership, Values, Cause, competitive advantage and ‘spirituals’(other themes would also feature from time to time). These are highly critical and brain tasking mysteries that several leading authors and consultants of repute are still trying to unravel. (I guess you are then wondering…..’so what makes you think you’ve got what it takes to talk about, or perhaps provide insight into this high-octane arena that has kept Harvard Professors, thought leaders on strategy and CA, executives of PwC, Mckinsey, Boston Consulting group…..e.t.c working over time?’)

Well, let’s just say my mind, head and most-importantly Heart (or ‘Spirit man’ for those of us that understand the language of ‘Spirituals’) have been doing significant work along these lines, and I believe the little that I have to say would add value, and help at least a few people make better decisions that will impact their communities, constituencies and stakeholders positively. Hope you get the point!?

I was perusing the initial issue of Harvard Business Review in 2008 (and guess what? The cover page and most of the content echoed strategy and leadership!) Before I had even read through the magazine, the very first sentence in Prof. Michael Porter’s revised “Five Competitive forces that shape strategy’ (or something like that) was rendered invalid and/or inaccurate by Dr. Oren Harari on his aw-inspiring blog at This probably provides you with some degree of insight into the intense warring amongst diverse schools of thought on these hotly contested themes.

Alright then, too much talk and too little action isn’t my style, so I’ve got to halt and get to the crux of the matter. Wish you the best as you learn a few things from my posts in 2008.