Time is a scarce resource for everybody. That’s the case for business leaders anywhere, including those from places stereotyped as time-mindedless (excuse the linguistic liberty!) such as sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries. There’s a reason why most leaders in these places have a driver: this way, they can work while in traffic jams. How do these leaders spend their time?
The 2017 African business outlook survey deals with this issue. The Economist and Corporate Network online-surveyed 150 executives. 22% of them executives pointed operational optimization as one of the major challenges faced by their companies.
For instance, Robert Collymore, CEO of Kenya’s leading mobile network operator Safaricom, said that he spends 50% of his time on operational issues, 30% on strategy, and the remaining 20% on managing external stakeholders. Optimizing operational parts of the process is crucial to devote more time to activities such as strategy- and innovation-related actions that may expand the company’s potential growth.
In sub-Saharan Africa, a generally poor infrastructure development is a huge drag for operational logistics, and it clearly sets back an important part of the economic activity. For instance, long traffic jams (see the post Urban Transport), the poor shape of roads, and other connectivity problems have operational consequences such as increased delivery times. Also, the frequency of black outs experienced in many SSA countries (see the post Energy Poverty) and other basic supplies shortages increases operational costs.
My IESE colleagues Philip Moscoso and Alejandro Lago have published a practical guide to optimize business operations that could be also useful for African leaders. The authors emphasize the need for companies to revise in depth their value chain, and to constantly innovate and experiment with totally different ways of doing things. If you take a look at this guide, you will find some recommendations that may help optimize operational processes, and in turn save leaders’ precious time.
Any experience on optimizing the operational process in SSA?
Nadim Elayan, Research Assistant at IESE Business School, collaborated in this article.