Why strategy requires brutal prioritisation

Good prioritisation is very very (and another very) difficult.

Get it right and you are on the road to success.

Kganyago's Wisdom

Dailyinvestor.com reports the following:

"South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Governor Lesetja Kganyago said the one thing he would do to fix South Africa is focus on execution and avoid more mandates than the government has instruments to achieve."
"Speaking on Bruce Whitfield’s The Money Show, Kganyago explained that South Africa tends to prioritise everything, making nothing a priority."

These are some of the wisest words we have recently encountered. From what we have seen over the years, the issue that Kganyago highlights is most definitely a massive reason for mediocrity or failure (where and when that is the case) in business in our good old South Africa.

And, it is a major issue throughout the long chain of events between strategy creation (at the one end of the chain) and bug-fixing (at another end).

Prioritisation in Strategy

We have simply seen too many strategy creation efforts where everyone's input, everyone's preferences and everyone's views are 'respected' and the result is an absolute nothingburger.

Or, even worse, the strategy is a let's-hedge-our-bets type of approach, instead of providing a clear focus on what will be pursued - and what will therefore not be pursued; i.e. what will not prioritised.

Prioritisation in Implementation

Similarly, one could say that most (rather than just 'many') corporate implementation engines such as IT or Logistics suffer from the same 'everything-is-a-priority' disease.

How to Prioritise

How does a company unshackle itself from this malaise?


On the people-side of things, what is needed is leadership: making the difficult calls of not focusing on stuff that is (yes) clearly very important, but (yes) less important than the stuff that should be prioritised.

Making such calls is difficult. That which is de-prioritised often comes back to bite you - and bite you hard. But, these are calls that must be made.


On the process-side of things, what is needed is a set of (one or more) principles.

These principles must flow from a proper Strategy-setting approach where a clear Purpose and a clear Vision lead to a Guiding Policy - and where that Guiding Policy then leads to a set of (ideally not more than four) principles such as Customer-first, Location-first, Immediacy-first and Mobile-first.

These principles (inter alia) drive the priorities.


Sixty60 has been operating for four and a half years now already. Yet, you still cannot purchase from a web-site and you still cannot purchase from certain brands of mobile devices either.

Is this a bad thing?
Of course it is!

But, is this neglect? Why has this massively successful organisation done nothing about this yet? Prioritisation is the answer. It made much more sense (and this was proven by the eventual great outcome) to prioritise other types of customer-facing offerings.

So, yes, one could argue with them about what was prioritised and what was not prioritised. But, you cannot argue against the fact that this corporate startup has been a massive success and you also cannot argue against the fact that continuous brutal prioritisation (which implies de-prioritisation of certain sets of work too) was a key reason for their success.


The other end of the strategy-implementation chain? E.g. bug-fixing?

When this writer departed Sixty60 about a year ago, there were a few years-old bugs still in the code (such as those related to certain overseas credit cards).

Why were these never fixed? Well, these bugs typically only affected a miniscule number of users, create no (fraud or other) risks, etc. And these assessments were done by those who knew best; the technical experts. This approach required strong leadership.

So, there were, quite simply, always higher priority sets of work to spend time on.

Bottom Line?

Brutal prioritisation driven by (a) leadership, (a) a small set of principles and (c) expert-input is a winning approach.

Kganyago is 100% right.