Ep 001  |  Building an Execution Culture: Embracing Strategy in Action


Building an Execution Culture: Embracing Strategy in Action 

JULY 12, 2023

About this episode

Business leaders invest months in brainstorming and crafting an impeccable strategy. However, when it comes to execution, companies often hesitate, stashing away their corporate strategy until the next year.

In this first episode, we have the privilege of speaking with Candice Williams, Strategy Manager at the Development Bank of Jamaica. She shares her firsthand experience in designing and successfully implementing organizational strategies.

Join us as we delve into the following topics:

  • The significance and function of strategy, common pitfalls, and how to avoid them
  • The crucial role of cascading sessions in integrating strategy into company culture
  • Methods to monitor outcomes and drive accountability

Guest Intros

Candice Williams, Development Bank of Jamaica

Candice Williams

Strategy Manager, Development Bank of Jamaica

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Transcript 📝

Jonathan Morgan  [00:00:02]: 

Welcome, everybody. I'm Jonathan. And I'm Joe. And we have a super exciting. And we have Candace do. Yes, we have a super exciting episode here today, we are joined by Candace Williams all the way from Kingston, Jamaica, who is currently the Strategy Manager for the development bank of Jamaica. So, Candace, welcome on.

Candice Williams  [00:00:24]: 

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:00:27]: 

So, we have an exciting conversation today, Candace, I've known you for close to six years. Now, I know, Joe has known you for quite a long time as well. I've really enjoyed getting to learn everything that you've kind of shared with me over the time. And I certainly know a lot of listeners will enjoy that as well. One thing I really wanted to start out with, is something that I've enjoyed getting to learn over the years is that I think when a lot of people certainly here stateside, hear about the banks, they think of consumer banks and Bank of America, and their normal relationship with a bank. But certainly, the type of work that you're doing at the Development Bank of Jamaica is very different from that. So, do you mind just briefly explaining before we get into the conversation, what the Development Bank of Jamaica does within Kingston in Jamaica, and how your role plays a part of that?

Candice Williams  [00:01:13]: 

Sure. So, at the Development Bank of Jamaica, we are tasked with the responsibility to what we say want to do is to improve the, you know, the quality of life of Jamaicans through the various services that we offer. So, we offer financing, we offer capacity building and technical assistance services, we also offer, you know, we are the government's arm for the privatization of government owned assets. And we are also, you know, developing the private capital ecosystem in Jamaica. And so, in many instances, we have been like invest or, you know, invest investors in number of funds that will support MSMEs. And so, what we really want to try and do is to help Jamaican businesses to be able to grow and to expand that. So, they move from one level to the next. And the end goal is that we're here to support Jamaicans so that their quality of life at the end of the day is improved. And so, we have a number of services. It's more, you know, multifaceted, but it's exciting. It's exciting. And we are the only Development Finance Institute in Jamaica. So yes, it's exciting. Love it.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:02:24]: 

Absolutely. No, it's important stuff. And I think that's where, really, when you think about strategy, and strategic planning and strategy execution, people often think about the internal role of an organization and not what you're actually doing to support your country in this case, and it's certainly very important, though, I think we're, it'd be great to start off and is actually where we were catching up on right before the call is, you talked about, again, when you became passionate about strategy and strategy execution was really around the topic of strategy pitfalls. And certainly, the example that a lot of organizations faces, they go through this big process, they create their business plan or strategic plan, that give themselves a nice pat on the bat. And then nothing happens after that until the next year. So, I'd be curious to learn with that particular topic, was there a particular moment where it finally clicked that, you know, this probably isn't the right way to do things. And we need to make a process change to do better for our organization.

Candice Williams  [00:03:21]: 

So, when I came to DBJ, you know, each year, we have to do this, because we are a government entity, we have to prepare our corporate plan and budget by specific times of the year. And so, the first draft of our corporate plan and budget needs to be submitted to the Ministry that we report into by the 30th of November. And then the final thing by December 31. And all of this is because we have to be compliant with the public bodies management and accountability act that guides public bodies within Jamaica. And so, we because we want to be compliant, this is done. And we are we've done an excellent job in some meeting these things are time. But what happens is that when you ask persons the next year, when you tell them Come on, guys, it's time to do this again. They're like, Oh, we have to do this thing again. And was and we look at have we done anything that was in there, some persons are like, not sure No, because the thing is that once the plan is done, everybody goes back into business as usual mode. And so, you know, when I just came, I was like, Alright, we have to take this thing off the shelf, and we're going to operationalize it, when to make it a reality. So, the man utilizes a balanced scorecard methodology. And so, one of the big things about the balanced scorecard methodology is that once your plan is finalized, then you go to the next level of sharing that information with your team members. And then you, you build it out, and you help them to realize that hey, what you do on a day to day basis is important and it will help the organization to be able to achieve these things. means that we have outlined in our corporate plan, as well as to help the organization achieve the vision at the end of the day. And so, outlining these things, and having these conversations, one, it makes the plan more attainable, because persons are not, I know not seeing it as a document on a shelf, but they're not seeing, alright, this is what the organization wants to achieve in the next five years. And how is it that my department or I'm going to help to make this a reality? And so, it is from those documents or those sessions that we would come up with the Division of operational plans? And, and these operational plans are just looking at? Yes, what are the day to day activities that need to be accomplished, as well as what are those special things that need to be done in order to help us to be able to achieve the various corporate objectives as well as to put it back to be able to achieve its vision? And so yeah, meeting with persons making it show them that, hey, you our role is important. All of this that we're doing is not just an academic exercise is because it is important for the organization. And so, at first one, we started a cascading session, you may get pushback, because everybody's like, No, you know, this is taking up too much time. But then eventually person saw the added benefits. And when we got down to the nitty gritty of the operational plan, and, you know, after what started the truck knees activities, that is when he started to see a lot more traction with regards to that achievement of the things online in our cover plan. And I said Allah,

Joe Krause  [00:06:41]: 

No, it's great. Your original, your original point, I think, Jonathan, I would chuckle there is always a requirement for most of our clients to make a plan. They all agree there's no requirement to make a plan. But to execute the plan, there is no set requirements. So, to your point, you made it and then people went back to business as usual. And then you're like, hey, remember that plan. And that's something that I think we see as a challenge across the board where so much energy is spent on getting the plan that people are sometimes exhausted with the process. Once the plan is done, the idea of Wait, oh, there's more work. Now actually, there's more after this sometimes scares people off, and a year can go by like that. So, what you just mentioned is really resonates, I think, hopefully, to our listeners, and what I've experienced over the last 10 years, here is requirements, make the plan, no requirement for execution, we want to obviously make that change. And you've made that change, which is great.

Candice Williams  [00:07:31]: 

So, what is interesting, you know, because we have to submit or the first draft of our plan by November, the truth is that our strategic planning cycle starts from July. So, we start from July of the previous financial year, and we're planning for the April of the next year. So pretty much we are just two and a half months into the new financial year, but yet we're starting to plan for the next year. So, it's interesting.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:08:03]: 

It's interesting that that is interesting. I'm curious, within that model. Are you having an adjustment throughout that July back to April period, or what you decide on in July? Is that actually what ends up becoming the plan for the next year?

Candice Williams  [00:08:19]: 

So, when we start in July, what we're actually starting with is looking at what's happening in environment. So, you know, we're doing our environmental analysis. So, we're doing our pestle analysis, we're doing our SWOT analysis, you know, we're just looking at the various factors that are out there that could possibly have an impact. And so, all of this information is feeding into or when we have our board retreat in September. So, we're pretty much collating a lot of information at this point in time. Yes, we are. We always we track our performance, or on our KPIs on a monthly basis. And that information is we have that, but what we're looking at is what is what are those political factors that could have an impact on DBJ, the environmental, the social, technical, you know, the environmental, and so on looking at all of these factors. And then we're also looking at our SWOT. And so, all of this happens in July, but the retreats happen in the end at the end of September and October. And so, we have the border treatments at NSF, timber, and then in the first like the second week in October, that's when we have a management retreat, where we take the information that the board had said, you know, what they believe is as the strategic direction of the organization, and then we operationalize it during that session. All of this information is then pulled together. We look at what are what are the objectives that we need to you know, be working on. And all of this feeds into the first draft of our corporate plan and budget which is then submitted to our board for approval before it goes to the ministry. So, there are a whole lot of steps there As you know, that gets us there. But what we do is that we do spend quite a bit of time looking and seeing where it is that we want to go as an organization and setting the necessary targets, looking at how you would have performed in the previous years. So always having our performance data is critical. And so having that information, we were able to look back and look at what were some of the factors that would have impacted our performance over the period so that we can make a fair projection for the future. And the thing is that we do this exercise every year. And so, we do use the opportunity as well to, alright, do we keep those future targets as they are? Or do we make adjustments based on what has happened thus far? So yeah.

Joe Krause  [00:10:48]: 

And what you mentioned is in lines of well to with the fact that we usually see there's like three roles in a planning process. There’re the architects, the people that, like you're talking about SWOT analysis, PESTEL analysis, those are the group of people that you're working with usually senior leadership that say, there's about 100 things we could work on, but based on our pestle, and based on our SWOT, we're going to work on these five, or these 10. That's hard working by itself, because there's so many things that you probably could do, and people asking you to take a look at, especially in your role. I'm sure a lot of people are saying, Hey, you should maybe check out this or check out that, but somebody has to say no, to somebody, and that's that July to October, September timeframe, it sounds like we're in the back rooms, you're deciding. It's not 100, this many, and then the retreats are all about how do we then bring those to life? We call those people translators like, hey, subject matter expert in this department, how are you going to contribute to this particular thing? And then eventually, it gets to the doers, the ones that are like with the plans been developed? Here's your project, is that a fair assessment of?

Candice Williams  [00:11:49]: 

Yeah, so when we have a cascading session, so our corporate plan on boarded is normally finalized by December. And so, during the January to March period, that is when we have our cascading session. So, we meet with every division within the within the organization. And we meet with all team members, so we're not leaving anybody behind. So even down to our gardeners, who take care of the grounds of the property, the administrative, you know, the persons who serve tea and coffee, that kind of we meet with everybody, because we want everyone to have a clear understanding what DBJ is about what we're working towards, and how we're planning on getting there. And the beauty of it all, I remember a number of years, and we did the first cascading session with our canteen staff. And when we broke down the information for them, and they were able to truly understand what it is that we're working towards. And then they could see how their role was important. In order for the bank to be able to achieve its vision. It was, I would say it was one of the most fulfilling cascading sessions ever. Because just to see their faces when they were able to understand that they could connect the dots. It was beautiful.

Joe Krause  [00:13:11]: 

I'm sure it's interesting that the most famous example of that would be when President John F. Kennedy said, we're going to put it put man on the moon, right? Yeah. Everybody's there. And everybody's working towards that mission. And apparently, historically, he toured one of the NASA centers, I think it was in Houston. And he was talking to a custodian and said, What do you do for NASA, and he goes, I helped put a man on the moon. Like, even down to that level, everybody knew the mission. Everybody knew the plan. And everybody realized no matter what position you have, it is contributing. And I can see why you enjoyed that. That's got to be a real revelation, especially considering some of the pushback you've received that you mentioned, to get it to the point now where canteen staff and gardeners everybody are getting it that's got to be quite a good day at the office as they say.

Candice Williams  [00:13:58]: 

So, I have a plaque in my office that says strategies everybody's business because it is it's not just a strategy managers business is everybody because guess what? We're not just here 830 to five o'clock, or 432 doesn't warm a bench. We're here to improve the quality of lives of all Jamaicans through development, finance, capacity building, public private partnership, and privatization all in keeping with government policy, and we're doing this thing because we're improving their lives of Jamaicans and so when persons can see that and they can connect the dots, it is a beauty.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:14:38]: 

Yeah, I love how you just rattled out I'm assuming that's related to your mission and vision of the organization and you rattle it off like it was just you just memory that you talked about every single day, and I think that's an important piece of also talking about with your entire staff is it now has become second nature, the purpose of the organization. Now certainly a lot of organizations have that goal but are unaware of how to we even begin to get there. So, I know you talked about your cascading sessions. Maybe for those that are listening, that are looking at doing this for the first time, do you mind talking a little bit more tactical, tactful about what actually happens in those sessions and how you are beginning to translate that conversation?

Candice Williams  [00:15:18]: 

Sure. So, what we do now one of the things is that, because you're dealing with all levels of staff, you have to make sure that whatever information that you're sharing with team members is, is at a level that all team members will understand. Because the truth is that if it is that, when we just started these cascading sessions, these were two days or three whole days session, so you're from 830, to five o'clock, for three days, you're with one, one division, so you can understand the pushback, because they're not at their desk doing, they’re day to day activities. And so, if it is that you're going to be presenting to people for the three days, I'm telling you, you're going to lose their attention. And especially if the information is going over their heads, and they can't connect with it is difficult. So, we have to make sure that whatever information we're sharing, we are using language that they understand, and we keep them engaged. So, what we do first is we take the information that is in our corporate plan. So, give it is that because you know in in during the process, you're always looking at your vision and your mission to see if they're still relevant. And if there are no changes, or if there are changes, you always share that with a team member. So, we're sharing with the team members, what is the organization's vision and mission? What are our corporate objectives for the next year? What are the indicators that we will be assessed on for success for the next year, and what the targets the targets will be? And, and then we would break it down to say, Alright, these are our strategic initiatives that a bank would be working on. And depending on the division that you're that you're dealing with, you're then saying to them, alright, this is the total banks. We have one of our targets is in total investments, and different departments contribute to total investment. But what we're doing when we're meeting with a division, yes, we tell them that, or total investment target for next year is $39 billion. But the division, let's say the loans division, your contribution is 10 million for that year. And we have conversation as to Okay, tell me what is the purpose of the division? So, we look at the mission statement for the division. And then we are that's, does everybody understand what the mission or the division is? If everybody's good, we have conversations, I will say, alright, what is it that you're going to do in order to achieve this $10 billion target? What are those critical things that need to be done? Do we need to change our strategy? And so, we document these things a while we're having a conversation, we're documenting, what are the key things that need to be done in the next year in order for us to achieve these things? And it is so easy that based on the conversations that we've been having, your operational plan comes out of it at the end of the day. And with these things, of course, you know, you're setting timelines, because this tunnel is not running into oblivion, we are setting finite timelines by which these things need to be accomplished. And then we also have in the conversation, we also say, so Okay, in this division, who is going to be doing it? So, at the end of the day, Jonathan would know that these are the things that he will be doing for the next year, Joe will know what are these things that he'll be doing in the next year. So come April one, everybody has an understanding as to what it is that they were working on throughout the course of the year. So, it doesn't come in as a surprise. So, it ties in the information from the corporate plan shows what the division is going to be working on. It shows what the individual will be working on all of this at the end of the day ties into the department, the individuals work plan. And so, when we're monitoring on a monthly basis, it doesn't come in as a surprise to divisions that oh, yeah, these are the things I was supposed to know. They, they already know it doesn't come as a surprise, I shouldn't come as a surprise. That's what I should say. Now, even though we have done this over the years, and we have had success, you know that you're not going to get 100% acceptance. You know, there are some naysayers. There are some persons that push back. But the truth is that there are more persons going with it than against it.

Joe Krause  [00:19:26]: 

Yeah, we talked about this a lot. There's a took an org Behavior class in business school. And Jonathan can relate. It's an interesting class because it's very abstract. But there was there was one concept that was brought up about every organization is a bell curve. So, you know, the standard distribution, like anything else, you have 10% of your organization and the people that you're probably working with in these planning sessions that you tell them once they get it and they're excited, and they do it. And you don't have to tell them again, there's 10% on the other side, that you could tell them 100 times they don't get it, they don't want it. They don't want to hear from you. And every year it's the same group you're like I got a meet with this group again, we all know who they are. And then that leaves 80% In the middle, and then 80% can be swayed by 10%. But a lot of leaders not saying he specifically, but a lot of leaders spend a lot of more time like, well, how can I get that detractor to love the process? The unfortunate thing is that that 10% will probably never love the process. So, you can probably spend your time with the people who love it, put them on a pedestal and say, Hey, these people are doing it, why don't you be more like them, and most people will be swayed towards that, versus if the people that are saying they hate it or getting a lot of attention, they'll go well, that I hate it too. And we want to avoid that. So, I think that your story rings true. And we all know those groups that we some are more fun to work with than others, as you know.

Candice Williams  [00:20:42]: 

Yeah, I mean, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna lie, I'm doing these cascading sessions are very labor intensive. And when you have to deal with persons who are, you know, they are against it, it can make it a little difficult, but because you have to have that drive that passion, to want to share the information, because you know, the kind of impact that the DBJ can have on our country is I have to push past that feeling of, of, you know, doubt or, or discontentment because I know that there's a greater goal that you're working towards. But yeah, it's

Joe Krause  [00:21:20]: 

one thing that you have, it's a tangible outcome, you can literally drive around Kingston, and know which projects that you had an impact of that that building didn't exist, that business didn't exist, if we didn't do our thing. And that's something that a lot of companies don't have the liberty to have, you have that. So, it's nice to talk about it in the sessions. And you can literally point out the window. And also point to the things that you've done; I was at a large national meeting for a big healthcare system. And they were talking about their strategic plan. And one of them was talking about ending homelessness for a certain population. And they did a vignette of that person who was that impacted by the services that are in this strategic plan, and everyone's crying, everyone's really, like, it's so tangible, like, oh, this strategic plan is actually helping people. And here's a tangible example of that, you have that in your organization. And that's such an amazing thing to see. Because you are doing truly great work. And I just, it's amazing to see it.

Candice Williams  [00:22:16]: 

You know, one of the greatest things that when we look at one, one thing that you look at as a as a like, as a proxy is number of jobs created. And when you see like a mom and pop shop, probably you know, at first, they had only two employees. But after getting financing or support from the DVD, they were able to move from two persons, and now they're able to have five people. I mean, it's not a significant increase, but you can see growth in the business. And that is, that is a win. That's a winner. It might be a small win. But that cumulative effect, it's, it's a significant win for the country at the end of the day, because you know, you would have contributed to job creation in our country. And you're looking at me being able to buy food and put on the table so that our child can eat so that they don't have to go to school hungry. These are just some of this spin offs that are you know, it's smaller in detail, but it is a win. And these are some of the things that I look at as well.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:23:24]: 

Yeah, and I think the biggest key is that you're talking about that with the employees across the organization or through those cascading sessions. You're not doing what a lot of organizations doing the mistake that they first make when they say, alright, we're going to talk about this with the company is they sound like they're, you know, Moses coming down with the 10 commandments are saying, This is what we're doing for the year. And this is what you have to do to know during these cascading sessions, you're actually explaining the benefits of their work, your help, you're enabling them to help you create the plan. And that just getting that buy in which then ultimately leads to those results down the road.

Candice Williams  [00:24:00]: 

Yes, and there is also important because we have, we are I mean to entity that is the governance portion is monitored by our board of directors. And these board members have been identified or selected by all the government of Jamaica. And so, we have to be accountable to the board on our performance. And so yes, they keep us in check. And they keep us in check in terms of they want to know how we're performing in our various indicators. And on a quarterly basis, we try to prepare or a strategy map update to share with the board say give the board a synopsis as to how we're performing, you know, in our various corporate objectives on our strategy, strategic initiatives, where we are year to date with our indicators and so on, so that they can see how whether we are off track or we're on track and what are the things that we need to do in order to if we're off track. What are things that we need to do in order to become on track so that at the end of the year we can achieve the goals that we have set out for ourselves.

Joe Krause  [00:25:07]: 

And you mentioned that you had some people that were pushing back during the original cascading sessions. And they you said, I think you said, people actually then started to start seeing the benefits of the plan and all that, and then they bought in. So, what you're referencing is the getting buy in on the plan, but also making sure that you're constantly referring back and saying, Remember, when in January, I said, we're going to do this, yes, we're now a year into it. And now this thing that we talked about in this room is real. And here's the benefit, like that is such a powerful moment. And quite honestly, a lot of organizations don't have that where people that opt into saying I care about the plan, leadership, lets them down a little bit and doesn't then report back on the progress and like so it's a two way street, if people are gonna buy in and really believe you, they need to know that they're not just yelling into an echo chamber, you're, you're having the conversations, building the plan, and then you're going back and explaining on a regular basis, the fruits of their labor, that's the perfect circle. So that's a very, very interesting way of looking at it.

Candice Williams  [00:26:04]: 

So, one of the things so we have new managing director, I started what Mr. Shy is no longer new. He started last year, April. Kings Kingston. So, when Mr. Shaw came, one of the things that he wanted to do is to have more frequent staff meetings. So, we do have a staff meeting, the aim is to try and have a staff meeting every month someone's we have some work to do. But the reality is that we're having more frequent staff meetings, and in the staff meetings, we are presenting to our staff where we are in our performance. And so typically, it's normally the senior management team who would normally know how we're performing. And then on a quarterly basis when the strategy map update is prepared, that is when it is shared with all team members. But with the frequent meetings and showing team members where we are, you know, up, you get a little bit more bang, because persons aren't always saying, okay, yes, this is what we're doing. And this is what we have achieved thus far. You know, some persons, they're always been easy as I've realized that always, they'll always be naysayers, because you have persons who, you know, you give them the information, and they're like, oh, man, you're filling up my inbox and all of these things. And then you have the other persons who are saying, Oh, thank you for the information. And please, I know where we are as an organization.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:27:25]: 

Right. And I really love that this came full circle where you know, started off as you communicate the plan and build the plan with the employees. And then as you just explained, you have these regular recurring meetings to report back on the progress. And then of course, that cycles back through to the next year and repeat and repeat and repeat. So honestly, I think this has been awesome advice and information for our listeners out there. And I certainly appreciate you being on the show. Before we wrap, I have one final question. And we'll close out with and so certainly in your time at DBJ. And in your role and all the processes you've talked through today. And you've learned a lot and tried a lot and made mistakes and done things, right. If you had to rewind time and speak to yourself either just going into this role, or someone just starting their career and strategy or going through this process. What advice would you give yourself?

Candice Williams  [00:28:18]: 

Ah, what advice would I give to myself?

Joe Krause  [00:28:24]: 

Patients? Sounds like patients.

Candice Williams  [00:28:30]: 

I'm thinking I'm thinking what would I give? What advice…

Candice Williams  [00:28:39]: 

Be patient as of as he said, as, yeah, be patient is one. And two... So, we acquired achieve it in 2018. I joined a bank in 2015. I would have said get the platform early from the get-go. Because it makes life less stressful.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:29:03]: 

That was not that was not a that was

Candice Williams  [00:29:06]: 

Not that was the reality is when you I spend a lot of man hours just trying to produce one report. And after getting the platform, it reduced our time. So, I was able to save time, energy, and money. You know, I wish I would have gotten the platform earlier. But I think at the end of the day as you had said, Joe, patience, patience. I, yeah.

Joe Krause  [00:29:39]: 

It's a virtue, right.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:29:41]: 

It is a virtue. And is it important for strategy as well? That's the new virtue, apparently. Yeah. Well, Candace, thank you so much for joining us today. I certainly I learned a lot I know hopefully others that have just meeting you for the first time I've learned a lot. We enjoyed the conversation today and I know We'll have many more conversations in the future. I guess for those that are listening, where can they find you on LinkedIn? Are you out there anywhere else on socials?

Candice Williams  [00:30:10]: 

So, I am Candice Williams. I am on LinkedIn as Candice Williams, C-A-N-D-I-C-E Williams, all in one. So, I'm here at the Development Bank of Jamaica as the Strategy Manager. I think there's on social media as well, “Candice.WilliamsJM.” You know, I have to put the dot “J M” to specify that I'm from Jamaica. Where you, I think, oh, I should point out, if you go on my Instagram page, you'll probably see lots of cakes because I bake as a hobby. So yes.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:30:47]: 

Yes, she does. Yeah. Very, very great baker. And really, maybe we'll have you on the podcast in the future to talk about different baking recipes for no problem.

Candice Williams  [00:30:56]: 

And I probably can identify some strategy gaps there.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:31:01]: 

There we go. I love it. Well, with that, thank you very much, Candice. Thank you, Joe, and we'll catch you later.

Candice Williams  [00:31:07]: 

All right, no problem. Thanks again.

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