The hardest thing to do in business: building an efficient organization (Part 5)

__Process: getting the right things done right.

For the last few weeks, I’ve talked about the critical importance of “people” in organizational management. Today I want to talk about “process.” Every single day, I’m approached by people with great business ideas, and I also have my own fair share of new ideas. Sometimes I just love to sit in my study, or go for a walk, just thinking about a new business idea.

Let me share with you one of my best kept secrets:  If I can’t get my mind around the PROCESS, I’m not going to do it!

I have to feel I have a deep understanding of how an organization will emerge to take this great idea forward. I can easily take 50% of my thinking time on this. Once I get my mind around the process, I can then focus on the right PEOPLE to make the right things happen.

__Process and people are the backbone of the organization.

Now what I mean here by “process” is the series of actions you take in order to achieve an intended outcome or result.  Within one business, several different processes usually take place – raising capital, strategic planning, recruiting and training staff, research, product development, product testing, marketing and so forth.

When I first started in business, I was still very young, and had worked for just a few years. Fortunately, my two employers had been a computer start-up, in Cambridge, England, and a state-owned enterprise (SOE) in my home country, Zimbabwe. In both organizations I’d made observations about how companies are set up and run.

I loved the start-up, which had only two owners. Decisions were made quickly and I got my chance to do all sorts of things, even though I only had a freshly-minted engineering degree! The SOE was the exact opposite: it had rigid organizational structures. There were many highly-skilled and qualified individuals, but decisions were slow.

Whilst I enjoyed the mission of the SOE, I knew I had to get back to the start-up environment. I nevertheless took away a critical understanding of how big organizations work, including their political culture.

If I’d been able to choose, I probably would have first joined a large international organization before I went off on my own. I certainly would have loved to get an understanding of “best practice” from an international organization like Coca-Cola or GE, both of whom I greatly admired. The opportunity was simply not available, so I did the next best thing… I bought books about them.

My favorite books were written by entrepreneurs, explaining how they set up these businesses. At weekends I’d just disappear into my own world of Sony, IBM, Coca-Cola — the great companies of my day. I didn’t just read, I devoured their material!

I wanted more, so I moved into the really academic work of people like Peter Drucker and W. Edwards Deming (Google them). I had all their books and articles.

In my own country, I’d constantly ask questions about the organizational structures of well-established companies. Information was always limited back then, not like now with the Internet!

As a young entrepreneur in Africa, it won’t always be possible for you to start your own business after a professional career in an established organization where you can learn all the ropes, and study processes.

# You still owe it to yourself to try and close the deficit in your understanding of what it takes to organize and build an effective business organization.

# You may not even be ready yet to have people working for you, with all those fancy titles and positions, but you still must have the intellectual curiosity to do your homework and understand what’s really happening!

If you don’t understand the processes that help you build and run an efficient organization — managed by capable, highly motivated professionals — you’ll struggle, wear yourself down, and probably end up bust, or worse.

Let’s get down to business, real business. We’re good managers, what about you?


by 27 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

27 thoughts on “The hardest thing to do in business: building an efficient organization (Part 5)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1. “There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all,” wrote Peter Drucker. Getting the right things done, and done right, by the right people – that’s the goal of organizational management.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3. “Deciding what NOT to do is as important as deciding what to do,” said Steve Jobs. Efficient organizational processes are essential… But a labyrinth of red-tape is bad news!

  3. Bamidele Sulaiman

    If the desired organizational goal is not achieved, it is either something is wrong with idea or the processes are in error.
    Once the direction is right, it doesn’t matter the pace/stride, success is sure.
    Thanks for the deep analysis.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    Sorry Sir, how many books do you read in a week, month up to a year. And how do you manage the time, am a high school student and have the passion to read more and more books. This year I have read 45 books, Thanks for your motivation sir, God bless you!

    I’m really impressed. This is just what I want to hear.
    You must build up your capacity to read two books a day, or the equivalent in articles. And this you must do, whilst doing all other things in your life.
    Anything less, and you will not be able to compete with those in your generation who will shape your future.
    The key is to read like this when you get to University, and most importantly when you are my age.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Peter writes,

    two books a day is something out of my mind.In this week I struggle to finish a Book titled Shoe dog by Phil knight.

    My reply,
    The quantity and speed at which you read is just a matter of practice. There is nothing gifted about it at all.
    When I first started this platform, there were complaints from some of our colleagues that it was “too long.” They wanted it to be like Twitter. I persisted and today it is read by millions, every week. So what happened? Practice! The serious guys like you got used to it.
    Now you know why I’m not a “Twitter person.”
    I recently met a former Minister in a very serious government, and he told me that his daily briefing document to start his day was more than 200 pages!
    If you are the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, you easily read the equivalent of 5 books of more than 200 pages in a day!
    If you practice by forcing yourself to read serious material, it gets easier and easier, but never say it’s impossible, because to get to the top, where you are headed, that is what you will need to be able to do… with ease!

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Reading friends:
    When I was a young man, I decided I wanted to get really fit, so I bought a Mountain Bike, and every weekend I would go into the hills near my home and ride around. It was tough, until I found a friend with the same interest. Together we would go out, and just push each other.
    Today, I have similar friends, who I call “reading friends.”
    We send each other articles, books and notes from our own readings. We all do this in our own way on Social Media, but the key here is to exercise a “filter,” and avoid things that really don’t add anything to your growth, or keep them to a minimum. You cannot discuss football all day.
    You need to challenge yourself on things of entrepreneurship, at least if you are on this platform.
    What I write you is a small fraction of what you need to be reading.
    #You are a Champion, and our future!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I was recently told that 40% of the people who can read, now get their news through FaceBook. And it is rising.
    How many “books” do you think I have written on Facebook?
    Add up all my posts, and afterthoughts, and turn them into pages of a book!

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Banabasi, writes:

    I am one of people who told me that I don’t have time to seat and read. I spend 50% of my time on the road and more time in the office making follow ups. But I will try to make time for reading books because i have realised that I can learn more. I know it’s going to be tough but I have to give it a try.

    My reply,
    This is not an option for you !
    We live in a time in which the job you are doing today will have been completely transformed, disrupted, or even disappeared within 5 years.
    By developing a strong culture to read, and study, you will remain in the flow of the changes that will occur, and you will develop new skills sets. Don’t rely on “experience” only to create earning power for you and your family.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ubong writes,

    Dear Lord Jesus!!!!!!! Two books a day???? That means I’ve been playing all these while. I have to start living. Thankyou Mr. Strive

    My reply,
    In my response to Peter, I said you must build the CAPACITY to read at least two books, or the EQUIVALENT in articles and publications, per day, assuming a book is about 200 pages.
    Now let me tell you, I know many leaders who read much more than this.
    You should not be intimidated by this, because if you aspire to be the Chairman or CEO of a big company one day, just the emails, reports, studies, and correspondences you would read per day will be more than 400 page views. That is nothing in today’s fast-paced business world.
    Now you may not be receiving reports and studies requiring you to read so much quickly, so train yourself now, by reading a lot of books and articles that are serious, so that when the day comes for you to lead, you are not overwhelmed and become delinquent to your responsibilities.
    You might yet choose that you don’t want to get to that level, but at least know what is expected should you decide to get there one day.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I have one international board, in which the “pre-read” board material is about 1000 pages of documents. I set aside one day on a weekend, before the meeting to go through every page. All my colleagues will have done the same.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Michael writes,

    Sir, your commitment to the cause for reading and learning to work with numbers has inspired me so greatly that reading is now a part of me. I am currently reading one book a week plus at leat 10 serious articles. I hope those numbers multiply by 2 in 2017. Thank you for the inspiration. I also rereading you Facebook posts starting from as far back as 2014.

    My reply,
    You are amazing!
    I could not ask for more.
    This coming year I’m planning to do some “town hall” type events in different African countries. I will meet some of you and discuss what you are doing. The scheduling is still a bit tough, because my days are so jam packed, but we will make a plan.

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Rachel writes,

    What about as a mum, homeschooling 4 children? Should I read CEO books, although a career is 20 years away? Or many parenting, home school etc books?

    My reply,
    Some of the most extraordinary business leaders today are women. Many have faced some of the challenges that you face, and even more, but they have gone on to achieve everything they ever wanted to achieve.
    Don’t short change yourself by assuming a stereotype women’s role, you can be CEO, and you can lead a country, and still be a great parent too. So go for it!

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Chris writes,

    Mr Strive, i read books but I have never read any book from introduction to its ending, what i normally do is to go to the table of contents and select the most relevant chapters and read them very carefully and meditate on them. Many of my friends say I am unserious with books but with this method i have read more books than any of them. Please what is your opinion about my method.

    My reply,
    Sorry Chris, your method is not very good. It will land you in trouble one day.
    It is better to read one book properly, than a thousand books badly.
    You build your capacity to read more and faster, by reading often, and not through “formula”.

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Win an iPad for Christmas!

    I’m starting to give some Christmas gifts. So here is my question of the week:
    The guys at Kwese have now added a number of sports and news channels to the App, which you can download from any country in Africa. I will give an iPad to the first person who tells me, how many sports channels (give the names) are on the platform already. I will also give an iPad to someone who tells me how many news channels there are already.
    I will announce the winner on Friday.

    My next Christmas gift, will be really big, so get ready!

  15. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    IPAD competition:
    Time is running out for those who want to win an iPad for Christmas. I have looked at all the answers, and I have not yet seen one that is correct. Read the question again carefully, and go back to the App. It is still open until the end of day Friday (clue!).

  16. Daniel Isingoma

    Thanks Strive for this Wisdom. I love reading, having become adept at it while browsing through my parents’ newspapers, story books and even from enjoying listening to the African folktales from the elders. I just didn’t know then, that it’s importance would be of such a magnitude, in our times today.

  17. Daniel Isingoma

    The lesson on knowing, analysing and reflecting/meditating on the whole Process first, is really important if one is to build an efficient organisation. It’s also crucial for a Chairman or CEO to be a very good reader, & a reader of the right content.


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