ZBC turnaround strategy can succeed

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INFORMATION Minister Jonathan Moyo has dissolved the Cuthbert Dube-led Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation board and sent chief executive Happison Muchechetere on leave for incompetence, and for failing to produce an acceptable turnaround strategy. Immediately, Moyo asked the comptroller and auditor general to conduct a forensic audit.
The failure by ZBC management to present an acceptable turnaround strategy to Moyo despite the current state of ZBC justifies the minister making changes. A turnaround strategy is a plan that addresses an organization’s financial or operational disaster and prevents its occurrence, again. This plan involves a radical application of strategies that comprise of cost reduction measures and restructuring the company’s operations. It is different from a strategic plan or operational plan.
Moyo was correct to ask for an immediate forensic audit after dismissing the board and CEO so that first, he has a good understanding of the situation at ZBC regarding strategy, finance, assets, human resources, etc. Second, the audit will provide critical information in terms of helping whoever is hired to draft and implement a turnaround strategy. Information, and its use, is critical in turnarounds as it will assist in identifying mistakes that the previous management made resulting in the state ZBC finds itself.
Management experts agree that most failing organizations are a result of weak management and inadequate financial systems. Over the years, ZBC management has failed to keep pace with its internal and external environments leading to a drastic fall in demand for ZBC services even though it is in a monopoly situation. Staff is demoralised, understandably so, considering they have, of late, been getting paid intermittently. As observed earlier, the finances are in a shambles.
While the ZBC has been effective in its role as a public broadcaster, it has failed as a commercial entity because management neglected that side of business. Over the years, management should have used that time to develop and implement an effective strategic plan to align its business strategy with emerging broadcasting technologies, develop market-driven entertainment products and services, develop a viable long term financial plan, attract and retain the best talent, eliminate administrative waste, implement effective asset management strategy, etc. These strategic management tools would have put ZBC on a strong footing in product and service provision, as well as, giving it a head start in a future deregulated broadcasting market.Advertisement

ZBC has a subdued online presence, and it has, in some instances, lost lucrative television rights to broadcast certain prominent soccer games. Such commercial mistakes translate to a huge advertising revenue loss, which is a main source of funds for ZBC. The public broadcaster focused too much on the local market using old or unreliable technology mainly driven by the basic need to fulfil its mandate of providing public information. It failed to develop and market profitable entertainment products and media channels that would carry services in demand such as subscription television.
Moyo is providing the ZBC with an opportunity to recover. The new management has to seize this opportunity; make tough decisions that will stabilize the crisis and then embark on a recovery path. The board needs to establish a very clear strategic direction and provide effective oversight to ensure that the new CEO and his/her team stick to and move towards meeting the goals of the strategic direction identified.  The board should not tolerance failure.
The new CEO should be an effective leader possessing attributes of leadership such as management excellence, engagement, strategic thinking, values and ethics. This means he/she should be able to deliver through action management, people management, financial management; mobilize people, organizations and partners; be innovative, and conduct himself with integrity and respect for himself and other people.
This turnaround strategic approach could focus on achieving three objectives, namely, rationalising the cost structure of ZBC, expanding its multimedia broadcasting platform, and increasing its revenues. The ZBC management would develop a strategic plan that clearly shows how they are going to achieve these three objectives.
Key to achieving these objectives is a need to measure performance to prove that the strategic initiatives implemented provide value to the organisation, and also to prove the return on investment into any new product or service. Management would consider developing key performance indicators that align with the organization’s strategic goals, and measure their performance using some form of performance measurement tool such as the Balanced Scorecard.
The contracts of senior managers should be performance based. Management should closely monitor progress of the turnaround plan, and if it shows signs of deviation, immediate corrective action should be taken. Management should stay focused on strategy and not tactical operations. This will allow the plan to maintain political support as well as remain in line to succeed.
Kuthula Njokweni can be contacted at