Crossed perspectives on strategic decision making in the African context
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Business Science Institute
(DBA thesis directed by Pr. Kamdem)
ESSEC Business School
University of Douala (Cameroon)
Editor-in-chef - Impact(s) Articles
Nathalie Dubost - Dr. Eric TCHIENGANG, you have shown in your research with 25 companies from three sectors of activity in Cameroon that strategic decision-making suffers from a lack of exploration logic, how does the African context explain this observation?
The survey conducted as part of our doctoral research, with twenty-five Cameroonian business leaders, used the storytelling method. It allowed them to tell their life stories and their experiential experiences in relation to the process implemented in their strategic decision-making. These leaders adopt decision-making behaviors that are primarily based on their previous empirical experiences, which results in their decision-making strategy being embedded in a dynamic of bounded rationality. This situation creates confusion in the use and exploitation of certain strategic management tools such as the SWOT matrix, still widely used in Cameroonian organizations. This tool for analyzing the competitive environment, used in other contexts (North American and European), can be adapted to the Cameroonian context with some adjustments. Its textual use shows limitations in strategic decision-making and its weak impact on the decision-making behavior of the Cameroonian manager.
Two main characteristics of the African context explain this observation. The first is the unavailability or scarcity, in Cameroon, of updated demographic and macroeconomic statistical data. Strategic decision making is strongly determined by the availability of information that can inform the decision maker's approach. This information is largely contained in the data available from public organizations (National Institute of Statistics), private organizations (companies and employers' organizations) or consular chambers (chambers of commerce). Unfortunately, this informational statistical data is not always updated and the Cameroonian decision-maker is thus in a situation of uncertainty that considerably limits his or her decision-making capacity. The second characteristic is the widespread and even tolerated corruption in African contexts, particularly in Cameroon. It has a negative impact on strategic decision-making insofar as it causes considerable harm in the mobilization and use of resources, which are numerous but poorly used.
Nathalie Dubost - You use the concepts of exploration/exploitation and organizational ambidexterity, respectively introduced by March and Duncan, two North American researchers. What do these concepts bring to the understanding of strategic management in Cameroon?
We have developed a model of information analysis similar to the Eisenhower matrix, popularized by Covey. The idea was to prioritize information according to the criteria of relevance and usefulness. The concept of organizational ambidexterity was used to show that exploration/exploitation practices can also be applied to information. For March (1991), the main uncertainty in decision making is the lack of knowledge of the information held by all the organizational actors, which justifies the use of exploration. Duncan (1976), for his part, is more interested in the organizational implementation of the decision made according to the position of the decision-maker.
While recognizing the usefulness and relevance of these concepts in deciphering the ways in which African organizations are structured and function, it seems to me that it is now possible to develop new concepts based on in-depth observation of African realities. For example, Biwolé-Fouda (2020) is inspired by the African concept of Ubuntu (building a social bond with the other, especially when he is different from oneself) to propose the strategic theory of the conciliatory mechanism (TMC). The latter is a facilitating lever for conflict management in African contexts. This does not at all mean "turning our backs" on concepts and theories borrowed from other contexts. It is more a matter of trying to understand how African contexts can be fertile grounds for creating conceptual and theoretical knowledge. This epistemic approach to conflict management is an interesting illustration of rooted and actionable managerial research in Cameroon and Africa.
Nathalie Dubost - What managerial recommendations would you make to the Cameroonian managerial ecosystem and to training schools?
The Cameroonian managerial ecosystem is booming, consulting and training centers contribute to the improvement of managerial practices in companies that need to update and contextualize the managerial skills of their employees. Our recommendations on strategic decision making will help revisit, update and contextualize the teaching in business schools. Our research also contributes to the development of good practices in the usual practices of management science. The SWOT analytical approach has shown its limits. On the other hand, the organizational ambidexterity approach (exploration/exploitation) of information is better adapted in an environment where the field of analysis is beyond direct competitors, to ensure better management of weak signals. Under these conditions, companies will have to ensure the renewal of the skills of their managers and executives, by developing partnerships with business schools.
Regarding the Cameroonian managerial ecosystem, the main recommendation is to urgently get out of the vicious circle of political discourse on the fight against corruption. In this national ecosystem, the concrete results of this fight have limited impact on the resurgence of the phenomenon in Cameroonian society. This observation considerably limits the adherence of the population to these discourses, which are more or less perceived as responses to the injunctions of international financial partners. As far as training schools are concerned, the main managerial recommendation is to strengthen sustainable partnerships between business schools, companies and professional organizations. There is a remarkable contrast between the flourishing discourse on the professionalization of academic programs, especially in universities, and the timid professionalization practices observed in the field. On another level, the limitations of the SWOT analytical grid show that it is important to revisit and update it, taking inspiration from the PESTEL grid, which should include the historical dimension. Training schools should therefore adopt the PESTEL in teaching strategic decision-making (P: Political / H: Historical / E: Economic / S: Socio-cultural / T: Technological / E: Ecological; L: Legal).
Article translated from French with https://www.deepl.com/translator
The oral defense of Eric Tchiengang's DBA thesis .
Emmanuel Kamdems' books & articles via CAIRN.info.
Nathalie Dubost's books & articles via CAIRN.Info.