RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Book Review:
Succeeding in Turbulent Times
Authors: Nyambyo, A.

Nyambyo, A. (2008). Succeeding in Turbulent Times Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: Typocrafters Pvt Ltd

Reviewed by: Takupiwa Nyanga

The Zimbabwean made text intended to provide competent and reliable information regarding the survival, success and growth of companies in turbulent times. It provides readers with useful strategies that can be employed to strategically manage a business during the harsh economic times. The book is ear marked for Company Directors, Managers and tactical employees.

At the time of writing the text Zimbabwe was operating in a hyper inflationary environment, which was characterized by several economic environment discords. This makes the issue of succeeding in turbulent times contemporary to Zimbabwe where business opportunities are generally out weighed by threats.The text provides readers with the most recent needed information on how they can attune their business strategies to ensure that their companies survive and continue to grow even under the most difficult economic times.

The author of the book, succeeding in turbulent times made an effort to simplify issues and concepts which are generally believed in strategic management circles to be complex. He however did this without compromising on quality. The strategic management issues, ideologies, approaches were simplified to enhance the ease grasp of concepts, for instance Porter’s Five Forces. Local examples were used to clarify, illustrate and simplify complex issues, which makes it easy for readers to comprehend. The book also made an effort to provide readers with practical and relevant information on how a company can succeed in turbulent times.

The book consists of five (5) stand-alone chapters, with ideas and concepts that are coherently and sequentially arranged. Throughout the text, there is a pervading theme of succeeding in turbulent times encompassed by fascinating range of scholarship. The first chapter comes immediately after the introduction and focus on the business environment. This is commendable since the success or failure of a business highly depends on how the company manages to analyse and interpret the available opportunities and threats emanating from the environment it is operating in. The chapter exposes managers to new business opportunities that could give birth to growth and earnings stability of the company as opposed to keeping it afloat.

The second chapter deals with how companies can become successful through the implementation of appropriate strategies. Companies are advised to craft, design and execute strategies that lead to the firm’s success. The author emphasizes that a good strategy is the one that ties tasks, internal capabilities and external relationships of the firm. Practical examples, of companies that gained a competitive edge during the toll of the country’s economic upheavals were given. The government owned mobile phone operator Netone Cellular (Pvt) Ltd is one of the companies that was mentioned. The strategy of the Netone Cellular (Pvt) Ltd to increase mobile phone coverage to rural areas and major roads was quite substantive as it attracted new customers. However when its major competitor Econet Wireless (Pvt) Ltd rolled out more base stations in the same areas that competitive advantage of wide cellular coverage was eroded. This example makes it clear to readers that companies need to continuously scan the micro and macro economic environments so that they can quickly make adjustments to remain with a strong competitive edge. The author is commended for bringing this up since it awakens companies and makes them realize that they can find a niche to maximize on even when they are operating in a hyper inflationary environment. The chapter provides readers with accurate and useful information on the levels at which strategies are crafted, which are the corporate, business and operational levels. Traditionally strategies are made at corporate and business levels but the text made it clear that operational level is also equally important.

Chapter three, the shortest chapter of the text provides readers with the theoretical and conceptual framework of strategic management. The chapter provides the reader with very vital information on the schools of thoughts to success. Two approaches, Industrial Organization Approach and the Resources Base View Approach were discussed but the ground in terms of depth and breadth, which they covered, was quite enriching to the strategist. To further enrich the chapter, the author should have covered more than two approaches starting from the traditional right to the contemporary.

The fourth chapter gives a run down of the routes to success. It gives an explanation of how success can be linked to the application of superior resources. Both invisible and visible pertinent resources were discussed since they are key to the growth and success of a company. The author is highly commended for linking success of a company to the availability of adequate, competent and motivated human capital. The Human capital is the most important resource in an organization, so a company that aims to grow and survive in a turbulent environment needs to remunerate and manage its employees well. The text also went on to provide a plethora of other variables such as good company reputation and health relationships with stakeholders, organizational capabilities, application of appropriate technology as key antecedents to the success of a company operating in a turbulent environment. The author also linked the success of a company to divine intervention and went on to cite scriptures from Acts 26 verse 22, Genesis 26 verse 12 and Luke 5 verse 4–6. Christianity is the most popular religion in Zimbabwe so linking business success to divine intervention gives hope to business directors, and managers since the religion is not foreign to them. While Christian readers may appreciate this variable other religious groups such as Moslems and Buddhists may not view it from the same angle that is likely to switch off their interest of the text.

The last chapter provides a sound summary of the text and strategic management as an antecedent of succeeding in turbulent times. The summary made an effort to tie all lose ends of the text and gave readers an opportunity to put together all the concepts and views they covered in chapter 1,2,3 and 4. The text inspires readers to craft, design and implement organizational visions, mission statements and values since they are critical variables for the success of the company. However, the layout of the summary is not consistent with the layout of the introduction. The summary is part of the full book chapters whilst the introduction is not part of the book chapters. The author could have used the same layout for both the introduction and the summary.

The sequencing of the chapters and issues is appropriate since the proceeding chapter feeds into the new chapter. The text uniquely brings the Zimbabwean business environment sector on the stage. The business environment is turbulent and too harsh for companies to survive and succeed, but the text brings out key issues that can help companies to survive in difficult times. Practical examples of companies that survived during the toll of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis were given. The companies include CFI holdings, INNSCOR, African (Pvt) Ltd, on page 3 and 5 respectively. The examples are very important for they give managers and readers hope that they can perform well even when operating in an unfavorable economic environment.

The availability of supplementary reading lists, given as references such as Costa (1987), Choo (1994), Thompson and Strickland (2005), provide readers with the opportunity and appetite for further reading.

While it is appreciated that the book used several Zimbabwean cases, international company cases especially those from countries that went through a similar crisis Zimbabwe went through could have been very useful to further clarify issues and concepts. Restricting company cases to Zimbabwe limited the coverage of concepts and approaches, which companies can effectively employ to succeed in turbulent times.

Though the author of the book did not write the foreword, a full summary of key concepts of the texts were given. It cites strategic management gurus such as Michael Porter who also form part of the key approaches in the text.

In summary, although the book has some minor weaknesses, the book is very beneficiary to company directors, human resource managers and other line managers since the survival and growth of companies highly depend on their ability to strategically position themselves and managing to retain competent and committed human capital.The text’s intended objective to provide readers with strategies of succeeding in turbulent times was realized. Although no single book can completely satisfy all its intended beneficiaries, in this case more answers than questions have been presented throughout the five chapters. The author is commended for doing a splendid job.

Mr Takupiwa Nyanga
Great Zimbabwe University
Masvingo
Zimbabwe