33 Days in the Hot-seat
The Black Management Forum (BMF), which has been without a managing director
for almost a year‚ recently appointed Themba Dlamini as its new managing director
(effective from 01 April, 2014).
Many view Dlamini’s appointment as being made at a critical time for the South African business leadership landscape. His experience in regulatory compliance and teamwork has been cited by the BMF as qualities that will add value to the mandate of the organisation.
At the time of writing this article, Dlamini had only been 33 days in his new position, but had already identified some of the organisation’s challenges, these being primarily, an unstable budget and a wavering membership.
by Richard Jansen van Vuuren and Andrew Ngozo
CASE IN POINT | BMF
“I’ve always wanted to contribute to socio-economic change and when I was considering applying for the position of managing director at the BMF, I saw there were few constraints in terms of legislation. I saw that as an opportunity to be able to adapt policies and strategies with the promotion of the organisation as the end game.”
Despite his “baptism of fire” introduction to the organisation, where he found no reports or intellectual property to analyse and plan the way forward, he looks back on his initial days with a wry sense of humour.
“On my first morning in the BMF offices I introduced myself to the staff and jokingly said I hoped there would not be a queue of people outside my office afterward tendering their resignations. The joke backfired on me as one person did in fact resign after the meeting, but thankfully it was not because of my appointment but rather a personal choice of the employee made a long time before,” he explains.
He also states that from his short time at the organisation he can see his long-term priority being the reconciling of the current organisation with its “old-school” core values that paved the way for its initial successes.
“Having said that, I’d also like to re-establish our voice ithin the business leadership arena as it has, for obvious reasons, become lost over the last year or so.”
In addition he highlights that several issues were promoted by the BMF in the past, and unfortunately, these have fallen through the cracks.
“I’d like to revisit the BMF’s extremely rich heritage in promoting it; looking ahead to the medium and long-term strategy,” he points out.
The BMF enjoys solid support from both the public and private sectors – particularly at its events as its operational network runs deep through both sectors. With this in mind, Dlamini also has plans to use this to the BMF’s advantage through reconnecting with prominent figures with historical ties to find alumni to mentor and advise younger members.
These figures include the likes of:
Jimmy Manyi – Immediate Past President (2006-2012)
Nolitha Fakude – Past President (2004-2006)
Bheki Sibiya (1999-2003)
Lot Ndlovu (1995-1999)
Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu (1991-1995)
Don Mkhwanazi (1986-1991)
George Negota (1984-1986)
Don Ncube (1982-1984)
Martin Sebesho (1981-1982)
Eric Mafuna (1977-1981)
A New Broom Sweeping Clean s the saying goes, a new broom sweeps clean and Dlamini is no exception. He has also highlighted that he will be restricting BMF’s institutional arrangements as he finds too unstructured and not focused enough.
“Members of staff currently have job descriptions, but they are not linked to the strategic thrust of the organisation. We will now be re-looking at these to align with the three pillars of the strategic thrust of the organisation: managerial, advancing socio-economic transformation and thought leadership. Obviously we want a certain calibre of individuals within the organisation to address these three pillars,” he points out.
I believe that in moving forward the BMF needs a solid three to five-year corporate plan, incorporating our three pillars as well as six interventions I have identified which will be communicated accordingly.”
When quizzed about the challenges facing BMF as a result of being without a managing director for so long, Dlamini points out that, understandably, staff morale was at a low point. In order to refocus output he will be introducing a performance management system to highlight what is expected of everyone and how these tasks will be managed against the strategic intent of the organisation.
“This will also bring in a degree of accountability which allows for intervention and resolution,” he explains. In the development of a corporate strategy Dlamini will be implementing, he would like to be able identify risks and counter them with mitigation. “These risks may be linked to strategy or operations i.e.: a dwindling membership. This is a concern and should be embedded in my strategy,” he elaborates.
“Having looked at historical documents, there has never been this kind of outlook from the BMF before.” In discussing plans to develop new directives to ensure BMF’s mandate of developing managerial skills, Dlamini states that if one examines employment equity reports, the recurring theme is that of year-in year-out feedback about transformation which is simply regurgitated.
“If you look at high impact entities such as the mining, construction, banking and agriculture sectors, there should be dialogue between them and the BMF,” he highlights.
“The BMF should select some MDs or directors to partner with the BMF, where we can have an open discussion about their transformation profiles as things have not changed or remain static. What are the causes? Where is the transformation item? Where in the agenda is it featuring? These are the types of questions needing to be asked and debated. We are not defined by law on how far we go, so dialogue can be open and frank. We need to be able to
ask if someone has an aging workforce, as to how will they maintain their bottom line? We need to have an encouraging approach in this regard.”
Dlamini has his sights set on establishing these platforms for dialogue within the next six months in two of these high impact sectors. Once these are running smoothly he intends to roll out more on a year-on-year basis. In speaking of frankness and honesty, he is also quick to point out that he believes the fractured relationship between the BMF and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) needs to be remedied.
“I personally believe that the split occurred as the BMF has always advocated radical shifts in transformation – while in real time the process was, and continues to be, much slower. I think if both parties are eager to reconnect, we need to ensure that we do not pull in opposite directions. We have different methods and strategies and roles we play, but we do have areas of commonality such as transformation. That is the easy part. The difficult part is the establishing of HOW this will be addressed.”
An ‘Optimistically Realistic’ Outlook Dlamini believes his leadership style has evolved from his fondness of structure, innovation and independence. “I also believe that everyone who is involved in a situation should have input that is duly considered. I do not like Bank of Southern Africa. to impose myself however, if an action is going to benefit the organisation it must be prioritised with an explanation following. Otherwise, you may end up over-consulting on an issue especially when there are time constraints involved.”
He believes there is a place for international best practice in South Africa.
“For example, successful organisations mentor their staff properly. French companies, for example, are fond of rotating people deliberately so they understand the company and its workings completely.
Most South African companies are very rigid and would be reluctant to undertake such a radical exercise and some may feel that they do not have the adequate resources to be able to do so.” The benefits to the company are staff retention and exposing of individuals to all aspects of an organisation.
Dlamini’s views on the current economic and governance sectors in South Africa are best described as “optimistically realistic”.
He is acutely aware that the lofty ambitions of attaining a 5% growth rate are not currently realistic, as a significant number of issues have yet to be addressed.
“Our economic environment must be conducive to encouragement of direct foreign investment in the country. Some treaties between South Africa and the European Union have been cancelled and this affects the entire investment profile of South Africa in a negative way.
“The newly appointed administration must pay more attention for us to get to that 5% growth figure, by looking at creating an investment friendly environment. Two of South Africa’s major stumbling blocks when it comes to investor confidence are crime and labour issues. On the plus side, the tourism sector is still booming from the exposure garnered through South Africa hosting the World Cup.
“There is no such thing as a crime-free country but our crime statistics can be drastically reduced – foreign investors examine us closely and events in the country impact almost immediately on the stock exchange,” highlights Dlamini. Obviously policies stemming from the Reserve Bank are also a factor and dictate where the investment focus will be in context to interest rates and inflation. “The potential of attaining the 5% growth rate exists, but obviously there must be certain shifts to reach it,” maintains Dlamini.
“Hopefully there will also be a significant emphasis on the National Development Plan (NDP) and the infrastructure sector in creating jobs and avenues for foreign direct investment,” he continues, adding that In addition, government has to collaborate with the private sector in achieving the massive potential outlined in the NDP.
The former President of the Republic of South, Thabo Mbeki is quoted as saying “there is a need for government and private sector to converge to take economy forward” – never has this been more apt as the unfortunate reality of the relationship between the two entities is one of mistrust.
Dlamini’s appointment at the helm of the daily operations of the BMF virtually coincided with the ushering in of South Africa’s Fifth Democracy in May 2014. The new administration has a huge mandate much on the same level as that which Dlamini has ahead of him, he says. He believes the new administration should prioritise transformation in such a way that it addresses the imbalances created by the colonial and apartheid state which is “dangerous and unsustainable in the long run”.
[Therefore] swift action is going to be key moving forward if South Africa is going to put a damper on challenges such as growing inequality which could destroy all that has been accomplished, he indicates. “Economic transformation is but one of the few things that we need to make democracy meaningful to the majority of South Africans still trapped in poverty, unemployment and landlessness.”
State-owned enterprises such as Eskom and Transnet are rolling out infrastructure projects; long-term projects that need forward thinking on the part of all stakeholders. “The government should implement new and ambitious infrastructure projects and equally budget for and maintain existing infrastructure.” He adds that because roads and the rail networks are the very mainstay of any economy, the new government can ill afford not to “deliver infrastructure in a more systematic and concerted manner”.
Looking at the possibilities of cross-border activities in a global environment, Dlamini recommends that companies trying to reach into Africa should remain within the Southern African Development Community, as there are structured frameworks in place. This allows for the aligning of corporate entities with others sharing strategic goals and business practice.
The BMF’s current individual membership figures are in the region of 2 000. Dlamini is certain that this figure has dropped over the last 18 months due to the perceived instability
of the organisation itself, as well as the organisation possibly reneging on its service to members as well.
“With this in mind we will be articulating the benefits to members appropriately and in a constant manner,” he explains.
In addition Dlamini would like to revise the membership options, both individual and corporate, to move away from 12 month memberships to a minimum of 36 to 60 month options. This will directly impact the revenue of the BMF and enable better planning and strategic roll-out ,as the budget will be have to be adjusted radically when compared to the 12 month option. When Dlamini looks back on impact of 20 years of democracy on economic growth and development, he maintains that the period is too short to get a glimpse into exactly where South Africa’s future lies. He is adamant that while transformation has taken place it has, unfortunately, happened at a stunted pace.
On a positive note, he anticipates that the significant potential for foreign direct investment within the alternate energy generation and agriculture sectors will be realised.
“We should also look at other emerging economies such as Brazil and Malaysia who are seeing greater success in their economic success than South Africa and see what policies and strategies they have in place that we could use as template,” he points out, adding that it is a misconception that policy cannot be generic once slightly adapted to fit within local context.
The industrial relations, such as they are in South Africa at present, are in a shambles that does not belong in an economy that wishes to realise sustainable growth. “The sooner we all realise this the better it would be for the economy,” Dlamini declares. “Nedlac [The National Economic Development and Labour Council] was created precisely to deal with such polarity issues in order to encourage industrial relations and stability in the country.
However, the current and recent industrial strife points to a system failure in our institutional frameworks.” In elaborating, he says there is an industrial stalemate which is not good for South Africa. “We hope that the government will use its new mandate to resolve this issue. If the status quo continues, the targets that the government has set unto itself in terms of job creation and poverty alleviation will not be attained.”
Closely linked to job creation and poverty alleviation targets is the success of the National Development Plan (NDP), which thus far, has not yielded results such what all stakeholders desired due to the fact that local government is not functioning optimally thereby directly impacting on economic development. However, “We are certain that the eventual full implementation of the NDP will take South Africa’s economic development to the next level,” says an optimistic Dlamini.
In his latest president’s report, Bonang Mohale, President of the BMF, outlined the concise strategic direction for the 2013 – 2015 term, which the BMF Board and Top 50 had formulated which ties in with Dlamini’s intent.
“We are proud to report an impressive growth of 80% in our individual membership and 320% growth in corporate membership. The Board and Top 50 Strategy sessions were
used to carve a roadmap and produce a workable plan for this Presidential term. After our deliberations during these sessions we reached a conclusion that the best way to take
the BMF forward is to go back to the fundamentals of who we are and what we stand for.”
With this in mind the BMF has decided on the following strategic objectives:
Become the leading developer of black management and leadership talent so it can contribute to the transformation of senior management within South Africa.
Create a research and thought leadership capacity within the BMF that stimulates intellectual conversation and drives engagement around issues of transformation, management and leadership within South Africa.
Foster the advancement of socio-economic transformation within organisations that reflect the demographics and the values of the wider society
These objectives will be achieved through the following strategic initiatives:
Rebuild and reposition the BMF brand in South Africa
Develop the Transformation Master Plan
Develop a clear and focused value proposition for members
Develop a clear research and thought leadership plan
Establish a BMF Academy focusing on developing leadership and management skills among members
Focus on placing members in executive management and leadership roles through the BMF networking and partnerships
Collaborate with stakeholders
It is anticipated that these strategic initiatives will yield the following outcomes:
A refreshed BMF that is recognised by the quality of its members, thought leadership and development programmes
A growing membership that is positively and energetically engaged in the BMF
Respected as a thought leader on issues related to leadership, management and organisational transformation
A BMF that contributes to the transformation of management in South African organisations to reflect the diversity of South African society
Recognised as the leading source of networking, mentoring and coaching opportunities for black management and leadership
A BMF leadership that provides clear, focused direction and strong governance
The Board and Top 50 have recently decided to add “Respect” to the BMF values. This is the most basic value that each person needs to practice in interacting with others, without which nothing else works. As a membership organisation that promotes robust and vigorous interactions and discussions, the BMF will not always agree with each other, but it does have to respect everyone.
The BMF board of directors applies the King Commission principles on corporate governance in order to conduct the affairs of the organisation with integrity, openness and accountability.
The board is fully aware of the requirements of the King III Report on corporate governance for South Africa. In executing its fiduciary responsibilities, among others, the board meets as often as is required – but not less than quarterly – to set overall policies, provide input and take decisions on matters of strategic importance to the organisation and its members.
Prior to meetings, board members are briefed extensively, ensuring that relevant matters are brought to their attention. The day-to-day management of the organisation’s operations rests with the executive management team.
At the end of each financial year the directors prepare annual financial statements, which fully represent the organisation’s state of affairs in conformity with the generally accepted accounting practice.
External auditors carry out an independent examination of the branch, provincial and national financial statements and report their opinion, in accordance with the South African auditing standards.