Re-Thinking Transformation Policy And Strategy

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017  |  Comments

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2017 saw the celebration of 10 years for the codes of good practice. The first codes of good practice on broad-based black economic empowerment were gazetted for the first time in February 2007. It was the first time that the government`s transformation efforts were translated into a measurable balanced scorecard, that required corporate South Africa to achieve targets set froth within this framework. Over the 10-year period, we have seen further developments around the concept of the balanced scorecard, culminating with the amended codes which were gazetted in October 2013. The amended codes were largely a revision of the original codes of 2007, into a more refined, and thorough approach to B-BBEE compliance.

In the decade that we have seen a formal legislated approach to transformation (a decade that had two cycles of legislation in 2007 and 2013), we have seen a transition of thought from the government from a mere compliance and tick box exercise, to a more holistic approach that requires business to address structural issues to achieve good compliance scores under the new amended codes. The 2007 codes were predominantly light touch, tactical approach which was highly susceptible to abuse. The approach was transactional, and very much driven by spend and the drive to achieve a complaint status with as much ease as was possible – meaningful and sustainable transformation was overshadowed by tactical compliance approach. However, the 2013 legislation has changed the transformation landscape in a massive way – the new codes are too ‘expensive’ to attempt a tick box, light touch approach. The new codes require a comprehensive compliance approach that is driven by the overall business growth strategy. These new codes require an interrogation of the structural issues around empowerment and transformation and forces market practitioners and business leaders to look further than just compliance. However, such an interrogation by itself is not enough to adequately deal with the current inequalities unless supported by requisite psychological themes1.


The Missing Link – The Appreciative Inquiry Approach

The current transformation framework is missing a key appreciation in its approach; that the unit of empowerment is one.Unless the beneficiaries within the different pillars of empowerment are regarded and looked at as one, the structural inequality will persist. In fact, an attempt to deal with these structural issues, without recognising the power of one, may disempower beneficiaries and perpetuate dependency and a sense of entitlement. Sustainable transformation needs to give attention to psychological empowerment interventions such as appreciative enquiry methods that leverage off the unique talents each participant brings to the table. This creates a positive psychological compact of realistic self-worth, and insight into what structural resources will reduce the “blind-spots” in the participant’s toolkit, while strengthening their sense of self-worth3.


What is Appreciative Inquiry4 (AI)?

AI is a change management concept that aims to drive the process of change by reinforcing the positive in organisations and people by focusing on the unit of change and transformation – which is one person. Below is the dictionary meaning of the concept, followed by some definitions borrowed from a few authors around this subject.

Ap-pre’ci-ate, v., 1. valuing; the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us; affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems 2. to increase in value, e.g. the economy has appreciated in value. Synonyms: VALUING, PRIZING, ESTEEMING, and HONORING.

In-quire’ (kwir), v., 1. the act of exploration and discovery. 2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing new potentials and possibilities. Synonyms: DISCOVERY, SEARCH, and SYSTEMATIC EXPLORATION, STUDY.

   i.     “Appreciative Inquiry focuses us on the positive aspects of our lives and leverages them to correct the negative. It’s the opposite of ‘problem-solving.”

   ii.     “Appreciative Inquiry [is] a theory and practice for approaching change from a holistic framework. Based on the belief that human systems are made and imagined by those who live and work within them, AI leads systems to move toward the generative and creative images that reside in their most positive core – their values, visions, achievements, and best practices… “Grounded in the theory of ‘social constructionism,’ AI recognizes that human systems are constructions of the imagination and are, therefore, capable of change at the speed of imagination. Once organization members shift their perspective, they can begin to invent their most desired future.”

The AI forces us to look deeper than just compliance, and requires us, and the government, to drive the change process, not from a balanced scorecard and compliance approach, but rather through efforts and initiatives that attempt to narrow the social distance between the different race groups in the country. This requires a nationally driven agenda, that reinforces the positive aspects of who we are, what we represent, the values that drive us as a nation.

Structural transformation will not be realised only through the PFFFA and other binary legislated instruments that spell either you get the government contract or not; but rather by a leadership driven change process that attempts to unite the country, by identifying, modelling and reiterating the following AI driven psychological themes:

  • Searching, and identifying the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. The search and identifying process, must cascade further down to corporates and organisations in the country. Remember the unit of transformation is one, and therefore all collective transformative efforts must ultimately define the realities of that one person.
  • Asking questions, usually at policy formulation level, that strengthen a SA`s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential of its people.

This article was written by Mkhaphi Nkosi. Should you require more information on this and other service offerings, please do not hesitate to contact us on 011 442 2433.

[1] Woolley, R.2015. A comparison of Malaysia`s New Economic Policy (NEP) to South Africa`s policy of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE). Unpublished
[2] Woolley, R.2015. A comparison of Malaysia`s New Economic Policy (NEP) to South Africa`s policy of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE). Unpublished
[3] Woolley, R.2015. A comparison of Malaysia`s New Economic Policy (NEP) to South Africa`s policy of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE). Unpublished
[4]A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney
[5] Watkins, J.M. & Bernard J. Mohr. Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination, Jossey-Bass, 2001
[6] White, T.H. Working in Interesting Times: Employee morale and business success in the information age. Vital Speeches of the Day, May 15, 1996, Vol XLII, No. 15.


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