HOW TO TACKLE TRANSFORMATION IN YOUR ORGANISATION

• Do it. You have an obligation to the past and the future. The lack of political will among leaders of organisations still remains the most important obstacle to transformation.

• Know what you mean. Transformation is not employment equity; it is that and much more. It is, rather, a fundamental change in the way we see ourselves and others. One root of the word is from the Greek for “metamorphosis”, a qualitative change into something more elegant and beautiful.

• Know why you do it. Compliance with government mandates, such as the targets of the Department of Labour, is not a good enough reason. The benefits of transformation — social, cultural, financial — are the higher reasons that should drive this important commitment.

• Do not take numerical targets too seriously. Transformation in large organisations does not comply with the regularities of the calendar year. Whenever you get the opportunity to transform, do it.

• Do it sensitively. A harsh, retributive approach does great damage to the human spirit and to the organisation. Too many immature leaders have destroyed entire organisations as a result of their bitterness.

• Be generous. Replacing one group of people (white) with another group of people (black) is not transformation; it’s called domination. Remember the words of Nelson Mandela — he fought against white domination and he fought against black domination.

• Be strategic. A white, experienced, skilled manager committed to training scores of young, black, future managers holds great value for an organisation. Keep him.

• Be conscious of tribalism. Without knowing it, leaders tend to hire people who look like them, speak their language, pray like them, eat their foods and share their political affiliations.

• Go beyond numbers. Recruit people, white and black, who think and act in transformed ways. This means people who approach those who are deemed different as human beings first and foremost, and not as a racial or ethnic identity.

Be aware of the risks. Not transforming will generate anger and disillusion among those who expect remedy for past ills. Similarly, the government will become more interventionist as it realises its incapacity to transform the economy and society.

• Pursue diversities. There are many ways, beyond black and white, in which an organisation can enhance do justice. Those with disabilities or those from other countries all add to the richness of our cultures and the decency of our communities.

• Set clear goals. Know what you want to achieve, and move the organisation and its resources to achieve them.

• Have a plan. Transformation does not happen just because you have good intentions.

• Save your advertising money. The best people do not respond to newspaper advertisements. You should have a top-range head-hunter who works full-time for you, constantly on the prowl for the best and most diverse talent, anywhere.

• Retention is key. The best and most diverse staff are vulnerable to better offers from your competitors. Keep them happy and pay them more than you would normally do for others at the same rank. This means getting board approval for deviations. It is one thing to recruit the best; it is a completely different thing to keep them.

• Drive the process from the top. Transformation will not happen without constant leadership voice and drive.

• Set the example. If those lower down the organisation do not see transformation at the upper levels, they simply will not take your directives seriously.

• Build commitment from the bottom. The real power for doing transformation lies with the decision-makers lower down the organisation’s hierarchy. It is a myth that the man (sic) at the top has all the power.

• Strive for balance. Model in your organisation the kind of society we wish to build — one that is just and tolerant at the same time.

• Remember the bigger picture. A diverse organisation enables the building of a diverse society.

• Be aware of the risks. Not transforming will generate anger and disillusion among those who expect remedy for past ills. Similarly, the government will become more interventionist as it realises its incapacity to transform the economy and society.

• Begin with yourself. As a leader, you cannot presume to transform an organisation unless you have been transformed yourself. Have you dealt with your own ghosts?

• Be patient. We did not get into this mess overnight. We will not get out of it easily.

• Budget for it. The costs — financial, emotional and physical — are huge. Those who push transformation in white-dominant organisations are the coal miners’ canaries. Years ago miners took canaries down into the earth because the birds would die first when there was a gas leak, warning the men to escape from the mine.

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