I t wasn’t personal advice I receivedbut rather something I read that had an effect on me. When I took up the reignsat Kumba Resources, I drew quite heavily on the work of a guy called Dr Jay Hall who conducted extensiveresearch into how to improve the quality and productivity of workingrelationships in all types of organisations. He concluded that most companiesdon’t utilise one tenth of the talent they have.
This really struck a note withme.
I realised that so many organisationsmake the mistake of structuring themselves as if they are dealing withincompetent people, but in fact most of the time they are not. What they do isto put measures in place to control the incompetence they believe is there. Butthis is a mistake, and assuming that your people are inept means you aremissing a trick.
If you want to eliminate incompetencein a company, you need to make room for competence to express itself. If youhave capable people, don’t regulate them as if they are ineffectual. This wassomething we tried to do at Kumba. We created an informal management style inthe company that pushed decision-making as far down the line as possible. Weonly retained certain things centrally such as high-level talent, corporategovernance, cash and corporate affairs. But the rest of the time we workedthrough people. The message was simple: we have faith in you, get on with thejob. And it worked.