With the death of Steve Jobs last year, there has been an uprush of interest in what made this great business genius tick. What are the secrets of his success?
In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, his biographer Walter Isaacson discusses what he feels were two of Jobs’ most important leadership principles: focus and simplicity.
“When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it was producing a random array of computers and peripherals, including a dozen different version of the Macintosh. After a few weeks of product review sessions, he’d finally had enough. ‘Stop!’ he shouted. ‘This is crazy.’ He grabbed a Magic Marker, padded in his bare feet to a whiteboard, and drew a two-by-two grid. ‘Here’s what we need,’ he declared. Atop the two columns, he wrote ‘Consumer’ and ‘Pro’. He labelled the two rows ‘Desktop’ and ‘Portable.’ Their job, he told his team members, was to focus on four great products, one for each quadrant. All other products should be cancelled,” writes Isaacson. “But by getting Apple to focus on making just four computers, he saved the company.”
This focus, according to Isaacson, allowed Jobs to filter out “what he considered distractions.”
An instinct for simplicity
To complement this razor-sharp focus, writes Isaacson, Jobs had the instinct for simplicity, which enabled him to eliminate impractical frills in his designs.
“Jobs’ Zen-like ability to focus was accompanied by the related instinct to simplify things by zeroing in on their essence and eliminating unnecessary components. ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,’ declared Apple’s first marketing brochure. Jobs aimed for the simplicity that comes from conquering, rather than merely ignoring, complexity. ‘It takes a lot of hard work,’ he said, ‘to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.’”
Sure, Jobs had other leadership skills and traits that some applaud and others vilify. But focus and simplicity resonate with one of today’s fastest-growing forms of leadership: lean leadership. Lean principles are turning up everywhere from business magazines to engineering journals, self-development literature to cookbooks. Does this last one seem out of place to you? It shouldn’t. Lean is about cutting out the fat.
Jobs’ ability to focus and simplify helped him cut the fat.
The lean approach
The organisation that really pioneered these concepts of lean is Toyota, integrating these principles so deeply into its culture that it cannot exist without them – so much so that lean leadership is generally known as The Toyota Way.
Toyota’s lean approach is based on a few key aspects: eliminate waste, empower employees to make decisions, and constantly strive for improvement. It cannot be implemented overnight on site while reading the pages of a self-help guide, though. TheToyota Wayis a philosophy, and ultimately should translate into an organisational culture rather than a set of rules and protocols. It is an approach that requires a specific kind of leadership.
“I worked at Toyota Tsusho for many years,” says Fortune Sibanda, who directs a programe on lean leadership at theUniversityofCape Town’s Graduate School of Business. “This is a company that is still very much rooted in Japanese culture and business practice.
“TheToyota Wayis very tangible in Toyota Tsusho. The organisational culture is very structured and disciplined, and the decision-making process is truly unique in my experience. They’ve created a system that creates thinking. And that is what lean leadership is all about.”
According to Sibanda, the lean leadership principle works for any organisation in any business and contains seven essential behaviours for leaders: know your people and business, insist on honesty, set clearly defined goals and priorities, always follow through (Plan Do Check Action), reward the doers, expand people’s capabilities, and know yourself.
“There is one great myth about this leadership technique, that it is a once-off event, a destination. Instead it is a journey of constant improvement. It is not a project. There are no formulae or textbooks. It is a philosophy; a way of being in an organisation,” she says. “Ultimately, such a philosophy needs to be embedded in the DNA of an organisation for it to be effective.”
“Lean leadership’s strongest trait is that it allows for the fastest response to a problem. A solution can be designed and implemented very quickly. Problems are solved every second, every hour of the day,” says Sibanda.
Embracing a lean culture
It is a culture that has allowedToyotato climb out of the disaster and calamity that struckJapanandThailand, and the recall scandal of 10 million defective automobiles, causing the company to lose their lead above their competitors. Forecasts suggest thatToyotais back on track with record group sales of 9,58 million vehicles this year.
It is a culture that is at present addressing serious issues in South African hospitals.
The Department of Health Rapid Process Improvement Workshops was a project launched in 2010 by Lean Institute Africa, commissioned by the national department of health, to test the lean approach in 18 public hospitals in ‘priority’ health districts. Overall, 336 individuals participated in the workshops, 18 of which are managers at the hosting hospitals.
The workshops targeted waiting time reduction, stock availability, patient file availability, cleanliness, patient flow, infection control, waste segregation, theatre improvement, equipment repair, month end data capture, and emergency response times.
“The results were staggering, with marked improvements experienced throughout. And delegates were overwhelmingly in support of the general Lean approach with almost 70% of the hospitals sustaining the improvements,” says Professor Norman Faull, Director of Lean InstituteAfrica. Evidently, Jobs’ focus and simplicity, and the very similarToyota Way, can be applied to sectors other than private business where innovation is aimed at social good.
Although Jobs never referred to his leadership style as “lean,” the overlaps are obvious. The common denominator is the constant effort to cut the fat and look for, in Jobs’ words, “elegant solutions.”
Toyotaand Apple constantly innovate at the forefront of technology: Apple has just given the world the sleek and updated iPad andToyotarecently launched its incredible FT 86. Due to a leadership approach that unclogs the arteries of innovation, these companies are likely to endure for years to come, unlike those still struggling with clots of waste, bureaucracy and visionless leadership.
The Lean Leadership programme
The Lean Leadership programme at the UCT GSB runs from 7 – 9 May. For more information please contact Iona Gutuza on +27 (0)21 406 1368 or visit www.gsb.uct.ac.za/leanleadership
AlphaCode Awards R16 Million To Fintech Start-ups In One Of SA’s Richest Start-up Initiatives
This R2 million scale up accelerator offers mentorship, expert guidance and support services to help these more established businesses to scale and create jobs.
Last night, Rand Merchant Investment Holding (RMI), through AlphaCode, awarded entrepreneurial packages valued at R16 million to eight of South Africa’s most promising financial services start-ups. The entrepreneurial packages consist of R1 million in grant funding and R1 million in support, which includes mentorship, monthly expert-led sessions, exclusive office space in Sandton, marketing, legal and other business support services as well as access to the broader RMI network.
The AlphaCode Incubate initiative, in partnership with Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings, identifies South African financial services entrepreneurs with extraordinary ideas and businesses that could impact the financial services industry. More than 200 start-ups applied to participate. Of these, sixteen made it to final pitch evening and eight recipients were selected.
The eight winning businesses are:
|Akiba Digital||A gamified mobile app making it easier and more rewarding to set, manage and meet savings goals.||Tebogo Mokwena and Kamogelo Kekana||https://bit.ly/2yOjYoX
|ISpani Group||Provides access for insurers into traditionally under insured communities through prepaid vouchers and USSD sold by a network of spaza shop vendors.||Prince Nwadeyi, Khathazile Moroe, Patrick Machekera and Louis Buys||https://bit.ly/2CrgbkE
|Jamii||De-risks tenant rent default through offering tenants incentive-based discounts on food and transport and bolt-on retrenchment cover.||Adrian Taylor, Marc Maasdorp and Bartek Dutkowski||https://bit.ly/2ytdc8F
|Nisa Finance||An invoice financing platform that enables financiers to issue invoice-backed loans to SMEs quickly and affordably by fully-automating the application and invoice verification through ERP system integration.||Thando Hlongwane, Tekane Ledimo and Sinqobile Mashalaba||https://bit.ly/2yptcIW
|Pago||A low cost mobile micro payments platform for the informal sector to enable an inclusive economy by digitising remittances through the use of blockchain technology.||Philip Mngadi and Noel Lynch||https://bit.ly/2S1QKvn
|Prospa||A mobile savings wallet for low-income earning South Africans that makes it easy to save small amounts infrequently using prepaid vouchers.||Dhanyal Davidson and Carl Ngwenya||https://bit.ly/2JbwbJf
|SELFsure||Enables millennials to significantly reduce car insurance premiums by self-insuring part of the risk via peer to peer lending.||Proud Chitumba, Amos Mugova and Tshepiso Shamane||https://bit.ly/2J6HVfV
|Yalu||A self-service credit life insurance platform which replaces a customer’s current policy with a more affordable, simpler and rewarding policy.||Nkazi Sokhulu, Tlalane Ntuli, Steve Goeieman and Life Mhlanga||https://bit.ly/2PH87QF
The programme has disbursed R13 million in funding to 15 black-owned financial services businesses since it began three years ago. “Some have experienced exponential growth and we have been amazed at the level of traction they have received locally and internationally. The intention behind AlphaCode’s Explore, Incubate and Accelerate programmes is for RMI to discover the next OUTsurance or Discovery; we want to identify, partner and grow the future of financial services in South Africa,” says Dominique Collett, head of AlphaCode and a RMI senior investments executive.
During the event, contestants had just three minutes to pitch their businesses, with a couple of minutes set aside for questions from a formidable panel of judges. These included Phuti Mahanyele, CEO of Sigma Capital; Raymond Ndlovu, investment executive, Remgro; Nakedi Ramaphakela, finance director, Royal Bafokeng Holdings; Anthony Knox, MD Investment Banking of Merrill Lynch South Africa and Dominique Collett.
Julie Benadie, regional executive of Operations and Corporate Affairs at Merrill Lynch explained: “We believe in supporting disruptive ideas so that creative fintech solutions will emerge to address the challenges that South Africa faces. We want South Africa to become a fintech centre of excellence with its already advanced financial services infrastructure.”
The AlphaCode Incubate programme deals with common challenges that financial services startups face. All participants are early stage businesses, under two years old and at least 51% owned by black South Africans.
“AlphaCode is also now also seeking additional fintech entrepreneurs for our Explore programme. This offers a 12-month data science and business skills programme for 20 aspirant South African fintech entrepreneurs in conjunction with The Explore Data Science Academy,” Collett added.
Candidates will go through an intensive six-month data science-training programme, where they will learn how to design a 10X business along with the core digital skills needed to build a fintech organisation. This will be followed by three-months of business skills training. Interested fintech entrepreneurs should apply at www.alphacode-explore10x.club by 30 October 2018.”
In addition, AlphaCode recently selected four more established fintech businesses for its Accelerate programme: Entersekt, Livestock Wealth, Click2Sure and Invoice Worx. This R2 million scale up accelerator offers mentorship, expert guidance and support services to help these more established businesses to scale and create jobs.
The Sky Is The Limit For South Africa’s Top Women Achievers
High-powered women achievers from across the private and public sectors, academia and diplomatic spheres gathered for a charged two-day conference in Johannesburg this week to share experiences about empowerment, achievement and the role that women are destined to play in a competitive global environment.
Several hundred women attended the 15th Annual Standard Bank Top Women Conference which, with the Top Women Awards, has become one of the premier events for women on the national calendar. The objective of the gathering at the Maslow Hotel on the 17th and 18th of October, was to showcase the achievements of South African women and reignite their passion as they have major roles to play in all arenas of endeavour, says Ethel Nyembe, head of Card Issuing at Standard Bank.
“The delegates to the Top Women Conference were inspired by speakers such as Yvonne Chaka Chaka, singer, songwriter and an entrepreneur in her own right; Phuti Mahanyele, executive chair of Sigma Capital, a black-owned investment group, and political and academic stalwart Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, now Chancellor of Nelson Mandela University and other women who are playing leading roles in many of the nation’s listed blue-chip corporations.”
“The overall message is that women are playing a central role in growing all facets of our economy and are helping to build a future from which other women can benefit and, in turn, inspire others. Women, regardless of whether they are entertainment icons, professionals engaged in helping shape the minds of future generations, businesswomen or scientists are part of building a new global reality.”
To inspire delegates about the breadth and depth of the future for women, the conference examined all facets of economic life from the impact that IT and scientific research is having on building businesses, through to the development of entrepreneurs and leadership skills. Insights were offered through the contributions of speakers and roundtable panel discussions in which leading women offered observations and advice gathered from their vast experience.
“Standard Bank is proud of the role it has played in enabling women achievers to reach their full potential within its ranks. The bank also recognises that women across society have a broad role to play in the future of South Africa. It is through support for events like the Top Women Awards and the Top Women Conference that this approach is made visible and tangible.”
“We expect this year’s conference deliberations to deliver insights and inspiration that will not only spur established women to new heights of achievement, but also stimulate young women starting new careers,” says Ms Nyembe.
The Ins And Outs Of A Good Exit Strategy
The thought of parting with a business you’ve grown from the ground up may be unsettling, but Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that it is better for both your business and yourself to plan for this as early as possible.
“The challenge that business owners often face in this respect is comparable to the difficulty that many new parents have with imagining their children grown up and leaving for university. Imagine, however, if parents did not plan ahead for the cost of their education – that would be detrimental to the future of their children. The same could be the case for your business.”
Mjadu says that a good exit strategy is about sustainability and being able to measure your business performance against the goals you have set for it. “It’s really about being able to say, ‘this is when the work is done and I can exit the business or take on a different role – this is what success looks like in terms of monetary return on investment and other business growth indicators’.
“The lack of an exit strategy could be telling of a fundamental lack of measurable business goals and this needs to be addressed,” she says.
From immediate liquidation to liquidation over time; family succession; selling to staff or external investors; the open market or another business; or the gruelling but profitable exercise of taking your company public – there are many different ways in which an entrepreneur can exit their business, but Mjadu says that whatever the process, a strong and solid strategy is essential.
She shares five key points of a good exit strategy:
1. It tells you when you are done
Mjadu says that a good exit strategy should reflect a core understanding of all the intricacies of your business and should be able to tell you when the lifecycle of your business (or of your involvement in the business) should come to an end. This is usually done by including a set of tangible measurables or objectives so that it is easy to ascertain when these have been achieved.
2. It sets out the right environment within which to exit
A good exit strategy considers the economic, social and political environment at the time of your exit. Mjadu says that this is important in order to plan for a secure financial future.
“Failure to think about this could result in short-changing yourself by exiting during a tough economic climate when the risk to buyers reduces the value of your business.”
She references the case of Victoria’s Secret when founder, Roy Raymond, sold the failing business for $1m unknowing that it would later grow into the multi-billion dollar empire it is now. “While Raymond’s exit was ultimately necessary for Victoria’s Secret’s growth, he sold it in 1982 during the global recession of the early eighties – one of the world’s biggest financial crises and this influenced the selling price at his exit”.
3. It compensates those who have contributed to the life of your business
It is important to consider the impact your exit could have on investors and staff, says Mjadu. “Closing shop for example, means that your staff no longer have employment at your business. Selling could mean the same.” She adds that it is important to consider ways in which your exit could also benefit these stakeholders – for example, selling to a bigger business could mean more career opportunities for your staff, as well as continued job security.
4. It compensates you
Mjadu says that entrepreneurs often struggle to recognise their own true worth, especially when this involves attaching a monetary value to what has been achieved. “The time of exiting a business is no place to short-change yourself. You need to get out the full worth of what you put in,” she says, explaining that this means ensuring that you are financially secure before and while you go into your next venture.
“Your needs for retirement and medical insurance, as well as the maintenance of your living standard, should be met at your exit.”
5. It sustains your entrepreneurial drive
Mjadu says that while you may be nearing the end of one journey, your exit should enable and encourage you to continue to be an entrepreneur – and to look forward to the next journey. “Your entrepreneurial skills and capacity do not end when you exit your business and whatever your strategy, it should egg you on to more entrepreneurial activity including becoming a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs.”
Mjadu says that exiting your business should allow you a good retrospective look at what you have done over the years – and so planning the strategy early on in your business lifecycle will set you up in regards to what you hope to achieve. “Upon exit, you should be able to say that you have done what you set out to do, financially and socially, and you have some energy left to do more elsewhere.”
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