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
Africa’s Top 10 Tech Start-Ups Selected For #Africa4Future Accelerator Programme
Airbus and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have announced the top 10 African tech start-ups that will take part in the latest Airbus Bizlab #Africa4Future accelerator programme. They were selected after an open public pitch event in front of experts, potential investors, the media and other stakeholders in Kenya’s capital city.
#Africa4Future is a joint business accelerator initiative of Airbus and GIZ’s Make-IT in Africa initiative together with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), a non-profit seed fund and pan-African organisation that brings together startups, entrepreneurs and the tech community, and Innocircle, the South African-based innovation consultancy.
The top 10 start-ups were selected from 314 entries representing 19 African countries that were received when the challenge was opened last October. These were assessed by a panel of Airbus and other independent experts.
The programme aims to encourage and support entrepreneurship in Africa. The continent’s young and increasingly techno-savvy population is likely to be the driving force behind Africa’s socio-economic development. The competition identifies Africa’s own pool of talented entrepreneurs using innovative aerospace based solutions to tackle the continent’s most pressing challenges such as transportation, agriculture and healthcare.
As a global aerospace accelerator, Airbus BizLab is ideally suited to help African startups transform innovative ideas into viable and valuable businesses. In doing so, it increases the aerospace industry’s engagement with hardware and software innovators and entrepreneurs in Africa while helping to nurture the establishment of competitive entrepreneurial ecosystems on the continent.
The Nairobi event kicks off an intensive 6-month business incubation and accelerator programme involving technical, commercial and mentorship activities in France, Germany and South Africa. This includes workshops and coaching sessions with Airbus experts, GIZ’s Make-IT in Africa, MEST and Innocircle coaches.
The programme will culminate with Demo Day events at the biennial Paris International Airshow and a special event in Germany from 19-26 June, when finalists will launch their products, define their collaboration with Airbus and announce their investment commitments in front of representatives from across the aerospace industry.
1. Astral Aerial (Kenya) – using drones for humanitarian cargo transport, surveillance and emergency response.
2. Cote d’Ivoire drone (Ivory Coast) – locally-manufactured drones for various applications.
3. Elemental Numerics (South Africa) – applies computational fluid dynamics techniques to the design of machines and components, ranging from aircraft to heart valves.
4. Lentera Limited (Kenya) – applying remote sensors to monitor and transmit environmental data to enable more efficient and smarter farming.
5. Maisha ICT Tech PLC (Ethiopia) – deploying locally built drones for delivering medicines, blood and healthcare items to remote and rural areas.
6. MamaBird (Malawi) – provides a platform to help Governments, NGOs and other organisations deliver vital life-saving supplies to remote communities.
7. Map Action (Mali) – a solution offering real-time online urban mapping to identify problems affecting water supplies, hygiene and sanitation.
8. MobiTech Water Solutions (Kenya) – an online real-time water monitoring solution that allows businesses, homes and water-service providers to manage their available water using an app-based dashboard and instant messaging.
9. Track Your Build (Nigeria) – a novel infrastructure management tool for construction and operations.
10.WiPo Wireless Power (South Africa) – offers reliable and convenient wireless power chargers for businesses, conference centres, airports, restaurants and other venues for the charging of mobile devices, laptops and drones.
Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up Success
Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019
“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.
“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”
The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.
“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.
Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”
He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.
“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.
“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.
In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.
Data and information technology
Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.
“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.”
It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.
Herman Mashaba To Talk On City Of Jo’burg Job Creation Initiative
Herman Mashaba to talk on City of Jo’burg job creation initiative at 2019 Business Day TV SME Summit.
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