Category Archives: BCom

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Inge Le Grange

Take a positive view of health and safety for a change

Why do companies’ employees and management not always do what they are supposed to do – make the areas they work in safe and risk-free as required by legislation and to improve the work environment? Why do they take shortcuts that pose a safety or health risk? 

This dilemma had been troubling Inge Le Grange for quite a while. So when the time came to choose a topic for her work-based challenge as part of her BCom studies through The Da Vinci Institute, it was a natural choice. The specific question she wanted to answer was: is the active participation of employees and management essential for maintaining an effective safety, health and environment (SHE) management system?

“I chose this topic because, in working with different clients, I’ve noticed that employees and management aren’t always as engaged as they could be about SHE management,” says Le Grange, a SHE consultant at Total Risk Advisory Consulting (TRAC). “When things are not done the way they should be done, all kinds of things can go wrong. I wanted to find out how I can convince people to do the right things.”

Le Grange started her work-based challenge by reading everything she could about human behaviour in relation to health and safety.

“I read information from all over the world… Europe, the United States, Australia… and it all talked about the importance of getting directors, line management and employees involved if you want to maintain an effective SHE system.”
From negative to positive

Next, Le Grange held in-depth interviews with TRAC colleagues working with various clients. These interviews revealed interesting insights about the way people tend to view SHE matters.

“Employees often worry about getting into trouble if they report a deviation from the standards, even if it’s very minor. That’s the backwards-looking view, which says, ‘you are wrong and will be punished’. We need to move to a forward-looking view where the focus is, ‘let’s fix it’. Reporting should be seen in a positive light and positive reinforcement needs to be introduced.”

An example is the so-called incident/non-conformance report that must be completed when there is any non-conformance with SHE standards, even a light bulb that needs replacing. When any deviation at all occurs, a report must be completed and investigation done.

Degrees of severity

“Something like a light not working is very small, and could be closed on the spot, without doing a whole investigation,” Le Grange says. “On the other hand, an incident or injury must always be fully investigated to see what caused the non-conformance. There are degrees of severity. I felt the reporting process could be simplified and streamlined to distinguish between the different degrees of severity.”

With this in mind, she designed two different templates, one for reporting very minor issues that can be dealt with immediately, and the other for SHE issues that warrant follow-up and investigation.

Separating the two types could help dispel the notion that SHE reporting goes hand in hand with “getting into trouble”. That could, in turn, encourage employees and management to take a more active approach towards SHE management.


Le Grange has received the green light from TRAC to implement recommendations from her work-based challenge. “The company did an audit in June 2017 and one of the audit findings was that my recommendations should be put into action for implementation!”

Although she has already completed and passed her challenge, she is still coming up with more ideas to turn negative SHE perceptions into positive ones. “Perhaps a gold-star system…,” she muses.

Watch this space.

Nosipho’s challenge is to get everyone on board for internal audit findings

Nosipho’s challenge is to get everyone on board for internal audit findings

While company boards and senior executives generally understand the critical role internal audit plays in promoting good governance that does not mean everyone else always does. If Nosipho Kabeni had her way, everybody at Transnet Freight Rail would be fully on board in appreciating the value that internal audit adds.

“People don’t always understand that when we don’t close internal audit findings quickly and effectively, the consequences can be very serious for our revenue, reputation and certification,” says Kabeni. “For instance, if the external auditors come in and find an unresolved audit issue around quality, we could lose our ISO certification.”

Although she no longer works in internal audit, having moved on to Integrated Management Systems at Transnet Freight Rail, Kabeni retains a keen interest in the field and a firm believer in its business-critical nature. So when the time came to choose a topic for her work-based challenge as part of her BCom degree in Risk Management through Da Vinci, internal audit sprang to mind.

Seeking answers to niggling questions

“It has always niggled at me that people struggle to close internal audit findings timeously and effectively, and I wanted to find out why and come up with ways to change that,” says Kabeni, who originally trained as an analytical chemist and worked in a laboratory.

Targeting all six-business units of Transnet Freight Rail, Kabeni conducted an electronic survey among line managers, administrators and specialists. “I sent out 50 questionnaires and received 35 back,” she says, adding that the best response was from the administrative group, who load the findings of internal audits, followed by specialists who conduct audits. Line managers had the lowest response rate.

Her findings revealed a lack of enthusiasm among some line managers when it came to audits and audit findings affecting their business units. “They referred to heavy workloads and felt they are here to do transport; audits are not seen as core to their business,” she says. “Some said there are too many audits, while others said audit reports were full of jargon and were not written in a way that is understandable.”

A big problem that she identified was the “silo mentality”, especially when audit findings had to be addressed through inter-divisional collaboration.

Value of training and communication

Most of Kabeni’s recommendations for addressing the shortcomings revolved around training and raising awareness, particularly among line managers. She also recommended improving the simplicity and clarity of audit reports and involving line managers in the timing of audits so that these would not be conducted in their busiest periods.

Finally, she suggested that line managers’ performance in closing audit findings timeously and effectively be assessed as part of their annual performance reviews. Admittedly, this would not be easy to achieve. “We would need to put together a robust business case first,” she says, adding that she is still pondering how to take the findings of her challenge further. 

One thing she does know is this: she has a much better understanding of Transnet Freight Rail’s business than before. “My BCom studies and work-based challenge have helped me understand the culture and organisational dynamics, and also how to engage and relate to people. It takes an effort to work and study, but is definitely worth it.” 

Andries Agenbag shares his Work Based Challenge with us

How to make lighter work of a heavy load

Transporting a heavy load such as a 625-ton ship or lifting a 1 200-ton conveyor belt structure is no mean feat but lighter work can be made of it through integration and teamwork. That was Andries Agenbag’s thinking when he set out on a journey unlike any he’d embarked on before: his work-based challenge for his BCom degree in Operational Risk Management.

Like every qualification from The Da Vinci Institute, relevance to the workplace is essential. So Agenbag chose to tackle a problem that had troubled him for quite some time: the need for greater operational integration at Vanguard Rigging (Pty) Ltd, specialists in heavy lifting and abnormal load transportation.

“When planning a big lift or transportation move, there are two key components – the lifting machinery element and engineering element, on the one hand, and safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) on the other,” he says. “But, having served on a lot of SHEQ and engineering committees, I have seen that the two areas don’t speak the same language.”

The language of SHEQ is legal compliance; the language of engineering is technical. When the two are out of step, planning big lifts or transportation moves take longer and can be more complicated than necessary.

As SHEQ Manager at Vanguard Rigging (Pty) Ltd, Agenbag had noticed this and been trying to figure out what could be done about it. He had even gone so far as to complete a Lifting Machinery Inspection course and registration process with the Engineering Council of South Africa, ensuring that he understood the language his engineering colleagues were speaking. “The problem was that I didn’t really know where I was going with this.”

Finding direction

His BCom studies and specifically the requirement that he do a work-based challenge put an end to that uncertainty. “Through my challenge, I gained a proper sense of direction. My BCom gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to define the exact steps I needed to take towards operational integration.”

Agenbag’s chosen topic was an “assessment of the impact of non-integrated operational systems on service levels”. He began with a literature review and extensive consultation with subject matter experts in the SHEQ, engineering and lifting machinery sectors.

“The feedback from 80% of subject matter experts was that it is possible and preferable to run SHEQ and the engineering side as one. One of the biggest benefits of working together is the time saved on planning, and greater efficiency and effectiveness.”

After presenting his findings to the company’s board of directors, he received the green light to formulate and implement an action plan to make operational integration a reality. This included developing a software package to support integration and appointing auditors to conduct a gap analysis and identify risks.

The implementation of Agenbag’s action plan is underway, and he is confident that the company will reap the benefits of operational integration. “My BCom made it happen. The idea was there but I didn’t know how to put that into practice. My studies opened it up for me.”

Michael is a mine of information on safety at the coalface

Michael Madonsela is the kind of safety officer who is willing to roll up his sleeves and work at the coalface – literally.

When he was elected and qualified as a mine health and safety representative 14 years ago, he looked at the two short-term diplomas he had earned and decided he wasn’t satisfied. “I wanted to broaden my knowledge of mine operations.”
So he qualified as a miner.

After three years at the coalface underground, with blasting certificate in hand, Madonsela went back to the safety environment – where his true passion lay – with a deep understanding of coal mining.

His hunger for knowledge and broader horizons was still not satisfied, though. “I enrolled for a National Diploma in Safety at Unisa and then met Chanel Swart, a Marketing and Sales Manager of ERCA, who recommended the Da Vinci Institute.” He enrolled for a BCom degree in 2014.

For his work-based challenge, mine safety was a natural choice of topic for Madonsela, who is now chief safety officer at Kanga Coal’s mine in Ermelo, Mpumalanga.

Why do people take risks?

His focus was on safety hazards associated with what is known as the “Continuous Miner”, a machine operated by remote control and used to cut coal from the coalface underground.

“Statistics showed quite a few operators were getting injured,” he says. “Investigations showed that some of the injuries were due to at-risk behaviour by the operators and I wondered why. What causes people to take risks?”

His starting point was to go through all the accident investigation reports. “I then went to observe machine operators underground and also interviewed those operators.”

Getting to the root of problems

He soon identified several problems. One was that visibility underground was sometimes so poor that machine operators could not see the exact positions of the Continuous Miner machine and the shuttle cars (vehicles used to load cut coal from the Continuous Miner onto conveyor belts). That could make it difficult for them to navigate the machines accurately, sometimes exposing themselves to hazards that may result in injury.

A related problem was operators misjudging their own proximity to the machines and the mine’s sidewalls, sometimes finding themselves caught between the two.
Another problem was when machine operators went into areas where coal had been freshly cut but the roof was not yet properly supported.

It also transpired that some, more experienced operators were taking risks because they were so familiar with the job they were cutting corners.

“It was a combination of conditions and human error,” says Madonsela, who then came up with concrete recommendations for preventing Continuous Miner-related accidents as far as possible.

Coming up with solutions

His recommendations included installing reflective sticks to demarcate areas considered dangerous for operators, installing ducting to clear dust and keep air flowing to improve visibility, and improving communication between machine operators, especially by using sign language (given noisy underground conditions).
“We also send out a weekly bulletin to inform employees about not only the latest safety issues but to raise awareness as well,” says Madonsela.

He graduates with his BCom degree in September 2017. “I’d like to say thank you to Da Vinci because my studies have helped me a lot with understanding operations. When I started my studies, I didn’t know what to expect but I have received quite a lot of support from my colleagues and management from the mine, and my lecturers have been helpful. I have learned a lot.”

Do you know what qualifications Da Vinci offer?

Da Vinci’s academic programme offerings 




PhD programme

In the PhD programme (NQF Level 10), aimed at senior managers and executives, candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to develop new concepts that will significantly improve their organisations and the social system at large.
Masters programme
The MSc programme (NQF Level 9), is based both on modular work and a dissertation. Candidates are expected to utilise their newly acquired knowledge and skills related to the Management of Technology, Innovation, People and Systems to solve a work-related challenge.
Bachelor’s programme
The Bachelor of Commerce (Business Management) degree (NQF Level 7), expects candidates to gain an understanding of their own working environment and identify performance challenges facing their own organisations and create solutions to solve these challenges.
Diploma programme
The Diploma programme (NQF Level 6), is aimed at developing people who have been earmarked for middle management positions within their organisation. Candidates are provided with the basic concepts relating to the Management of Technology, Innovation, People and Systems. They are also required to complete a research project as part of their programme.
Certificate programme
The Certificate programme (NQF Level 5), is aimed at developing people who have been earmarked for junior management positions within their organisation. Candidates are provided with the basic concepts relating to the Management of Technology, Innovation, People and Systems.
For more information on any of these programmes, email info@davinci.ac.za or phone 011 608 1331

Second group of BCom Supply Chain students start their journey

On the second of June 2015, nineteen individuals from various companies within the courier industry entered the Da Vinci Institute, situated in Modderfontein. With a clear purpose and intention to journey on a road of co-creation and life-long learning, the energy within Da Vinci escalated as the excitement and nerves started to filter. 

The Da Vinci welcoming was orchestrated by Thrishan Naicker, Key Account Manager for the BCom Supply Chain cohorts. Garry Marshall, CEO of SAEPA addressed the students with encouraging and inspiring words. Marshall stated that gone are the days of old when people with just experience and no formal qualifications operate within the Supply Chain industry. The future of the courier industry is dependant on allowing passionate individuals to learn but also to focus importance on the application of such. 


Dr Linda Chipunza carries out personalised student support for all students and in her gentle character, encouraged students to find that balance within their own lives in how to effectively manage work pressures, home life and that of a study routine. As working adults it is often hard to take on an additional task of studying, and this is commendable and achievable. Dr Chipunza relayed her support to the students and also advised them of Shadowmatch, which is a behavourial pattern tool to establish various behaviours which allow positive action, rather than negative.


Ronald Mlalazi is a Da Vinci associate and is a colleague at Commerce Edge, procurement and supply chain management faculty at Da Vinci. Mr Mlalazi congratulated students for having the courage to take the first step on this journey and offered words of wisdom in accomplishing this great achievement.


The first workshop for students was facilitated by Mr Joshua Bhengu and consisted of Self, Other and Social Context (SOS), Problem Solving, Creative thinking and decision making (PCD) and Managerial Leadership Development (MLD). True to Da Vinci’s purpose is the notion of cultivating managerial leaders, of which these three modules apply strongly to. Each one of these nineteen individuals are a managerial leader within themselves and the co-creation of such modules assists in unlocking and unleashing the very potential to become a great managerial leader.

Students start their journey within Sales Process and Management

On Tuesday morning, the 26th of May, twenty one students arrived as part of the new group for the Metro Minds Certificate programme which is applied to the Sales Process and Management Environment. The students are from different companies within the courier industry and the initial development of this qualification was done in association with SAEPA (South African Express Parcel Association), a Task Team from SAAFF (South African Association of Freight Forwarders) and The Da Vinci Institute as the accrediting body. The sponsorship from TETA through the TETA Discretionary Grants: Bursaries has assisted in the implementation of this project.

Piloted in January 2014, the programme has successfully seen two cohorts or groups of students complete their studies. Says Garry Marshall, CEO SAEPA “our members have seen the benefit of developing their sales staff into more than just sales people. They are developing Supply Chain Specialists who are able to provide best solutions to clients thereby becoming a strategic partner in their customer’s businesses.”

“The purpose of this Qualification”, says Belinda Goddard, Project Manager at Da Vinci, “is also to produce lifelong students who are equipped to contribute towards the debate on socio-economic transformation and managerial leadership development in South Africa. This purpose seeks to transform individuals, organisations (public and private, including self-owned businesses) and the community at large, dealing with managerial leadership development challenges such as the management of technology, the management of innovation, the management of people and the management of systems, from a Sales Process and Management Environment perspective.”

The 12 month programme will include core modules such as the management of technology and innovation delivered by The Da Vinci Institute as well as The Art of Selling & Presentations, Sales Finance and Supply Chain Value which is facilitated by Juliette Fourie, CEO at Metro Minds. Students will be required to attend workshops once a month at The Da Vinci Institute in Modderfontein. Assignments are workplace based assignments and require involvement from companies, mentors and managers within the respective companies. Learners will be required to meet the exit level outcomes with the related critical cross-field outcomes through integrated submissions on post-module assignments.

“SAEPA would like to thank all parties involved in making this project a reality – a special word of thanks to Tony d’Almeida and the SAAFF team for having the vision of this programme and driving the project to where it is today. We look forward to reporting many successes through our learners at the end of this programme and thank our members for participating in this project with us”, said Martine Maraschin, Skills Development Task Team of SAEPA.