Category Archives: managerial leadership

Can Leadership be Learned?

Published on May 13, 2019 – Roberta Chinsky Matuson, Strategic Advisor | Consultant | Executive Coach | Public Speaker | Talent Maximizer®

Note: This article is part of a pilot series that I’m participating in for LinkedIn. Hit the subscribe button and you’ll receive a notification when my weekly posts goes live.

Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a full-page story on a course for undergrads: How to Be a Boss 101. Launched in January, “How to Be the Boss” is full of practical lessons aimed at building better managers. What’s interesting to note is that this course is focused on undergraduates, as opposed to graduate students who often have work experience. This move is intentional.

The professor of this course, Peter Cappelli and others in the business world have picked up on a trend, that I too noted. As more young people graduate and move into jobs at technology companies and consulting firms, they are finding themselves suddenly in charge. This situation will become even more common, as organizations fight to survive in one of the worst talent crunches in history. Those who show up for work on time and have decent communications skills will be anointed leader. Scary, right? You bet!

Comments were immediately posted on the WSJ inferring that a school like UPenn Wharton School of Business has lost their mind (and their edge) by teaching such nonsense, while I applauded Wharton’s bold move.

Like many of today’s newly minted managers, I too was suddenly in charge. At the age of 24, I was tossed into a leadership role with little more than a prayer. I did a ton of damage along the way, that may have been avoided had leadership been taught at the undergrad level where I attended school.

Here’s why I believe leadership should be taught at every college and university and in every major.

  1. If people knew how hard it is to lead, they’d think twice before accepting a leadership role. That’s a good thing, as not everyone is cut out to be a leader.
  2. You can never be too educated in terms of leadership. Learning this at a young age will help to inspire tomorrow’s leaders to be lifetime learners.
  3. People might stop giving their leaders such a hard time, if they had a better sense of how difficult it is to be a manager. This would result in more peaceful and productive workplaces.
  4. People quit their bosses. If there were better bosses in the workplace, more employees would stick around. Employee turnover costs organizations a ton of money. Don’t believe me? 

It may be too late for many, who’ve attended college, to participate in a class like this. And if we’re being realistic here, not everyone can get in or afford to attend a school like Wharton.

Luckily there are other ways to acquire this knowledge. Read books on this topic (you might find my book, Suddenly in Charge to be of interest) or articles like this one to bolster your understanding. Make it a point to attend a few leadership tracks at the next conference you visit. Find a coach or a mentor to guide you through the everyday realities of leading at work.

Leadership is a skill that can be learned. If I can do it, so can you!

© 2019, Matuson Consulting.


Da Vinci @ Work: How Lenard finally found his voice

Meeting him today, it’s difficult to believe that an articulate, friendly person like Lenard Strydom was once shy and introverted and something of a loner within his working career. It’s true, he insists. “A couple of years ago, I was very insecure and scared to interact with people. I had a huge lack of self-confidence.”
Lenard compares his transformation from timid to self-assured to a homeless dog (Thor) that is adopted into a happy family. In fact, that was the analogy he used at his oral defence in February 2018, when he explained to a Da Vinci Institute panel what his BCom Operational Risk Management studies had done for him.
“That dog represented me: skinny, scared and without a voice. Then, through four specific modules and the mentoring I received, I found my voice.”
The four modules that changed Lenard’s life within business were Business Management, Professional Writing Skills, Systems Management and Innovation Management. “Those four modules were new to me, and they taught me a lot,” says Lenard.
Aiding his transformation was the mentoring he received from Da Vinci and his executive manager at his employer, Macsteel. “I never thought I’d be capable of studying for a BCom degree, but those four modules and the mentoring from Nival Porun and Da Vinci were a recipe for success.”
As he grew in confidence, new career horizons opened up for Lenard, who had started his working life as an operator at a steel mill and is now National Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Manager at Macsteel Service Centre SA.
Lenard received the news on 8 February this year that he had successfully completed his work-based challenge and completed his BCom degree.
“Three years later, I’ve finished! This degree gave me skills and knowledge and so much more, and I’ll never stop studying now. But it was the toughest challenge in my entire life, trying to balance work, home, family – a new baby – and my studies.”
When the going got tough, what kept Lenard motivated were his wife, Liechen, and his baby son Ulrich. “My wife would talk sense into me and I would see my son; they are my support structure. I want my wife to be proud of me as a husband and my son to look up to me as a father. That pushed me to complete, and I am so happy that I did,” he says.

“To achieve greatness, you need to believe in yourself, be consistent and disciplined day after day, month after month, and year after year. Never give up; never.”

Left: Lenard Strydom, BCom student, Right: Mark Fuller, Da Vinci Lecturer

Top Organisations Manage for Growth

Top Organisations Manage for Growth
By Henra Mayer
The world is changing quicker than you can say, Flash Gordon, we talk about Moore’s Law, the role of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) Big Data, Digitisation, Disruptive Business Modelling and then throw into the mix other specifics like FinTech, the potential of the Blockchain and the sharing economy, to name but a few. It’s a jungle out there. Managing the ambidextrous organisation and balancing the demands of the business of today with the business of tomorrow is a skill. Strategic thinking needs to be elevated to the next level, aligned and resourced to focus on driving innovation results. This is a leadership responsibility and in order to benefit fully from the evolving central role of innovation, management must become more responsible for innovation output, and put in place tactical strategies to give it legs. If strategic intent for innovation is not visible, it will go nowhere and innovation results will continue to be just as undetectable. [1]
CEO’s have undeniably turned to innovation in order to address the organisational changes necessary to grow in the future, yet they also feel their organisations are really bad at it. The reason we bother with innovation in the first place is to change the status quo, yet innovation programmes fail more often than they succeed.

Why innovation programmes fail

The process to get ideas to market will differ from organisation to organisation but most challenges in this regard are universal. Think lack of resources, not sufficient budget, inappropriate strategic attention or not enough time to get to innovation as well.
Many organisations talk about innovation with authority, but when it comes to considering a well-defined approach that enables innovation as a strategic lever, talk is often cheap. Getting innovation right requires a demystification of the concept and a seriousness about getting to market, and none of this will happen without doing the groundwork first. Innovation capability, in essence, includes a consideration of the following enablers:
  • Leadership and management – to ensure intent, focus and strategic enablement
  • Organisational structuring– where the organisation puts in place the required processes and structures to support innovation
  • Culture building – a focus on people and building of cultural DNA to make it happen in a sustainable manner
  • Implementation and measurement – getting ideas implemented and tracking returns
  • Effective collaboration – effectively supporting collaboration efforts in various stages of the innovation lifecycle, both internal and external to the organisation


When any of the above activities gets left behind, innovation is stunted and returns are left to chance. But there is more that can be done to increase innovation’s survival rate over the long run.

 Process and Technology

Tools can help you get to implementation faster
Technology and the power it represents opens a new world of potential all around. It is often difficult to navigate this ever-changing landscape but it is necessary to do so with an open mind. Today’s leaders have a myriad of options. Decision-making must consider fit-for-purpose tools in support of strategic objectives, the streamlining of processes and ever-changing requirements that requires flexibility. The focus is on enablement by means of strengthening organisational technological capability and driving results. Technology enables efficient processes and for innovation to flourish a finely tuned, transparent innovation process is necessary. Consider idea flow, internal as well as external participation, engagement, gamification, teams and the issue of effective collaboration.


The competitive advantage is effective teams that bring projects to market.
Ideas are just that. Innovation success will depend on your ability to harness the power of people to bring those ideas to market in a feasible way. Organisations good at innovation knows that it must come from various sources, that it depends on diverse teams, internal as well as external to the organisation. They understand that this will lead to an outcome where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Innovation happens at the periphery, thinking in isolation will not yield the same results.  
Although the world of business constantly talks about innovation and disruption – the challenge of doing this successfully is often not linked to a shortage of ideas. It is about getting the good ideas to market and doing so consistently.

Looking back to look forward

It is important for organisations to look back at the past, in order to learn from mistakes and capitalise on learnings. In order to remain relevant and stay ahead of the curve, it is also essential to understand what needs to be done today in order to prepare for tomorrow. No one has a crystal ball to predict what will happen next but future foresight is essential for organisations in the fight for relevance. Many companies, once having become dominant in their industries, lost their competitive edge and their desire and belief in the need to innovate. Think Blockbusters and Blackberry, beloved giants of industry that fell quickly and unceremoniously.


Innovation success will require a focus on doing the right things, but will also ask the organisation to consciously learn and assess. What are your core capabilities, do they still serve you and what else do you need to learn? It is important to understand the competitive forces in your environment and the trends in terms of new and emerging business models required to deal with it. Despite the time and energy required for the day-to-day operations of the business, organisations must develop the commitment and discipline to look to the future to recognize trends and ensure that they continually react and innovate.
True leaders have the ability to inspire people to great achievement. They keep their fingers on the pulse of progress and diligently lead their organisations towards the pinnacle of innovation excellence.



[1] Adapted from blogpost “Why the implementation of ideas remain a corporate struggle” – H Mayer

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.

Altron: The key is to adapt and to adapt fast

Allied Electronics Corporation Limited (Altron)

Joint winner of the 2016 Blank Canvas International Award for Sustainability
Category for large enterprises

The cloud has changed everything

These are exhilarating times for businesses which understand that what is popular in the marketplace today might be gone and forgotten tomorrow.

The business landscape, especially the electronics industry, is littered with once-successful products that are now virtually museum pieces: the pre-digital camera; tape recorders, video cassette recorders, dial-up internet, palm pilots…

Having been in business since 1965, Altron has seen and been through the electronics lifecycle enough times to know that the next wave of newness is just around the corner. You’d better be ready for it.

Right now, the current wave is all about the cloud; the internet has changed everything. But what stands out this time is the sheer speed and velocity of the change. It’s all happened extremely quickly.

In no more than a few years, the electronics industry has become highly converged and concentrated, with telecoms companies dominating and hardware companies taking strain because of the rush to the cloud.

The key is to adapt and to adapt fast

A quick look at Altron’s history since 1965, when it started up as a manufacturer of DC equipment, shows how good the group has been at shedding assets that are showing “fatigue” and acquiring fresh assets in new and growing directions.
It has been many years, for instance, since Altron washed its hands of home appliances and exited the increasingly difficult consumer cellphone market. By contrast, it has strengthened its position as a technology company with valuable intellectual property in fintech, healthtech, safety and security, not just in Africa but also in the United Kingdom, Australia and Malaysia.

Knowing when to let go and when to take on new business lines is only one of a multiplicity of factors that have converged to create Altron’s 52-year-long story… and counting.  

Here is the group’s sustainability strategy in a nutshell: Do business for longer. Do business better. Be the best in what it does. Employ the best people, develop and retain them. Improve and grow the bottom line. Anticipate risks and seize opportunities.

It seems so simple: the art is in the execution.

Altron’s Success to Managing Systems

Allied Electronics Corporation Limited (Altron)

#TT100 Winner of the 2016 Eskom Award for Excellence in the Management of Systems

Category for large enterprises

Stronger, nimbler and better, together

Going it alone is a business model that belongs in the past; the future will be built on partnerships, with five, six or sometimes more companies combining their skills and strengths to co-create the best solutions for clients.

This is the thinking at Altron – winner of no fewer than five awards in the 2016 TT100 Awards Programme – which may well be ahead of its time in moving away from the traditional “winner takes all” model of doing business.

For Altron, part of systems thinking is the ability to see the bigger picture and realise that one company cannot control it all. It means looking at how innovation can occur across companies working together, with each partner bringing their particular skills and strengths to the value chain.

This model is becoming especially important in mega-projects, such as the City of Tshwane’s broadband access and fibre initiative, where one player is extremely unlikely to have all the skills and resources a project of this scale demands. For big projects like this one, the consortium model can work well, provided everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do, is accountable for their part and keeps in mind that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Keeping track of the detail 

Just as important as seeing the bigger picture, though, is the ability to view and manage the detail. At Altron, this means having the ability to track every product across its lifecycle, from the individual electronic components that go into it on the assembly line to the finished product that is shipped off to its destination anywhere in the world.

Lifecycle management is critical because if something goes wrong, the problem can be quickly traced back and picked up. As a result, Altron manufacturing processes have a very low defect rate.

The same meticulous systems management goes into other Altron business lines, such as Netstar, which monitors 200 000 trucks and 600 000 cars at any given time. This calls for exceptional coordination across different systems, and the ability to process, analyse and make sense of masses of diverse data in real-time, ensuring that the vehicles stay on their routes, away from crime hotspots and free from the clutches of hijackers.

In the end, systems are what keeps a business one step ahead – on the roads and in the marketplace.

PFK Electronics: A sober yet passionate look at sustainability

PFK Electronics

#TT100Winner of the 2016 Award for Sustainability,
Category for large enterprises

A sober yet passionate look at sustainability

Drunk driving is a headache worldwide, which is why more and more countries are turning to alcohol ignition interlocks to keep inebriated motorists off the roads. Interestingly, quite a number of these countries are purchasing devices from a South African company, PFK Electronics.

“Our units are designed and made here in South Africa and are used predominately across North America and Europe, including countries like Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom. As an example, PFK supplies the government of Sweden, where it is legislated that motorists convicted of driving under the influence are required to use an interlock device,” says Marco Valente, Managing Director of Sales & Marketing.

The company’s range of interlock devices, branded Autowatch Interlock, provides an alcohol ignition interlock breathalyser system that will not permit a driver to start the vehicle before passing a breath sample test. Once the vehicle is moving, the unit can be configured to request breath samples to monitor the sobriety of the driver.

If a breath sample is above the legislated limit of a country or the limit set for the driver, the interlock device sends a notification via GSM communication to a control centre, where the vehicle will be immobilised as soon as the ignition is turned off. Fleet managers also use this product feature to adequately manage their risk, as well as to reward safe drivers.

Valente says PFK is passionate about proactive risk and asset management to ensure continued organisational asset and employee sustainability. 

The importance of exports

PFK’s success in global markets is impressive. Approximately 70% of its products are exported, with over three million vehicle security systems operating in the United States alone and 100 000 telematics systems in Russia. In the OEM market, international customers include Bentley, General Motors, Volkswagen, Renault France, Ford, Lotus UK, Proton Malaysia and Tesla USA. In all, PFK’s distribution network spans over 25 countries and it has sales offices in the UK and Sweden.

“Exports are key for sustainability and we are constantly on the lookout for new markets and new distribution partners,” says Valente.

In South Africa, the company contributes a massive 80% of the local car alarm, immobiliser and vehicle security aftermarket.

Some of the factors fuelling PFK’s success are its insistence on quality (its international certifications include ISO/TS 16949, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001), excellent design and manufacturing systems, and strong relationships with customers, staff and partners.

Then there is the sheer love of technology and the excitement of developing something new and different. “Over the years we’ve invested in a variety of different solutions driven more by excitement than financial gain at the time,” says Valente.

As they say in the classics: If you do what you love, the world will love what you do.

About PFK

Since opening its doors in Durban in 1985, it has grown into the largest automotive electronics manufacturing company in South Africa, with solutions that include vehicle alarm and immobiliser systems, stolen vehicle recovery, driver behaviour profiling, insurance telematics, fleet management telematics, video telematics and; under the PFK Shurlok banner, Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) approved plastics, instrument clusters, harnesses, among others, as a first and second tier OEM supplier.

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Pieter Theunissen

Change is a package deal when delivering parcels

Change is part and parcel of the courier industry, and no one knows better than Pieter Theunissen that a change in one cog of the wheel brings change in all the others too.  He saw that first-hand when RAM Hand-to-Hand Couriers switched from manual to automated processes in its parcel-handling warehouses.

“We went from a 15-step process to a nine-step process, and everything worked fine in the warehouse but we suddenly had a large increase in the number of parcels coming back undelivered,” says Theunissen, RAM’s National Distribution Centre Manager. “It was clear that the new process was having an impact on Customer Services’ ability to cope with all the parcels coming through for delivery.”

That was about three years ago, about the same time as he enrolled for his BCom studies through The Da Vinci Institute. The sudden increase in the parcel non-delivery rate made the impact of change on customer services the natural choice for the topic of Theunissen’s work-based challenge.

He started off with some research on parcel distribution and delivery rates, and then tapped into the satisfaction levels of customers, using the company’s customer satisfaction survey results. He then introduced an employee satisfaction survey to gauge employees’ feelings and attitudes towards RAM’s parcel-handling processes.

Unblocking the bottlenecks

It quickly became apparent that a lack of teamwork was one of the biggest reasons for the parcel bottlenecks; another was the need for better coordination of deliveries between customer services and customers.

“I worked with the Customer Services Manager and we changed the whole process. We introduced scanners so that we can see in real time exactly where each vehicle is and when the customer has signed for a parcel. Customer Services also started making appointments for deliveries.”

Back in the warehouse, another innovation was the introduction of cross-functional teams of 12 to 16 people. “Each team consisted of operations people, customer services, drivers and finances, and each team had their own delivery targets and incentives,” Theunissen says.

This worked so well that before long, productivity was up and the non-delivery rate was down. “Three years ago, a team of 16 was handling 8 000 parcels a day. They can now push 22 500 boxes a day, and the delivery rate is high.”

Employee satisfaction was also up, as measured by the six-monthly employee satisfaction that RAM has regularly conducted since he took the initiative with the first one.

His work-placed challenge has had a definite influence on these improvements, and the company’s chief executive officer has invited him to keep on suggesting changes for still more improvements.

“For me, the exposure to senior management was one of the biggest benefits of my work-based challenge,” says Theunissen, whose BCom graduation was in September 2017. “We have developed a relationship and as a result, I can now go to management and tell them what I would like to do to help make this an even better business, and I know they’ll listen.”

Khonology: Making things happen on Mondays


#TT100 Winner of the 2016 Eskom Award for Excellence in the Management of Systems

Category for small enterprises

Making things happen on Mondays

Many people like to ease slowly and gently into the working week on Monday mornings. Not Khonology. Every Monday is “admin day” – time to take a fine toothcomb to the company’s finances, operations and sales figures. This weekly exercise might take up the whole morning but every minute spent keeping Khonology running like clockwork is worth it, says Michael Roberts, CEO of Khonology, an African business services company skilled in sourcing and building African talent and technology.

“From day one, we’ve managed our processes, systems and procedures really well, including our cash flow, so that there are no unpleasant surprises down the line. We’re very disciplined and we’re always looking forward: we do weekly, monthly and 90-day forecasts, and also have a five-year view.”

Roberts knows only too well how important it is for a small company to plan properly, be proactive and pay meticulous attention to risk management and mitigation. He’s previously been part of businesses that didn’t worry so much about these things.

“If you don’t plan, you spend all your time firefighting,” says Roberts, who has “been there, done that” and has the t-shirt to prove it. “But failure isn’t bad. It’s one more step closer to being successful – as long as you learn your lessons and don’t repeat your mistakes.”

So Monday’s admin sessions at Khonology are non-negotiable, as is the daily check-in process for its management team, ensuring they approach each new day with a clear focus and plan of action.

Systems support success

Turning to the company’s management of systems, which so impressed the TT100 adjudicators, Khonology has three main systems and all of them are put through their paces once a week at those famous Monday morning meetings.

“For finances, we’ve built a dashboard and procedures for checking inflows and outflows and doing forecasting and modelling,” says Roberts. “The second system is for our operations – people, headcount, compliance, risk and issues – and is very outcomes based so that we know how and where to focus. Thirdly, we have a sales system for understanding the sales pipeline, from leads to opportunities to real pieces of work to our current run rate.”

Another indispensable tool is Khonology’s ACI framework, standing for “Achievements, Challenges, Insights”, enabling the team to understand where they’re doing well, what obstacles need to be ironed out and what lessons they should be learning so as not to repeat mistakes.

Talking of lessons, one of the most valuable lessons Khonology has learnt is: Don’t sit and wait for something to happen, or hope that a problem will go away. Take action – informed action. “We’re constantly looking around and making sure we’re aware of what’s happening around us, and we’re proactive, especially with client engagement. The minute there’s an issue, we’re on-site, turning it around.  We won’t sit and wait for issues to become risks.”

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Takalani Ndou

Child-headed household was the launching pad for Takalani

“Always look on the bright side,” is not a cliché for Takalani Ndou. Where others might consider it a hardship for a teenager to ensure the daily household chores were done and dusted, he believes it was an opportunity.

“Taking responsibility for running a household is like being the chief operating officer. I realised later that this is when I learnt to be a supervisor, to get people to listen when I talk and to feel comfortable with my management style. What I learnt aged 12 to 18 has been very handy at the workplace.”

Indeed it has. His leadership skills, honed as COO of the Ndou household, have brought him responsibilities and opportunities that would not normally be available to someone with (at the time) only a matric certificate. At the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which he joined in 1996, Takalani climbed the corporate ladder from operations controller to head of several departments on the strength of his leadership acumen and people management skills.

But qualifications count, and Takalani knew it. Enter The Da Vinci Institute, where he enrolled for a diploma in Management of Technology and Innovation (MOTI). “While I was studying towards my diploma, I had the opportunity to upgrade to a BCom specialising in operational risk, so I took it.”

From average to excellent

At school, he was an “average student”. At Da Vinci, he has excelled, earning eight distinctions for his BCom studies. “Da Vinci’s Mode 2 approach fits me perfectly. At school, sitting and listening didn’t work for me. At Da Vinci, I am allowed to ask those questions I need to ask. I compete better when I engage, and I’m practical. I look at things in a problem-solving way.”

The problem he sought to solve for his work-based challenge was safety related. “I chose my topic while I was head of Safety and was witnessing injuries and damage to property on site. These were, in some cases, caused by lack of compliance. This got me thinking:  Why do we continue having violations, leading to injuries and damages, while we have all the systems, policies, procedures and training available for our environment?”

So he formulated two key objectives for his work-based challenge: to analyse the airport safety culture and to identify the factors that contributed to that culture.

Takalani sifted through three years’ worth of safety records to identify safety trends, violations and serial violators. He also read avidly. “That was the best thing about my challenge. I read a lot. I’ve never read so much in my life, and my reading kept on taking me to new and different corners.”

Response points to need for culture change

The hardest part was the qualitative information-gathering, involving interviews with ACSA people in the operational, tactical and strategic (management) levels. “I appreciate everyone is busy but it was a challenge getting people to assist, especially in management levels,” Takalani says.

His main findings were that the safety culture required vast improvement due to a lack of effective communication.

Implementation is next – after some additional work. “Besides the fact that I have just completed my studies, I have realised this is a very important contribution that, if it succeeds, will form part of my legacy. I have decided to review the study and tighten some critical elements, as advised during my final presentation.

“As an example, I believe my sample size could be improved upon, and this has the potential of changing my findings, which will have an impact on my recommendations. This has now turned into something seriously personal!” he says.

“For the first time in my life, I can say without any doubt that I have done something meaningful which has the potential to not only change lives of people but potentially to save lives as well. The effective cost saving would be an added benefit for the airport community.”

*The official title of Takalani’s work-based challenge was, “The need for developing and implementing of a safety culture: An ACSA investigation.”