Wednesday, 16 January 2013

South Africa's Arab Spring - we hold the key

This message is addressed to colleagues involved in the international supply chain to motivate positive actions needed to take advantage of significant opportunities and to defuse the powder keg on which we are sitting.  

South Africa’s prescient and highly credible ΓΌber strategist, Clem Sunter, has raised the following warning flags regarding the current instability of South Africa:
  1. Abnormally high youth unemployment,
  2. Same youth are adept and active communicators via social networks,
  3. Increasing disaffection with, and disrespect for, authority.

Sunter brings to our attention the clear parallel between these and the exact same flags which were overlooked by authorities in the four Arab countries in which rulers lost power during the Arab Spring, the further two countries in the region in which civil war has erupted and the further six Middle Eastern countries which are currently subjected to unprecedented civil protests.

To believe that we are not headed for the same outcome is to stretch naivety to the point of irresponsibility: Marikana, the Western Cape labour unrest and service delivery protests too numerous to mention are clear straws in the wind.  The general disregard for the law in all of these and the belief that violence and intimidation are essential to the achievement of one’s socioeconomic goals show us that the rules of the game have shifted dramatically and irreversibly.

Believe it or not, these developments carry significant opportunity.
In a highly disruptive environment like this one, the business which wins is the one which can react most quickly to unplanned events.

South African businesses are participating in international markets at unprecedented levels; coupled to this is the necessity for all involved to integrate the functional areas of their businesses in an environment of maximum transparency – from procurement to warehouse to transportation – that will enable the best chance of responding swiftly to the unexpected.

These developments create a demand for heightened levels of competency, particularly in the area of functional integration (plan, source, make, deliver and return). The global nature of supply chain management requires that those involved be able to operate to international standards and in compliance with international statutory measures.

So, in order to take advantage of these opportunities, we need competent people. To have competent people we need to train.

Investment in training thus provides today’s supply chain manager with a vital competitive edge and there is a huge pool of young people out there who are hungry for development.

Training however represents significant investments and it is essential to optimise returns on such investments by:
  •      accurately determining the competencies required for each function;
  •      assessing individuals against the requirements of their current functions or the functions for which they are being considered and focusing their training on the areas in which there are skills gaps; 
  •      selecting only those individuals for development who will in fact obtain benefit from that training;
  •      ensuring that, once any training has been completed, the individuals concerned are able to  carry out the functions which the training was intended to teach them. 

This blog has been established to share ideas with those involved in international trade, supply chain management and logistics and to equip them with the tools they need to capitalise on the opportunities which are offered through developing their people.

Individuals who will obtain the most benefit are those who need practical tips on how to maximise returns on developing  their people without being bogged down in all the very confusing terminology and bureaucracy in which the field abounds.

More importantly, it will, I hope, encourage those with better suggestions to share them.