What skills do executives in the South African government need to grow the economy and create prosperity for all

What skills do executives in the South African government need to grow the economy and create prosperity for all - student project


A number of hypotheses are worth posing: (i.e. what gives rise to this exploration?

  • Could there be a link between lack of business competence and working in the public sector?
  • Creating value and/or understanding value contribution and working in the public sector seem to be mutually exclusive. Because government and parastatals do not have to create their own business without support, could it by default mean that it does not attract people who understand business and appreciate sustainability?
  • As business is primarily outsourced or contracted out through consultants, the default focus of government becomes administration  - are they just administrators or can they CREATE?
  • Is there therefore a different role for a public service manager as opposed to a corporate manager?
  • Because public service is about spending tax payer money, the measure of 'success', becomes, "spending money", and not value creation
  • Application needs experience – to learn through trial and error and therefore feel comfortable with decision-making.
  • There is a fine balance between eligibility and suitability for a job – the higher the management level, the finer the balance becomes as managers need both qualifications and experience and the grit and tenacity to manage new and complex situations


  • Is government aware of this? How is the problem defined and tackled? (government consulted PARI – Public Affairs Research Institute to define its skills challenges).
  • PARI defines skills needs as capacity needs – vacancies left by people who will retire; and growth demand for new people entering the public service.
  • The Public Service Skills Committee talks about developing a "skilled and capable workforce required to achive a more efficient, effective, professional and development-oriented state (DPSA, 2013b).
  • However, the focus of "skills development for organisation development" is limited to HRM/HRD/HRP, operations management, administration and SCM.
  • But, the aim is to integrate skills development with wider organsiation development initiatives, i.e. skills development needs to be shaped by the major drivers and inhibitors of performance in the public sector.
  • However, perfromance is measured in terms of how public money was spent and not what the results are on the economy, poverty alleviationand prosperity for all.
  • Government produced a National Development Plan (NDA) of how they intend to fix the problems in the public sector and it's responsiblity to the peopel of  SA (i need to do some reasearch on this)


Africa is plagued with incompetence, corruption, severe inequality and extreme poverty. South Africa was always looked at to be the beacon of hope - to do things differently and show that after decades of exploitation and exclusion of the majority of it's people from the ownership and wealth of the country, as well as deliberate inferior education and structural prohibition from sources of learning, it could redress the wrongs of the past and develop opportunities, growth and an educated, prosperous nation.

Sadly, this has not happened. A few black people benefitted from early black empowerment deals, but never transferred this power to the rest. The unemployment rate is at 25%, many young people have been disadvantaged by a poor eduction system. In addition, the industrial, fiscal and tax policies in South Africa, plus the breakdown of basic services such as electricity and water, are discouraging investment and the right conditions to support the growth of small businesses. Government contracts issued to small or black businesses have also been tainted with corruption, kick-backs and non-delivery due to incompetence.

South Africa is in a crisis and everyone is looking towards the government to fix this. (i will add more on the historial attempts made by the public sector to fix the problems of incompetence and corruption, and uplifting the people of SA).


I have been a management consultant for about 15 years, and most of my clients are in the public sector. My primary observation during this time, is that there is a struggle with implementation.

Strategies and plans are well-defined and individuals hired are educated and have 'gravitas'. However, the articulation of "how-to" steps, a structure or "way of doing something" (even the basics), seem to be the biggest gap. This results in expected outputs not being delivered, due to either different expectations of what those outputs should look like or what should go into them to achieve the "right" results. Often, it is also due to the "basics" not being common sense - what someone sees as the basics, do not even occur to others - resulting in misunderstandings, perceptions of incompetence or even personality and cultural conflicts, which further detract from the "business at hand", i.e. what the organisation is mandated or created to deliver. This removes them further and further from their purpose and the role of managers and executives becomes clouded, convoluted and even misused.

Government needs to reconnect with its core purpose and so does the leadership in these institutions. 


  1. By focusing on the executives and managers, I will design a new leadership way and culture of how to run the public service. This way of leadership is to make the public service "profitable" and to instil a sense of honour and worth in the value of work that every public servant delivers for the benefit of South Africa as a whole.
  2. To redefine performance, how it is measured and how it is rewarded.
  3. To include citizens in the definition and accountability of what the public service should deliver to the country. 


My take on leadership is that it is a team role or task, not an individual one. Since leadership is always called upon when there is a crisis, when potentially contradictory or unpopular decisions have to made, and when the status quo has to be interrupted, it stands to reason that no one person could handle all the demands of such a high risk or demanding situation all by themselves, without the help of a team. "No one is perfect - but a team can be".

It is for this reason that I have been using the Belbin Team Role Methodology. Not only does it serve as a checklist of all the responsibilities to be handled when a situation is complex and/or demanding, but it shows how best to distribute these responsibilities according to individuals' relative strengths. The aim in using this methodology is to set up a team, so that taking responsibility for respective roles and asking the right questions, becomes intuitive and seamless. 

  1. I will choose a suitable client from my list of public sector clients to test my exploratory points. With the help of my network and drawing on my discoveries to date, I have 3 organisations in mind (i will say more on this at a later date).  
  2. I will enage them in the Belbin Methodology - from reviewing their strategy, to prioritisation, planning the execution and resource allocation. I will specifically work with the executives and managers.