In collaboration with both the CEOs and executive teams in the entities, the Organisational Design has been reviewed and discussed extensively. In addition, we are currently in discussions with teams and individuals directly affected by these changes. The process is proceeding well and we would like to thank the Talent involved. View the organisational structure here.
Shiriki will be rolled out in a phased approach. The HR team has planned to transition first, closely followed by IT and then Finance. View the project timeline here.
This graphic demonstrates an example of the HR taxonomy as the proposed output of this design process.
This graphic depicts the scope of capabilities for IT Shared Services.
This graphic depicts a high-level governance services model in operation.
Having a clear understanding of the required activities while following established accountabilities (to be documented in service level commitments), is critical for the overall Shared Services operating model’s effective operation. With these considerations in mind, an organisational design approach has been crafted with guiding principles to anchor the organisational shape of Shared Services. View Organisational Design here.
We are currently in the design phase of the project, collaborating with our future customers to conceptualise and shape our shared services offering.
1. Designing business processes
For the transactional functions contained within the scope of work for shared services, it is imperative that the future state processes, required to meet the needs of the AGGPA entities, are taken into account. After consultation with the various functional working groups and the feedback provided, the design of the business processes has commenced. With respect to the future state processes required for Finance, HR and IT, it is necessary to be very clear on the activity splits between shared services and the entities themselves. Business process design for these divisions forms the foundation of the shared services organisational design as well as what is required from a technology perspective to provide the necessary support.
2. Designing the organisation
This involves designing the operating blueprint, the organisational structure, the capacity model, job designs, as well as workforce transition. Organisational design is a critical part of the design phase and takes the activity splits from business process design and translates them into an organisational structure and operating model.
3. Design of enabling technology
This requires determining the technology requirements in order to support and enable shared services business processes. This entails understanding what existing technologies can be leveraged, the additional hardware and software requirements as well as what systems training may be required.
4. Designing the service management processes
This addresses processes such as service governance, service level agreements, various management processes and cost recovery approach, to name but a few. It defines the mechanics of how shared services will operate.
What is the theory of change again?
Our vision of an empowered, prosperous, productively engaged African citizenry thriving in ethical societies with dignity and hope could inspire us on a million different paths. The path we chose is described in our theory of change, which connects our actions to this vision – high impact entrepreneurship is our route to meaningful employment, and meaningful employment is our route to thriving societies. There are other routes, but our mission is to follow this one, and by connecting us all to entrepreneurial leaders and their big ideas the journey itself feels as inspiring as the vision.
The theory of change has three broad streams of action. The first is to prepare and encourage young people to be impactful entrepreneurial leaders. Some people call this work ‘preparing the jockeys’. The second stream is to help entrepreneurial ventures access the capital, skills and relationships they need to succeed. Those same imaginative types call this ‘caring for the horses’. And the third is to contribute to an enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem, for example by improving the education system or through research or by changing attitudes. This could be called ‘improving the racetrack’.
Download the theory of change graphic here.
Ok that sounds familiar, got it. So how does this connect to the shared service project?
The shared services project aims to take care of back-office work in one place where we can build expertise and take advantage of economies of scale. This will mean the rest of the group’s energy can be fully focused on the three streams described above. If we get this right, it can and should enable us to make even better progress and impact on our core work without spending more money or effort. Sharing services allows us to use economies of skills and of scale to allow entities to concentrate on nurturing and supporting high impact entrepreneurialism.
The potential of this work for our long-term mission is exciting. We are building on foundations that were laid by AGOF and the Endowment in their support for incubated ventures within the group. Funda Wande, Jakes Gerwel Fellowship and Jasiri all have benefited from sharing services and from the established support teams in AGOF over the last few years. A successful group shared services team will enable us to support other start up social ventures in the group, but at some stage we could extend this to offer a trusted set of accounting, HR, legal and IT support services to Fellow businesses and external social ventures.
Can you put that in a few sound bites?
The shared services value proposition is to take very good care of transactional HR and accounting and to keep everyone’s computers on and safe, to enable the rest of the group to focus on delivering impact as described in our theory of change. Our long term goal is to be a contributor to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and a valued part of support for entrepreneurial enterprises.
How about one word?
The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Learning Lab recently hosted a panel discussion around coaching and mentoring, aiming to help players in this space discuss challenges and share ideas.
This topic is especially pertinent at the moment because the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is in the process of developing a venture coaching playbook, explained Jalal Ghiassi-Razavi, Association Director. This document has been created in recognition of the value of support; as Jalal observes, quality output relies upon quality input. This is why the Foundation has a pipeline of around 150 programme participants receiving coaching and mentorship at any given time.
Jalal noted that support can’t end with the business. Coaches need to understand when the individual needs assistance, too. However, not all coaching or mentorship is the same. For instance, while one coach may be able to offer a wonderfully broad network, another may have unrivaled subject matter knowledge, and yet another may be able to assist with accessing funds. The question, therefore, is knowing how to match coaches with entrepreneurs, and understanding which model will suit them best.
The playbook aims to provide a guide to such subjects, while also helping to standardize coaching procedures and sharing best practices. Topics covered in the playbook include, amongst others, methodologies, setting up and managing expectations and obtaining buy-in, defining what a mentor is, measuring KPIs and matching needs.
The playbook is scheduled to be released during the third quarter of 2021.
The Panel Discussion
AGOF assembled a panel comprising key ecosystem members to discuss the nuances of mentorship versus coaching. Panel members included Josh Adler, Executive Director of the Anzisha Prize, Amina Patterson, Head of Operations at Alpha Code, and Octavius Phukubye, managing director of IDF Value Added Services.
Panelists were first asked to explain their coaching models and to describe the difference between coaching and mentoring.
According to Amina, Alpha Code’s emphasis is on mentoring, because the relationship between entrepreneurs and their mentors is a long-term one that may start during the initial 12-week introduction to the organisation, but continues well beyond this point. Leveraging their strategic mindset and experience, the mentor acts as an accountability partner, guiding the entrepreneur away from potential pitfalls. They may also function as a connector, helping to create opportunities by putting the entrepreneur in touch with other members of their network, as well as a problem-solver. They are also therapists and psychologists because although they are vested in the entrepreneur’s business, they understand that you cannot remove the personal component. Amina explained that the mentors work closely with learning managers to unpack their deliverables. They also provide their input into the programme, keeping in mind what the business is trying to achieve from a strategic perspective. Importantly, although the entrepreneur may work with several different people who have expertise in specific areas, there is always a primary anchor mentor who leads the process. This prevents the feeling that they are being pulled in different directions by multiple stakeholders and helps them maintain focus.
For Josh, meanwhile, it makes more sense to focus on coaching, because this is what the organisation tries to do while working to increase the number of entrepreneurs in South Africa: it views entrepreneurship as a team sport, it coaches individuals to understand the rules of the game and the league where they fit in. He is concerned that many especially young entrepreneurs may struggle to consolidate and implement ideas given to them by mentors who ‘dump’ these ideas without trying to contextualise them or make sense of them within the entrepreneur’s unique circumstances or environment. He prefers to see the coach, not as a therapist or decision-maker, but that each intervention is highly dependent on context.
At IDF, the question is not one of names and semantics, but rather it’s about focusing on a process that will ensure that entrepreneurs are matched precisely with a strategist who can play across the entire value chain and can help them improve their characters while also positioning the business to move forward. Key questions include whether the mentor, sponsor, or coach has the right trait or personality to provide this kind of assistance. The IDF uses a combination of tailored interventions to make this approach work because it takes the view that there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution – each start-up is different in terms of its market, product and complexity, and this is especially true for businesses in the tech space compared to non-tech startups. However, all coaching interventions must share in common deliberateness and intentionality, because without structure, deliverables, and a framework, they cannot be successful.
Panelists were then asked to discuss what measures they had found to be successful. For Josh, the answer to this question changes as startups mature. In the very beginning, coaching should focus more on building confidence and entrepreneurialism – at this stage, the business idea matters less than the quality of the individual’s thinking and how they relate to their teammates. Confidence-building at this point is vital because there is a lot of intolerance towards the idea of entrepreneurship as a career, he explains. Josh also said that it’s important for a coach to work according to a framework. Without a structure, it is difficult for people to feel that they are moving forward. However, the coach may have to tweak their frameworks to suit individuals and their particular strengths and areas of improvement.
Judging whether an individual is an effective coach is not vastly different from assessing a teacher’s prowess, Josh continued. In the case of teachers, the students’ improvement is a critical marker of success. The same holds true for coaches; if they are doing their jobs properly, it will be possible to see the business growing and improving in various areas.
Josh also maintains that one of the best ways of keeping coaches accountable is by developing a routine so that entrepreneurs have a sense of what is expected from them. It’s easy for a coach to say that an entrepreneur is not adequately engaged if they miss their session, when in fact it could be that the coach is not performing. Simple reporting along key metrics is also key, as with any business.
Amina admits that it can be challenging to measure the support provided by coaches because each entrepreneur has different requirements, depending on where they are in their journey. For example, the challenge facing mentors working with younger entrepreneurs is often helping them to maintain their focus, while more seasoned business owners tend to be more resilient throughout the process. This is why Alpha Code emphasizes the accountability of the entrepreneur throughout the journey. This is achieved by setting entrepreneurs a series of exercises, all related to their businesses, to help them test whether their assumptions are accurate.
The mentorship team, meanwhile, are responsible for setting ways of working when new stakeholders come into the fold: following a planning session, they decide on the direction to take with the entrepreneur, taking into account factors such as the entrepreneur’s priorities, their risks, and their value proposition – and, importantly, whether they have validated this with their customers, in line with the organisation’s philosophy that “if you don’t document it, it doesn’t exist”.
The mentor’s role throughout this process is rooted in having open, honest conversations with the entrepreneur. Amina says that this is sometimes difficult, because mentors may feel wary of derailing or discouraging an entrepreneur if their feedback is deemed negative. But this is why reporting is so important, she continues – it sets the stage for transparency and lays the foundation for interventions to address and overcome hurdles. She says that there must be an agreement between mentors and entrepreneurs regarding the frequency of the reporting cycle, the frequency of meetings, and proposed interventions and that these agreements must be made early on in the relationship so that expectations are established from the outset and prevent misalignment. If there is, indeed, misalignment, this serves as a red flag that conversations between the two parties are not as honest as they should be, Amina warns.
But the responsibility does not lie solely with the mentor, she adds: entrepreneurs are required to sign a contract, because they have to add value to the process, too.
For Octavius, while the measurement is vital, it’s important that the values measured relate to the business’s improvement and growth, and do not place additional strain on the entrepreneur without actually adding to their development.
The final question posed to panelists was around ethics and values. Octavius agrees that this is critical because ecosystem players are entrusted with building businesses, which means using the resources at their disposal optimally. More than this, they have to establish their credibility. Reporting plays a critical role here – but it is also important that coaches uphold this commitment to ethics because as an intermediary, their behavior and values inevitably impact the behavior and values of entrepreneurs. For this reason, the organisation is always careful to engage coaches with a proven track record. Octavius further pointed out that coaches are to set an example so that entrepreneurs understand that they need to prove due diligence and must always be ready for an audit.
Josh observes that there are two parts to the question of ethics: the first is that the very selection of coaches must be ethical. Although it is always tempting to work with people who are similar to us, this points to selection bias and impedes diversity, and is an issue that must be addressed, especially for organisations operating in Africa.
The second issue is related to coaching itself and is especially important given that young entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable. Josh says that coaches must be careful to make sure they are making suggestions, rather than issuing instructions. Their job, after all, is to give options while ensuring that their mentees maintain agency.
Amina’s perspective is that transparency is crucial at every point of the process. She says that the coaches at Alpha tribe have benefited tremendously in this regard by building a tribe: they meet regularly to share ideas and vent their frustrations (which are inevitable, given the level of emotional involvement that occurs). This is also useful in terms of building networks, which makes the work of the coach easier: for example, if you are unable to solve a problem perhaps you know someone who may be able to provide a connection. In this way, your tribe comes to function as a think tank, and also shares tools. The tribe should also provide feedback, she adds, which is especially valuable given that coaches seldom receive feedback from the entrepreneurs themselves. Amina says that it is very helpful to remember that your style may not be well suited to every entrepreneur and that if you are not able to assist them, it is important, to be honest, and help them connect with someone who can.
Opening the Discussion to the Floor
Following the panel discussion, Ventures’ Manager Simphiwe Mntambo welcomed questions and observations from the floor.
One such observation came from Ian Calvert of Further, who said that the organisation matches entrepreneurs to coaches following a thorough diagnostic which includes a psychometric assessment of the entrepreneur so that their interests are matched with those of coaches.
Meanwhile, Hank van Rensburg of Phoenix Professionals voiced his opinion that entrepreneurs should have access to both a coach and a mentor, as the former will help them work on the operational aspects of the business while the latter attends to personal development requirements.
He warns, though, that as the number of enterprise development programmes in South Africa grows, so does the number of ‘pseudo coaches’, who have tarnished the industry’s image. He also believes that individuals may come to experience coaching fatigue, especially if they belong to more than one programme and therefore consult more than one coach. Linked to this, they may receive so much coaching homework that they have less time to focus on the business’s operational requirements.
Yongama Skweyiya said that a framework can be useful in preventing this coaching fatigue, as it ensures that entrepreneurs are aware of what they should expect from their sessions. He also maintains that mentor fatigue may be linked to misaligned values.
Octavia raised an interesting point regarding what makes a coach successful. Many coaches point to the number of hours invested with entrepreneurs as proof of their success, but this counts for very little if there are few real improvements in the business’s performance, he insists: the competence of the team must be seen to improve, or its margins should increase, for example.
Simphiwe asked whether South African coaches have a global mindset – which Josh answered with a big ‘no’. He said that South Africans tend to be parochial, adding that while most coaches in South Africa have experience in big business, few coaches have worked as entrepreneurs. While this isn’t necessarily negative, he urged coaches to localize the information and insights they offer entrepreneurs, and contextualise it, too, so that it is appropriate for each individual’s situation.