Nearly six years ago I wrote a column here about what I called “the necessary evil of compliance”, the theme of a Leaders Circle I had just co-hosted. In it I quoted former Deputy US Attorney-General Paul McNulty, who rightly pointed out that “If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance”. And in our conversation we agreed that one must be neither too trusting nor insufficiently so.

These thoughts were on my mind while attending the first day of the recent Nielsonsmith conference on “Compliance, Anti-Corruption and Ethics in Africa” where I was representing the Blue Company, one of the sponsors. During the conference I saw quite how prominent this compliance issue has become, with more and more organisations appointing compliance managers dedicated exclusively to this function.

We first heard from Tomell Ceasra, the co-founder of MEACA, the Middle East and Africa Compliance Association, and then from Laban Omangi, the chairman of the Compliance Society of Kenya, who told us how the society was formed in 2020 to bring together the compliance community within the finance sector, and now how it is spreading more broadly.

They’ve been studying the way to bring various institutions together to assemble compliance guidelines, and to offer professional training and certification in their specialty. They work together with Business Member Organisations (BMOs) and with regulators. And they worry about dealing with the financing of terrorism and with money-laundering funds derived from the proceeds of crime.

On the subject of whistleblowers, we heard about the factors that inhibit such people, including fear of retaliation; no response and no action being taken following their input – perhaps due to “untouchables” being involved; and a general lack of trust. Rita Mwangi, the Chief Legal and People Officer of Simba Corporation, talked about international and local legislation and how to comply. She highlighted the low positioning on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index of all but a very few African countries, with most either stuck where they are or regressing.

I was happy to hear her say we don’t lack legislation, either internationally or locally, rather what we need is improved enforcement – including through the increasing requirements of ESG reporting. As far as private sector self-regulation is concerned, because membership of many BMOs is voluntary the good guys join but the bad ones do not, thus evading the pressure to comply.

Peter Odedina, the Chief Compliance Officer of Airtel Africa next went into specifics on how to be compliant. He talked about the tone at the top being a key culture driver; appropriate incentives and penalties being important; the need for policies, codes of conduct; appropriate staff induction and ongoing communication with them; and the importance of enjoying an appropriate and aligned appetite for risk.

5% of the top line revenue of any company is lost due to fraud, he asserted. So what are the red flags? 43% are people seen to be living beyond their means, benefitting from a close association with vendors or customers; 23% face financial difficulties; and 21% are wheeler-dealers.

“Are compliance issues integrated into our organisation’s strategies and values, influencing the attitudes and behaviour of our people, thus forming an ethical culture?” we were asked.

The theme of the panel where I was a member read “Tone from the Top, Mood in the Middle, and Groove on the Ground”, where the role of middle managers was one of the issues discussed. There’s a whole spectrum at this level, from those who act as interpreters and mediators between the lower levels and their higher bosses, and those who are blockers and distracters. Much of course depends on that tone at the top. Are senior management keen to see the learning and growth of the next layers, so they rise up the organisation? Are they coaches? Do they provide a healthy performance management environment, with appropriate incentives? Do they inspire and motivate others to live their vision and values?

I was rather an exception in the room. Pretty much everyone else was deep in the compliance ecosystem, while I was viewing the topic from a much broader perspective. Those there were preaching to the already converted – which is fine, as it gave them the opportunity to interact, to learn and to reinforce each other. I hope they continue doing so beyond the conference, and that the event will have led to new alliances and collaborations that will raise the level of compliance… while not suffocating innovation and risk-taking.

Last October I was invited to be one of the facilitators at a British Council-sponsored induction workshop for the newly appointed vice-chancellors (VCs) and principals of public universities, and recently I was invited to play a similar role at a leadership training workshop for all the VCs and principals of the public universities. My topic in October was ‘Transformative Leadership and Integrity’, and this time round I was asked to talk about ‘Strategies for Enhancing Organisational Culture’, with Equity Bank’s James Mwangi handling my earlier topic.

The theme of the October workshop was ‘Developing Visionary and Effective University Leaders’, while the more recent one being on ‘Developing Strategic, Focused and Results-Oriented University Leaders’.

On each occasion, for several days the VCs were exposed to facilitators from various sectors. The participants interacted with each other and the facilitators and reflected on how to follow up on what they had learned while together.

Impressively too, there’s a Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, a forum for consultation, coordination and cooperation, and it was this committee that organised the two workshops. It is chaired by Daniel Mugendi, the VC of the University of Embu, and the coordinator of the programme was Peninah Aloo-Obudho, the VC of Maasai Mara University.

Where else do we see such organised collaboration between the CEOs of institutions in a particular domain – whether in the public sector or elsewhere? Kudos to the Vice-Chancellors, and also to the Ministry of Education, its Higher Education and Research department, the British Council and the quartet of sponsoring banks, namely KCB, Equity, Co-Operative Bank and NCBA.

It was bold of them to include my topic of culture strengthening, as many leaders – I might even say most – and in whichever sector, while having an adequate sense of their current culture and being able to put together a statement of their aspirational one, have little or no idea as to how to transition from one to the other.

Indeed, as I spelt out in my presentation (and as was the topic of my last column), they might not even have a proper idea of the actual culture, being overwhelmed by “The Iceberg of Ignorance”.

So my contribution was to give the vice-chancellors some ideas about how to dissolve the iceberg and get their various stakeholders to open up and talk freely about the extent to which they are living their values and what they need to do more of and less of to live them more fully.

Universities are complex institutions, with multiple internal and external stakeholders, each with their own expectations of how to behave and how to interact. So how to bring them together to unify around the visions and values of their university? How to align the council with the senior faculty and other management? How to align the back-office functions with the outward-facing ones? How to make the academic and non-academic trade unions and the student unions partners rather than adversaries? And that’s just internal stakeholders.

I described ways of negotiating win-win outcomes, with each stakeholder willing to indulge in give-and-take dialogue. This requires time and mediation skills to bring everyone closer together so that energy is not wasted in unproductive stalemates and conflicts.

I wish the Vice-Chancellors well as they go back to apply what they had learned in the forums.

Back to my opening thoughts, where I praised this coming together of CEOs. Too often our training institutions stop short of inviting the top leadership to such gatherings, only reaching the upper-middle levels, and not least in the public sector – although the Kenya School of Government is now reaching further upwards.

Read: The must-have tool for modern business leaders

At the top level we know that some actually worry about exposing themselves to colleagues for fear of their shortcomings being revealed. And, the know-it-alls merely look down the organisational pyramid to see whom they should send for training.

But there’s no one too senior to learn, up to and including Cabinet Secretaries and the President. For those at such levels, one-on-one coaching is ideal, complementing group learning. And for the VCs and other CEOs, coaching should also be considered.

A while ago I read an article about boards and voting by Roger Hitchcock, a senior partner at the Sirdar Global Group which guides boards to become more effective. I met Roger when I was a participant in his Sirdar Applied Directorship Programme some years ago, and as always in this article he was full of common sense, leading me to completely agree with his line of thinking.

While board voting can serve as a mechanism to resolve conflicts and make decisions, he writes, it should be approached cautiously and used as a last resort. This, I may add, applies equally to all kinds of organisations.

The reasons board voting should be the last resort are fairly obvious. By its nature, suggests Roger, it pits directors against each other, potentially leading to divisions within the board.

An “us-and-them” mentality can undermine the overall cohesion and effectiveness of the board, hindering its ability to function as a united entity. Indeed where I am a board chairman I work hard to avoid situations where there are winners and losers — even without that ultimate victory— and defeat outcome that results from voting.

Beyond sustaining cohesiveness among directors, avoiding contentious voting lessens the likelihood of straining relationships between board members, which would create a negative atmosphere within and beyond the boardroom.

This can have long-term implications for collaboration, trust and open dialogue, all crucial for effective board governance.

But it’s not just the soft relationship issues. Avoiding voting improves the quality of decision-making, asserts Roger. When a vote becomes necessary, it signifies a failure to reach a consensus through open dialogue and deliberation.

In such cases, the decision made may not be the result of a thorough exploration of all perspectives and alternatives, comprehensive analyses, and robust debate with the best interests of the company. Yes, voting offers a speedy approach to decision-making, but the lack of these key elements too often leads to sub-optimal outcomes.

So, Roger insists, we can avoid the need for voting by allowing for robust discussion and debate. Encouraging open and constructive discussion among board members is vital, I have seen in my many years as a director and chairman, going back to the late seventies.

By fostering an environment that values diverse perspectives, the board is relaxed and open enough to explore alternative viewpoints, identify common ground, and uncover innovative solutions without having to resort to voting.

This approach involves finding agreement among board members through compromise and negotiation and ensures that decisions that are in the best interests of the organisation are made with support from all board members.

This cannot be accomplished merely within board meetings, I have found. Where I am the chairman I frequently engage with individual directors prior to the formal board meeting to seek the spread of views and build towards consensus. Some may call this manipulation, but given that it is always pursued in the best interests of the organisation I do not hesitate to invest time in such activity.

Boards should establish clear decision-making processes, recommends Roger, like designing appropriate reports and dashboards, or using the normal board committees or temporary task forces to thoroughly analyse and vet proposals and come up with recommendations.

These processes and structures enable boards to engage in deep discussions, gather relevant information, and seek input from subject-matter experts before bringing issues to the boardroom.

Roger identifies a further benefit of boards consistently seeking consensus and making decisions based on that togetherness, which is that it leads to stakeholders gaining confidence in the board’s ability to navigate complex challenges, thereby enhancing the company’s reputation and its stakeholder relationships.

So, seeking consensus fosters a culture of collaboration and teamwork among board members. It promotes shared ownership of decisions, leading to a more cohesive board and stronger boardroom dynamics. Consensus-based decisions tend to be more comprehensive and well-rounded. All those in favour, please vote “Aye”.

This is my last article of the year (my 440th ), so I wish you a happy and relaxing time in the coming days and look forward to re-engaging with you in January.

A while ago, I facilitated a session with the board of a major Kenyan organisation, where I had them reflect on what they were proud of as a board and as individuals, and what additional aspects they wished to be proud of later.

The team is undergoing a review of its culture so as to take it to the next level, and as the directors reflected on the initiative they felt they could and should be more involved.

This is very much the norm at the director level. They are typically far more concerned about the numbers, the financials, which is what led the two Harvard professors, Kaplan and Norton, to come up with their Balanced Scorecard.

Through this framework they had company leaders place equal emphasis on the factors that deliver the numbers: the products and customers; the systems and processes; and the people – the element they described as “learning and growth”.

It is of course the people who define and live the culture, perceived through how they behave, which reflects their attitudes, these being a function of their values.

How many directors feel competent, and hence confident and comfortable dealing with such soft issues? Not many. “Leave it to the HR people,” they may well say, as they return to their easy-to-measure revenues, profits and suchlike.

I have written before in this column that few people at any level possess the expertise needed to enhance a culture.

At best they may find ways of defining the existing one, with all its ups and downs, and of sketching out the aspirational one, with the usual words to describe it: trust and openness, innovation and collaboration….

But as for how to migrate to that better world and overcome present challenges, don’t ask them. Indeed some will tell you it’s a waste of time, as most culture-change programmes fail to make a difference.

Then, as I read what others write on this subject – not least at the national level – too often I again see descriptions of how awful the present culture is or how wonderful living Utopian values would be, calling for a transformation to that ideal world but without in any way guiding us on how to travel along the journey towards it.

Yet while it is true that many culture-change initiatives fall way short of what they were intended to achieve, some do deliver both significant and sustained impact. What differentiates the two?

First, it’s investing time in bringing people together for open conversations that generate what I call “purposeful reflection”, where participants discuss and agree on what they will do more of and less of, start doing, stop doing and continue doing.

This requires the presence of a safe space, or as it is now sometimes described, one of “psychological safety” – which, allow me to state, is more readily created by external facilitators skilled in creating such a space and conducting such activities.

Without going into other critical success factors for culture change, let me jump straight to the need for enthusiastic support from the board.

Everyone must know that at the top level, it is accepted that culture does indeed eat strategy for breakfast – or, as I put it, that there must be a culture strategy component within the overall strategy.

The directors must be part of the strategy development and then participate in the conversations about culture, adding value to them and being role models for the desired culture.

They must also appreciate that changing a culture is much more than a one-off event but a continuous journey, one that requires focus and time, plus the relevant specialised skills and experience among those driving it.

And the performance management system must be such that those who embrace the desired culture are recognised and rewarded – which is why “Change Champions” are often identified as part of the process.

These days it is expected that directors undergo training, and this is now indeed the norm. But beyond programmes that relate to governance issues of oversight, compliance and risk management, how many cover the softer areas of leadership, like culture?

Happily, the organisation that invited me to spend time with their board appreciated this need, and I am confident that their directors will now ensure that matters to do with culture remain firmly on their radar.

I was recently asked to be a panelist at an event hosted by Hofstede Insights Africa and its Kenya partner, Priority Activator Consulting.

Its theme was Aligning culture and strategy – leveraging culture to drive organisational performance, a topic where I feel very much at home.

With us were around 30 CEOs who had been invited to engage with our panel, and the keynote speaker was Hofstede’s Group CEO Egbert Schram, who described culture as “the oil that lubricates strategy”.

His early background was in wildlife management, examining their behaviour patterns, which he subsequently applied to humans – always focusing on gathering and analysing data.

This led him to quote from a study which revealed that only 15 percent of CEOs feel their corporate culture is where it should be – as a result of which their organisations underperform.

One of the big causes is the “iceberg of ignorance”, where CEOs lack awareness of problems lower down in their organisations because they only engage with senior colleagues.

So the cascading downwards of what they perceive to be needed behaviour change fails to connect with the actual needs on the ground.

Culture is about how we relate to our colleagues, our work, and the external environment, he explained.

And he asked what excites us: enjoying life? Striving for the best? Something else? And where do our incentive schemes lead us: to achieving financial results? To deal with people issues? Then, who gets promoted, and why?

An expatriate CEO shared that in his home country, he was used to a much smaller power distance between levels. He has an open door, but too few of his people are relaxed enough to enter his office and express their views.

In hierarchical organisations, Mr Schram said there’s too much upward delegation – more so if the bosses are approachable.

And an emotional dependency on them may develop, including on non-work-related issues. So unless one empowers lower layers this becomes a bottleneck, preventing the company from growing.

Fellow panellist Catherine Musakali quoted Peter Drucker’s “culture eats strategy for breakfast” line, saying it surprises her how few boards include culture as a topic on their agendas.

This led me to describe my tweak of Drucker’s quote, where through the Balanced Scorecard approach I use in my strategy development work with clients I have them devise a culture strategy that feeds into the overall one.

Having said that, we find that companies which enjoy a healthy culture but lack a robust strategy do better than those with a great strategy but without a healthy culture.

Erick Ngala, the managing partner of Priority Activator Consulting, reinforced this point, emphasising that organisational performance is a consequence of its culture plus its strategy.

A lady CEO worried that women in leadership still have a hard time, with some of her people considering her to be “bossy”, to which she did not relate.

And another CEO felt he shouldn’t get too close to his people, otherwise, he would find it too hard to take disciplinary action when needed, or to deal with poor results and bad news.

My comment: when I arrived in Kenya in 1977 I was expected to be bossy and serious, to be feared. I defied that, with my default position being a cheerful one.

But people had to know that if the need arose I did have a big stick available. It took a while for my staff to come to terms with this “situational leadership” style… and some probably never did.

What is the role of the CEO in all this? What works and what does not? Does it vary depending on the size of the organisation? Is it different when going through a period of disruption?

These were the questions for this event. For me, CEOs are at the centre of a 360-degree ecosystem.

Above them are the shareholders with their values, represented by board directors; then other independent directors, among whom hopefully the chair.

It is the chair who should bring together a collective board perspective on culture, which is shared with the CEO and the senior management team – noting that the CEO is a board member too.

Critical to all this is the alignment between the chair and the CEO. Not forgetting the head of HR.

In my last column, I wrote about the rise and fall of Rudy Giuliani, as a result of reading his 2002 book, Leadership.

And today my subject is Jack Welch, having just read his 2001 book, Winning, about which Warren Buffett said at the time of its publication “No other management book will ever be needed.”

Welch was with GE for 40 years, climbing up the ranks until he became chairman and CEO in 1981. Under his leadership, it grew its profits massively and became globally dominant in its sectors, to the delight of its shareholders.

His style was bold and competitive, as he pushed the company to become lean and agile – less “comfortable” – laying off more than 100,000 employees within his first seven years at the top.

To achieve this, in the 1980s he launched a 360-degree review process in which every employee’s manager, peers and subordinates would grade them on aspects that included team spirit, collaboration, focus, vision and adaptability.

Employees were then ranked, separated into the top 20 percent, the stars; the bottom 10 percent, the under-performers and disrupters; and the middle 70 percent in between.

The bottom 10 percent were dealt with appropriately, and many were fired. The process, which resulted in significant unhealthy competition, became known as “rank and yank”, but other big corporates, including Amazon, Microsoft and Google, soon emulated GE.

Another aspect of the unhealthy competition that Welch generated emerged when he retired in 2001 and Jeffrey Immelt was promoted to CEO.

After decades of grooming several internal leaders for the position, the decision triggered an exodus of bitter executives.

However, despite all this – which earned him the nickname Neutron Jack – Welch greatly valued the role of HR, believing the head of that function should be the second-most important person in any organisation, and at least equal to the head of finance.

The HR people should be, as he put it, “a combination of pastors and parents”.

He was a promoter of robust evaluation systems, ones that went way beyond the all-too-common mere paper-pushing.

And he believed in motivating and retaining the people with money, recognition and training; in confronting the difficult people issues – those arising from trouble-makers and big-headed stars, with candour and action; in spending half your time evaluating and coaching the middle 70 percent; and in having as flat an organisation chart as possible, as the more layers there is the more mischief some will indulge in.

The section I found most helpful was the one on firing and laying off people, where his advice was first that nobody should be surprised when they are let go.

Employees should be informed enough about the nature of their business that they understood who might be laid off in an economic downturn or a change in the industry.

If they weren’t performing well, they should be made aware of this through regular formal and informal reviews. If they couldn’t improve, they should know they would have to move on.

You should move neither too fast nor too slow in removing them, and again you must be candid. Then, you should minimise the humiliation, and encourage those on their way out that there’s a better job out there for them, more matched to their skills and attitudes.

The task of the ones informing staff members that they have been laid off or fired is incredibly difficult, admits Welch.

They feel guilt and anxiety before, during and after. Surprisingly, he comments, he isn’t aware of any programmes that help people develop the skills needed to conduct such meetings.

He had to fire many people over the years, he writes and never got used to it.

So his legacy is a mix of ongoing admiration and second thoughts about him and his management style. In the two decades since he left GE, many of his approaches have fallen out of favour, including within GE itself.

Today, he is often criticised as a symbol of corporate greed and economic inequality, with undue emphasis on quarterly results.

The competition he generated among leaders came at a considerable human cost, and he was considered the father of the “shareholder value” emphasis, which has since been migrating to delivering broader stakeholder value.

Much food for thought about how to define responsible leadership then and now, and within this about how to build sustainability.

How will today’s corporate leaders be viewed two decades from now? How will you be?

Some time ago I wrote an article about Trump as a man whose I’m-OK-You’re-not-OK behaviour, one that required consistent win-lose interactions with others, masked a deeply insecure soul. Yet despite these insecurities, despite this lack of self-esteem, he built up extraordinary self-confidence, and through bullying, cheating and lying he achieved all that he did.

I refer to this as I recently read a provocative article in the London Times about Britain’s immediate former Prime Minister, Liz Truss. The headline said it all: “Truss proves talent-free bluster isn’t just for men”. And the opening paragraph tells us she broke one of the last glass ceilings. Not as the first female PM in her country, for she was not, but as “the first woman to reach the highest office propelled by gargantuan self-belief alone”.

Writer Janice Turner rightly reckons the kind of self-belief she displayed has not been associated with her gender. Indeed, she tells us, feminists have been known to pray “Lord, grant me the confidence of a mediocre man”.

We’ve been reading a lot about women holding back from higher office while younger and less experienced men lobby their way through. Here though, Ms Turner observed “a shameless, narcissistic, talent-free sense of entitlement”. Wow. Lots in common with Trump for sure, and indeed with so many politicians the world over.

I have also written about the competence-confidence matrix, with the competent one who lacks confidence often suffering from the “imposter syndrome”, while the confident one who lacks competence displays a cocky arrogance. The ideal position, as espoused by my heroes such as Ed Schein and Adam Grant, are those who behave with “confident humility”.

So where is Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss’s successor, in all of this? In a much better place. We have been reading about the values with which he was brought up and which it appears he has been able to largely hold on to despite entering the cut and thrust world of win-lose politics: family, honesty, education and hard work. Not a bad quartet.

His competence, certainly in matters financial, is indisputable. And his communication skills are definitely superior to hers. Well, that’s no big deal, as rarely have I come across such a wooden performer as Liz Truss in such a high office. Boy was she in need of coaching…but who knows, maybe her excess of self-esteem over self-awareness made her uncoachable.

How about our politicians here? For sure some are more competent than others, and some are better communicators than others. Many are at their best at high-octane campaign rallies whose objectives are mere entertainment, hype and goodies-distribution, while others know how to switch between such show-business performance and more serious and substantive output.

To be a politician, confidence is everything. As each one puts themselves forward for election, they are certain they will win, however justified or unjustified their optimism. So it was with Truss, so it was with Sunak; and so it was with all our political candidates in August, including those who lost.

Our responsibility as citizens is to study the competence-confidence mix of those who seek our votes, where competence includes adherence to good values and where mere confidence is woefully insufficient.

It was good to see the Mkenya Daima campaign focusing on this requirement for not only selecting good men and women, but then holding those who succeed at the ballot to account. It is why the Mkenya Daima tag line is Nitatenda Wajibu Wangu (I will do my responsibility).

It’s so dispiriting to me to see huge numbers of voters in the developed world casting their support for the Trumps and the Trusses of this world.

It shows the weakness in the civic education provided in so many countries that allows for populist promise-makers to get away with what they clearly should not… including Boris Johnson and his Brexit ones.

We’ve been through our elections just a few months ago. Have we selected enough of the humbly competent? Stay on the ball, fellow Kenyans, as President William Ruto has challenged us to do.

Rishi Sunak promised British citizens a government of “professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels”. And President Ruto, when he confirmed his new cabinet, also called for integrity and accountability. We must indeed “do our responsibility”.

It’s quite some time since I wrote about national issues in this column, allowing the extravagant 24/7 political campaigning and the media’s relentless focus on it to sweep over me. Reflecting on it all, plus on the election itself and the days since, I realised that throughout these months I can’t remember when any of our political contenders referred explicitly to our national values.

Yes, there was much talk about national unity and public participation; inclusiveness and protection of the marginalised; ethics and integrity; transparency, accountability and good governance; sustainable development — all which I am quoting from the national values as stated in our Constitution. But as far as I am aware no one directly related such matters to these stated values.

I’ve written before about how our leaders never refer to these values, and not least because they are just a list of 20 words and phrases – including the ones featured above – buried deep in that long, formal document that is our Constitution. I have suggested hauling this list out and reducing it to a small number of short punchy phrases, as countries like Singapore and Rwanda benefit from. Their leaders live the values as role models for them, and talk about them as part of their regular leadership language.

Now that the frantic politicking has calmed down it’s good to look back over the campaigning period. Fortunately, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has analysed the main challenges Kenya faced in the build-up to the election, and here are its findings:

  • Lack of trust between communities, among leaders and in government institutions.
  • A sub-culture of violence, where politicians manipulate citizens into engaging in aggressive acts.
  • Divisive and selfish politics, where most leaders are more concerned about acquisition of power and wealth, their own self-interest and ambitions, than the wellbeing of the citizens.
  • Ethnic polarisation, simulated by hate speech and other forms of ethnic incitement.
  • Late, inadequate and insufficiently coordinated response to conflict.
  • Structural inequalities in the distribution of political and economic resources, historical and current.

We are rightly proud of the fact that the elections unfolded peacefully, but as we peruse these findings there is clearly much to work on as far as our values are concerned… and this in the context of our national vision, as NCIC’s report concludes: “Most leaders in Kenya seem to have abandoned the nationalist vision of equity and justice, and given primacy to the acquisition of power and wealth.”

Who should take the lead in bringing national values to the top of Kenya’s agenda, so future such NCIC reports can read differently? Realistically, it seems we can rely on only a small minority of our elected leaders to play that moral role. So how can we build a critical mass of influential individuals and institutions to take us to that much better place?

Yes, NCIC is there, and it has been doing well partnering with religious leaders, the private sector’s Mkenya Daima, civil society, youth, communities and government entities. And the CBC’s Values-Based Education is vital for nurturing future generations. Then, where are you and your organisations in all of this?

As we enter a new administration, it is a time of opportunity. Many of those who are the most influential and who should most act as role models for healthy values will remain the ones who least do so. So we must make it harder for impunity to reign.

Transparency and accountability must continue to be enhanced, with the support of technology and with the law and order entities working ever closer together to deter poor behaviour. And if only we could limit the time and cost of campaigning!

Along with being serious about penalising those displaying negative values, we must also recognise and celebrate the good guys, not least through the media. For there are plenty of Kenyans who live good values, however hard that is in our very challenging political, economic and social environment.

On October 20, we celebrated Mashujaa Day. By happy coincidence it coincided with World Values Day, an annual campaign to increase the awareness and practice of values around the world. So let’s bring our national heroes into our values-nudging campaign.

It is a major project, a long journey. One on which we must embark urgently and vigorously. Now.

The roles of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi have been defined as follows:

Assist the President and the Deputy President in the coordination and supervision of government ministries and State departments.

In liaison with the ministry responsible for Interior and National Administration, oversee the implementation of national government policies, programmes and projects.

Chair and coordinate national government legislative agenda across all ministries and State departments in consultation with and for transmission to the party or coalition leaders in Parliament, facilitate inter-ministerial coordination of cross-functional initiatives and programmes.

And coordinate and supervise the technical monitoring and evaluation of government policies, programmes and projects.

Very good. Coordinating and facilitating, supervising and overseeing. With Mr Mudavadi’s extensive and varied experience, and as someone known to be “the adult in the room”, I don’t doubt that he will add value. The question I ask is what systems will he have available to support him to play his role effectively – and this without duplicating the not dissimilar functions of the Deputy President.

Different institutions and approaches have been introduced in succeeding administrations to carry out the kinds of functions described in the Prime Cabinet Secretary’s job description. I go back to the Kibaki days when the Public Service Reform and Development Secretariat (PSRDS) brought in such goodies as Results Based Management (RBM) and the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI). I was a member of the consultants for Kenya team that supported PSRDS with these excellent initiatives, which were beginning to make a real difference when it was disbanded.

What largely remained was the Performance Contracting Unit, which had been separate, and then as now it, unfortunately, has fallen far short of delivering on its significant potential.

As I have seen in so many government entities whose performance contracts I have studied over the years — at the national and also devolved levels — the performance indicators very rarely extend to assessing the ultimate desired impact of an initiative.

Instead, the participants play safe, with easy-to-measure mere output indicators, like in this common example. Objective: “Train 40 staff on the XYZ system.” Indicator: “40 staff trained.” That’s it. No consideration of what the staff learned or how they applied it and with what consequence.

As I put it in the many workshops I facilitate on such subjects, those involved were too timid and unambitious to keep asking the “So what?” question, till that ultimate desired impact was defined and hence the extent of its achievement, could be assessed.

By the way, it’s why I’ve never been a fan of the term monitoring and evaluation or M&E as it is commonly known. For it too readily describes what happens. Yes, work is monitored, and yes, it is evaluated – both necessary, and yet unless there is a “So what?” of the monitoring and evaluation in terms of driving higher performance as a result of the M and the E, we have not reached the sufficient.

This is what RBM and RRI were all about. And through the World Bank others and I introduced PM4R – Performance Management for Results. Yes, for results.

So, Bwana Mudavadi, please review the performance contracting system, and ensure that the capacity to deliver what it should is developed and applied. Then, do not have fragmentation of the institutions supporting you and whom you will be supporting.

Take the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat seriously, as it drives its five-year medium-term plans and extends its horizon beyond 2030. And do not have other delivery units at the national level that overlap or compete. Also, consider the re-establishment of the National Economic and Social Council. It will help you, the DP and the President.

So much has been learned about what it takes to have high-performance teams deliver on their mandates with impact. We have seen such teams in action at both the national and county levels, and we know the critical success factors involved. In my work supporting the government over the years, I have helped leadership teams overcome non-technical obstacles to performance. Here the challenge of defining appropriate performance indicators requires even more deep thought, motivating and enabling the route to success.

Do not over-complicate the systems, Sir, and focus on the disproportionately significant. But above all nurture a focus on the aspirational future.

How do you get to win-win? By exchanging offers and requests, and indulging in give and take – maybe upfront simultaneously, or maybe over time – now us, then you. Each side is prepared to be “generous” to the other, to make “sacrifices” for the greater longer-term mutual good.

Ethical, responsible vendors look beyond simply maximising short-term revenue. They equally expect to deliver on customer satisfaction, for it is this that leads to repeat business and referrals.

Just like purchasers who look to the future go beyond merely trying to slash the price at which they buy and to extend their credit terms. They know the suppliers too must cover their costs and make a living, so as to be there for them tomorrow.

In leading up to the negotiation the vendor should adopt the mindset of an adviser to the buyer, helping them make the business case for their solution. Yes, solution (not just the product and its features), with its cost-benefit analysis to show it makes sense.

This requires gaining a good understanding of the needs of the buyer – bearing in mind that what they think they want does not necessarily align with your perception of their need. Reaching alignment here in itself can become an important aspect of negotiation.

Are prospects too focused on short-term cost-minimisation? If so how do you move them to look at the broader context of value-for-money? This kind of negotiating is particularly important for suppliers who don’t expect to be the cheapest but to offer the best product/solution with a good return on having invested in it.

This requires preparing a document that goes way beyond a statement of product features and price (a “quotation”) to showing a full understanding of the need and how it is being met, maybe with alternatives and recommendations (a “proposal”).

With capital goods, where installation, maintenance and other ongoing services are provided, one of the biggest challenges is avoiding the blame game when problems arise, which all too often they do.

This requires investing time up front to agree on a code of conduct should such issues emerge. The objective is to keep calm and be solution-oriented, accepting that no one is perfect. That’s negotiating and building robust win-win relationships at the outset.

When I launched my early career as a key account manager of large IT clients, I was much younger than those with whom I was interacting on the customer side.

The challenge for me was to hold my own despite the great age difference, and I found that due to my understanding of the essence of the business case for our solutions I was confident enough to engage with such people as adult to adult, as equals. I respected them, and they respected me; we listened to one another and co-created the way ahead.

There are plenty of confident young people, and not least here in Kenya. Equally though, I have found many who feel intimidated by elders, not least in our society where the older you are the more respect you expect, and that your way will prevail.

(Now well into my third age I push back whenever I feel I am being offered excessive respect purely as a result of being a mzee… or, for that matter, a mzungu.)

So when it comes to negotiating, at whatever age – or whichever gender, it is vital to overcome feeling inhibited merely because of being younger or being a woman. No, enjoy interacting with prospects and clients eye-to-eye. Yes, enjoy.

Chat about other things; laugh together; commiserate. Treat them as partners, where both you and they will do well from the relationship and where you look forward to interacting. That’s how your first contract with such a customer will be far from your last.