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Sawu Bona, Sikhona

Note: This newsletter is usually posted on Thursday morning. However due to the approaching Tropical Storm/Hurricane Idalia we are posting it several days early.

 I recently had a lengthy conversation with a colleague, Jeff Summers (formerly of Motorola University) in which we were discussing a drawback to the current prevalent thoughts in the continuous process improvement efforts. We agreed that we are excelling in the view of the backdrop to the technical bais of our problems. I and most of my other peers in this business can readily explain to you how to resolve a problem the technical side. We can make suggestions on how to change the process flow to lessen the impact of the problem on the organization. But we are lacking in one critical area to completely resolve the issues at hand.

That issue is the socio side of the equation. We seem to forget the role of the human capital assets in our problem solutions. We tend to view these valuable assets as a liability that show on our balance sheet rather than the necessary component of our success. The poet Adrienne Rich summed it up best in a poem a former college professor provided to me.

In her publication Blood, Bread and Poetry in 1956, she said “when those who have the power to name, and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you, whether you are dark-skinned, old, disabled, female or speak in a different accent, or dialect than theirs, when someone with the authority of a teacher say, describes the world and your re not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.”

Take her words and replace teacher with management and you get the same effect. We end up with human capital assets that are neither empowered nor engaged. One of Jeff’s points was when he was working with clients and introduced the socio side the immediate response was that they had never been treated that way before.

The title of this edition is not gibberish. According to Peter Senge in his book, The Dance of Change, the indigenous tribes of Natal use these terms together. Sawna Bona loosely translates to I see you. The term Sikhoma likewise translates to I am here. From there the people of Sub Sahara regions go further and state Umuntu ngumuntu naga banu, which means a person is a person because of other people.

How do we implement this change of focus? We can achieve this through several strategies that requires some change in philosophy among all involved.

Strategy #1: Change the focus of organizational governance.

Most organizations today still operate from a top-down frame of mind. Upper management tells the organization what to do, when do it and how to do it. This puts your human capital assets directly in Adrienne Rich’s mirror and sees no one. Decentralize your decision process. I highly recommend you read the Peter Senge’s books dealing with the establishment of a learning organization.

Strategy #2: Change the focus of how you arrive at solutions.

Hey, I have been there. We have a problem that is confronting us. The team gathers and begin to present their views on the problem, The problem is that it is presented as a discussion. Each side gives their view, and you tend to argue what is the best solution. Change that conversation from a discussion to a dialogue. The difference is that instead of encouraging sharing of ideas we look to find the meanings, understanding and how our ideas are connected.

Strategy #3: Recognize that you do not know everything.

Related to the previous strategy, do not participate on a cross-functional team with the attitude that only you know how to fic it. Do not assume that you are the only source of the right solution. Be open to seeing other points of view as to the best solutions whether they come internally or externally to your team and organization. Be open to full collaboration.

Strategy #4: They are not the enemy.

Do not function under the belief that other functions or team members within your organization are out to get you. Treat them as colleagues with equal footing and ability to influence decision making processes. Believe that their contributions have equal value.

Strategy #5: Define the purpose of your human capital assets within your organization.

I do not care what generation you represent. I do not care what your functional area is within the organization. If you stop for a moment and think you will find that no matter who you are or what your function is, you are seeking the same end goal. You want an organization that is meaningful and valuable. The end purpose of all the continuous process improvement is to meet these two critical goals of our human capital assets.

 Sawu Bona and Sikhona tells us how to meet the socio side of organizational development. It tells us how we need to understand, recognize and value the contribution of the human capital assets in the equation. They need to be recognized as real entities not just pawns in some artificial system that has existed for decades. The only way we can expect to have a successful change process is to combine all the available resources into the process. This means that we need to encompass our human capital assets.

 About the author: Daniel Bloom knows HR and Change Management. He’s a speaker on transformational HR, a strategic HR consultant and trainer. Looking to ways to enhance your vale to your organization? We now offer virtual fully accredited six-sigma yellow belt certification training. Learn more at