Kasi Corner Talks: Episode 9, Creating An Ecosystem For An Entrepreneurial Mindset Within Our Organizations

Written By: Motebang Senaoana, Osmium Co-Founder & Manager

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From increasing student loans to stakeholder pressures for professional growth and
development, unemployment and rise in inflation, millenials are facing an array of internal and external pressures to make something, be something.

With the problems they are faced with, they are constantly encouraged to develop and grow an entrepreneurial mindset. This is a state of mind which sees opportunities and not problems, and applies innovation where challenges are met. This mindset is required not just for their growth, but for the sustainable growth of the country’s economy. But it’s very contingent upon relevant organizations fostering the perpetuation and growth of this type of mindset.

Lesotho’s organizational structures are still built of classical organizational theories that have a top-down approach to management. The very problem with this approach was centred on two main factors, it viewed employees as merely tools for the bigger machine that is; the entire organization, and secondly it had a disconnect between organizational demands and that of the employees.

These continued setbacks laid the foundation for liberal, neo-liberal and other approaches. Thus changing the mindset of what we knew as employee relations to Human Resources. But key emphasis had not been put on actually capacitating the youth for growth and development of an entrepreneurial mindset. More developed economies in the west had tried as part of their neo liberal approach, applying a bottom-up approach and involving relevant stakeholders in the policy process (from inception to implementation). But there was still a lack more especially in the developing economies.

Was there hope for Lesotho’s classical Top-Downers? Could they be able to perpetuate and grow an entrepreneurial thinking for the growing labour market? Lesotho’s one problem has always been it’s lack of conformity to change. Excuses and relevant problems can be made to answer why this happens but really, there’s a fundamental fear for adaptability to change.

Bottom Up approach to management has been known to foster the mindset in question. But it’s adaptability requires a shift, a radical one at that. But what if there was a simpler more practical & contextual approach? Anyone born from the 80s to present has a lot of pressures and problems to deal with. Monetary forms of motivation are just not enough. Employees want to feel that they are growing, being challenged, being allowed to be innovative, they want to feel that, at the end of the day they contributed towards the overall success of the organization (of course boiling down success to complete accomplishment of goals).

So how do they do this? Is there a manner in which a top-down approach to management of organizational teams (taking a deliberate shift from ‘human resource’) can foster an entrepreneurial mindset in Lesotho’s economy, both for the private and public sector? This can ultimately be boiled into a number of factors.

 

Improvement In Communication

Every department within an organization must have clear and explicit goals set for their
respective teams. These goals must be subjective to SMART goals and must be flexible enough to allow autonomy and innovation.

Departmental managers ought to be able allow a flexible line of communication that adequately fosters feedback mechanisms that allow teams to monitor their growth and setbacks. This doesn’t mean they necessarily have to be micromanaged, they just have to be allowed to innovate and communicate.

Continued practise of this is guaranteed to make a member feel that they have made a contribution to the growth of the organization while also they themselves have been allowed to grow and diversify their skillset.

 

Strategic Synchronization of Personal & Organizational Goals

The establishment of motivational theories were premised on the very idea that the best way to manage employees or human resources is to find out what motivated workers individually and work towards Synchronizing that into the organizational goals and objectives. This is the one Bottom-Up that is practical and can be applied.

Lesotho’s organizations ought to be able to allow departments enough autonomy to find out goals and aspirations and use the latter to structure the overall accomplishment of goals in ways that would lead to their growth and development. If your goal is to achieve sales by 15% by the end of the financial year, why not allow the individual who wants to grow their marketing skills to structure a marketing roadmap that will lead to customer acquisition and gradual increase of sales.

Foster a feedback environment and allow their skills to grow and diversify and surely your goal as an organization would have been accomplished by the time of the marked time (two birds, one stone). But this then depends on the working together with other teams, and gaining knowledge from internal and/or external factors. This then brings in the factor of Autonomy.

 

Strategic Autonomy

It is not completely unheard of for top down approach to have a autonomy for its subordinates. Give them a goal, a time frame, feedback mechanism, and allow flexibility to work anyhow and the goal will be accomplished. No one employee, in fact, person in any context likes to feel constraint, more so when it comes to a field of work they specialize in.

Try giving strict rules to a Creative (graphic designer, musician, or visual artist) and see what happens. They will not give you the best of what’s required. It’s rather more efficient if you set a goal, have set (flexible) rules, a times frame, feedback and let the imagination run wild, and let results amaze you.

Team members ought to feel that they are solving a problem, that their skill set is being
challenged and their innovation will surely come to light. The mindset of an entrepreneur is premised on this; seeing opportunities where many see problems, and this is done more effectively when the hand of autonomy is present within the organization.

 

Organizational Culture

A top-down approach to management may sound somewhat subjective to strict rules to
behavior, no involvement in the organization, tools to a machine. But I’d like to believe a more liberal approach to the top-down theory management can apply.

Organizational culture sets the tone of informal rules of engagement for the teams; how do you communicate, how do you work and how do you address set issues with colleagues (up or down the communication channel). There’s already a bad name to the top-down, it doesn’t have to be that way. So long there’s clear set communication and proper decision making strategies when policies are conceptualized, the others could be relaxed a bit.

Organizational culture makes the workplace more bearable and management should not ignore it’s impact on team members of the organization. The entrepreneurial mindset can be perpetuated for Lesotho’s organizations. We just have to allow room for change to happen. No one has ever said management theories only apply for set countries at set economies. Applying a more liberal top-down approach to management of team members will surely be a step closer towards accommodating Lesotho’s youth.

 

Is this Practical?

Thus far, there has been a number of organizations that applied this approach. The National University of Lesotho’s Centre for Teaching & Learning has allowed the establishment of a volunteering initiative; the eBuddies under the Instructional Technology department.

Part of the mission of the centre is to “Support the provision of programs aimed at promoting scholarly and innovative strategies for creation of knowledge using modern technologies”. For this to efficiently be carried out, there has to be presence and use of technology, involvement of relevant stakeholders, including academic staff and students.

Through this, there has been the establishment of the eBuddies program; a student led
volunteering whose mandate is fostering eLearning through the institution’s Learning
Management System; Thuto. The youth have been allowed to take the initiative to be Thuto Learning Assistants and also be part of ways in which instructional technology can be used to foster learning and teaching.

Problems are viewed as opportunities, adequate consistent use of available resources is
fostered and importantly; there’s a set elements of autonomy allowed. The organizational culture permits the efficient use of available resources while also ensuring an ecosystem that allows the correct mindset needed for everyone to grow.

So each organization can and should foster a mindset that allows sustainable organizational growth and a continued professional development.

 


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