In the Brits factory at Syngenta, the whole plant, from managers to shop floor dances and sings together, and then sits down excitedly to address issues that have been effecting morale and high level performance. Within 2-3 hours many issues have been resolved, and trust is clearly building. Many who did not speak and contribute before are now making their voices heard. A community is being cemented, and all have a sense of being active participants, no longer passive victims but shaping their own destinies together, for each other and the company. All in it together, one company.

Much mention is made by us of the Umhlangano, which is a wonderful tool (ask Syngenta or Lafarge or Bateman Engineering, for example, where they have been run highly successfully by us) for building a new positive, participative corporate culture, and ensuring sustainability of any change process–a major criticism of most trainings.

The Umhlangano (Nguni languages for “meeting” or “gathering”), or “Interactive Forum”, as pioneered in the workplace by Mike Boon of Group Africa, provides an excellent approach and procedure for running meetings in a diverse work environment. It is essential that the team is well-trained before they take over running of the Umhlangano themselves. The format ensures openness of all processes and discussions, and hence the needs of the whole team are taken into account. Umhlangano also is a procedure for generating and ensuring the keeping of team values, so they are supported and nurtured by all in the team, as opposed to becoming rules laid down by management which then become part of a battle. Values consensually agreed-to and supported by all in the team (whether it be honesty or punctuality, for example) are much more likely to be adhered to (“These are our values”)

Umhlangano can be used for a variety of purposes: Communication of necessary information, decision-making, maintenance of team values, training and learning, discussion of any issues which are effecting the performance of the team. It is important to realise that Umhlangano ONLY deals with people issues and is NOT a forum for discussion of operational work.

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