Recovery and transformation for organisations in COVID-19

Prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations were already reimagining their business models. This was largely in part due to an unprecedented rate of change caused by advancements in Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT), which resulted in changes in consumer tastes, the intensity of competition, and the threat level of technology-enabled new entrants. The pandemic has further accelerated the rate of change as it expedited the mass adoption of ICT solutions across all industries. Problems facing organisations are therefore not limited to surviving and bouncing back from COVID-19 but extend to ensuring that they remain competitive in an ever-changing world. Business recovery will, therefore, be technology-led and transformation will be at the center of recovery.

Business recovery

For a successful business recovery, organisations need to balance ensuring both the immediate and long-term success of their operations. To ensure immediate success organisations should be in crisis mode making sure that they protect their current business operations. For long-term success, organisations need to evaluate and rethink how they deliver value to their customers.

Immediate success

Companies should have cross-functional teams of experts whose objective is to ensure immediate organisational success by formulating and implementing actionable plans and strategies. These short-term plans and strategies need to ensure the safety of both customers and employees throughout their value chain. The strategies must also improve employee productivity while working from home, and the revenues, costs, and cash operations of the organisation.  A proactive response is essential in managing the COVID-19 crisis and developing the agility to adapt to rapid changes in the external environment.  Certainly, nobody can predict the future, however, when it comes to the pandemic, there are three possible scenarios. The pandemic could come to an end through mass vaccination, it could be endemic due to regional differences in the response by the public to vaccination, or vaccination could be a global success and completely eradicate the pandemic. Leaders need to model extensively around these possible outcomes for a successful recovery. 

Long term success

For organisations to thrive in the long run they need to undergo a fundamental change in how they deliver value to their customers. COVID-19 has expedited the mass adoption of technologies such as video conferencing, e-commerce, online banking, and more. COVID-19 regulations have forced both customer and organisation reliance on these technologies that have proven to work. As a result, customer tastes and behaviours have changed rapidly as a result of this reliance. It is therefore essential that organisations investigate fundamental changes in how they deliver value to their customers to meet the demands of changing spending habits. Organisations must deliver value to customers in a manner that meets their needs and exceeds their expectations. The delivery of value must be fast and convenient, without compromising the safety of the customer. For example, for traditional banks to remain competitive in the long run, they need to match the levels of convenience, speed, and safety with which neobanks service the needs of their clients. However, traditional banks and neobanks are rooted in two differing fundamental principles (what is the major differentiator between the two). Traditional banks, therefore, need to undergo transformation throughout their value chain to effectively service the needs of their customers, and match and outperform their competitors to ensure their long-term success.

Leading a business transformation

For a successful organisational transformation to occur, leaders must first understand the current state of their organisation and that of the influence of their macro environment on operations. They must then determine the desired future state of the organisation and think reflectively about what they need to do to realize their aspirations. Leaders must develop a clear strategic vision, with foresight of risks and possible mitigation strategies, that will direct all employee efforts in realising the purpose of the organisation. This would aid efforts to solicit buy-in from the employees who would resonate from a personal level with the overall strategy. An organisation could, for example, aspire to be agile. The vision must help employees understand the motivation behind the aspiration. It is then up to the leaders to develop action plans translating how the transformation will be realised to reach the desired future state. This must be followed by the most difficult step in the transformation process which is execution. Getting all stakeholders aligned on, and adopting the strategy makes this phase challenging (why or how? common pitfalls?). Once the execution phase has been completed a transformation will have occurred.

Business recovery will require leaders to simultaneously focus their attention and resources on the current and future needs of their organisations. Focusing on one and neglecting the other could be detrimental to the organisation (why and how? consider opportunity cost?).

The scale of change that has occurred over the past year demands that leaders consider transformation to match the scale of change and level of uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

At EMZ Advisory we assist organisations to live out their vision of providing customised solutions that enable positive change to unleash their growth potential. We have adapted our best practice delivery model to help leaders deal with recovery and transformation during these challenging times of crisis where individual and team accountability is key.


Deloitte. (2020). Workforce Strategies for Post-COVID Recovery. Deloitte.

Hernan Saenz, D. O. (2020). Protect, Recover and Retool. Baine & Company.

Kanarick, B. (2020, April 6). Why transformation is essential to a COVID-19 recovery. EY.

Practically Empowering Women

by Zipho Sikhakhane

On the 2nd week of International Women’s month, I had the honor of hosting a four-day international women’s conference for one of the top four commercial banks in the country. The central theme of the conference was women in leadership and women empowerment, and it was attended by female leaders from all over the continent.

Granted, a lot of companies make a lot of noise about Diversity and Inclusion, but only a certain percentage invest time and resources into Diversity and Inclusion. I am proud to report that this client that I work with has invested extensively into women development even before I started hosting this conference three years ago. Due to COVID19 restrictions and implications, we had to host the conference virtually, which was still amazing. In this article, I will highlight the themes of the conference and me biggest learnings.

1. Enhancing women development programmes

Companies need to have vigorous women’s programmes in place. Having a conference once a year will not achieve the desired outcomes. The conference plants a seed but beyond that, further action needs to be taken. Women in all industries should have international mentors and sponsors who will coach and guide them through this journey. It is very vital to not leave men out of this conversation because they are the ones in the leadership and decision-making positions. Their support is essential in driving women development in the workplace. They need to have an active hand is dismantling the ‘it’s a man’s world’ stereotype.

2. Wellbeing, self-care, work life balance

Even though this is a topic that affects both genders, females are greatly affected. One of the executives spoke about being a single mother of four children at home and heading up a department at work. Unfortunately, this is an ideal environment for one to panic and feel under pressure. One advice that I give my female mentees is that it is okay to not be superwoman and do it all. There is no error is occasionally asking for help and having a network of people who can help you navigate though the trails and tribulations of this life. One of my coaches once said that if you going to do something, give it your all and do it right, hence having assistance is essential.

3. Networking

We need to create a platform for women to connect with each other, reach out and support each other. Networking is the first step to building your net worth. When I started EMZ Advisory in 2015, I reached out to my intimate and broader network to get clients and new work. The relationships that I built 10 years ago are still working to my benefit and goodwill. Never underestimate the value of networking and putting yourself out there. You might be saying, “But Zipho, I am a shy person and its difficult for me to put myself out there. The first step is being uncomfortable and embracing the discomfort. Feel it and get over it for your own benefit.

4. Confidence

The greatest thing you can wear is a smile and confidence. If you do not believe in yourself, no one else will. If you get nervous while speaking in public, try speaking in front of the mirror or going for voice training. Dress up in nice clothes and embrace anything that boosts your confidence. Studies show that they first thing that people notice about your when they meet you for the first time is how you look and present yourself. Granted, building your confidence is not a one-day event, but it is worth investing in in the long term. My confidence has helped me overcome challenges, limit disbeliefs and live intentionally

5. Showing Up

One of my biggest mottos in life is to always show up in all circumstances. In order to build your credibility and status, you need to fulfill the promises and commitments you make. Ensure that you are not well known for something negative. We all know that 1 person who is notorious for being late or not honoring commitments. Do not be person and make sure that you are known as the person who always goes the extra mile and extends a helping hand.

Whether you a female or male, I believe that these five themes can resonate with you and inspire you to make the positive changes in your life. We all need to work together to uplift women all the time, not just in March or August (Women’s month in South Africa). I am proud to say that we are the generation that is “Breaking the celling” and lessening the barriers for the next generation. The work is far from over, but most importantly, we have started.

SAVCA 2021: re:imagine

The Feedback You Need: The Role of Constructive Conversations in the Remote Working Context

The “digital age” has allowed a vast repository of resources to be available at only a click away. It has sped up the pace and capabilities of business throughout all sectors and inadvertently allowed less obvious elements to slip into our peripherals. The increase in reliance on digitally drived communication has masked the human-to-human disconnect and undoubtedly “hardened” our interpersonal skills.  We have been granted much to leverage, and by contract still ended up giving  away much too.

The current pandemic has forced businesses to embrace change, pushing an “adapt or die” agenda. The newly associated “remote-working revolution” has further exposed our communication gaps and helped heighten the importance of effective communication. The role of constructive and developmental feedback in this multifaceted process is all too often overlooked, however it can be a powerful tool when used effectively. Although the “digital age” has caused some difficulties, it has also provided opportunity to redress many of these.

Well developed best practice  insights on processes and tools that can address productivity drivers can now be accessed and leveraged effortlessly. Feedback practices, although only a single element, fall under this category of effective processes and tools. Successful leaders all too often swear by many of these feedback tools. In reality, feedback is commonly the only point of contact between varying role responsibilities, and the effectiveness of this point of contact can significantly affect the alignment of the participants involved. In leadership roles in particular, feedback can be the sword to lead your army, or contrastingly, if you are unaware how to yield it, becomes the tool used to  stab you in the foot.

Whilst feedback is likely to already be implemented in all businesses to some degree, the lack thereof is not the issue, but rather the content, delivery, and choice of words is. Understanding what makes feedback ineffective is an important first step in identifying whether you have any shortcomings. One of the most common causes for its ineffectiveness is the way in which it is used. Oftentimes it is utilised as a tool of warning, given in a one-dimensional manner, informing an individual of what went wrong and what must change. This does not allow the full potential of feedback to be attained and does not guarantee any hope of resolution on the constructive outcomes. Two-way feedback alternatively, is a much more useful approach. Two-way feedback aims for the feedback to be conversational, developmental and encourages both participants to provide insights and make commitments. Mutual trust and understandings can then be achieved, and realistic paths forward can thereafter be determined. It can help optimise a vast spectrum of both internal and external productivity drivers as its use can then be tailored to address individual needs.

Proven effective feedback models such as IDEA, SMART, CEDAR, SBI, Pendleton and DESC, all share 3 key elements that have led to their effectiveness. These 3 key elements are:

  1. The behaviour – identifying the issue (or positive area) in context
  2. The result – explaining how the behaviour impacted the company or individuals involved
  3. The next steps – identifying a way forward (mutual understanding)

It is important to note that feedback should not be used solely as a tool of criticism. Many benefits can be yielded through positive encouragement when colleagues are performing well. It can solidify individual strengths, as well as improve organisational health. Responsibilities in feedback are certainly present at all levels of employment, and education is the minimum every organisation should be practicing. Effective implementation will likely require conscious efforts initially, however strong habits can quickly be built, and soon thereafter that sword will be sharp and ready for battle.

Whilst utilising feedback models is extremely useful, and minimises many shortcomings of providing instinctual feedback, there are still challenges present. These models focus more on the content aspect, neglecting the choice of use and delivery of feedback. Many considerations in how to implement the models effectively need to be understood and utilised. To address these challenges, you must be able to comprehensively identify them, and thereafter a tailored approach to its implementation, that can mitigate environment-specific challenges, can be determined.

Of course, this is no small task, and feedback is only a single aspect of communication, yet it can contribute significantly towards improving organisational health and productivity. This is an area we at EMZ Advisory understand deeply, alongside other crucial elements related to organisational health and productivity. It is an element that has certainly contributed to our numerous successful project implementations as we are actively able to effectively educate and equip leaders and staff-alike, with the necessary understandings and tools required to flourish independently in these unfamiliar times.

Business Strategy Process


Being consumed by strategy planning during the pandemic era has only stood to reaffirm the old adage that says that the only constant is change. This could not be truer for most organisations within the business environment – who are constantly required to navigate uncertainty, challenges, and disruption to grow and evolve. Now more than ever, many organisations are expected to be agile when these change events arise in order to simply survive.

Whilst the unprecedented, ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has had a fundamental impact on organisations, necessitating a response, it has further offered a catalyst for change for organisations who wish to remain relevant and create sustainable business practices that drive trust. The challenges and opportunities revealed by the pandemic can be witnessed through the various organisations that have either caved, survived, or thrived.
In response to the pandemic, organisations are under pressure to go back to their foundation and continuously revisit their overall strategy. Assessing one’s organisational strategy through a forward-looking lens, underpinned by innovation and dexterity, will ensure that organisations can respond to the immediate crisis and medium-term challenges, but equally important, that organisations can equip themselves for long-term renewal and prosperity within the ‘new’ business as usual environment.

Whilst ongoing strategic planning and review exercises may be relatively ordinary course for most organisations, many organisations are finding it more overwhelming at this juncture, given the amount of change and “out of the box” thinking required when planning for this reenvisaged future. Organisations worldwide and our clients alike have been encouraged to rely on the support and facilitation of strategy planning and implementation experts – thus directing them out of the uncertainty with customised guidance and relevant and realistic goals, whilst deriving tangible, agile implementation plans.

Evidently, challenges arising from the pandemic are also bringing to light existing issues that have already impacted organisational success, thereby compounding the impact of the pandemic. As such – much like the human immune system – leadership is required to mount a balanced response to the pandemic as well as to existing but unaddressed dynamics within the organisation (including but not limited to: unclear vision/mission, misalignment between goals and strategic priorities, protecting financial returns, leadership team dynamics, limited understanding of customer needs and expectations, lack of transparency or clear communication, misalignment between business units, and insufficient change management).  

We believe that organisations do have the capability to get started and salvage their strategy through to execution by simplifying the approach and revisiting their core drivers. Consideration of the following impact drivers, when reviewing your organisation’s strategy, will influence the extent to which you are able to achieve post-pandemic success:

Collaboration and Communication – Establish a consistent and inclusive approach to working across the organisation. Strategy does not rest purely with the leadership team – it needs to filter down through the business – thus internal and external stakeholder input and buy-in is imperative to co-create and realise the strategy. We are seeing board members now more than ever wanting to be contribute to the earlier stages of the strategy planning process. This emphasises the critical nature of uniting all stakeholders through a common purpose, creating effective teaming relationships, and leveraging strengths.

Culture and Commitment – A strategy is only as good as the culture and implementation plan that supports it. As such, value-driven behaviour; SMART action plans (that consider people, process, structure, technology, etc.) and governance are essential to foster commitment, accountabilities, and prioritisation of high-impact initiatives. In addition, organisation-wide strategy must be tailored to each business unit so that there is an understanding of how each contributes to success and fits into the value chain.

Courage and Change – Leadership needs to lead by example, and demonstrate to their people, customers, and shareholders, that they can take charge. This means moving out of their comfort zone to be bold, aspirational, open-minded, honest, vulnerable, transparent, and empathetic. In driving organisational change, leadership should try to leverage the principles of design-thinking by starting with the end in mind so that they are able to learn quickly, be proactive, and building resiliency. That said, with any change, a robust change management plan needs to be in place, to take your organisation on the journey with you.

Customer and Current landscape – Retention should be the priority, but this is hinged on understanding who your customers are, creating a single view, and being customer-centric to tailor products, services, and engagement to customers’ evolving needs. Beyond this, organisations need to remain current on what is happening within their organisation, locally and globally to ensure that all decisions are underpinned by relevant and in-depth research and analysis. This will also enable proper business case development and prioritisation for investments across the business.

As with all key decisions, strategy review and implementation resides with everyone in an organisation. As EMZ Advisory, after almost a year of continuing to support organisations towards post-pandemic success, we pride ourselves in expertise as we partner with organisations to optimise their strategic planning process – ensuring that organisations co-create it, buy-into it and own it end-to-end, while upholding their values along the way – supported by robust implementation plans to achieve their success

What some of the leadership our blue-chip clients had to say about our service offerings:

“First strategy session where I know what I am walking away with to work on (practical)”

“I see the commitment of the team, if we stay on this path, we will achieve what we need to”

“Pushed to be solution driven”

“Know what to tell our teams to focus on”

Get your hands on the levers of influence

The ability to be a good leader is more important in South Africa than ever before.

The days of succeeding as a leader just because you were operating your business in a thriving, good growth economy are long gone. External market forces are no longer reliable enough as primary drivers for immediate growth.

If anything, the ability to be a good leader rests on the ability to be an effective influencer. Being an effective leader is synonymous with being an effective influencer.

The challenge we face in South Africa is that most of us believe we need to be in a position of seniority before we can even begin to consider how to be an effective influencer. Hence we rely on our positions as enablers to influence others, completely unaware that there are so many other ways to be influential as a leader – position in the hierarchy being only one of them.
This also means that some of our entrepreneurs are missing out on opportunities to be more influential because they believe they need to first become really successful before they start examining how to be effective influencers.

This sentiment is echoed by Gilan Gork, a South African mentalist and corporate speaker, who has been studying influence techniques for more than 18 years and has travelled around the world teaching people how to exert more persuasion in sales, marketing and leadership – without relying on any psychic abilities.

When working with leaders in South Africa, he finds that positional leadership is relied on more than is necessary. The result of this is a form of self-imposed glass ceiling on our business leaders because they limit their own ability to be effective.

The businesses that will stand out and outperform their competitors are those whose leaders use various levers beyond their position to influence people.

In his book Persuasion Games,Gork writes that the first step to increasing one’s effectiveness is to accept that if you are an influencer, then you are a leader – from the parent at home persuading their children and the employee influencing customers every day to the business owner who is interacting with various stakeholders every day.

The more that leaders become conscious of how to identify opportunities to influence and how to maximise them, the more effective they can be.
Our politicians are leading us at a time when they, too, need to convince the country – and the rest of the world – of this economy’s growth potential. However, few of these leaders are doing a good enough job of being persuasive to lead to the desired change.

In the case of entrepreneurs and small business owners, the ability to influence effectively is even more important. Every interaction takes on the tone of an attempt to influence someone to buy into your idea. Influencing new customers, suppliers, investors, partners, and employees becomes a daily task.

Instead of waiting for the time when they feel that they hold a position important enough to be influential, leaders ought to start being successful influencers today.

By doing so, a leader is building a business that is likely to have an edge over those whose leaders have yet to learn how to influence effectively and thus cannot transfer this important skill to their staff.

Gork has narrowed down being an effective influencer to three questions people want answered when we are attempting to influence them: Can I trust you? Do you care about me? Can you help me?

The ability to answer these questions effectively for your audience will set you apart from those who cannot.

An example of a leader who did this effectively is Meg Whitman, who took over as CEO of eBay in 1998, when it employed just 30 people and generated only $4-million (About R60-million today) in annual turnover.

Many were surprised that she spent most of her early days building relationships with all the staff in order to get a better understanding of what they did well and what motivated them – instead of focusing on what was being done wrong.

By the time Whitman had unveiled her vision and values for the business, everyone could believe in them because they felt connected to her and her vision. While she was influencing them, she had gathered enough insight to successfully answer Gork’s three questions.

In just 10 years, Whitman grew eBay into a company with 15000 employees and an $8-billion annual turnover.

In the words of John Maxwell, leadership expert and author of the bestselling book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

Nourish your business by learning to flow­­

Every writer knows the situation they need to be in if they are to create their best pieces of writing – the setting in which they can remain focused on their writing.

Successful athletes operate in a similar way. Through years of training and experience, they have identified the state of mind they need to reach in order to produce the best results they can. They have learnt the art of bringing their most productive selves to the fore.

This is how former martial artist Rickson Gracie describes it: “I take my conscience off completely and enter into a zone of emptiness. My mind stops thinking and I start to live inside my instinct and my training. I do not think about a thing, nobody, I do not hear any noise. There’s just me and my opponent.”

These moments are what we call being in the zone or being in “flow”. You are immersed in a task, free from the distractions of the modern world, such as gadgets that are always demanding attention, endless to-do lists and persistent worry. The result is immeasurable creativity, peak productivity and complete satisfaction.

Being able to successfully get into the zone regularly is a privilege that should not be restricted primarily to writers and athletes.
It should be something that we all tap into when we are looking for ideas to take our businesses further.

There are aspiring entrepreneurs who are still waiting for an innovative business idea to come to them or wondering how to convert a thought into a viable business venture.

In the same way that writers get into their zone to get inspiration, aspiring entrepreneurs need to be dedicating their time to figuring out what their own version of being in the zone looks like.

If they could find this out, they would be able to optimize their productivity during key moments such as deciding which idea to pursue, how to launch, when to launch or how to prepare for the best pitch.

The creator of the psychological concept of being in flow is author and researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. He stresses the importance of identifying the activities and environments that optimize an individual’s or organization’s ability to tap into their flow state – those moments when the ego falls away and your skills are used to the utmost.

In his books and TED talk on the topic, he quotes a number of successful CEOs who have used flow to achieve success.
Unfortunately, too few people are tapping into this gem for inspiration.
Steven Kotler, an author who has studied 150 years of research on flow, found that the average businessperson spends less than 5% of their work life in flow. But a study by management consulting firm McKinsey found that executives in the flow state were five times more productive than their peers.

One reason so few of us tap into this space is because we are so clogged up with the routine of everyday tasks. And our minds need a break if they are to operate at their best.

It is now December – the holiday season. A time when the opportunities to be in these moments of flow are in abundance.

This is because our minds are not as clogged up by the stresses and worries of every day at work. Instead, our minds are free to do best what they are naturally designed to do – outside all the noise.

For example, some of my most creative and insightful thoughts are in the moments before a new day begins.

During the holiday season, I have the time to jot them down before the day starts. This is why it is handy to carry around a notebook – you need to be ready when innovation strikes.

Meditation retreats are another tool I find effective for getting into flow. Travel is another. It is amazing how many new ideas emerge when you get the chance to exist in a world that is unfamiliar to your own.
These are just a few situations that help me. Every individual is different. Whatever your flow state may be, find it, develop it and tap into it.
When writers get out of the zone, they are left feeling happy and satisfied. It is similar to waking up from the most optimal state of consciousness.
This feeling is good to have not just for the holidays, but for the continued prosperity of the businesses we will build and grow in 2021.

Miner’s Day


As we celebrate international mining day, it is equally
important to acknowledge the role of women in the industry and the strides taken by the industry towards a future that is more accepting of women.

The mining industry in South Africa has come a long way since the introduction of the Mining Charter in 2002 that did away with the exclusion of women to participate in underground work, resulting in limited career options for women in mining. The same Mining Charter revolutionised the industry for women by enforcing quotas urging mining companies to employ a 10% female staff quota. Those who still question the effectiveness of this legislation need to remember that in the year 2000, females only made up 2% of the entire mining workforce in South Africa. 20 years later, that number has increased by 10% making female representation in the mining workforce 12%.

While we may have hoped that female representation across the industry could have been higher, the progress made so far has opened opportunities for women to be heard. . It has enabled women to compete with their male counterparts in this industry that was formerly regarded as a man’s world.

The opportunities created by this revolution has resulted in us seeing a rise in great, powerful, and inspiring women within the industry. Women who have carved careers for themselves despite conditions which are typically not as favorable as those of their male counterparts.

These women continue to pave the way for gender equality and employment. Their rising numbers are valuable to the future of the industry as it creates an opportunity to pass the baton to other upcoming young women who, in the future, will find it easier to pursue their careers as a result of the efforts by us , the women in mining today… and so, we celebrate you as we celebrate international mining day! Not only did the revolution give us great female leaders and role models in the industry, but it made it possible for women in the industry to understand that their voices deserve to be heard.

This has resulted in the formation of various women’s forums that enable women to influence legislation in creating better working conditions for females in mining environments.

Forums such as WIMSA (women in mining south Africa) that has recently been part of creating the white paper on women in mining for the minerals council; and our very own Women-at-Work forum that continues to empower and give voice to all women at South 32 Hillside Aluminium Smelter.

We celebrate all of you and the contributions you continue to make towards the betterment of the mining industry. Happy Miner’s Day!


Education as the powerful weapon to wage the war against COVID19- #MANDELADAY2020

In 2020, the essence of Mandela Day – take action, inspire change, and make every day a Mandela Day – is more important now than ever before.

One of Nelson Mandela’s dying wishes was to see a South Africa where people of all races live together in peace and harmony. He wanted previously disadvantaged individuals to have access to opportunities and services that the old apartheid regime prohibited them from having. Unfortunately, the COVID19 pandemic has affected people who live in impoverished areas the most. Before COVID19, The Youth Unemployment Rate in South Africa averaged 53.06 percent from 2013 until 2020, reaching an all-time high of 59 percent in the first quarter of 2020. The pandemic made things exponentially worse and now more than ever, the spirit of Mandela Day should be prevalent and hopefully have impact that lasts long beyond the date itself.

The Mandela Day focus areas and goals for the years 2019-2029 include Education and Literacy, Food and Nutrition, Shelter, Sanitation and Active Citizenship. – all of which have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of all these goals, everyone must dedicate themselves and commit themselves to at least one goal. This is feasible because these goals are cost effective and can be executed in any community around the country.

We cannot deny the fact that Mandela Day will be different this year because of the Lockdown but we can still make a difference and touch someone’s life. It is crucial for us to remember that what might be insignificant to you might be significant to someone else. We need to let go of our privileges for a moment and try to adopt some of Tata Madiba’s traits like compassion and Kindness. Once we get into that Ubuntu spirit, the South Africa that Nelson Mandela dreamed of will be realized in our lifetime.

As EMZ, we are most passionate about impact on the first goal related to quality education to all children. Goal 1 talks about Provision of quality education to all children. In terms of Matric results, children in private schools get more distinctions in STEM subjects than children in public schools due to insufficient resources and support. Furthermore, the results of inequality and the apartheid system are still prevalent. 80% of children in the rural parts of provinces like Eastern Cape and Limpopo cannot read for meaning by the age of 9 nor do basic maths. has worsened the situation with the introduction of Online learning. Many children in rural areas were already living below the poverty line before COVID19 hence they cannot afford to buy electronic devices, nor do they have enough network coverage to access online learning platforms. This leads to further marginalization of poor children’s access to basic education which in effect hampers their future. This also causes regression and undermines all the policies aimed towards affirmative action in the education space that the government introduced post-1994.

Nelson Mandela once said, Education  is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world. At EMZ we subscribe to this ideology and believe that Education can open doors to success and should be used as a tool to empower children. For many years EMZ has been investing in schools and driving programs for leaners and teachers in South Africa and beyond into the rest of Africa – this has continued despite the COVID19 pandemic. We believe that it is important for businesses to support schools in their communities because that is part of preparing the next generation and ensuring that our future leaders have access to the crucial tools needed to lead a better tomorrow.

There are many things that corporations can do despite the pandemic impact, such as giving the schools the very same chairs, desks and stationery that is currently sitting unused in the offices we all used to occupy. Some corporates might even have enough facilities for people to do online learning on their premises, leveraging the extensive and unused network coverages that exists in our offices. This is merely a start and there are many more ideas that could work – the COVID19 pandemic should not be used an excuse. Individuals and organizations need to push themselves to have impact that can last beyond the 67 minutes initiative for Mandela on 18 July 2020 – our children need it! Let us play our part in securing the future while being inspired by Nelson Mandela and leaving our own special legacy- it all starts with you!


The global pandemic COVID-19 has caused disruption to the way the world operated. Many institutions -including businesses and various governments- were not expecting a disruption of this magnitude; and while others may have been prepared to weather tough times in general, many needed to take a reactive approach in dealing with the crisis. The crisis has shoved the world into a land of the unknown, where the uncertainty of the future is daunting from every perspective; meanwhile there are no timelines on when the virus will finally be manageable. However, the world cannot continue functioning on ‘reactive tactics’, as the environment created by COVID-19 could remain for years and might as well be “the new normal”. The pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of fixed-cycle strategies and has afforded businesses an opportunity to uphold a more adaptive approach.

Immediate Pandemic Crisis Response:

To control the impact of the virus on human life, countries of the world have made significant interventions such as implementing lockdown rules that have resulted in many businesses temporarily closing. As such, businesses have had to rapidly adjust to the shifting needs of their workforce, suppliers, and customers, while navigating other operational and financial challenges. This period has accelerated operational changes in the economy that were already in progress, such as utilising digital platforms to reach customers, allowing employees to work remotely and automating operations where possible. Furthermore, some of the changes in people (both customers & employees) behaviour and demand for a different way of working may outlive the current crisis. Preparing for a “workforce of the future” has moved from a far-off concept to an urgent priority. Measures taken by businesses in response to the crisis also needed to address short-to- medium term cash flow challenges and all-inclusive resiliency issues such as executing or creating business continuity plans.

Medium Term Response:

Preparation is always better than reaction because you are better off when you see an obstacle way in advance, this allows you to simply adjust your trajectory with a moderate turn. On the other hand, if you encounter an obstacle unexpectedly, it requires a massive and sometimes risky, turn. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 the latter was reality for many businesses. In each industry and geography affected, the scale of probable change to consider when deciding on the direction to steer businesses into going forward can be unnerving. To rebound from the crisis, companies need to start planning on how to rapidly return business to scale, and how to adjust these plans as the pandemic evolves and resulting economic effects become clearer. This kind of plan may involve a comprehensive approach on how to revive supply chains, matching employee productivity to new business needs whilst protecting the workforce.

Long Term Planning & Renewal:

More companies are surprisingly seeing the benefits of the current environment created by the pandemic and as such, things are not likely to go back to what they were pre-COVID-19; especially if the current state remains as is for over a year. Some benefits include massive cost savings from not needing physical offices to host employees and increased productivity as a result of flexibility and comfort of working from. Global technology giants are already taking the lead in embracing this new normal. One example being an announcement by CEO of the tech company Twitter on a new policy that will allow employees to choose where they want to work from indefinitely. This announcement came after Google’s Alphabet Inc told its employees to work from home for the rest of the year (Frier, 2020) . This therefore challenges organizations to reimagine the new normal in their medium to long- term strategy. This involves understanding what an intermittent shift may look like and the implications of the shift on how organizations should reinvent. We have seen businesses begin to prepare and action towards shifts in regulatory and Competitive environments in their respective industries.

The new normal may lead to a shift in the “go-to market” approach, for example, many businesses may use this opportunity to move into e-commerce and digitize their customers’ experiences or prioritize new business models. Organizations may need to cooperate with others in their industry and form alliances that will allow them to fast-track technology innovation while reducing the funding burden. Merger and Acquisitions opportunities may increase due to historic low market capitalization. Some organizations may need to reduce their geographic footprint because global supply chains increase exposure to health impacts, trade dynamics may become disruptive and recovery of economies across the globe may happen unevenly. Moving from fixed to variable cost could aid businesses in achieving a lower breakeven volume in times of instability. Furthermore, businesses need to think of strategies that will help them address issues that have been consistently affecting their industries. This may require rethinking the business’ brand, reputation, market relevance, workforce flexibility and flexibility to allow for changing tariffs and sustainability.

In future, companies may need to include social, governance and environmental factors in valuing their businesses to ensure that they incorporate resilience to external shocks, such as pandemics. During this crisis, many businesses have had to rethink their priorities, so that resiliency becomes as imperative to their strategy as cost and efficiency. According to McKinsey’s research on the 2008 financial crisis, a few companies in every sector outperformed their peers. What differentiated resilient companies was how well prepared they were before the crisis (In most cases they had stronger balance sheets) and how they effectively acted during the crisis (Mostly referring to their ability to cut down operating costs). Now that the crisis has happened, we cannot turn back the hand of time to ensure prior preparedness. However, businesses have an opportunity to ensure that they have responded adequately to the crisis and are well prepared to navigate a post-pandemic world. The actions taken now will be the biggest differentiator of businesses that will weather the storm and those that will not.

Questions for Company Leadership to Consider in Navigating the “New Normal”:

The following questions are a guide on what company leaders should consider when checking if they have responded to the pandemic adequately and whether they are taking the necessary steps towards a post-covid future:

1.  Is our executive leadership adequate?

Is the current leadership team capable of taking the organisation through the crisis by ensuring they are motivated, stable, physically strong, and professionally prepared? This includes establishing measures on how to support and empower the team where necessary because on top of their duties they have their own anxiety & stress, need to support their teams in staying healthy, calm, rational and productive, and often do so while working remotely. Thus, they need emotional support, expert advice, and active patronage from the board.

2.   Does management have the right mandate?

Several company boards have changed to short-term targets and are revising them often in newly formed forums. They have acknowledged two primary targets in need of immediate management attention; these are: cash flow and employees’ health

3.   Are we providing stakeholders with the information they need?

One of the most important items at the top of crisis response is transparency and effective, consistent communication as often as things change.

4.   Are we operating in the most effective way?

Business context has transformed, and many companies have switched to remote work and adjusted their operating processes. Teams hold more frequent but shorter meetings where open discussions and information exchanges have replaced formal presentations. Many companies have adopted technology after resisting it for years such and effective leaders began engaging external experts and consultants to get up to speed with the latest developments in different areas of business.

5.   Are we preparing for the post-pandemic future?

Good leaders are not waiting for the crisis to pass before starting to assess strategic opportunities created by the crisis. Even in uncertain times, it is always better to have a plan that can be easily adjusted as the situation changes.

6.   Are we taking care of ourselves?

We are all operating on survival mode, this demands high levels of resilience. Company leaders need to pay attention to their own emotional and physical health to ensure that they perform their duties effectively. Furthermore, they need to support their teams to stay motivated and fit.


  1. Craven, M., Mysore, M., Singhal, S., Smit, S., & Wilson, M. (2020). COVID-19 Briefing Note: Our latest perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic. McKinsey Global
  2. Frier, S. (2020, May 13). Twitter CEO gives employees the choice to work from wherever they want—indefinitely. Fortune Magazine.
  3. Sheksna, S. (2020, April 7). Seven Questions for Corporate Boards Navigating COVID-19. INSEAD Knowledge Website.
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