4 October 2007
Selected government officials are set to swap jobs with senior executives from some of the country’s top companies for up to six months as part of the South African Experiment, which aims to build skills through “action learning” ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Business Report reports this week that the project, which could involve between 40 and 50 private sector executives, echoes the two-year secondment of SAB chairman Meyer Kahn to the SA Police Service as chief executive in 1997, but on a much larger scale.
According to the Presidency, the first phase of the programme, sponsored by the Da Vinci Institute for Technology Management, will embrace service quality, which involves a unique partnership between South Africa’s private and public sectors.
The Presidency said in a statement that the programme was an intervention “designed primarily to boost economic growth, diminish the gap between the public and private sectors, create capacity at historically disadvantaged tertiary education institutions, and stimulate a ‘can do’ mindset among South Africans”.
Da Vinci chairman Roy Marcus told Business Report that he hoped the first batch of executives would be placed within South African Airways, the SA Police, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by February 2008.
While initially focussing on tourism, Marcus said the programme would eventually target the manufacturing sector to tackle challenges relevant to exporting South African products.
For the government’s part, Business Report stated that about 10 government officials would initially be placed in the private sector.
According to the Presidency, the programme is based on the success of the “Belgian Experiment”, whereby British Professor Reginald Revans helped stimulate the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of that country by as much as 3% through an educational process known as “action learning”.
“Action learning involves working on real problems, focusing on learning and actually implementing solutions,” says the International Foundation for Action Learning. “It is a form of learning by doing.”
According to the foundation, action learning can be used to tackle strategic problems at board level, help the unemployed start their own business, develop skilled managers for new responsibilities, improve productivity in retailing and manufacturing companies, bring about major change in large organisations, and even improve services in health and education.
Marcus told Business Report that tangible benefits of the South African Experiment would be visible by July 2008, and that with the right support, the programme could add between 2% and 3% to South Africa’s GDP growth.