A belief pervading South African business that transformation automatically leads to a decrease in efficiency and excellence is false, says Maria Ramos, group CEO of Transnet.
Speaking this morning at a Mail & Guardian business breakfast sponsored by SAS Institute, Ramos spoke about her belief that transformation and efficiency are two sides of the same coin.
"In fact, they are an essential, key ingredient in making South Africa a great nation. And the sooner we embrace that – not just talk and intellectualise, but feel it and live it – the better."
Ramos speaks from experience: having taken over the reins at embattled Transnet four years ago, she has turned the organisation around, implemented a modernisation and capital expenditure programme, and placed it on the road to long-term profitability.
"At Transnet we refused to make meaningless choices between transformation and efficiency," she says.
Instead the organisation embraced transformation as meaning a number of different things: changing the culture, making the organisation integrated and customer-focused; and applying employment equity and broad-based BEE as well as other government transformation policies. The organisation also got a new structure and, recently, a new corporate identity.
"Transformation has been key to our success," Ramos adds. "It's about having access to the best talent pool, creating opportunities, empowering people, setting the highest standards, holding people accountable in meaningful jobs with ethical values, integrity and honesty.
"It's about empowering people to do what we are asking them to do and creating the opportunities to allow them to do those things."
Regarding the current skills crisis facing the country, Ramos points out the South Africa is certainly not alone in this, but business needs to get involved in developing the talent pool and creating opportunities.