How do you know when you’re lost?

Part one of a four-part navigational tool for B-BBEE practitioners

Happy new year! In the spirit of ‘new-beginnings’ January, this blog is intended to help you dig deep and shake things up a little. Here are two scenarios to contemplate.

In the first scenario, you are navigating to an unfamiliar landmark in a foreign city. Let’s say you’re looking for the Sphinx of Bugeci in Romania – because we guess you’ve never been there before. You have hand-written instructions and a GPS. These tools are the only way you have of finding the sphinx.

In the second scenario, you are in a local neighbourhood with which you are somewhat familiar. You have a vague idea of where you need to get – you’ve been there a few times previously. You have an idea of the route and the area. But you’re not quite exactly sure of the road you’re aiming for. You have only your distant memories to provide direction.

In which scenario – one or two – do you think you are more likely to get lost? Some might say the odds are highest in the first scenario, a place that is entirely foreign. But we would argue that the odds are probably greater in the second.


In the first situation, you are completely aware that you are going in cold. So you’ll equip yourself with navigational tools and stick rigidly to the directions given to you. You’re also more likely to ask for help if things are looking sketchy.

In the second scenario, you probably feel fairly confident. Because it’s a familiar area, and you’ve visited the place before, you’re unlikely to seek the help of a GPS or map book. What’s more likely to happen is that you’ll drive around in circles for ages, from one ‘familiar’ street to another. After half an hour of aimless driving in the same tiny area, you might happen upon your destination perchance.

The point?

It’s easier to get lost when you don’t know that you don’t know where you’re going.

There’s a similar point to be made in business here. Say, for example, your CEO asks you to compile a report on the effects of climate change on the pygmy goat in Nigeria. Chances are you know very little about this subject. So you’re going to research it extensively and seek the input of experts. You’re going to put a very deliberate plan in place and double check yourself as you execute it.

Say, on the other hand, your CEO asks you to give a quick 10-minute presentation on something your department deals with regularly. You might not start preparing until the night before, or you might even be tempted to wing it. When the exco starts firing questions at you about the subject, you’re surprised to realise you don’t have all the answers. If only you’d pre-empted it a little better, or given more thought to the plans…

We’ve realised at Mpowered that many B-BBEE champions fall into this trap. When they’re given the task to oversee B-BBEE or manage transformation in the company they think: “I’ve got this! I know what B-BBEE is.” Needless to say, they wade into their B-BBEE responsibilities with little thought or structure. The problem is, sometimes they’ll circle the same old neighbourhood block for hours without realising that they’re lost. So we’re here with a bit of a new years’ reality check.

How do you know when you are lost?

Here are four starting thoughts. Can you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following statements? 

1. You’re Not Headed In A Clearly Defined Direction.

You know you want your company to become more transformed, of course. You want your employment equity stats to reflect that. But after that things get a little vague…

2. You Haven’t Set Out Measurable Steps Of Progress Along The Way.

You have a big, lofty end goal in mind – “achieve a B-BBEE Level Two!” for example. But you haven’t identified the milestones that will get you there.

3. You’re Trying To Do It Alone.

You haven’t sought out the input of your company’s senior management in your strategy document. You haven’t met with department heads to get their ideas about implementation. You’re hoping that they’ll bite once you’ve completed your grand vision and needed their help to make it happen.

4. You Haven’t Defined A Mission Statement Or Vision.

If this sounds cheesy, that’s probably because you haven’t done it yet …

If you nodded your head a few times, you might realise that you didn’t realise you were lost. If so, never fear. We are here for you! The following three blogs will act as a navigational tool to help you get on track towards your destination – whether it’s the Sphinx in Romania or a top notch transformation programme. Watch this space!

Transformation tools that MATTER

Transformation champions deserve the same high-level access to professional tools that’s afforded to other specialised departments. In other words, goodbye limitations, hello empowerment.


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