Is this the mining industry's Arab spring?
There’s an old Tracy Chapman song that goes: “Don’t you know, we’re talking ‘bout a revolution, and it sounds like a WHISPER!”
That was the song worm spooling through my head at the Joburg Indaba last week. The industry’s heavy hitters focused on blunt, but constructive conversations. All around the question: How does SA Mining Inc migrate to a better future?
As expected a myriad of issues were raised: Government and Labour dwelt on the trust deficit; mining companies re-iterated the need for regulatory clarity; the investment community criticized dismal returns and an inopportune “capital binge” by management (cited by Jim Rutherford, the world’s top mining analyst).
Most encouraging though, was the conversations didn’t get stuck in problem mode: ideas started to develop around what a competitive, sustainable, industry COULD look like: Without oversimplifying it boils down to 4P’s:
- Profit: an obvious one. As a sardonic Sandy McGregor of Allan Gray put it, not just a return OF capital but also a return ON capital would be nice.
- Partnership: there’s a dawning realisation that stakeholders from “opposing” camps need each other to survive and that partnership and the trade-offs are the only way to prosper.
- Productivity: Anglo American CEO, Mark Cutifani made no bones about productivity being the key to the future of the industry, and for making up for the lost decade in SA mining.
- Positive narrative: negative talk destroys investor and other stakeholder confidence. The point was made repeatedly: brand SA Mining needs to get its act together, stop whining in public and create and deliver on a positive narrative that inspires investment.
Platinum strike: Wage gap?
Platinum strike: Wage gap? Pah. Real crisis is canyon of communication
R12 500 seems to be a magic number. It has been the pivotal point of wage negotiations in the platinum sector, which up until now has caused a deadlock resulting in a four-month strike (the end of which is hopefully imminent).
Joburg Indaba 2013 seen from inside: Holding onto hope
I’m a lover not a fighter. In fact it’s a running joke among my nearest and dearest that I am the UN Peacekeeping force in most (domestic) situations. Which makes what I do for a living interesting: in a nutshell my team and I facilitate honest, blunt and often confrontational strategic conversations for companies (with the aim of creating understanding among all stakeholders).
Often this feels like popping a pimple, opening a wound, draining an abscess – you get the picture. It’s messy, it’s challenging it’s not nice (at the time). But there’s no question that once it’s done it creates an environment of healing, of potential and of hope.
Trust is a Must
Do you have a best friend at work? This is one of the more unusual questions, which forms part of Gallup’s famous Q12, a 12-question survey which identifies employee attitudes that correlate with higher profitability. It’s a question that has always struck me as an anomaly, something I am more likely to inquire of my 7 year old than of a work colleague. After all work is serious stuff, focus, performance, deadlines, deliverables. Friends? Wasn’t that a TV series?
Pilates for the brain
When I was 18 I injured my back almost irreparably and had to have a spinal fusion: the result I was told, of an imbalance in the development of my back muscles, after 10 years of intensive tennis.
Many years later I discovered Pilates, a form of exercise that is defined by the pursuit of balance among all muscle groups, the development of core strength and flexibility so that the body can function as optimally as it was designed to do. There’s no doubt that if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t be walking around with 3 titanium pins in my back.