miércoles, 21 de abril de 2010


In this occasion we are going to study the social system of values and thoughts that is practiced in South Africa and it is known Ubuntu.  The reference article is: Building Competitive Advantage from Ubuntu: Management lessons from South Africa by Mzamo P. Mangaliso.

According with the author’s definition Ubuntu is “humaneness-a pervasive spirit of caring and community, harmony and hospitality, respect and responsiveness- that individuals and groups display for one another”. The social attitude of most African population is oriented towards the Ubuntu values that mainly state “a person becomes a person only through his relationship with and recognition by others”, this conception gives us an idea of how important is the unity and the kinship lies for the Ubuntu followers in the development of their lives.

The society uses the Ubuntu notions to interpret problems that need to be solved and as a reference point to take positions or make judgments about the fair actions and the unfair ones. This article also states that practice of Ubuntu values in the corporate field could reach a sustainable competitive advantage for those companies, who consider their employees as valuable elements. This analysis makes a brief description of how interact the Ubuntu statements with key variables of the corporate environment.

Relation with Others: the Ubuntu driving norms are reciprocity, suppression of self-interest and the virtue of symbiosis. People like to be treated as members of one single family because this means that they are going to be treated with respect, dignity, humility and compassion, and these attitudes encourage workers to have a higher commitment with the organization’s performance. Under Ubuntu statements, it is well seen that relatives work together in the same workplace, because it provides an emotional and mental support for the employees. If the kinship ties at the workplace generate harmony and commitment among employees, the managers should take them into account in the elaboration of recruitment policies. The African employees are eager to contribute in the results of their work team, that’s why is commonly shared among them the promotion of cooperation and competitiveness.

Languages and communication: from Ubuntu perspective the communication has a social purpose to establish and reinforce the relationship. Unity and common understanding are more important than the accuracy and efficiency of the language, so in order to encourage a participative environment where employees can fully develop their potential, companies are proving spaces for participation and self- expression, all these efforts are oriented to increase the productivity of the workers.

Decision making: this process has a circular and inclusive dynamic; this means that different perspectives are considered interesting and valuable for the solution of problems. Diversity of ideas is encouraged in the corporate field. Consensus is a very important issue, to such extent that is preferable to make a decision that is supported by everyone than a right decision which nobody recognizes it.

Time: the vision of time for Ubuntu followers states that time is a reference element for communities. It is seen as “an unified structure that emphasizes interdependence, share heritage, regularity and congruity”.
Productivity and Efficiency: from Ubuntu perspective it is appropriate to work for optimization rather than maximization, this means that an optimized solution leads most favored outcomes in the long term and covers a wider percentage of stakeholders.

Age: the age, the wisdom and the experience are highly valued in the South African companies, that’s why maturity is an important criteria for selecting workers into leadership positions.

Beliefs: companies should adopt a position of flexibility and willingness to learn local cultures in order to create among employees an environment of mutual respect a sense of identity with the company.

The proposed question is: What is Ubuntu? How was it applied to support the merging process of the companies? (3 examples)

Ubuntu is a philosophy which states “that a man just can find his own humanity when he helps others to find theirs”. The others give us the recognition we need to feel us part of the community and this is a reciprocal dynamic. This philosophy fosters the unity and the harmony among people. The Ubuntu statements were used as a reference point to guide the changes that the merger entails, so the management team uses the drums as symbolic elements that emphasize the importance of communication and loyalty, as the National Marketing Manager of the African Miners Bank, Tom Miles said “the community moved to the sound of the drum, they were unified by moving to the same rhythm”.
Another action was that management team told stories to the employees in order they get a better understanding of the changes that need to be done in key business areas such as growth, security, equality, etc. These simple stories were oriented according to the Ubuntu values. Also the employees received a booklet that explained the Ubuntu culture campaign and gave ideas of how employees could contribute with the development and success of the campaign.

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