The Eswatini Competition Commission, through the SADC TRF, procured the services of the Pacific Institute Swaziland to assist the Commission with its organisational development needs. The Commission significantly required assistance in the area of coherent work flow processes to achieve optimal efficiency. Organisational development was cited as one of the key areas that this deficiency was attributable to, hence the request for assistance in this area under the SADC TRF.
The target beneficiaries of the organisational development work were the entire staff complement of the Commission with a slight bias on management, given that they would be required to drive the implementation of the outcomes of the project on completion.
The aim of this project was to analyze and improve the overall health of the organisation by coaching leaders to foster productive, innovative and accountable teams. It has also given support to employees to become aware of how their thought processes, talents and actions can support or inhibit positive outcomes.
The Commission was also able to procure the services of upgrading its website to enable greater interface and effective interactions with the Commission on a web based platform that is easy to access. Following the upgrade, the Commission has experienced greater ease of Communication with its stakeholders who use the website as their first port of call when seeking information from and about the Commission. There has also been greater use of the website in accessing the Commission’s services, particularly the Consumer Protection Department. There has been a noticeable preference by users to the website over the Commission’s social media pages, which speaks to the quality of the website.
The major challenge for the Commission was despite the fact that the Commission was operationalised in 2010, it continued to exhibit traits of an organisation at its infancy. During the development of the Commission Strategic Plan (2017/18-2021/22) an assessment was conducted of the roles of the investigative and adjudicative functions for both competition and consumer issues.
The following issues were looked at in particular:
(1) The level of stakeholder engagement efforts and results;
(2) the Commissions performance culture and supporting systems;
(3) human resources capacity in terms of leadership, management and technical acumen of its staff; and
(4) the sufficiency and sustainability of funding lines.
Organisational culture drives behaviour and impacts performance of employees, it was therefore imperative to address the state of the organisational culture first in order to realise the desired agency growth, efficiency and effectiveness.
With regard to the website upgrade programme, the key challenge with the former website was that it was static and allowed for no user interface thus stakeholders could not interact well with the Commission through it. Yet in the digital age web-based platforms like website literally constitute virtual workstations where stakeholders can interact with organisations in the way they would had they physically visited the offices. This was disadvantageous to the Commission and it hindered its goals for advocacy of its work to its stakeholders as well as interacting with them on services they would require.
The 12-month journey began with a cultural assessment that looked at how employees perceived the organisation’s culture. The outcome of the assessment provided the factors contributing to the culture at the time, the outcomes of that culture as well as direction on the interventions implemented during the 12-month period. The cultural transformation programme’s fundamental philosophy is that performance improvement starts first with the individual before it can migrate to the group and entire organisation. Therefore, there was a need for leadership and employee buy-in throughout this process.
One of the key enablers for this project’s success was the openness of employees to assimilate the service as delivered by the Pacific Institute. At the beginning of the process this seemed unlikely but with each coaching and power session, employees began to trust the process and each other more. Employee feedback has transformed from feelings of demotivation and mistrust to a willingness to open up and feeling excited about the culture change journey and the future of the Commission.
Employees have therefore begun to relate more positively to one another and are able to plan and execute in a cooperative manner. This has been a key element in the success of the programme as it has resulted in increased commitment to the programme, employees prioritising the activities of the programme and even going as far as rescheduling their annual leave to ensure full participation in the programme.
The Commission’s former website underwent a complete overhaul. In the process, two employees of the Commission were trained to operate the website. This allows for effective dissemination of information in real time, effective user interface as stakeholders are assisted in shorter turnaround times. Thus overall, it makes for a highly effective tool.
A key enabler for the website’s success was the training of in-house personnel to operate it. This heightens that user interface ability tremendously. As information is fed in real time and queries, questions and comments received are acted on as soon as possible. It follows that the effective interaction ability of a website is key to ensuring its population.
Both interventions were funded exclusively by the SADC TRF and thus, their existence and success is for the major part, wholly attributable to that facility.
Towards regional integration
As the region becomes more integrated, the need for efficient and effective organisations becomes more pronounced as cooperation through common institutions and rules grow. It will be critical to harmonisation of competition law practice that the Eswatini Competition Commission is well placed to perform at the level of other similar organisations in the region. Scaling up the Commission’s efficiency and effectiveness as an organisation will further this aim. It is also anticipated that the success of culture change programme will play a significant role in the Commission’s ability to establish and maintain fruitful cooperative relationships nationally and regionally.
This will align the Commission’s work to the regional efforts encapsulated in the SADC Declaration on Regional Cooperation in competition and consumer policies.
It is further critical that no state is left behind in terms of competence as Africa begins to unravel the workings of the single economic community that recently came into force, being the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). To realise the desired effects of the AfCTFA, organisations key to economic development and transformation such as Competition Authorities will have to be effective enough to carry through the tenets of economic development in regional economic communities.
A key realisation through the organisational change journey was the importance of commitment to consistency. To realise tangible change, this process took the form of a 12-month journey and it has been in these 12 months that gradual change has been realised and greater commitment to the process has been possible. This has taught the Commission that the process of change is one that is long-term and requires constant guidance, and that the change management process is one that should be maintained long after the experts are gone. Thus for future interventions, reliance on the experts should not outweigh the desire to get participants to commit to and own a process. Once the process is owned by participants, they can be constantly encouraged to deliver on that commitment. This is done until the participants are able to act independently. That is how real change can be realised.
Conclusion and next steps
The Commission has found the opportunities afforded to it under the TRF invaluable. The SADC TRF funded projects have assisted the Commission to work on patent challenges that the Commission faces, particularly that of its organisational culture. The interventions have enabled Commission employees to openly establish these issues and begin to address them. Going forward it is hoped that the lessons learnt from the interventions can serve as a solid base from which the Commission could foster engagement by the Commission staff on issues affecting organisation efficiency. From that engagement the tools learnt are used to cater to the constant evolution and/or dynamism of the organisation which will bring with it its own dimensions that will require change management.
Name: Siphiwe Vilakati
Title: Executive Administrative Assistant (SADC TRF focal point)
Organisation: Eswatini Competition Commission