Covid-19 has exposed that the mission statements on the walls of some businesses just reflect lies.
The ‘we treat all employees with the same respect’ statement was thrown out of the window, when some people were either retrenched or their salaries reduced just on the basis of their skin colour.
And those are the kind of businesses where Ian Fuhr’s concept of Cultureneering is much needed.
In Cultureenering, Ian deeply looks at internal issues that continue to hamper so many businesses from providing excellent customer services. Lack of strong culture, racial polarizations, ignorant of the socio-political context of where the business operates, lack of communication, poor working conditions, these are some of the issues that Ian points as ‘blockers’ that hamper so many businesses from providing their clients with top-class customer service.
What I liked about this book is not so much what Ian mentioned as the blockers which prevent businesses from providing excellent customer service- because we already know those problems, but it is solutions that he provides as a remedy to deal with those problems that made me see this book as a valuable tool that can change how businesses should operate in South Africa.
As someone who has worked under autocratic managers and in bad environments, I found myself nodding from page one to the last about the new type of culture-driven leaders the scribe propose.
The current culture in many business just sees people working to earn a salary or make profits more than anything else.
Cultureenering is not your typical business book that is ignorant of some of the social-political issues many businesses are confronted with on a daily basis, including racism. Instead of doing what many businesses and society in general do in shying away from speaking about the big elephant- racism. I liked how the scribe dealt with racism in a manner that does not alienate everyone, but he wants all race groups to come together and deal with challenges in their businesses, so as to be able work together in a harmonious way to provide excellent customer service to their clients.
There are obviously points which the author raises with regard to racism and race which are very contentious. For example, he argues that people of colour – because of their lack of economic and financial power cannot transform their prejudices and discrimination into racism. In simple terms he suggests that Black people in South Africa cannot be racist, because they lack the power that white have in terms of the financial and economic muscles.
This is a long going debate whether racism should be defined within the economic and financial power context in South Africa or it should be defined from the Oxford dictionary context. I for one agree with Ian in that we need to understand the principles and fundamentals of racism, and how it was defined by apartheid in South Africa. And it is through understanding the economic power dynamics that we can fully understand what is racism. Readers will have a challenge with either disagreeing or agreeing with Ian on this one.
Besides that, this is a book that should be on the desk of every CEO, manager, employees and just anyone who is a member of corporate South Africa. This book will compel everyone to do some self-introspection and how they can help in building a South African business culture that is inclusive, non-racial, non- sexist and provides opportunity for all.