Monday, October 18, 2021

DTCB’s treacherous journey to “happy-land”

When the Managing Director of Diamond Trading Company Botswana starts to speak about the nature of his business his voice gets fast and passionate.
DTCB, he says has embarked on a new journey.
It is a journey to a new happy-land, says Tabake Kobedi.
For industry outsiders, it is not easy to make much sense of what Kobedi is talking about. But still his deep knowledge of the business is something that cannot be denied, at least not fairly.
In addition to his oratory skills, key commercial  information flows off his finger tips. And he spins it off with rapid ease.
With that same confidence and ease he swings from one end of the business to the other  – along the way and from the top of his head sputtering figures and statistics that would ordinarily be overwhelming for an ordinary mortal.
The phrase that comes out most frequently from his mouth is “Strategy 2020.”
After a few minutes into his presentation it becomes clearer that Strategy 2020 is a tangle of business, engineering and human resource practices designed, at least in theory to carry DTCB through to what Kobedi fondly and with thinly veiled excitement of a little kid somewhat repeatedly  calls “Happy Land.”
For now Happy Land is a glorious place that exists only in his mind.
The challenge over the next few years, as has been the case over the last two and a half years is to get all DTCB employees to develop a similar imagery in their minds of the place that that MD has turned into a recurring dream.
And if what he’s saying is to be believed, it is the same place that he would be happy to leave DTCB when his time with the company one day comes to an end.
For DTCB, a company that was born when the De Beers sales arm relocated from London to Gaborone, there has been during that time too much emphasis on sales and marketing at the expense of other equally crucial segments of the business.
According to Kobedi, Strategy 2020 is ramping up DTCB into a future of balance, with all aspects of the business sufficiently catered for.
He points out that far from being just a diamond sales house, DTCB is also a processing organization. “It is a factory,” he says as a matter of fact.
With a straight face he compares DTCB to a Toyota manufacturing plant.
According to him, DTCB has similar processes, similar concerns and similar ambitions like Toyota.
This requires such attributes like excellence, efficiency and delivery.
His comparison of DTCB to Toyota is not something that just sprung to his mind.
Across the world Toyota is referred to as the apex of manufacturing excellence.
While Toyota took ages to achieve those accolades, Kobedi is dead certain that the time will be much shorter for DTCB.
For now the jury is still out.
“Strategy 2020 improves performance, improves delivery to customers and produces to the demands of those customers.” Strategy 2020 is the backbone of a dream journey into the future, to a place the Kobedi calls Happy Land.
For DTCB, the endgame, which hopefully will be achieved once company arrives at Happy Land will be an organization that is agile, efficient and effective with world class operational excellence.
That will be a time when DTCB will be treating stones from other mining houses other than just Debswana Diamond Company as is currently the case.
At the moment DTCB indeed has capacity to service other smaller mines in the country outside of the Debswana Group, but cannot do so as it’s precluded by the shareholders Agreement.
This fact has not been lost to Kobedi.
For him it is a crucial fact that should form the basis of the country’s efforts to prepare itself beyond the lifespan of its known diamond mineral deposits.
To push the point he draws on an analogy.
“India has no diamond mines yet majority of diamonds are cut and polished In India. As Botswana we should look beyond production of diamonds,” says Kobedi.
Kobedi has staked his entire career on Strategy 2020. He says he wants it to be part of his legacy.
“It is something for which I want to be remembered. I want to leave behind an organisation that is able to produce people whose skills exist beyond diamonds. For me it will be much more gratifying if I leave behind such a legacy,” says Kobedi.
There is one slight problem.  Inside the company, the vehicle that Kobedi has chosen has no shortage of detractors.
They say amid all the positives that Kobedi is belting out to the media and the world outside the company are the chaos inside. 
The presentation, they point out is a carefully orchestrated strategy to counter bad press the company recently received.
According to them Strategy 2020, far from inspiring confidence has spawned a host of disruptions along the DTCB pipeline, culminating in low morale among staff not to mention unhappy customers who complain about delivery time.
The strategy’s lack of resilience is a mantra that crops often from Kobedi’s detractors.
The high number of industrial relations grievances going all the way up to include senior managers is another point raised.
For a company not accustomed to answering questions from the media, such revelations have awakened a sense of urgency among the top brass, especially the Managing Director.
“The key for us as a collective leadership is not preventing challenges emanating from Strategy 2020. The key is solving those challenges,” says Kobedi.

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