#166 A transformative transport ministry focuses on its customers not spectators

“True transformation involves every function in the enterprise accepting that they must contribute to the ultimate act of serving and satisfying customers, because only in this way will the enterprise survive and thrive in today’s ‘new normal’ of volatility.”– John Gattorna, Dynamic Supply Chains, 3rd Edition, Financial Times Publishing, 2015.

Perhaps that’s an odd tone to start with, but if enterprises are leaning into being customer centric and leaders are becoming service oriented– are the prevailing policies coming to grips with this? Or is practice leading theory and policies lagging behind the theory? Should mobility and access policies not be paving a canvas upon which opportunities can be splattered, dabbed or stroked? If so, then while companies have begun internalizing the idea of customer experience through Chief Experience Officers– how far could the regulatory environment lean into this? Without answering any of the above questions, we must take note of the blatant lack of enthusiasm in much of what public sector subsidies touch.

What was done since 2014

Between the 2014 and 2018 years, our ministry was deeply engaged in ensuring an update of the policy principles through the White Paper. Parallel transport policy outputs came in the form of addressing economic regulation, non-motorized transport, road freight and rail transport. In addition to road safety and proposals in the maritime transport sphere, there has also been a need to nurture energy cost changes in the carbon taxation and changes in the Basic Fuel Price model. However, the most recent narrative takes on a different tone. Instead of customer centricity, our South African transport ministry has focused largely on popular relevance over genuinely reforming the transport planning, design, implementation and experiential spheres. Which is essentially the ability to translate regulatory policy positions into business objectives within State Owned Enterprises; entities and agencies which receive public subsidies.

What has been happening since April 2019

A critical observation would alert any analyst to the necessity to inspect physical infrastructure; allocate buses outside of the integrated transport planning sphere and capital allocations; deliver bicycles to school children from families with no source of mobility or access. Neither of these interventions required a micromanagement framework to draw in attention. No. Neither of them are truly strategically part of a roadmap which reflects the depth and rigor desperately called for.

Navigating through the intense need to reflect on our national transport policy principles and allocate both capital and experiential resources in a direction that is customer centric, is not easy. However, this is not plausible as much of what we do in our policy culture is increment (add on to), instead of reforming. Largely due to the political incentives and duration of terms. The need to make a mark as soon as possible maybe a cheap way to underwrite the cost of delaying long term and much needed investments in both organizational behavior and capital investment in transport systems, services and industries.

The need to make a mark as soon as possible maybe a cheap way to underwrite the cost of delaying long term and much needed investments in both organizational behavior and capital investment in transport systems, services and industries.

Reform the organizational philosophies in transport SoEs

There’s a need to reform the organizational philosophies of much of the SoEs, bus and rail transport services; just as much as there is a need to reform the road freight and overarching supply chain industries in SA. Neglecting the broader complexities for the sake of softening very difficult conversations will not retain confidence from Labour in an ever digitizing Mobility as a Service economy. Moreso, given the intensity and rates at which families are loosing breadwinners through the transportation sector (as drivers or commuters) there’s no room for the myriad of policies being left unimplemented; unenforced and unmonitored.

Into our 2019-2023 period we should all be about organizational reform to execute on national projects which lead provinces, and municipalities into a customer centric state acting on mobility and access needs at the sole their constituents.

Support ambitious officials

Lastly, in our most recent engagements with senior public officials who do the asking for funding allocations, our Ministry allocated more to outsourcing transport planning than internal capacity. Secondly, much of the strategic policy goals in smaller non-metropolitan areas go without funding or other forms of institutional support. Without ring-fencing all the revenue collected from transportation related sectors, and channeling them through a mobility and access framework– no funds would be commensurately allocated (maybe read it again).

The Ministry’s customers are both the transport users, labour, spheres of government, investors and stakeholders involved in ensuring effective and conducive intervention project timelines. Not, plans or strategies; but actual timelines for core interventions.

For the ministry of transport in SA, The 2014-2018 stage set the scene for robust policy and strategic debate. Into our 2019-2023 period we should all be about organizational reform to execute on national projects which lead provinces, and municipalities into a customer centric state acting on mobility and access needs at the sole their constituents. With the right team, collectives and internal strategies (non-political) visible results are plausible by end of 2021. However, for our economic, social and cultural survival intentionally customer centric strategic thinking and practice is key, or else we loose another 4 years in limbo or incomplete projects. Therefore, a transformative transport ministry focuses on its customers not spectators.


*Thank you for your patience with this rant. I’m back on blogging, had a few hiccups. You could also find my medium page for more on productivity and other odd topics. Please subscribe if you’re keen to stay informed.

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