Continuing the discussion started earlier this week on the National Development Plan for South Africa, this posting will further address some of the associated elements of the PLAN. I firmly believe that all citizens of our country, regardless of social or financial standing, political affiliation, or education, should be involved in getting the plan come to life. This is a big ask, but is imperative if we want to succeed as a country and a new nation.
As one would expect, the National Planning Committee (NPC) has formulated two high-level objectives, which are to be achieved by 2030:
- Reduce the number of people who live in households with a monthly income below R419 per person (in 2009) from 39% to zero.
- Reduce inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, from 0.69 to 0.6.
Before further interrogating the above objectives, I think we need to see what the requirements for a well-formulated objective are. As with everything in life, there are multiple ideas on this topic, but I have decided to approach it from the business perspective. Various authors indicate that objectives need to be formulated according to the SMART approach; the letters of the acronym represent the requirements for objectives to be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-scaled.
Let us take a closer look at these objectives in terms of the SMART requirement.
Firstly, the above-mentioned high-level objectives are quite specific in terms of what they aim to achieve. This is a positive start, and one can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the NPC to identify these high-level objectives.
Secondly, the two objectives need to be measureable. This also seems to be achieved in terms of the formulation of the objectives. The first objective refers to eradicating poverty and the NPC has provided an indication of how this will be measured. In relation to the concept of inequality, they also identified a specific level to be attained. The 2 high-level objectives therefore seem to meet the second requirement of the SMART approach.
Thirdly, to ensure that an objective is achievable, there is a need to take a careful look at the country’s capabilities in terms of reaching the stated objectives. This is where the process – and the objectives – is to be challenged. Whether conducting research or implementing strategic plans, one is always challenged to take a deliberate and often painful look at your capabilities. Yes, the PLAN is to move ahead and enhance capabilities, but as a country we need to take an open and honest look at our current capabilities – is there a sufficient basis from which stakeholders in our National Development Plan can work towards achieving the high-level objectives? This challenge will be revisited in future postings.
Fourthly, the set objectives need to be realistic. This is yet another of those requirements, which has the ability to stop a process in its tracks. The NPC would have been tasked to determine whether South Africa and its various resources, people, and all other known and unknown factors, would enable the PLAN to become reality. If the country were run as a business, chances are that the board of directors would have said the risk outweighs the possible benefits; as a country, we have no option but to embark on this journey. Therefore, whether the PLAN is fully realistic will be determined by numerous factors; we are all challenged to make it realistic.
Lastly, the objectives need to be presented in terms of a time scale. The current challenges South Africa is facing are the result of many decades of improper, self-centred decisions, which were not made for the greater good. Although it is hugely challenging to determine whether the objectives can be achieved in roughly 17 years, the indication of a time scale implies that the objectives also meet this requirement of the SMART approach.
In conclusion, the two high-level objectives that were formulated by the NPC do seem to loosely meet the requirements of the SMART approach to the formulation of objectives. The following posting will take a closer look at the two high-level objectives of the NPC. These discussions should enable us to properly interrogate the finer details of the PLAN.
I look forward to hearing any comments on the above thoughts. As South Africans we are called to action and to do our share. Merely criticising the government of the day is totally insufficient as response – making the PLAN work by 2030 requires concerted efforts by all.