"It changed the way we think and operate"


Absa was looking for a customised programme that could deliver tangible business results. The GSB's solution - a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice specialising in Professional Sales Management - provided managers and staff with practical learning which allowed them to effect change in their business units. Indran Kistan, Regional Manager for Absa Private Banking, says the programme was perfectly customised to their needs and had a lasting effect on the way he and his staff think and operate.

The challenge:

The goal of the programme, says Kistan, "was to empower our employees to push themselves to go beyond boundaries and to change the way they think and operate. We wanted them to come back from the GSB with key practical learning which they could implement for the benefit of the business."

Additionally, the programme needed to be practical in terms of the hours employees could spend away from their work. "Training has a big impact on personnel, especially if you have more than one person from a team on the programme at any time. The GSB understood this and we were able to adapt the programme around our requirements," he explains.

Initially the programme was intended for Absa staff who report to managers, but in the second cohort it was widened to include managers. Kistan experienced the programme first-hand when he attended as a manager, and he was also able to assess the results it had on his staff and team members.

The solution:

"The GSB took our objectives, needs, and practical requirements into account and came up with a programme that ran for 18 months - 20 months," explains Kistan. The programme took place over four modules of two weeks each, spread throughout that time frame. Three modules were held at the GSB in Cape Town and one was a non-contact module.

He said: "The sittings were structured with time for reflection and application before the next round, and of course there was a lot of work, communication and assignments that went on in between the sittings, but overall, this time frame meant that content could be understood and integrated into the work context."

What Kistan found so impactful was that the content of the course was designed exclusively around Absa. "Not only was it customised for Absa staff, but it revolved around the way we do business. We were all on the same page in terms of understanding the organisation, the culture, the dynamics, and we spoke the same language in terms of acronyms or processes. Even the lecturers were familiar with our business requirements. This made the coursework relevant and accessible. We could see how it applied to our situation and we could delve deeper to understand issues that we were actually dealing with at work."

More specifically, assignments and the final dissertation were focused on participant's particular business units. "This meant that it was live and it led to understanding our business better." Kistan feels that the incorporation of systems thinking in the programme allowed participants to identify problem areas and come up with ways of effecting change. "Systems thinking allowed us to ask what changes we could bring about to improve areas that needed attention."

Above all, Kistan said that he experienced a high level of professionalism at the GSB, the school's meticulous planning and the dedication of their team was evident, and it carried through to all aspects of the programme.

The outcome:

A major impact of the programme involved the soft skills of doing business. "Learning soft skills changed how I react to people. It helped me to think before I react instinctively and to become a little calmer in any situation. This applies to work and personal relationships. From an individual perspective, the programme helped me understand and better manage myself, my relationships, actions and emotions," says Kistan.

He highlights that through the programme, the team learnt invaluable skills around time management including techniques of how to prioritise. Ultimately, course participants were able to implement changes in their business units, which have had tangible, beneficial results.

The verdict:

The programme ran for five years, with several intakes over that time. Graduates were awarded a University of Cape Town-endorsed Post-Graduate Diploma in Management Practice specialising in Professional Sales Management. Kistan says he personally benefitted enormously from the programme. He has also seen the positive effects of the programme on how his colleagues manage themselves and their working relationships.

For more information on the GSB Customised Programmes, contact 021 406 1254 or contact xoliswa.kupiso@gsb.uct.ac.za




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