In emerging markets, small and growing businesses (SGBs) are critical to economic prosperity. They provide much needed jobs, help redistribute wealth and are cradles of innovation. In order to replicate and scale the innovations by SGBs for impact, developing the requisite human resource to manage growth is essential. The cognition of the importance of SGBs is what prompted the development of the Amani Leadership and Management for Impact program (now called Leadership for Growth). To date 103 managers from 45 different companies have been trained on best practices in leadership and management.
One of the organizations that we have partnered with is Burn Manufacturing – an enterprise which designs and manufactures energy saving cookstoves. The innovative design of these cookstoves helps reduce deforestation and indoor air pollution as well as mitigate against the adverse effects of climate change and global warming. With 179 employees currently, the organization has experienced steady growth since its inception in 2011 thanks to the popularity of their flagship product, Jikokoa. As a result of a rapid scaling up regionally and the resultant addition of new team members, it has become imperative to build the leadership capacity of managers within the Burn Manufacturing team.
In 2017, two Burn Manufacturing employees, Hellen Mundia (Market Research Manager) and Duncan Muthomi (Production Coordinator) were nominated by the company to participate in the 2nd Cohort of the ALMI program. We recently caught up with them and got some valuable insights on the impact the program had on their personal and professional development, a year after graduating.
What were your overall impressions of the ALMI Program?
“I really enjoyed the program and felt like it helped equip me with the skills I need to become a better performer at the workplace. ALMI opened my mind to understand what leadership is all about and how to be an effective leader. The guest speakers who were brought in to facilitate some of the sessions really provided valuable insights and how you can apply them for optimal productivity.” – Hellen Mundia
“For me, the ALMI Program was an eye opener and it helped me develop my leadership skills. Prior to the program I did not realize how dynamic leadership and management is. In a team context, everyone has a different perspective and this has to be taken into account to get the best out of a team. Today, I have a totally different outlook and as a manager strive to develop empathy for others as a way to resolve common workplace problems.” – Duncan Muthomi
How impactful were the innovations that you came up with during the development of the Business Innovation Project (BIP)?
“Working in market research, it is imperative that the data and insights that my team provides are a true reflection of market realities. I worked on a project focused on making our research insights more credible as a base for decision making.The BIP really helped shape the development of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the team and also helped know which training areas are important.” – Hellen Mundia
“As an engineer, I worked on devising ways in which we can optimize production efficiency at the factory to ensure production targets are met and costs optimized. I did a prototype on autonomous maintenance where machine operators do repairs on machines when needed, to reduce machine downtime. To this day, this method is still used in the production line and has helped us reduce breakdowns as well as lower production costs (Labor cost per stove was Ksh 136 before the new process was introduced and Ksh 130 after Duncan introduced autonomous maintenance).” – Duncan Muthomi
ALMI focuses a lot on development of soft skills, which areas do you feel you have most improved in?
“Thanks to the training on design thinking, I have become a better leader and communicator. As someone involved in market research it is vital to design our input collection systems/collateral in a way that gets us as accurate information as possible. Training on design thinking certainly helped me do better reports and communicate in a way that gets results. After redesigning my reporting templates, I shared them with my team and their reporting and communications has really improved.” – Hellen Mundia
“I feel that I really made significant improvements in my communication especially via active listening. To this day I make a conscious effort to listen more and see things from the other person’s perspective. Communication is also essential in developing trust with colleagues and peers. Trust can only be developed if the barriers to effective communication are addressed openly. The cool thing is that the soft skills which I learnt during my time in ALMI are also applicable outside the workplace and this has helped me also develop personally.” – Duncan Muthomi
Learn more about the Leadership for Growth Program here.