Soaking Up Gaborone’s Culture

This week, we went out to dinner to a local African chain called Spur. Spur is very similar to the US chain Chilis and serves basic staples such as burgers, steaks and ribs. Our server suggested that we try the burgers. Being that we were hungry and looking for something easy and quick, we agreed. Note the word “quick”!

About 30 minutes later, we heard a bell ding and noticed our order sitting in the window, waiting to be collected by our server. She, however, did not notice, and we waited another five minutes before she finally brought our food. We quickly ate our meal, had our plates promptly cleared from the table and then proceeded to wait for another 45 minutes before we finally walked to the front of the restaurant to ask for our bill. It then took the staff another five minutes to locate our server, identify who had what meals, and then pay for our food. With process improvement on our minds from a long day’s work, needless to say, we were less than impressed by the staff and their inability to understand our needs and meet our demands. Unfortunately, this level of service seems to be a standard in the food service industry and is one thing that we are looking forward to leaving behind when we return to Ohio at the end of the week.

To conclude our time in Botswana, we enjoyed two fun activities in Gaborone.  For lunch, one of the sales team members took us out to a local establishment which specializes in Setswana specialties.  We tasted dishes like Guinea Fowl Stew and Goat Seswa with dumplings, pap, rice and a local kind of salad.  After lunch, we went to a craft store where we were able to buy souvenirs made by local craftsmen.  Then, for dinner, we took our project sponsor and Barclays project lead out to an Indian restaurant called Embassy—one of the best restaurants in Gaborone.  With the project complete, it was nice to relax and enjoy the company of some great new friends.

There are some things which we will miss about Botswana—the nice people we met and good cheap Setswana food—but it is going to be nice to be home after several weeks.  We all hope to come back here again at some point in our lives.IMG_1371 IMG_1373

Final Countdown – Presentation Week

It’s hard to believe that three weeks have come and gone.  This last week in country at Barclays in Botswana has been full and exciting.  We have been working hard to pull together our findings and recommendations into a deliverable that can be left with the client so they can begin to implement some of our recommendations.  In the first few days of this week, we held meetings with several stakeholders to review our findings and recommendations with them in order to build buy-in and to correct any assumptions or add information that we may have missed.  These were great sessions.  While there was not always perfect agreement, we received lots of great feedback that helped us craft our final recommendations and presentation.

By Wednesday night, we had finalized all of our materials and began preparing for our final presentations.  Thursday, we printed handouts and reports with our findings and recommendations.  On Thursday afternoon, we were given a great opportunity to meet with Managing Director, Reinette van der Merwe, to discuss some of our findings and recommendations.  We were very pleased that she seemed excited by our work.

On Friday morning, we presented our work to the entire Corporate Management Committee.  We all had our own sections of the presentation, and worked to perfect our storylines.  The committee was very impressed by our findings and recommendations, and it sparked some great discussion in the Q&A portion of the presentation.  We are very optimistic that our work will lead to some exciting improvements at Barclays Bank of Botswana.

On Friday afternoon, we also had a community outreach event where young people from Botswana came to meet with us and ask questions about how to pursue careers in business.  Our team shared our professional experiences and stories for how we came to study at Fisher.  Following this event, we had a reception where we had one-on-one conversations with the youths who came to the event.  The young people in Botswana are very driven and want to be successful.  It was inspiring to see so many of them working towards their dreams to pursue opportunities in business. Botswana surely has a bright future!

This GAP project in Botswana was an awesome experience. We’ve had the great opportunity to work with some wonderful people. We had incredible students from the University of Botswana on our team and so appreciate having had the chance to work with them.  Our project manager on the client side, Thandi, has been supportive and given us all the resources we needed to complete this project.  Finally, it has been a fabulous experience working with Jeff Davis, a Fisher alum and the executive in charge of the project.

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Botswana, Our Home

Our time in Botswana has been enjoyable. Our University of Botswana colleagues gave us a tour of their school—one of the best in the country and currently ranked 32nd in Africa. Their semester is coming to a close and students were busy with final exams and getting ready for their three months of summer vacation. While the universities are completing their semesters, other schools (elementary/middle/high schools) are just beginning—adding to morning traffic. In Botswana, MBA programs typically last 2.5 years and students must submit a dissertation for graduation. The MBA program has students from around the world, and the university has exchange programs to promote diversity. It is a really big school; we walked for a while and saw only a portion of the campus. Highlights of the tour included a large dining hall, grocery store, library, and study rooms.

During the weekend, we visited Mokolodi Nature Reserve—twice.  On Saturday, there were heavy rains (abnormal for the season), so we returned Sunday to do a Rhino tracking game drive. Mokolodi Nature Reserve is a non-profit organization approximately 15 km south of Gaborone that was established in 1994 and is 3,700 hectares in size. It has an education area for children to learn about nature, conservation and the environment. The Reserve is home to a variety of mammals, including some rare and endangered species, and a diverse array of reptile and bird species.

On our Big Five game drive, we saw Giraffes, Impala, Kudu, Warthogs and Cheetah. The highlight of this activity was accompanying our qualified guides into the bush as we tracked spoor from the Rhinos. After about 30 minutes of tracking, we were quite excited to find a family of three. At beginning, it was frightening because they were acting in a defensive manner, but gradually they became calm, sat and kind of ignored us. We never imaged that we could so close to such amazing animals.  Our day at Mokolodi concluded with a picnic by a stream in the park.

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Week Two at Barclays

We continued our work in the conference room this week, engaged with several more shareholders, including meeting with staff from HR and legal, and attended a new business committee meeting. We also had the opportunity to meet with Reinette van der Merwe, Managing Director of Bank of Barclays, Botswana. She was eager to meet with us and learn about our backgrounds and our project, and she was kind enough to provide us with her own insights and guidance. All the stakeholder interviews have given us a better understanding of the loan process here and offered ideas of where there is room for improvement.

This week, we progressed through finalizing our data analysis and compiling and prioritizing our recommendations for the future state.  During these past few weeks, our faculty advisor, Professor Pennington, has given us feedback on our work and helped to keep us on track. Next week, we will move into the final rounds of stakeholder engagement as we prepare to present our official findings. We have also benefited from leveraging knowledge of members of the Center for Operational Excellence for best practices in the US banking industry as well as internal knowledge from Barclays Bank to provide recommendations (and associated costs).

As the week comes to a close, we have begun compiling our presentation and are looking forward to interacting with key stakeholders next week to test our assumptions and recommendations before our final presentation next week.

Dumelang Botswana

We have quickly come to realize that life in Gaborone is very different than life in the United States. One of our biggest struggles has been the way business is conducted. However, after a few days, we are gaining more familiarity with business customs in Botswana. Much to our delight, the local food is both tasty and affordable. Finally, the country itself is very unique with natural resources that we have been able to enjoy.

The way in which life and business is approached in Botswana is much more laid back than what the team has grown accustomed to while working in the United States. Our days begin at 8am and the schedule is quite fluid. The colleagues we have met (mostly from Botswana and South Africa) have all welcomed us with open arms and most seem genuinely interested in improving the processes at the bank.

The food has been the highlight of the trip (so far)! The office is set in a ‘central business district’ which is still under construction and also the home to grazing cows, donkeys and dozens of food ‘caravans’ or ‘mochachos’. These food truck-like establishments offer the traditional staple papa (a maze based starch similar to mashed potatoes) as well as beef steaks, chicken, and side salads with vegetables. The food is great, and the prices are very reasonable (less than $3 for lunch and $10 for dinner).

We’ve been able to get out of the office and housing to enjoy some of the country. There is a mountain hike which is near enough for us to hike to from our housing. The mountain is the highest peak in Gaborone and provides great views of the city, the dam and the surrounding areas. We plan on heading out to local game reserves over the weekend to take advantage of viewing the local animals.2 3

First Week at Barclays Botswana

We are now in day five of being on site with Barclays Bank for continued work on Project Firefly in Gaborone, Botswana. The week has gone by very fast at times, with lots of information being gathered through meetings with many of our new colleagues at the bank. We are on track with our timeline, and our client is content with our progress thus far.

We have been given a ‘war room’ which we have fully dedicated to our process. We have posted the current-state process flow, as well as the value stream map on the walls, and walked our colleagues through it. This exchange was both useful and enlightening, as we found that we had misunderstood a few steps from our conversations when still in Columbus.

Week one will culminate with the end of our discovery phase. We are in the process of conducting research that will provide us a basis for understanding why the loan process is not as efficient as it could be. We have interviewed many of the responsible units (R/Us) who manage the process for a few reasons: to ensure the flow was correctly tracked, to gain insight into the biggest areas for improvement and finally to identify best practices both internally and observed across the industry. These interviews have been very valuable, particularly when the R/Us have been very frank and honest about the areas for improvement within their roles.

Additionally, we engaged multiple R/Us in group interviews, which has been both entertaining and insightful as the groups were given the opportunity to discuss ways to improve instead of constantly blaming their counterparts, most of whom were in the room.

We are struggling with the provided data that we need to analyze in order to develop our solutions. The points in the time, the volume, and accuracy of the data are all challenging our ability to provide a quantitative assessment essential to leveraging our recommendations.