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Multiple Applications of the LEKGOTLA Methodology

HERITAGE SPECIAL: the September month is a Heritage Month in South Africa. We recognize and celebrate our cultural history and heritage from our forefathers and -mothers. During this month we make effort to remember who we are, share our diverse cultures and traditional practices. There is no one South African culture that is superior to the others. Historically and politically there are those that were enforced on the people by the previous apartheid government as superior to others. Since the new dispensation in 1994 we are continuing to bring equality and sharing of our diverse cultures including Afrikaans. This is irrespective of the association of Afrikaans with the previous apartheid government. It was not the language that was wrong but the ideology of the then regime that sought to promote Afrikaans at the expense of the other languages and cultures. Our former democratic President, Hon Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela sought to promote unity through our cultural diversity. We have somehow abandoned his mission. He however left us organizations and lessons to sustain this project. We are hopeful that the nation will recover from this and remember Madiba’s dream and continue with it. Organizations, companies, schools, colleges, universities, sport clubs, government departments, NGOs, and communities are encouraged to continuously embark on Diversity Management & Inclusion Programmes to foster social cohesion among their members and employees. The September month could be a good start with such important programmes. This is a life long journey for the rainbow nation. Transformation and Change Management cannot happen overnight. I have written this article as a dedication to this big dream of our beloved late father, Madiba. I also wanted to remind ourselves that in Lekgotla methodology we have a cultural gift that even Madiba himself grew up in his rural Eastern Cape observing and learning from it, i.e. how the elders applied it in resolving conflicts in the villages.

THE COMMON QUESTION: the common question that many people often ask is whether everybody that calls his/her gathering a Lekgotla is truly applying the original and traditional principles as taught from generations to generations in Africa. People tend to equate Lekgotla with any gathering. You hear people saying, we are holding Lekgotla, meaning that they are having a meeting. The proceedings do not necessarily follow the traditional Lekgotla principles, rules, and discipline. In that case the gathering cannot be referred to as a Lekgotla.

SOUTHERN AFRICAN ORIGIN: this methodology originated in Southern Africa and has now become a continent-wide appreciated tool. Many cultures in the subcontinent have some sort of Lekgotla practices. It is all about collaborative Ubuntu type of existing together in a community that views each member as equal. The dignity of fellow human beings is protected by structures that resolve differences among people using the Lekgotla methodology.

LEKGOTLA FACILITATION SKILL: the leaders who are given the responsibility of applying the Lekgotla methodology posses facilitation skill acquired over many years of observing its application by the elders in the many structures of the villages. Of course, today such skill is taught using the modern ways of teaching and transferring the knowledge. The opportunities are created for potential facilitators to learn and apply the facilitation skill.

RETAINING THE AFRICAN TRADITION: the Africans are known for transferring and retaining their traditional practices from generation to generation through oral story telling and practices. The continued application of the Lekgotla methodology contributes to the retention of this tradition. There are many aspects of the African tradition that are associated with the application of the Lekgotla methodology, for example, the use of the king’s stick, sitting in circle to demonstrate equality, praise sing to acknowledge people’s standing in the society, placing nourishments at the centre of the circle to allow equal access and sharing, respect for the process, avoiding talking at the same time, acknowledging the inputs made by each participant in the process, etc.

LEKGOTLA AS A PRODUCT: based on the above points it is clear that Lekgotla can be seen not only as a methodology but a product that can be packaged, described, transferred, and applied in other environments, and in changing era of our lives. So, it is therefore having its life cycle which can be managed like those of physical products. It is renewable and can be modified to suit the circumstances to which it is applied.

EXPORTABLE METHODOLOGY: if the Lekgotla methodology is a product, it can therefore be exported to other nations, and continents of the world. Like other global tools of facilitation it can be applied to solve world problems and challenges. How wonderful it will be for us, Africans, to be the people who teach this methodology to the rest of the world.

CONFLICT AND DISPUTES RESOLUTION: the world today is facing multiple conflicts and disputes, some of which are between nations, and others are within the nations themselves. The Lekgotla methodology, like World Cafe’ big teams facilitation methodology, is appropriate in tackling complex problems among groups. It has been used to solve many conflicts and disputes between African nations in the past. It continues to be used in deep rural parts of Africa, especially in South Africa, in provinces like Limpopo, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northwest, Mpumalanga, and Free State.

GROUP COACHING: Coaching is the modern and fastest way of developing and guiding managers, leaders, specialists and general staff. Today supervisors and managers are expected to know how to apply coaching in their styles of managing their people. This is emphasized in the Harvard Business Review Guide to Coaching Employees. In Introduction: Why Coach? Ed Batista writes, “My experience as a coaching client, as someone who teaches coaching to MBA students, and as a professional coach has shown me the value of coaching as a management technique, and a large and growing body of research reinforces this conclusion.” In coaching groups the Lekgotla methodology is becoming fast preferred. This is more so in coaching common groups like executive committees, management committees, board of directors, project teams, research groups, sport clubs, syndicates, etc.

ADVISORY: there are not so many methodologies used in giving collective advice that are as effective as the Lekgotla Way. Lekgotla methodology is one of few out there that can be used to bring people and groups together to be advised on complex problems. In African villages the King would often call his Counsellors to receive or give advice to the villagers on how to deal with their collective problems.

NEGOTIATIONS: difficult negotiations are conducted the Lekgotla way. Lekgotla gives weaker negotiation parties the opportunity to be heard. The respect and harmonious environment created by the Lekgotla methodology remove pressure from the negotiators.

COUNSELING AND HEALING: the impactful silence that is often created by the Lekgotla methodology enables the participants to have deep connection with their feelings. People come to Lekgotla with heavy feelings and leave much stronger. They become spiritually restored and connected with fellow human beings. This is irrespective of the theme for the Lekgotla. These are the spinoffs of attending Lekgotla sessions.

BUILDING SOCIETIES: the ultimate objective of the Lekgotla methodology is to create positivity and build societies. It is future and positive oriented. Its application prevents big crisis from happening.

CULTURALLY RELEVANT SOLUTIONS: the solutions obtained using the Lekgotla methodology are long lasting as they are often relevant and appropriate to the communities in which they are being used. The methodology take the cultural diversity and dynamics of the particular community into account. In fact that is one of the conditions for applying the methodology. It should never be used where it is in conflict with the cultural beliefs and practices of the community. The participants must first be inducted, orientated and/or trained in the application of the methodology.

CONTINENTAL RELEVANCE: before colonialism the continent of Africa had no borders. One would like to believe that the cultural heritage like the Lekgotla methodology must have been used to keep communities together long before the continent was divided into colonial borders. This makes it justifiable to consider the methodology relevant to the entire continent. It can be used to bring the diverse countries and communities of Africa together. It will only need to be adjusted to the context of these countries and communities.

CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT: The Lekgotla methodology is powerful in the development of individual, organizational and community capacity, in this order. It is a participatory learning and development facilitation methodology. It is a practical way to test the knowledge base of the individuals, organizations and communities.

THOUGHT PROCESS: Every individual and organization is able to generate and develop ideas. However, each must have their own fully developed thought processes that they follow when generating new ideas, and developing them into action. The Lekgotla methodology is used as a brainstorming and ideas generation process. It also assists in putting together actions and projects from such ideas.

CONSULTING: facilitating the Lekgotla way is a great addition to the toolbox of consultants and consulting companies. It can be offered as a stand alone consulting methodology or in combination with other methodologies. This is so due to its application to multiple situations and contexts. It facilitates creativity and innovation. These are products of the brain power gained through active and full engagement in the Lekgotla sessions. Thus, it could form a basis for enterprise development, networking and professional management services solutions offerings. And it is a means by which the society and organizations can facilitate Transformation and Change Management.

RETAINING OUR HERITAGE: It is advisable for those who are feeling traditionally obliged to preserve this methodology through the creation of Lekgotla Practitioner Academies, and research it further to make it relevant to the modern day challenges.

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