Engage ERG Members With a Kgotla

Last month we talked about identifying the needs of your company through my Venn diagram as a first step in developing your ERG strategy impact map. This month we’ll look at a powerful approach you can use to fully engage your current and future members in completing this strategy map. This incredibly rich dialogue approach is called a Kgotla (pronounced Xot-la, with the X sounding like a raspy H).

A Kgotla is essentially a public meeting. It’s based on a customary court practice used by the people of Botswana to promote a strong, highly inclusive democratic dialogue. Today this brilliant approach is employed by organizations around the world as a way of leveraging the creative abilities of their teams in strategy development and decision-making with support from the Netherlands-based Kgotla Co. (see http://www.kgotla.com). To date the Kgotla Co. has led more than 35 complex leadership and transition programs at multinational corporations and organizations. One of these was with a large copper mine in South Africa where they successfully facilitated a dialogue between 4,000 miners and the executive board of the company. A key component in driving this success within traditional corporate boards is the expert facilitation by Kgotla Co. founder Martijn de Liefde.

While in Austria I had the pleasure of leading a Kgotla with guidance from none other than de Liefde. After decades of using surveys, focus groups and other tools designed to engage people in developing ERGs and other inclusion-related strategies, I immediately realized how the Kgotla is much better suited to promote the kind of engagement that ERG and council leaders want from their members. Unlike surveys where the questions tend to channel the dialogue along a pre-set path of seeking expected answers, a Kgotla provides participants with an opportunity to explore divergent lines of thinking. This rich dialogue, combined with other techniques, draws out people’s creativity, making the Kgotla extremely powerful.

The end result of a Kgotla is the full engagement of the participants’ wisdom and creativity. In other words, it provides a vehicle for culling together the intellectual, emotional and creative powers of everyone taking part. For ERGs, or any group that is seeking to engage the insights of its members, a Kgotla provides one of the best ways to do it. A Kgotla can include answers to questions such as:

  • What are some of the benefits that you as members would like to get out of this network?
  • What are some goals for the network that could meet the needs of the company and your needs as members?
  • What actions should the network take to achieve these goals?
  • What resources will the network need to take the desired actions?

Once these questions are answered through the collective wisdom and creativity of the members, populating the ERG strategy map should be easy. In large organizations, with many ERGs and diversity councils, a broader Kgotla approach can be quickly employed to hear every voice in every network and group across the enterprise. For example, many Kgotlas can be held and their outputs fused together to drive the overall diversity and inclusion strategy with wisdom and creativity from every ERG and business stakeholder.

For ERG and council leaders, a vehicle that enables them to listen to their members is one of the most important tools they can have. As President Woodrow Wilson once said, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” I invite you to let your ears ring with the voices, ideas and creative power of your members. As you design and execute your strategies, make the Kgotla an integral part of all your ERG and inclusion-planning tools.