New struc­tures helped re­alise com­pany vi­sion

Cul­ti­vat­ing re­la­tion­ships with unions and work­ers re­stored trust within teams

Financial Mail - - CORPORATE REPORT LONMIN -

Dur­ing the past two years at Lon­min there have been the changes Rod­ney Op­per­man has wanted to see since join­ing the com­pany in 2002 — flat­ter man­age­ment struc­tures and, for gen­eral man­agers of shafts, di­rect re­port­ing lines to CEO Ben Ma­gara.

For Op­per­man, who is vice pres­i­dent of Saffy and K3 shafts, a per­sonal high­light of his time with Lon­min was be­ing given charge of Saffy, the shaft ear­marked for clo­sure, by Ma­gara. He has brought changes that may just save the op­er­a­tion, which has ab­sorbed R10bn.

“It was a ‘wow’ mo­ment for me; that some­one be­lieved in my abil­i­ties. One of my strengths is lead­er­ship; I can bring teams to­gether,” he says, cit­ing his track record at K3, Hossy, New­man and other Lon­min shafts as he rose through man­age­rial ranks.

Get­ting em­ploy­ees to un­der­stand the vi­sion by work­ing closely with them and en­cour­ag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with teams was crit­i­cal.

“I did ex­actly what Ma­gara has done dur­ing the past five years, but in a much smaller space: com­mu­ni­cate, align peo­ple, un­der­stand them and en­gage,” he says.

One of the ma­jor ex­pe­ri­ences for Op­per­man was the rise of the As­so­ci­a­tion for Minework­ers and Con­struc­tion Union (Amcu).

He speaks of the “dis­ar­ray” within the work­force and the dif­fi­cul­ties in man­ag­ing em­ploy­ees who felt the power had shifted to Amcu rather than to com­pany lead­er­ship.

“As man­agers we were afraid to tell them to do their jobs and that’s when things fell flat.”

Th­ese de­vel­op­ments all fed into the tragedy at Marikana in Au­gust 2012 and then again into the five­month strike in 2014.

Lon­min grap­pled with the right model to bring calm and pro­duc­tiv­ity to its em­ploy­ees, chang­ing chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cers a num­ber of times un­til Ma­gara fi­nally took over the role of CEO.

“One of the big changes Ma­gara brought was the re­la­tion­ship he de­vel­oped with Amcu pres­i­dent Joseph Mathun­jwa. It was a very strate­gic move to get their leader to talk to them,” he says. “It was the cre­ation of a team. Sud­denly ev­ery­thing picked up. We saw big changes in the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. We’ve seen the changes in the past two years that we’ve wanted for so long.”

Rod­ney Op­per­man: New teams brought about much-needed changes

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