CEO Busi Mavuso applies the 40-70 rule for decision making

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CEO Busi Mavuso applies the 40-70 rule for decision making

Dec 9, 2023 | Strategy & Leadership

Busisiwe (‘Busi’) Mavuso was born in Soweto in 1978 and matriculated at Lofentse Girls High School in 1994 at the age of sixteen. She passed with flying colours and gained entry into Rand Afrikaans University to study accounting. After three days on campus, her mother sat her down to give her some dejecting news.  She had tried her best to raise fees for registration and for the first term but failed. As a widow on a teacher’s salary, she did not have enough money to pay for Busi’s university fees, educate her three other siblings and keep the lights on at home.

Career guidance

Busi secured an apprenticeship at Allied Bank in mid-1995 and started an accounting degree through the University of South Africa (UNISA) in 1996. The first time she touched a computer was when she started working. It was a steep learning curve, and she would take the first bus from Soweto to Randburg and the last one back home to keep up with her colleagues. She even had to work weekends to ensure that she wasn’t falling behind. Her studies were impacted, and it took her nine years to graduate.

‘I lacked career guidance,’ moans Busi. ‘All I knew was that I liked mathematics and accounting in high school. I didn’t know that to become a chartered accountant, I should have registered for an articles contract at an audit firm. By the time I figured that out, it was too late for me to leave banking and take the salary cut. As the first born, I needed my then salary to pay for my siblings’ education and contribute to our family’s living expenses.’

Without an auditing training contract, Busi failed her honours degree dismally. She lacked the practical experience of an audit environment to pass the corresponding examinations. She instead registered for a post graduate degree in management at the Gordon Institute of Business Management which she obtained in 2011. She followed that up with a master’s in business leadership at UNISA in 2015.

‘It took me 23 years since I started studying accounting to achieve my childhood dream of qualifying as a chartered accountant. This was thanks to UK’s Association of Chartered Certified Accountants who credited me for my work experience. It saddens me that the South African association is not considerate of those of us from disadvantaged backgrounds who could not afford to study full time. There isn’t a concerted effort to level the playing field and it takes black people much longer to get into the C-suite than it does their privileged counterparts.’

Lifelong learning

Committed to lifelong learning, Busi is currently pursuing a doctorate in business administration through Universidad Católica De Murcia (UCAM) in Spain.

‘I am driven by the fact that success is not an option,’ explains Busi. ‘Even when I fail an exam, I cannot throw my hands up and give up because I do not have a plan B. We had to be tough as nails back then, things were not as they are for many of the young people today who have an entitlement mentality. Like Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers, we did not succeed despite our humble origins but because of them. Growing up with struggles builds a strong character to handle academic challenges and other adversities.’

The reason Busi badly wanted to qualify as a chartered accountant is her belief that it is important to be a technocrat in a particular field. Few organisations go out to recruit a generalist for a position, they are often looking for someone with a particular set of skills who they may later transition into a management role. Being a specialist is what separates you from other candidates during recruitment.

Leadership

Busi is a business leadership expert. One of her favourite leadership principles is the 40 – 70 rule developed by former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to this rule, you need between 40 and 70 percent of information to make a decision. If you decide with less than 40% of information, you do not know enough to make a good call. And by the time you have gathered more than 70% of information to determine a course of action, you have taken too long, and your decision will have been overtaken by events.

Making ‘no decision’ is worse than making a ‘bad decision’. Leaders are chosen to make good decisions, but they shouldn’t let the fear of making an incorrect decision paralyse them from making a call when the need arises. When incomplete data is available, leaders should be comfortable to rely on their gut and previous experience to direct the people in their organisations.

‘Leadership comes with a lot of power, but that power is useless if it is unused. Leaders should consider how they are going to use their positions for empowerment. In South Africa, more needs to be done to redress the effects of apartheid. Business is a social partner with a disproportionate number of resources which they are not using to bring domestic equality. The consequence of that is social instability where we have too many people with nothing to lose. The riots we witnessed in Kwa-Zulu Natal where people went on a rampage looting and burning shops is evidence of that.’

‘Currently there is a big shift towards fulfilling Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) priorities in the corporate. Companies are doing a commendable job in addressing environmental and governance issues but not nearly enough is being done to take care of the ‘social’ bit. A thriving economy is shaped like a diamond with 10% wealthy at the top, 10% poor at the bottom and a majority 80% middle class. In South Africa, we have a pyramid with an overwhelming number of people unemployed propping up the bottom. This is unsustainable for business because it limits the number of consumers.’

This article is an extract from the book THE CEO X FACTOR – available here https://www.takealot.com/the-ceo-x-factor/PLID92980382

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