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Strategic and Action Planning: Malawi

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Umodzi Consulting was a management consultancy based in Blantyre, Malawi. It was developed from a project implemented by Challenges Worldwide, a Scottish based NGO. The development project focussed on improving livelihoods by providing business management advice to small scale entrepreneurs, micro-businesses and SMEs. The target population was rural and agricultural communities. The project successfully identified local professionals with accountancy, economics and other similar qualifications and trained them in management consultancy. The first phase took individuals up to a diploma level with the second phase recruiting and training people up to certificate level. During the development project over three hundred small businesses were assisted.

To achieve sustainability it was decided to establish a credible independent commercial management consultancy. The new consultancy was named Umodzi Consulting. Umodzi means partnership in Chichewa, one of the major languages in Malawi.

Having extensive commercial experience in managing consultancies Allan Rickmann was retained in 2012 to advise the senior staff of Umodzi Consulting on establishing and running their management consultancy business. Whilst the staff were knowledgeable, talented and enthusiastic they had little training or experience in running a consultancy business.

Allan Rickmann began his assignment by arranging a planning weekend away from the company office. He lead a fully participative strategic planning workshop.

Strategic management training cours   Logframe development

Tione Kaonga, Ernest Luhanga and Frank Mkumba, the senior management of Umodzi Consulting at a strategic planning workshop. On the right Tione the managing consultant works on a log frame.

During the visioning session the thinking process moved from a development context to a commercial theme where all monies spent had first to be earned. This of course applied whether the company was profit making or a non-profit entity.   Next he introduced the Managing Consultant, Marketing Director and Administration Manager to ‘Problem Tree’ and logical framework analysis techniques.

Logframe analysis was then used to identify the goal and purpose of the company then develop properly qualified outputs. As with all such exercises, as the outputs were refined the list of activities required continued to grow. With these insights and a sense of direction the company management, supported by Challenges Worldwide felt ready to launch Umodzi Consulting.

Tione handshake at Umodzi launch

Tione Kaonga Managing Consultant of Umodzi consulting shakes the hand of Mr Nyirenda Principle Private Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry Malawi

It soon became clear to the senior staff that in order to be sustainable they had to earn income from a well thought out range of services for well funded client organisations. By the same token small scale business and SMEs did not have the resources to retain management consultants.

Umodzi consultants during a traing course Umodzi consultants Sungeni Segula, Timothy Tchereni, Kisembe Partridge and Ruth Nzumara listening intently during a management training course.

There were two main areas of activity needed. Firstly to develop an appropriate range of services and secondly to improve business efficiency to deliver these services as cost effectively as possible.

ISO 9001 Conference Group Photograph

Speakers and delegates at the Umodzi ISO 9001 Conference in Lilongwe

Although Malawi was in the midst of political and constitutional crises and the economy was in sharp decline many manufacturing businesses had recognised that there were valuable export markets available. These businesses found that by achieving certification to ISO9001, the international quality management standard, they could export to Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa and further afield. Allan Rickmann trained the Umodzi team in the basic requirements of the quality management system. He then mentored them in running an effective seminar. This included planning, preparation presentation, networking to make contacts and effective sales follow up. So Umodzi Consulting held a successful commercial fee based conference on ISO9001 in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The keynote speaker was the Director General of the Malawi Bureau of Standards. As well as influential presentations from industrial companies already certified to ISO9001, Tione Kaonga, the Managing Consultant delivered an accomplished explanation of the standard. This seminar helped to establish the credibility of the consultancy.

Providing advice and training on ISO9001 was an important addition to the list of basic management services already offered by Umodzi Consulting.

consultant using flip chart

Consultant Timothy Tchereni feeding back points to the other delegates at a management training course

To improve the business efficiency of the consultancy Allan Rickmann provided training in management techniques, project management, consultant utilisation methods, project tracking and prospect and sales management methods.

Umodzi Consulting has continued to prosper winning work with US Aid agencies and international NGOs. Much of this work assists impoverished rural and agricultural communities. So their current activities are still focussed in their original development areas and their work is sustainable.

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