Safaricom rattles staff with ‘agility’ plan


Safaricom Plc chief financial services officer Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, chief customer officer Sylvia Mulinge, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru and Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa during the launch of 5G network on March 26. The company is changing its style of management.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • What is causing anxiety is the fact that employees have been asked to reapply for their jobs.
  • Every tribe will have 60 to 100 employees while squads will be made up of eight to 10 workers.

 The plan by Safaricom to transform into a world class technology company has created anxiety among employees. 

East Africa’s most profitable company says the strategy, known in global circles as agile, will see the formation of small teams known as squads.

The squads will then be put together in a tribe and the tribes will report to the executive committee.

The plan is expected to break the hierarchical structure, eliminate some roles as others significantly change. Some chapters like marketing will span across the squads and tribes.

What is causing anxiety is the fact that employees have been asked to reapply for their jobs.

In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Safaricom chief executive Peter Ndegwa said the company is changing to improve services.

The firm has been using its town hall employee meetings to communicate the changes and calm fears of dismissals. Mr Ndegwa told staff that the company would be transparent and open on the changes and what to expect.

“We are not changing because we are weak. We are changing because we are strong and we want to access new growth areas. We are not under pressure to save costs,” Mr Ndegwa said.

Every tribe will have 60 to 100 employees while squads will be made up of eight to 10 workers.

New squads

“Squads will deliver on a customer journey or customer outcome. You do not pre-determine how many squads or tribes you will have. Once you have frontrunners and you learn from them, you continue launching new squads and tribes,” he said.

Mr Ndegwa, who marked a year in office at the end of last month, said the intention of the new plan is not to reduce staff, adding that the change would give the employees a chance to improve their skills.


Mr Ndegwa said the company would have increased its staff at the end of the process “since we will hire more people with technology background and digital skills”.

“We will also ensure internal employees acquire new skills. We are talking about the concept of one more skill,” Mr Ndegwa said.

 Safaricom made Sh73.6 billion in net profit in the last financial year. That makes it more profitable than Kenya’s top three banks combined.

He said the change would also allow Safaricom’s shareholders to get better returns.

 “But most importantly, we want to be relevant to our community,” Mr Ndegwa said.

Promise to customers

He said the agile way of working is not new as it has been embraced by media and online companies like Netflix and Amazon.

“Agile started in the technology industry on recognition that the traditional way of operating and developing software was outdated,” he said.

He said the piloting of the strategy at Safaricom began in 2018.

“We are increasing the scale. Not everyone will go fully agile,” he said, adding that departments like Finance would still largely operate in the traditional way.

Those to be affected are on the front end side of the company such as the marketing and technology teams.

Mr Ndegwa said the strategy involves bringing people in a small team that has a single mission.

The team starts with a minimum viable product and keeps improving it in line with customer feedback, he said. The Safaricom CEO added that squads would focus on specific missions like product or customer.

He said the teams would prioritise the mission to deliver a customer outcome.

“When an organisation grows, it becomes more internal. This leaves only a small group to deal with customers on the frontline,” he said.

“But agile almost reverses that such that everyone’s job is to deliver an outcome that improves what we promise customers. When you go through change, the most important thing is the ‘why’. Safaricom has been a success. We have been good at combining innovation and technology to transform lives.”

“Having celebrated our 20th birthday, it is pertinent to get to the next phase of growth.”


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