Improved relations with the regulator


Client: A Utility Company in South Africa.

LIcensee: Stakeholder Relationship Assessments.

A major utility company in South Africa wished to assess its relationships with its major stakeholders, including the government department that sets the policy framework that governs its operations.


A relational audit revealed that the company’s relationship with the government department scored significantly lower than its relationship with other external stakeholders such as suppliers and customers. Also, the company’s view of the relationship was significantly worse the government department’s view of the same relationship, with particular concerns about Continuity and Multiplexity.

Discussions with the utility company quickly showed why there were problems in the relationship and what could be done about it. It turned out that the utility company sent representatives into the office of the government department many times each week. However, it did not keep a record either of who was attending such meetings or of the messages that were communicated to the department’s office. Nor did the company have a point person who was keeping a record of the issues raised by the department’s office and the concerns expressed.

The company’s board and executive committee, therefore, had little idea of how the company’s relationship was developing, and what attitude the department’s office might take to various questions. In practice, the company relied simply on its chief executive meeting with the relevant government minister once or twice a year for a half-hour discussion on the major issues affecting the industry, including the price appropriate to charge to consumers. The department, with fewer participants in the relationship, was better able to join the dots of the many different interactions and was therefore more confident in the relationship.

Key findings

Without a measurement process to demonstrate how bad the relationship was with the department, especially relative to other stakeholder groups, this problem would have been difficult to identify and prioritise, and even more difficult to fix. Concerns about a relationship can too easily be attributed to some of the inherent tensions in that relationship: in dealings with a government department there is always potential for concern about Parity and Commonality. Yet in this case, closer analysis of the relationship showed that the problems lay elsewhere: in the management of the various interactions and the knowledge these could generate – issues that were far easier to address.


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