Training for Impact: Embedded Role Models

The need for training or building the capacity of people is immense in a place where world-class education, experience and role models are lacking. There seem as many methods for conducting training as there are organizations engaged in training here, since many practitioners have crafted their own methods to fulfill their particular mission.  Karisimbi Partners has had the opportunity to observe and understand the efforts of many approaches across a diverse array of organization types: schools, healthcare institutions, churches, government agencies, NGOs and businesses. While there is good reason for different methods to co-exist and compliment each other in the race to develop human capacity, clearly some approaches are more effective than others.

Training can be defined as “the process of bringing a person… to an agreed standard of proficiency… by practice and instruction”. The disparate approaches to training we have seen in Rwanda may be grouped along the following dimensions: number of participants, number of trainers, frequency, location, and accountability.  It is far too easy for a foreigner to fly to Rwanda, speak in front of hundreds of grateful attendees, and fly back home claiming a tremendous training accomplishment.  When training success is measured in terms of lasting impact, however, it is clear that there are better methods available.

In a context like Rwanda’s, what a world-class expert needs to convey often represents a dramatic new paradigm or way of looking at things.  Two of our favorite examples of organizations that have developed a training method for introducing dramatic change are: Wellspring Foundation and International Education Exchange.  Both are addressing the needs of public primary and secondary schools; both have been ‘on-the-ground’ refining their methods for many years in Rwanda.  These International NGOs are tasked with teaching educators a new language (English) as well as a new pedagogy (student-centered learning), so in a way they are introducing two dramatic new paradigms at once.  Furthermore, the stated development goals of the Government of Rwanda suggest they have a critical and urgent role to play in the development of the country.  According to one of these organizations, “A teacher training session, by itself, is a complete waste of time and money”.  As such, both organizations are more concerned with what happens after centralized training sessions, where both engage in training that looks more like one-on-one mentorship or apprenticeship and takes place on-site in each participants’ school.  These organizations have achieved significant and lasting impact with a new model: embed instruction in the schools they serve by embedding people in each school that can model it for others.  This also allows for keen evaluation and refinement, since mentors observe training impact where it matters most: in the classroom.

In our experience, the way these organizations are training educators suggests an effective training principle that applies to medical centers, churches, businesses and other types of organizations as well. The ideal training method for lasting impact in any type of organization attempting to embed big concepts and new ways of thinking may be stated as follows: embed experts in an organization long enough to allow their contribution to take root and spread.  Put another way, if you can, expose at least one person to “best practice” in the new way of thinking/doing things for long enough to allow them to internalize the new standard as an individual; then, place at least one such person in the organization to model “best practice” for others until the new standard is internalized as an institution. I say this as a former university business professor who now understands the limits of the one-to-many format a classroom represents.  Too much can be lost in the translation between classroom concepts and workplace practice.

The suggested ideal is certainly not the most cost-effective or easy form of training (each organization may only train a small number of others in so ‘deep’ a fashion). Human capacity building is difficult but noble work, and if you care more about impact than about trainee intake, it is an ideal worth striving for.

Onward and upward,


Strategic Plan for Regional IT Consulting Firm


A growing IT consulting firm with a solid reputation for technical excellence and established customer relationships found itself facing increased regional competition in its home market and a need for a new strategic plan to address current and future markets. Already operating in two countries in the region, Karisimbi Partners was engaged to:

  1. Conduct a financial analysis of the enterprise;
  2. Recommend optimized organization structure for regional expansion;
  3. Establish Quota Setting & Performance-based Commission for sales personnel;
  4. Consult on methods to increase consultant and project utilization rates

Karisimbi Partners’ Approach

Evaluate historical performance

The Karisimbi Partners team engaged with company management in an effort to analyze and understand every aspect of the business, from past financial performance, to current operations, to future opportunity. By deeply analyzing profitability associated with the client’s various service offerings and lines of business, Karisimbi Partners provided insight and data-supported recommendations for where to increase focus and resources and how to eliminate or reduce less efficient project work.

Validate the Market and Competitive Environment

Looking beyond the traditional domestic market and competitive forces at play, Karisimbi Partners evaluated the effect of organizational structure, compensation plans for sales and consultant staff and required development training -aligning these factors with the company’s growth and regional expansion aspirations. Tailored quota setting processes and role-based incentive compensation plans were outlined for the company for implementation among its revenue generating staff. Karisimbi Partners’ assistance in these focus areas represent a key value in ensuring the company is competitively positioned externally for the market, and internally for retaining and recruiting top employees.

Prioritize Recommendations for Greatest Impact

Balancing cash flow needs with long term company objectives meant that actionable recommendations must center on highest priority adjustments and investments necessary to achieve stated strategic goals.  To that end, a detailed set of objectives with identified owners was documented and established to ensure accountability and time bound progress against the following goals:

  • Simplified & Effective Organization Structure
  • Quota Setting & Performance-Based Commission for Sales Personnel
  • Increased Utilization Rates (of key personnel)
  • Identification of new service lines and target markets


The company has successfully extended operations into a third country within the region and has expanded their offerings to client industries in accordance with the outlined strategic plan and implementation guide.  The organization is poised for partnership with a larger vendor partner, positioning the company for greater scale and impact in the markets it serves.  Employee retention and contribution has been positively affected by the implementation of a performance-based compensation model, and the company remains a recognized and respected leader in the IT service sector.

Performance Management Services for Holding Group Companies


A respected Rwandan holding group with three established companies in its portfolio was seeking to improve its human resource strategy and implementation model to ensure quality objective assessment of employees ranging from individual contributors to senior management. Based on our People Development services and experience managing high performance teams, Karisimbi Partners was engaged to:

  1. Draft and review the general staff performance review model and associated measurement tool
  2. Create the Senior Manager annual performance review model and associated measurement tool
  3. Create the Senior Manager performance review guide
  4. Participate in bi-annual senior management performance review panel

Karisimbi Partners’ Approach

Validate and Document Key Objectives & Values

To ensure a bi-annual performance management process tailored to the values, vision and documented objectives of the holding group and its operating companies, Karisimbi Partners carefully interviewed senior leaders to validate specific role accountabilities as well as leadership traits and management attributes most critical to the company. Based on the resulting data, a review tool and detailed implementation guide was developed, including a rating system allowing for self-assessment by the employee under review as well as assessment by the manager and / or a panel of senior leaders as appropriate.

Focus on Employee Motivation and Development

A focus on Career Development and Planning was incorporated into the review process to encourage an open dialog between employee and manager which evaluates performance against stated annual objectives, capability in required job disciplines (i.e. financial management, interpersonal skills), assessment of strengths and areas for improvement. Additionally, a clear target setting and performance based bonus guideline was established to tie financial benefits and motivation to the performance review model.

Karisimbi Partners Participation in Model Implementation

To help secure full acceptance and understanding of the new performance review model, Karisimbi Partners conducted an initial Performance Model review for Senior Managers and the Holding Group HR Director and participated as members of the bi-annual review panel to ensure internalization of the new process within the organization(s).


The holding company implemented the new assessment model across each of its operating companies, with all participants, both reviewers and those reviewed reporting great benefit to the new model.  Stakeholders praised the objective methodology for assessing all key performance areas, the clear rating system for calibrating employees against expected performance goals, and the facilitation of both peer and manager to employee dialog which has been instituted, ensuring clear expectations for reward, career progression and areas for improvement.

Advising and Fundraising for Startup Commercial Fish Farm


An entrepreneur was seeking strategic advisory services as he launched what would become a high-end aquaculture firm with a reputation for integrity, quality, and excellence in management. This Rwandan-based company expected to establish a modular, self-sufficient and independent fish production-line, from ‘breeders to market-size fish’. The project was to be based on sustainable production and year-round supply of fresh fish products to the domestic market, with a strong opportunity for export to neighboring countries. Political stability, a year-round warm climate, an untapped market and a growing economy, all combined to make Rwanda the best location in the world for this five million USD project.

The company has raised 1M USD and has now completed the first stage of what will be a four-stage 1500 metric ton per year fish production facility. The company has already employed hundreds of the poorest Rwandans in the construction and operations of the facility and will continue to do so as it continues the build-out and operation of subsequent phases. It will commence sales in mid to late 2012 and move forward with subsequent rounds of funding and construction thereafter.

The prospects for Lakeside Fish Farm’s continued growth are excellent, with domestic market demand of 16,000 metric tons far exceeding current local production. Additionally it is believed that existing market demand is understated based on the lack of consistent product quality and availability. Products will be sold primarily in the Kigali area, as well as exported to high population centers in the region.

Karisimbi Partners’ Approach

Karisimbi Partners has supported this project from its earliest stages, having helped develop strategy for local launch of the company to developing the market, performing financial analysis and facilitating fundraising efforts and investor relations.

Strategic Planning

The Karisimbi Partners team engaged with Company management in an effort to translate the strategic and business planning that had been accomplished to-date into something executable for the Rwandan context. This initial strategic planning workshop and the resulting direction affected decisions regarding product development, fundraising and marketing strategies. From this initial engagement Karisimbi Partners established what would become a long-term ongoing advisory role with the Company. This has included a range of services, some of which are outlined below, but also include regular “check-ins” with the entrepreneur, evaluating candidates for senior leadership in the company and facilitating relationships with strategic private sector and government partners. Karisimbi Partners has become an integral part of the senior decision-making process at the Company.


The entrepreneur had succeeded in raising nearly 70% of what was required to accomplish the first phase built-out of the business. This had come primarily from friends and family. Karisimbi Partners was engaged to help secure the remaining 30% of the initial round of funding from a more sophisticated set of investors who were outside the immediate friends and family network of the entrepreneur. Karisimbi Partners developed investment promotion materials for the Company to include letters of intent, financial models, and investor pitch presentations. The team then selectively targeted networks of socially conscious investors and succeeded in raising the remaining funds within six months of beginning the effort. Karisimbi Partners has been retained to lead the subsequent rounds of fundraising for the Company.

Market Development

Karisimbi Partners not only provided strategic guidance related to product development and pricing but “rolled up the sleeves” and took charge of securing a distribution depot, acquiring supply from Uganda and testing the market in DR Congo on behalf of the Company. Karisimbi Partners is managing ongoing discussions with key institutional customers for the Company, effectively serving as a shadow sales and marketing team. This will be fundamental to success as sales begin to get off the ground in the coming months.


The Company has completed its first round of funding. It has completed build-out of phase one of the production facility. The Company has developed a sales and marketing strategy in Rwanda and the region that will serve as a foundation for its growth into subsequent stages where it will ultimately produce 1,500 metric tons of fresh farmed fish per year. This has created and will continue to sustain hundreds of jobs in one of the poorest areas of the country. It will also serve as the foundation of a protein production industry in Rwanda that will provide critical nutrients to those who need it most. Karisimbi Partners has had the honor of playing and continuing to play an important role in this change-agent business.

Showcasing Cross-Sector Investment Opportunities


The Ministry of Commerce sought to evaluate and support a number of enterprises deemed strategic to the national economic interest and in need of assistance. The selected businesses came from many diverse industries, including Essential Oils, Pyrethrum, Animal Feed, Dairy, Food and Juice Processing, Leather Tanning and Textiles. Karisimbi Business Partners was engaged to perform business and market assessments and develop “turnaround plans” detailing revised business strategies and positioning the companies for investment, as well as to engage the domestic and international investment community regarding the identified opportunities.


Karisimbi Partners’ Approach

The KBP team engaged with company management in each of the eight selected organizations to analyze and understand every aspect of the business, from past financial performance, to current operations, to future opportunity. Through contact with customers, suppliers, industry experts, government officials and other stakeholders in the local, regional and global industries, Karisimbi Partners identified core issues to be addressed and opportunities to be exploited. Karisimbi Partners synthesized this information in the development of business plans designed to provide the greatest possible return on investment while considering the most realistic and practical view of required capital, management, market optimization and eventual exit.

Perhaps the most lasting impact was made over and above the scope of the assignment, as the Karisimbi team guided the companies beyond planning into implementation, engaging potential investors, assisting in re-negotiating financing, developing downstream customers and upstream suppliers, and ultimately working to bring all relevant players to the table and position the company for success.



Karisimbi Partners delivered full business turnaround plans and marketing materials tailored to current and potential investors for all selected businesses. To date the following has been achieved from Karisimbi Partners’ assessments, strategic recommendations, and investor engagements

  • One business has moved from bankruptcy to becoming a global leader in the production of a rare agricultural product; the company has made multiple subsequent investments to further expand its business and is the supplier of choice for multiple multinational organizations
  • Two companies have received share purchase offers from international investors
  • One company was acquired by a larger domestic competitor following further engagement and advising from Karisimbi Partners

Strategic Gap Assessment for Dairy, Juice, Water Processor


The largest dairy, juice and water processor in Rwanda had recently completed expansion plans resulting in a 27+ million USD processing facility targeting the local and regional market.  The company was facing strong regional competition and profitability was challenged. As the organization prepared to aggressively compete and grow market share, Karisimbi Partners was engaged to:

  1. Assess all aspects of the organization and determine those requiring priority focus;
  2. Research and analyze internal and externally available information related to all lines of business;
  3. Provide recommendations to Board of Directors regarding areas of strategic importance to the company


Karisimbi Partners’ Approach

Engage at All Levels of Company Operations

The Karisimbi Partners team engaged with company management in an effort to analyze and understand every aspect of the business, from past financial performance, to current operations, to future opportunity. Through contact with company management, industry experts, government officials and other stakeholders in the local, regional and global dairy and beverage industry, Karisimbi Partners identified and quantified strategic ‘gaps’ to be addressed and opportunities for growth.

Validate the Market and Competitive Environment

Karisimbi Partners developed a comprehensive view of the competitive landscape for all three product lines, taking into account product categories, pricing structure, packaging and branding.  Via in-person interviews, research, and data validation at all levels of the sales and distribution chain, relevant strategies and recommendations for pricing, distribution and product offerings were developed and presented.  Strong experience working in the dairy sector enabled Karisimbi Partners to provide insight and facilitation of a supply partnership and ultimate acquisition of a strategic competitor.

Prioritize Recommendations for Greatest Impact

Balancing cash flow needs with long term company objectives meant that actionable recommendations must center on only addressing identified gaps critical to current operations as well as long term goals.  To that end, a rigorous lens of demand-driven planning was utilized, with the delivered strategic gap assessment providing specific recommendations centered on addressing:

  • Operational capacity
  • ROI-justified capital expense and working capital investments
  • Financing, raw material and packaging cost reductions
  • Capture of latent market demand



Acting upon the recommendations, the company was able to re-establish efficient distribution strategies, successfully acquire a struggling dairy competitor – securing critical supply and incremental market share, address capacity bottlenecks to better align production to market demand, and adjust packaging costs to offer better retail pricing to the market – critical for competing domestically and regionally.  The company continues to grow domestic market share across its product lines.