"A few years back, I had this memorable conversation with the CIO of a Global 500 firm. This was right after we had won an engagement expansion contract and I began our discussion with the obvious question – “why did you choose us over others?”"
The gentleman in question did not give me a straight answer but instead parked a thought that has ever since influenced my thinking immensely. He said if I had my way, I would completely change the RFP (Request for Proposal) formats that float in the market today. Rather than asking questions about the organisation and its books and bibles, I would like to know more about the individuals who will deliver the services. I would want to, if I could, measure their passion and belief in this project rather than the tools and technologies they would employ. Would they willingly walk the extra mile for me? Are they empowered and skilled to make decisions at critical hours? Are they self-propelled performers? ‘Because, let’s not fool ourselves, it’s the kids on the block who make a project a success or a failure and not the technology, the management or the corner office!”
Vineet Nayar, is the Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HCL Technologies Ltd. and author of the book Employees First, Customers second. Turning conventional management upside down Mr. Nayar holds a Masters’ degree in Business Administration from XLRI, Jamshedpur.
Wow, I thought to myself. How practically he had explained the centrality of human excellence in our industry. A simple truth, yet it is incredible how it escapes so many of us, largely because of our inability to come to terms with three new truths.
First, the value zone has shifted from the top of the organisational pyramids to the front lines of customer interaction. Second, there is a yawning gap between human value and business value. Third, half the world’s population is under the age of 25 years and the early representatives of this tide of youth — Generation Y — are dramatically different. Collaborative by nature, they are being stifled under the command and control hierarchy.
If we are to nurture this precious asset, our young people, we need to transform our organisational culture and invert the management pyramid to focus on the ‘value zone’ — the place where front line employees interact with customers and create real value for them. We also need to enable reverse accountability to employees, grassroots empowerment and the establishment of a culture based on trust and transparency.
The Indian IT industry today employs around 2.5 million people and is slated to be 7.5 million strong in the next 10 years. That’s an incredible amount of brain power in our armour; enough to change the destiny of a nation. We therefore, owe it to ourselves to tap this energy to its maximum, and it can only be done when it’s unleashed and unstifled by structures and traditions.
Therefore, as we plan for the next phase of our journey, we need innovations, investment and focus on this precious asset first and foremost. Enable, enthuse and encourage the employees in the value zones. Then transfer the leadership of change. Hand over the keys, and they will take care of our future.