Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Organization Agility

This term is often used by many without understanding the real meaning of it.  Open any website and I am sure 50% of them might have used this term in their “About us” or somewhere in their Vision-Mission-value statement. defines organizational agility as: “The capability of a company to rapidly change or adapt in response to changes in the market.”

Product and services life cycles have become short, digital disruptions is heavily affecting businesses and paradigm shift comes much faster than ever before for many businesses.

All above factors keep creating many familiar and unfamiliar challenges for the business leaders / owners. It has become mandatory for them to quickly respond to these changes if they want to survive in their business.

For many business owners, regression has always been the most preferred tool to establish relationship between the strategy and variables. It used to work successfully during organic growth phase of their business however today; market dynamics and flow of technological changes have become too frequent creating many unfamiliar challenges.

When time and technologies changes rapidly, business leaders / owners will press panic button to quickly gain capabilities and respond to the challenges. Though it’s a wishful thinking; achieving capabilities in short span will not be practically possible. Most of the business leader / owners do not know how to cope with the situation. Sometimes they abruptly empower wrong people to act which can drastically slow down the process of achieving business objectives.  The artifact will be on the entire work force in terms of uncertainty about their career road map and company future. It may create confusion for the key employees on their part they are expected to play.

The final winners of the future will be the companies and their leaders who know how to respond to the changing business environment. I always say that “Think-Learn-Move and Win" theory will work however you need to equip yourself with new skills and have a mind set for learning new things. The right leaders can ignite the passion in dormant teams and get the best outcome.

Bhartesh Sagar
April 2, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to successfully initiate “change”?

During the course of change implementation in the organization, it is advisable not to focus on the overall corporate value and benefit when communicating change to employees. Employees care about how this is going to impact them on their career road map. How will this make their jobs and lives easier? They will always take this on an individual basis.

Strategy comes before Change

Before rushing into implementing ambitious change platform, think about developing a strategy which will help understanding the “why” before the “how.” This is crucial for the success of any change initiatives. You don’t want to be in a position where you have invested huge amount that goes in vain due to lack of understanding “why”.

Listen to matured-trusted employees

Most of us are always talking about listening to the voice of the client, what about the voice of the employee? While deciding to move on the Changed road map it’s important to make employees a part of the decision making process. Listen to their ideas, their needs, and their suggestions and integrate their feedback in Change strategy.

Set and lead by example

When leaders don’t use and support the change strategies then how can you expect employees to do so? Leaders should be able to set visible examples which can work as powerful tool in shaping employee perception about Change strategy and encourage desired behaviors.

Integrate into the flow of work

Change should not be seen as an additional task or burden for employees. It should be an organic fit into their day to day workflow.

Create a reassuring environment

If company focus has always been on rewarding performers for their individual contribution then it will be difficult to encourage employees to share and communicate with successes with each other. In fact there is nothing wrong with rewarding employees for great performance however it is crucial when it is changed to reward team and teamwork.

Measure what matters the most

Lot of Things Company can possibly measure however it is not necessary that everything needs to be measured. It will be good to focus on the metrics that matter the most to the Company. Especially the ones that are tied back to a business case. Unnecessary controls used for micro managing are the major factors for spoiling the work environment and employees will start losing job satisfaction.

Adjust and progress

Change is never ending evolution to discover new tools and strategies for every company. It is very important for the organization to be able to adapt and evolve as things change in the market place. Keep an eye on what’s going on in the industry as well as in the organization. This can enable you to innovate and anticipate.

Trust and delegate power

Andrew McAfee has frequently narrated this. “Learn to empower and support your employees and then get out of their way”. Some best practices and guidelines are ok however you need to have trust in your employees about what they need to do.

Bhartesh Sagar

March 12, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to be better than an average company?

Though the market scenario has substantially changed in terms of expectations of global service buyers, most mid-size Indian companies do not seem to be restructuring their operations. Excluding batter work place and infrastructure, archaic management systems still exist wherein business owner / partners / families continue controlling the business. Power delegation is rarely provided to senior managers so the designation of the senior manager remains only on their business card and not in its true sense.

Benefits of above management model– 

  • Decent benefits package plus the non-usual favors / benefits
  • Talented pool of technical people gets attracted to higher salaries
  • Freedom and support without any specific direction
  • Casual outfit allowed at work place

Artifacts of above management model – 

  • All senior and middle level managers do only micromanaging
  • It is impossible to get anything done without technical manager telling how to do things.
  • Decision taking authority is only the business owner/s.
  • Non-technical people take technical decisions.
  • Project deadlines are either meaningless or too short which creates longer and stressful working hours for employees.
  • Terrible life/work balance - you have no option but to work for longer hours.
  • Increases risk of losing valued and result oriented employees.

Some recommendations for Senior Management:

Try creating culture of ownership:

·         Employees with ownership mindset can boost “customers first” attitude

Pay attention to proposal details:

·         Sometimes small things can make a major impact on customer value and profit.

Meticulously analyze grievances & compliments:

·    No need to make mistake and then learn. Learn more from affirmative experiences.

Usage of social media:

·        Employees should use social media for sending value added messages to customers

Personal touch to customer:

·   Customers should enjoy doing business with your company because of you.

Discuss business value with the client rather than technical details with commitments on deadline.

Provide adequate life/work balance to your employees.

Remove cosmetic levels of managers that are completely useless.

Get rid of the micro managers and replace micromanagement with mentoring.

Encourage thinkers - problem solvers and protect performers. They are the trues assets.

Bhartesh Sagar

February 11, 2014

Friday, February 7, 2014

Maturity Assessment of Leader

When organization starts moving towards its next level, it becomes mandatory for the business owner / key stake holders to introduce some changes. The change is likely to have both positive and negative impact on the whole organization so business owner should have very clear vision about the required changes before initiating changes. They should discuss with key employees or a core management team in detail describing the phases of change, expectations from the changes in terms of business benefit and also discuss what employees can expect out of it.

Objectives of the Changes at a project level, go-to-market strategy, and service delivery should be crystal clear Even the process level changes should be well planned in advance so as to ensure smooth introduction. They need to ensure that it does not hamper the moral of the performing employees and do not create an atmosphere of fear among the employees. Percentage of required changes will depend on the vision of the business owner and key stake holders.

Ownership for implementation is also very important and it should be managed by matured and experience person to ensure that the employees take on their changed job role without any fear. This is a tough job which can only be handled by efficient, matured and experience person. It is mandatory to drive the change manage process avoiding the loss of valued employees and minimize business disruption from the change.

Ownership of implementation given to an amateur is sure of negatively affecting the organization on every aspect.

Question here is how do we ensure that the person responsible for implementing change is knowledgeable, experienced and matured enough to manage and valued employees are retained? How can we ensure that he is the best fit? Most business owners do not take this seriously so they do not deep drive into the possible impact analysis. Sometime they simply appoint someone to just introduce and implement changes. If the person does not have domain knowledge, experience and maturity the outcome will damage the company is extremely bad manner.

Selecting leader for driving change management initiatives will need sharp appraisal before assigning. Their back ground, track record, domain knowledge, proof and reference checking is a must.

Check list for appraisal of Change Leader is suggested below:

Capability Area No. 1: Leadership capabilities:

  • Change management capability and past experience
  • Change initiatives capabilities
  • Vision clarity for the organizational Business rules, policies and procedures
  • Deployment effort planning
  • Communication effectiveness on the importance of changes
  • Specific skills in making change management a mandatory requirement

Proof / Example cases:
Capability Area No. 2: Application – (Tradition usage of processes and tools on projects and new change process initiatives.)

  • Parts of the organization (divisions, functions, units) applying change management
  • Availability of required tools to manage changes
  • Availability of time and resources to apply change management at project level
  • Percentage of projects won as a result of applied change management

Competencies Capability Area No. 3: (Competencies - Competency and skill-building for "leading change" throughout the division / organization, based on employees' relationship to change. Example from the competencies capability area)

  • Training and competencies for change leader
  • Training and competencies for executives and senior leaders
  • Training and competencies for middle level managers
  • Training and competencies for employees
  • Training and competencies for project team members
  • Continuous learning opportunities for all

Capability Area No. 4: Process Institutionalization – (Moving towards common and consistent application of an organizational standard approach to changed process. Models from the institutionalization capability area)

  • Acceptance of a standard approach
  • Providing standard tools
  • Establishment of criteria for applying change management
  • Structural elements (e.g. functional group, Community of Practice, networks, etc.)
  • Integration into standard project delivery process
  • Integration into standard go-to-market process
  • Embedding change process into ongoing systems
  • Integrating with "change-initiating" processes and systems (e.g. Six Sigma, Strategic Planning, BPM, etc.)

Capability Area No. 5: Socialization (Understanding, appreciation and acknowledgement of the necessity of changes on efforts in the organization. Specimens of socialization capability area)

  • Understanding of value
  • Buy-in and support for applying change management
  • Common and shared definition of change management
  • Reinforcement of change management
  • Cultural value related to managing the people side of changes

Not general leadership, but leadership support provided to the employees in specific project deals and specifically for applying own efforts in winning important projects for the organization can create employee confidence in the changes. It should reflect as an expected outcome and positive artifacts in terms of employee morale, attrition ratio and revenue gain (or loss).

Integrated changes in functional areas should be able to achieve the expected results without any negative cultural effect of turnover on other employees and should be realizing benefits in terms of revenue and profit.


February 7, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Creating “culture of ownership”

Scenario today is that almost all companies, while recruiting new employees, consider investing in a person for 1 quarter and expect payback from the 2nd quarter. In my opinion there is nothing wrong in keeping such expectations and 1 quarter is certainly a reasonable period for any new employee to understand company, job responsibilities, work culture and perceived value to the company clients along with their expected outcome.

Unfortunately the reality is very different displaying huge gap between the expectations and results. In record of my experience, expected results and actual results are never found in sync with each other so either you set the expectations at a right level or you work on how to create fear free “culture of ownership”.

End of the day result matter the most to every business owners and no company will invest in an employee who is not generating revenue or create value for their clients in some form or the other. We all know that in digital economy, tools & technics, buyer’s behavior, expectations and perceived values have become volatile. They keep changing very fast however most of the companies do not have mechanism to initiate conscious efforts in re-evaluating things that will keep their employees happy and satisfied. This situation has created high iteration situation. Employees have also developed an attitude of looking at their jobs as stepping stone for their next job. In crude language we can say that they have developed an attitude of “use & throw” even for their jobs.
This situation can never ever create “culture of ownership” for any company. Work culture that exists since long time is task driven and deliverable or meeting deadlines matter the most. 

Creating “culture of ownership” is something that everyone talks about but how to create will require vigorous brain storming session. Creation of “ownership culture” is a tough job since most of the tasks are inter-dependable in nature, which becomes easy for employees to start blame game. Escapism is seen increasing in companies and ownership feeling is completely missing.

This situation will have bad impact especially on newly recruited employees and what is seen is that, non-performers leave their jobs (may be asked to leave), few employees fall in “acceptable-average” category so if you decide to continue with them, you need to be ready for “more investment” into them in terms of their training - coaching, efficiency, perception clarity. Very few employees are identified scoring high on their commitments. They are the ones who have the capabilities to bring high value for the company clients. How to retain them is a question that will require matured thinking, experience and knowledge of their COO. In fact, you actually have to identify and introduce corrections for your existing work culture.

Over a period of time employees who have displayed consistency and positive results are the “true performers”. They are the one who bring maximum amount of value to the customers and retaining such employees is of prime importance for every company. Key stakeholders and senior management of the company should device sound strategy that can help retaining such employees from numerous perspectives. Think about the “total cost to the company”, for losing performing employees, it is very high considering hiring expanse, their productivity, impact of client experience and cost of training and coaching new employee replacing the performing employee.

Point here is what can be done about it? Company image is always a reflection of their company culture and building of company culture is closely integrated with real client focus. Real client focus is required to be reflecting in the customer experience, every time when they interact with the company. If you wish to initiate route level corrections, you will have to change your company Image and there is no short cut for it.

Try shaping up perception of “ownership”

For doing this, you need to first create a “fear free” work environment in the company and allow individual to decide his / her own job role. I am sure they know what they are good at and integrate it with their own job role. "Ownership" will automatically get integrated with their job role so their performance outcome will be true reflection of the efforts with their full potential. Encourage them to dream big and provide enables that will help them reach their dream destination.

New outlook for rewarding performers

First identify and then introduce some new ways of incentivizing the performer and recognition should be across the company. This is not a new theory since most of the companies do have “performance awards”, “pay for performance” or awards kind of tools used for recognition. You actually need to evaluate fresh and decide whether the perceived value of these incentivizing tools is still the same or reduced? This can help you identify some new ways and tools for incentive's for the performers.

Create new opportunities for identified performers

Recognition by awards or cash incentives does not work all the times and you need to create new opportunities for performers. May be some higher responsibility linked with abroad tour, paid holidays for them with their family, ownership for new business vertical.  It could be something different than the above mention.

“Long weekend” and “Happy hours”

Declare holiday for the day that fall between festival holiday and weekends so employees can have long weekend to go out with their families. (This is tried and tested technic in Europe and USA but in India, the perception needs shaping up) Long weekend holiday will always be the best stress buster for all. Once a quarter, organize “happy hours” randomly on some Friday and provide an opportunity to employees to socialize. 

Sitting against the monitor for almost 8+ hours a day is becoming stress builder for many employees so unexpected-unplanned-suddenly declared “happy hours” on some Friday will work as energy bite. They all can talk about life outside of routine task and delivery.

Think about it.

Matured thinking minds with conceptual perceptive clarity are the caretakers of the company

Bhartesh Sagar

February 4, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Managerial challenges in 2014 for mid-size software companies (in India).

Most of the mid-size software off shoring companies in India have been growing their business for past 8 years. They have substantially grown during this time and have globally expanded their services to many more countries.

I have noticed that there are many reasons for their success. To name some; most of these companies are run by their business owner or partners who are technically qualified. Their focus has always been more on USA and Canada from the beginning due to major cost difference in skilled labor cost. B2B business (projects) from USA, Canada and Europe was initially easy for them to grab. Demanding customers were comparatively less since low cost application development in India was just fine for them to manage their profitably of their businesses. Global image of India as an excellent outsourcing destination with highly skilled engineers was being established; thanks to companies like TCS, Wipro, Infosys, I-gate etc.

In nutshell, I would call it an “organic growth phase” which helped getting macro level success for many mid-size companies in the business of providing offshore services. Also there are many similarities observed in these companies.

While going little deep into my analysis, some visible flows have come up on the surface. During organic growth phase, customer satisfaction was on back seat and focus was always on high-volume execution, delivery and financial results. Management structures in most of the companies were orthodox (Old factory model of management) based on command and control and execution of task in fastest possible time was the main focus. Managers were controlling teams in “task master” manner. Most of these companies still use the same command and control systems and they  use “more pay for more task completion” as motivating tool along with the threat of job loss. 

When employees feel that speed, delivery and results are the only things that matter to their management, they start drifting away from "ownership" of their projects. Start becoming reluctant to risk taking and do not come out with new ideas, concerns, or even doubts since they feel unsafe to say what they have in their minds.

Even with all these flows, the overall success ratio was high between 2000 and 2012, why because demand for low cost services was much higher than the offshore service providers and there were enough knowledge workers available at low cost in India which enabled consistent development and delivery of services.

Like it happens with every new business, organic growth cycle has already started moving toward its end. It is also cropping up some new challenges for mid-size companies in current times.

Beginning 2013, it has been observed that B2B project inquiries from USA have substantially reduced (one of the reason could be president Obama’s restrictions on outsourcing). Clients have become much more demanding compared to previous years. More than project "execution & on time delivery", perceived value of "business benefit" is largely increased among service buyers.

Above changes in buyers behavior are increasing and also impacting both "customer experience" and "user experience". 

Unfortunately management strategies have still not changed in most of the mid-size companies and artifacts of it has resulted in unfortunate legacy systems which still exist in many companies. 

Many companies still consider monitoring employee output through their daily time sheet. Unfortunately long prevailing management structure of command & control system has blinded these companies to initiate the most important shift in their structure.

Organic growth phase in business also has a life cycle and signs of it are felt by almost everyone. It is time for the business owners to wake up and initiate the required changes in their management structure. A new structure which can inspire & enable employees to solve unanticipated technical or commercial issues. Identify, explore and introduce some different approach to execution and increase their customer life cycle. 

Allow identified performers to experiment new ideas leading towards better customer experience. Respect them by promoting to higher position. Senior managers are required to strike the right tone of transparency, knowledge sharing, direct support and humor to encourage their teams.  

Encourage employees in every possible manner and allow them to “Think-Learn-Move and Win”. It will be introduction of “execution-as-learning” in its true sense. Think about it.

Bhartesh Sagar
January 30, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Time to change old version of talent strategy

Traditional methods of performance review and performance appraisal seems to have lost its effectiveness in terms of motivating the employees.
It actually creates more of negative effects especially when the employee is required to do the same kind of job and similar assignments again and again without any changes.

Management consultant Aubrey Daniels opinion is that performance appraisals can be ineffectual and even counterproductive. The reviews are "painful and don't work" and, furthermore, they "produce an extremely low percentage of top performers." And yet 99 percent of companies still do that.

It is quite natural that people lose job satisfaction if they are required to do the same job again and again. Periodical changes in their assignment or may be some different business vertical, some new technology or geography will work fine since they will bring new challenges. In most cases, you will find that employee will put in his/her best efforts into such assignments. 

When they achieve positive results, it creates double amount of job satisfaction since they not only overcome the challenges but in a process they have learnt something new. How to create such vertically distributed opportunities will fully depend on the business owner and key stake holders’ attitude towards growth.
Sometimes changes are introduced in such a manner that the performing employee does not see any “rewarding values” in it. Abrupt changes in structure would be severely detrimental to the performing employees, legacy and overall company culture.

It’s a tough job however matured operation manager - COO will always be able to device new talent strategies that can enhance the internal capabilities without creating any ill feeling for employees. Through on-the-job training and re-skilling their performing employees for new platform and enable them to leverage on new business opportunities.

Think about it.

Bhartesh Sagar

January 29, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Do I contribute values?

In India, traditionally almost all mid-sized companies with their employee strength between 100 to 350 are run by business owners / partners in conventional manner of command and control so they are internally more focused on cost to the company, bottom line revenue figures, productivity per resource, and processes that keeps their of command and control systems alive. They generally do not appreciate improvements in customer experience achieved through consistent efforts by an employee which sometimes d-motivate the high performers.

Fact is that result oriented employees, who have consistently proved themselves with their positive – high value contribution for years are the genuine assets for the company.

According to Jim Clifton – Chairman and CEO of Gallup Inc., “Great managers build development plans around every employee’s strengths. When employees work from strengths, nothing motivates them to achieve more — not money, not love, not vacations, not good benefits, not company volleyball games, not motivational speakers. And employees working from their strengths do win new customers.

Every qualified employee is looking at a job wherein he/she can make use of their knowledge and talents. For example; engineers gets much more job satisfaction especially when they go about fixing things by themselves, receiving customer feedback, make necessary changes and learn from it. 

Sensitive phase is when all time performer has gone down (little down) on his performance simply due to market and business volatility. 

Matured manager will have to such individuals and try channelizing their energy into right direction by enabling them with additional support, getting them the real time relevant data and allow them to experiment. They will mostly open up new windows, may be with some potential challenges but then they are the growth opportunities that can scale up the company / business. 

This can create very positive work environment in the company and resignation ratio will surely get reduced. Create some new policies for rewarding such bold, well-apprehended attempts for those who have tried to break through the conventional limitations.

  1. Enable performers with the higher opportunities and provide more resources to optimize their talents for outstanding creative solutions
  2. Remember and be patient with problem solvers since that they are the closest to the problem.

This will mostly depend on the intelligence level and maturity level of a senior manager. Command and control kind of management can have adverse effects which ultimately will result into increase in resignations.

One question that every senior manager should ask himself, “Do I contribute values to the company worth what I am being paid?”

Bhartesh Sagar
January 28, 2014