Article: Competitive edge emerges from intangibles


Competitive edge emerges from intangibles

In conversation with S.Y. Siddiqui, Managing Executive Officer - Administration (HR, Finance, IT) about creating an organisation that stays ahead of competition

Our efforts are invested in training and development and we complement that with a strong culture of empowerment


Across functions and levels, champions are pro-actively identified and recognised


What are the key strengths that make Maruti Suzuki unique in your industry?

If you look at Maruti Suzuki’s strengths, you will find three core and rather unique traits. Firstly, it is people power, both in terms of capability and commitment. In Maruti Suzuki’s case, you will find high levels of ownership and an element of pride - what I define as “commitment.” Capability comes from functional and technical skills; Commitment comes from identification with the company & ownership of its Vision, Core Values and goals. When it comes to people power, you need both capability & commitment.

Secondly, Maruti Suzuki has been very successful at creating a positive, supportive and transparent work culture. Our work culture is a unique blend of indepth understanding of the sensitivities and nuances of the local context and the best management policies, systems & practices of Japan from Suzuki.

Thirdly, our organization is built on flexibility and empowerment. As business environment changes very quickly, the only way for survival is to create a Learning Organization. Our efforts are invested in training and development and we complement that with a strong culture of empowerment. This of course needs to be aligned with a reward and recognition program that is sustainable over time.

How have these differentiators evolved over time?

Over time, our business focus has evolved from being production-oriented in the initial years to being market and customer focus driven company. This change has had many implications in the way we have evolved our company organization, systems & processes and the way decisions are made while enabling business objectives. In the initial years, the leadership focus was top down to ensure leading by example to learn from the Suzuki experience in setting a new work culture, management principles, productivity and team work. Today, employees at all levels play a very important role in making new systems and processes with high empowerment & ownership towards achieving company goals and building the competitive edge for our company. Hence now it’s a mature bottom up process in terms of decision making, involvement & participation & business plan finalization and target setting.

How do you build a competitive edge based on those core competencies?

Today, the competitive edge will emerge from intangibles like speed, responsiveness, commitment, people excellence as compared to a time when competitive edge used to come from tangibles such as technology, product features & quality and cost reduction. All these tangibles are replicable by competitors across the globe. However, in the new economy it is an age of Intangibles and the real competitive edge comes from those. Intangibles are people & culture driven and hence cannot be simply copied.

How do you nurture this work culture and these strengths across different levels in the organization?

There are three processes that are critical to the develop, reinforce and cascade a positive, transparent, supportive and high performing work culture, systems and practices across the company. First is the intent and ability of top leadership to ‘walk the talk’. This is one aspect where most large companies may like to really introspect towards making it a big strength. The second key process is the rewards and recognition program based on a professional, objective and credible assessment process. In our case, this process cuts across barriers in order to pick up examples and champions from the population across levels & functions. From technicians at the shop floor level to supervisors, young engineers & managers across functions, champions are pro-actively identified and recognized. The rewards vary from informal non-monetary recognition to formal organizational rewards such as variable pay, compensation & benefits, career development and career growth. Thirdly, we ensure that there are strong internal communication initiatives in the form of Daily Events Flash, Monthly E- Newsletter & Monthly magazine which highlight our expectations and achievements of our team members across the company.

Also the induction of new team members – entry level as well as laterals is handled with tremendous planning, effort & involvement to ensure that we cascade key elements of our vision, core values and work culture effectively.

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Topics: C-Suite, Strategic HR

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