Article: Lead Speak: Excerpts of the most provoking views in 2010


Lead Speak: Excerpts of the most provoking views in 2010

In the year gone by, People Matters gathered views from various thought leaders on topics ranging from economic challenges, the education system, workforce effectiveness, organizeational strategy and competitive advantages. Here are excerpts from some of the most provoking and infromative views expressed by thought leaders

In the year gone by, People Matters gathered views from various thought leaders on topics ranging from economic challenges, the education system, workforce effectiveness, organizational strategy and competitive advantage. Here are excerpts from some of the most provoking and informative views expressed by thought leaders 

On Education: Equity and not equality
March Issue, 2010

Curriculum and courses designed in the 1990s (and earlier) are still being taught in many colleges in India. There are many teachers who learnt their material in the previous century and have not gone for any refresher courses or updated programs and are teaching the same notes. Thanks to the Internet, there is world class curriculum available online and faculty should be given facilities to be retooled. Get the teachers current and the students will be current. If somebody tells me that “Education is Expensive” my response to that is: “Then Try Ignorance.”I am a strong believer of Equity and not Equality. One should earn respect and a job and not buy.
Bala Balachandran, J. L. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting and Information Management


On the Education System: A vicious circle of mediocrity
March Issue, 2010

In India, the problem is that to run an education institution, you got to be a non profit organization. The government will therefore give you access to cheaper land. But the moment land is below market prices, its supply gets restricted. And therefore it goes to people who have access to power like politicians, bureaucrats and a few other influential people. They are not necessarily in it because they are committed to education. Also, because the government gives cheap land, it says that we will influence fees. If the government fixes my revenue, I will work backwards and ask how to profit under the given constraint. Hence, schools pay poorly to teachers, develop poor talent and don’t invest enough back in their infrastructure. Private sector higher education, barring a few notable exceptions, is stuck in what I would call a Vicious Circle of Mediocrity. We will give cheap land to friends who are not great educationists, who will then go out and build mediocre institutions for education. We will in turn control their fees; they will attract low quality teachers, pay them less and deliver poor courses. Hence, it comes as no great surprise that only 15-25% of India’s engineers are employable.
Sanjiv Bikhchandani, Founder, Infoedge (

On Talent Supply: India’s competitive advantage is under threat
March Issue, 2010

When the President of Colombia calls on Genpact to understand how we can begin operations in that country and Mayors of cities in China take active interest in how they can improve curriculum for employability, it is time for India for India to wake up from its Institutional lethargy. Our competitive advantage is under threat. There isn’t sufficient accountability in the system for industry to dole out large grants and also the scale of the problem is beyond the disparate efforts of a few corporates. Ultimately, we cannot solve this without active interventions from government and public institutions. For a start, we need to create an environment where teachers are paid better. There are loads of financial regulations on colleges that make it unviable for them to pay their teachers better. A fair amount of re-regulation in higher education is required that will encourage public-private partnership. It’s time the powers that be picked a model and went ahead to create a scalable solution. Finally, not everybody needs to go to college. There is huge opportunity in the skilled workman sphere and it’s time we studied examples like that of Germany, which with its dual education system and emphasis on apprenticeships, ensures efficient allocation of talent.
Pramod Bhasin, President & CEO, Genpact

On Management Mantras: You only monitor when there is no faith
April Issue, 2010

While others benchmark performance with their peers or best-in-industry, Power Finance Corporation (PFC) does not. Benchmarking cannot be done accurately; it could either create an artificial limit but then the full potential is not exploited if it is set too low or it can signal that it is impossible if it is set too high and creates demotivation. PFC follows a simple yet effective technique which is: One should benchmark with oneself and become better and better every day. If this is followed as an attitude, it will work wonders for the individual and the organization as well. While other companies think that monitoring is essential for performance, PFC does not. You only monitor when there is no faith in the people you assign the job to. One should choose the right person for the job and give empowerment and trust to deliver results. This management style is aligned to PFC’s ambitious motto that the company has adopted: ‘We create possibilities for a better tomorrow’. The results show there is no such thing as ‘trying’ when it comes to achieving results, and PFC has demonstrated that they know how to do it consistently.
Satnam Singh, Chairman & Managing Director, Power Finance Corporation


On Competitive Advantage: Build by design or serendipity
April Issue, 2010

Capabilities can be built up by design but some emerge through serendipity. A call centre may discover that in analyzing call volume, they have the seedling of a data analytics capability. An IT outsourcer may find that they have learnt enough about their client’s business to be able to offer business consulting advice. This happens all the time because what people learn and how this knowledge will prove useful is difficult to anticipate perfectly. But being able to see it when it happens is vital as it can form the basis for differentiation within the same business or diversification into a new one.
Phanish Puranam, Professor of Strategy, London Business School

On Competitive Advantage: Talk to your customers
April Issue, 2010

Companies evolve organically as a response to market forces. In the process, they develop new capabilities that could potentially be the big competitive differentiator. Managers need to identify any new crucial differentiators and build on these for strategic advantage; this identification of competitive differentiators for companies is very crucial. Often, the most important way to identify competitive advantage is to look outwards and talk to customers. If you understand why customers chose you to do business with over your competitors, you have the most accurate response to the competency question. Customers are like a mirror to the organization and companies can very easily let their advantage slip by not being close to their customers. The big danger for companies that are not close to their customers is that trends catch them by surprise. An example of such competency search leading to meaningful strategic advantage is Apple. It is a great example of a company that constantly aligns its technological capability with its ability to really understand the customer better than competitors. Companies that think they know best are rarely able to take full advantage of their internal competencies.
Robert S. Kaplan, Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School

On Branding: Employer branding is no different
May Issue, 2010

We live in a “branded world” – we live in branded localities, branded cities, we send our children to branded schools where they receive branded education and we work in branded companies. When it comes to branding, at a conceptual level, there is very little difference between branding for products and services to clients, and branding a company’s value proposition to employees. At a very basic level, all communication is targeted towards an individual’s ambitions, desires and insecurities. In marketing as well as employee communication, we try to motivate a person to take a certain course of action by convincing him about how his needs are going to be fulfilled by the brand – be it owning / driving a particular make of car or working in a particular company.
S. K. Swamy, Chairman, RK Swamy Hansa

On Collaboration Technology: Time and distance are rendered meaningless
June Issue, 2010

The massive deployment of collaboration technology will have a number of significant impacts. For starters, it will reduce barriers that commonly divide people, making the world a more connected and inter-dependent place. With collaboration technology, time and distance are rendered meaningless, so people can work more flexible hours and with a greater than usual number of colleagues. At Cisco, we routinely gather experts from three or more countries — including India — to solve customer problems in real time. Collaboration technology, thus, helps us better leverage our knowledge and capabilities and deploy it where it is needed most. This increase in scalability is making Cisco a more agile and adept company and not just internally. We’re better able to communicate with our partners, suppliers and customers. In other words, collaboration has made us more competitive and receptive. To make the most from collaborative technology, we have adjusted our management structure. In addition to our traditional command - and - control model, we also have a complementary decentralized model that drives decision making deeper into the field. Together, they help us work smarter and faster than we ever imagined possible.
Inder Sidhu, Senior VP - Strategy and Planning, Cisco

On Growth and Diversification: Equip people to grow upstream
July Issue, 2010

From the business point of view, the major challenge for our industry is the fluctuation of crude oil prices in the global market. On the talent front, we have faced a major challenge in terms of talent shortage, especially in areas of new businesses for us. In the last few years, we have grown extensively in new business areas where we had no presence before and it was challenging to have the internal talent available to run those businesses. We have grown in upstream and downstream, especially into petrochemicals and diversified into natural gas. Considering our core business is refining and marketing, it has been a huge change in terms of the talent we needed to attract and groom internally to run these diversified businesses. We have trained people from in-house combining with external recruitment at entry and middle management levels from private sector as well. We have been successfully able to equip our people with new skill sets and we are contributing this talent to the overall industry as well. Today, we have the confidence that we have those required capabilities ourselves.
Brij Mohan Bansal, Chairman & Director (Planning & Business, Development), Indian Oil Corporation

On Employee Retention: Employees value long term benefits
October Issue, 2010

Transmission as a sector was not open to private sector earlier. But it is only in the last three years that we are seeing a surge of private players in transmission. We are sure that poaching will be there and have therefore taken certain proactive steps to retain our talent. Before taking steps to tackle the issue of poaching, it is important that we first understand the levels where it actually happens. Poaching happens when very experienced employee from a specialized field moves out in lure of better package and luxury. It happens only in the case of experienced senior employees since their capability and knowledge base is built over a period of time and their exit creates the pinch for businesses. To control talent poaching at the senior executive levels, we’ve introduced good post-retirement medical facilities till death for employees as well as their families. Today, employees evaluate such facilities and benefits before falling prey to talent poaching. We’ve made post-retirement schemes more lucrative so that our senior most employees appreciate the efforts of the organization to retain them.
S. K. Chaturvedi, Chairman & Managing Director,Power Grid Corporation of India

On Gender Inclusion: Leader’s conviction of benefits is the key
November Issue, 2010

It is imperative that management understands the business benefits of diversity (which could be manifold like better perspectives in decision making and innovation, et al), and then sets the right targets for some of the outcome metrics and drive them through focused programs. If an organization underpins its diversity agenda on solid understanding of why they are driving it, then institutionalizing would be very similar to any other business objective like growth, productivity, et al, as the expected business outcomes would help the leaders to internalize the diversity agenda. The most important point to consider while attempting to enhance effectiveness is organizational conviction is the level of conviction among leaders that there are clear business benefits associated with diversity in workforce. Having metrics could be easier once the reasons for improving gender diversity are adequately clear. If there is clear conviction on the business benefits of diversity, then the organization could choose to have certain targets in terms of diversity population at all levels and work towards those numbers as an indicator of progress to a larger goal.
Rajesh Nambiar, VP & General Manager, Global Delivery, IBM Global Business Services

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Topics: C-Suite

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