Article: Of values for IBMers by IBMers: Q&A with Rajesh Nambiar

Strategic HR

Of values for IBMers by IBMers: Q&A with Rajesh Nambiar

Rajesh Nambiar, Vice President & General Manager — Global Delivery, IBM talks to People Matters on building an organisation of the future and managing growth

We believe that the application of intelligence, reason and science can improve business, society and the human condition


With innovation, we bring newer things, ideas and processes to help our clients do their work better


Rajesh Nambiar, Vice President & General Manager — Global Delivery, IBM talks to People Matters on Building the Organization of the Future & Managing Growth

When you joined IBM a few years ago, your role was to refine IBM’s globally integrated delivery framework, to focus on clientsatisfaction levels and to develop a talent pool in India. Tell us about your journey so far and future plans?

My journey at IBM has been exciting so far as we’ve largely accomplished what we set out to do. Our globally integrated delivery model that comprises of eight highly networked strategic centres is a robust model and one we implemented successfully, way ahead of competition. Our focus on building industry knowledge and domain capabilities in each of our strategic centres has helped us stand in good stead, proving to be a key differentiator while engaging with clients. Gartner, in a recent report, acknowledged IBM’s high success rate in global delivery capabilities through operational excellence, industry depth and client relationship management.

Going forward, we will continue to focus on enhancing our industry and domain capabilities and intend to pioneer newer delivery models like the factory model. Our focus on achieving excellence in delivery from any part of the world at any given time will definitely provide an edge in the marketplace as we are essentially helping our clients in getting the best talent from anywhere in the world at the best price.

Tell us more about IBM’s corporate values, in particular, ‘innovation that matters for the world’. How is this aligned with building the organization of the future?

IBM’s values are embedded in the DNA of our people and in everything we do. In 2003, we undertook the first disciplined re-examination of our Values in nearly 100 years. Through ValuesJam -- an unprecedented 72-hour discussion on the global intranet -- IBMers came together to define the essence of the company. The result was a set of core Values -- dedication to every client’s success; innovation that matters to IBM and to the world; and trust and personal responsibility in everything we do. These values - defined by IBMers for IBMers - shape everything we do and every choice we make on behalf of the company. These shared set of Values help guide our decisions, actions and behaviours and is at the core of our collective aspiration to be recognized as a great company.

IBMers are forward thinkers. We believe that the application of intelligence, reason and science can improve business, society and the human condition. It’s worth remembering that “innovation that matters” isn’t the marketing slogan du jour. For nearly 100 years, IBM has brought innovation to businesses and institutions of all kinds. We did so through many different technologies, products and services, which have come and gone over time. But IBM’s success and legacy are about something deeper and more enduring -- a level of aspiration and a way of thinking.

When we consider innovation specifically, it is well known that IBM has topped the list of patent recipients for almost the last 10 years. We come up with more inventions than any other company in the world. We invest extensively in Research & Development and our research capabilities are touted to be the best amongst the world. For instance, IBM has been leading the chart with maximum number of patents registered for sixteen years in a row with over 4,186 patents just in the last year. However, our innovation agenda has a larger purpose. We are on the forefront of something special as we are leading the transition to a Smarter Planet that helps our clients’ change the way the world works.

With the world becoming increasingly instrumented, inter-connected and intelligent, we are making the planet not just smaller and flatter, but smarter. Our vision is to partner with clients’ to build Smarter Workplaces, Smarter Healthcare Systems, Smarter Education, Smarter Energy Grids, Smarter Water supply, Smarter Cities, and Smarter Transportation -- the possibilities are endless.

Service oriented organizations are looking at their delivery model and trying to find a balance between innovation and process compliance. On the one hand innovation brings value to the customer; on the other hand process compliance provides customers consistency of delivery. From your perspective, how can an organization accomplish this balance?

IBM’s reputation for integrity in the global marketplace and with our shareholders is a cornerstone of our brand and of our value of trust and personal responsibility in all relationships. Innovation and process compliance are both equally important, especially in a services organization and I have always been of the opinion that more than maintaining a balance between the two, it is essential for an organization to excel in both of these counts.

With innovation, we bring newer things, ideas and processes to help our clients do their work better. Process compliance ensures that what we invent is implemented consistently across all our clients and we are able to repeat a process consistently at the same level of quality. Both of these factors contribute significantly and equally to the success of the business. So, process compliance, if done rightly, will not in anyway hinder innovation.

How do think a set of values can help the organization’s delivery capabilities, employee engagement and client satisfaction?

At IBM, our values are paramount and assume a huge role in our daily transactions. We at IBM have re-invented ourselves many a time, but through it all, IBM’s DNA, its soul remained intact primarily because our revolutionary idea was to define and run a company by a set of strong beliefs -- our values. Dedication to every client’s success is a broader concept, which also covers delivery capability and client satisfaction. It indicates our commitment towards delivering the best value for our clients’. Innovation to improve client value and employee experience, in addition to trust and personal responsibility talks about our focus on a client and employee centric approach. IBMers are passionate about building strong, long-lasting client relationships. This dedication spurs us to go “above and beyond” on our clients’ behalf. We stay focused on outcomes and sell our products, services and solutions, but all with the goal of helping our clients succeed, however they measure success.

One of the most exciting aspects of IBM workforce is the dynamism and empowerment. Here employees from different backgrounds and from different parts of the world are willing to work on projects in addition to their regular tasks. How does one create and maintain this engagement in the workforce?

IBM’s most important innovation wasn’t a technology or a management system. Our success is not just an enduring and successful company, but the prototype for the modern corporate employee. And perhaps our most important innovation of all was “the IBMer.”

We have stopped looking at ourselves as an organization with geographic units that work in silos. IBM operates in 170 countries and has a broad-based geographic distribution of revenue. We are a globally integrated enterprise with strong skills and capabilities around the world. For example, if we are solving a supply chain problem for a retailer in United States, we will have a supply-chain expert from, say the UK, working along with a retail expert in India, along with an onsite team in the US, to solve the client’s problem. This kind of capability based approach brings people from different parts of the world come together to work for a client, thereby, increasing the amount of collaboration involved.

In addition to that, we also offer specific programs that will benefit our employees professionally and help them develop the requisite skills to move ahead in their careers. Programs like mentoring and stretch assignments have met with a huge amount of success and garnered very positive feedback for us.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in terms of people management across your career?

When you are in an Industry and an organization that is growing rapidly, one may think that the people challenge comes from recruiting the right talent in large volumes. While this may be an issue, I have always felt that in some countries this is manageable. However, integrating the newly hired workforce into the organizational culture is often the biggest challenge a leader needs to focus on. Aligning the employees in an organization and the work that they do, try and help them understand the organization’s culture, values and way of working are some of the most important prerogatives of a good leader. At IBM, we invest a lot in addressing these requirements right from the time an employee joins the organization. The other challenge that needs to be addressed is attracting and retaining highly talented and performing leaders who are smart, and align themselves easily to the organization’s core values. We are fortunate to have groomed very strong leaders in IBM and believe in continuing to grow the leadership pipeline as the organization grows. The ability to get leaders to excel in performance and live the company values is the key factor in achieving success in people management.

What are the key metrics when measuring the success of a company’s Talent Management Practice?

At the end of the day, everything an organization does needs to be measured for performance in literal numbers that are reflected in an income statement and balance sheet -- the challenge, therefore, is how we link people practices to the ultimate results any organization can produce. High performing organizations have exceptional people practices. Another measure we use is client satisfaction. The capabilities possessed by employees and their depth of knowledge will ultimately reflect in the satisfaction levels possessed by our clients. However, at a more tactical level, one should also think of the usual attraction and healthy retention measures, which are obvious.

What do you think are the leadership style and attributes required to lead the organization of the future along with the role of HR?

The enterprise of the future will be globally integrated, disruptive by nature, hungry for change, innovative and environmentally and socially responsible. Accordingly, to be a successful leader, one needs to manage uncertainty and change successfully by having the ability to analyze and synthesize large amount of information, and make sense out of it. At the same time, the HR Manager also has a very important role to play as HR managers have to move away from transactions to becoming advisors to the business leaders they support. They need to ask themselves questions like are we advising the business (from a people perspective) to support the business goals; are we developing leaders who think and act globally; do we have an adaptable and high-performing workforce that can sense, anticipate and respond to changes in the outside market; et al.

What is the best advice you have got for managing growth in times of rapid innovation?

Innovation can be very disruptive to the routine that the organization follows day to day. So, the only way innovation can be successful in organizations is to “Change” the way we do business. The ability to take advantage of such changes and manage it successfully will be a huge factor in growth and will result in a nimble organization with great leaders. Organizations, therefore, need to adopt change as a part of their strategy (as opposed to doing changes reactively) in order to ensure that they are agile and can adapt easily.

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Topics: Strategic HR, Culture, Leadership, #ExpertViews, #BestPractices

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