In creating the powerhouse that became Infosys, Mr. Murthy demonstrated an ability to recognize what the market needed and put together a strategy that leveraged those conditions. He has to do the same thing today, in a very different scenario.
1. The world economy and the IT industry are not the same.
2. Infosys is not a startup but a behemoth trapped by its own character & design (much like IBM in the 90s).
As he steps into this role, the first bit of advice Narayana Murthy can heed is from Albert Einstein who said “You cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it”. And indeed that is what he needs to achieve: Help Infosys develop a new mindset about doing business.
The critical change required at Infy is new thinking: diversity of thought and leadership, risk taking and experimentation. And these need to begin at the top. Let’s take a look at the composition of the executive leadership team. For a global organization, you have one non-Indian leader. A pre-dominance of South Indians on the executive committee. And 1 woman. While it may not be conscious, there is certainly an unconscious selection going on here. Which could indicate the lack of a conscious focus on what will the future look like and hence, what leadership qualities and mix do we require?
When he speaks on Strategy, Prof. Ranjan Das of IIM-Calcutta, speaks more about Talent than about strategy. He asserts that strategy is an outcome of the quality of leaders who devise it. And he encourages organizations to map their leaders’ achievements and strategic ability against the best in class. 'Your marketing strategy will only be as brilliant as your Chief Marketing Officer', he says.
The best service that Mr. Murthy can provide for Infy is to re-staff the leadership team that runs the organization – and he must do this within 18 months. Bringing in outsiders is fraught with risk; there is enough research that indicates how often this fails. However, I believe that Infosys already has many diamonds in the rough, who are not noticed because they don’t “fit the mould”. This outdated and now irrelevant mould must now be discarded and a new one reconstituted.
Finding radical thinkers, explorers, pioneers and experimenters is critical. Giving a voice to the larger organization via processes like Vision Communities will help throw up strategic/business ideas and pinpoint fresh thinkers from within the organization. Developing a more dynamic and inclusive leadership concept for the future, will ensure this is not repeated. Leading a redesigned talent assessment and identification process, rapidly bringing younger leaders up the ranks and restaffing the leadership team and board are the need of the hour.
All strategic thinking is an outcome of the quality of the thinkers, their alignment with each other, driven by a common purpose and objective. As soon as you ensure the right set of drivers on the bus, the direction (aka strategy) will begin to fall into place.
And in doing this, Mr. Murthy will need to get his hands dirty. A consultative approach will not work. Being nice will not work. He will need to place the greater good above individuals. And he will need to respect the needs of the future to pick a leader who will renew Infy and lead it into the next orbit. He can be aided and supported on this journey if the current leadership team realizes this and with humility seeks to support him in making this happen, even if it means a significant change for themselves.
Will he, or won’t he? Will they or won’t they? Time will tell. And in these times, rather quickly.