Article (June-2018)


Excellence is all about creating value

Prasanth Nair

Designation : -   Managing Partner & Country Head

Organization : -   InHelm Leadership Solutions,


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How do you define culture of excellence in today's business world where it seems to be captured and governed by digital technology?
PN Culture of excellence has always been and will be defined by creation of value. And creation of value for those who consume the output, for those who create the output and for all those who have invested in the process. And in a context of digital transformation, organizations should remember that while technology can be a great enabler, the main driver of the transformation should be mindset and behaviour change in how employees and customers interface and collaborate with help of processes to constantly create value.
What are the key characteristics of the new-age culture of excellence at work place?
PN There are four C's that organization leaders should focus on :
1. Collaborative : Create platforms and ecosystems that enable Collaboration internally and externally. Digital can be a great enabler for this creation. Creation of value which used to be what employees do is no longer within the organization - an AirBnB or Uber have many outside the organization that creates value for them. Uber is actually about connecting an individual who wants a service to another individual who delivers the service through a platform. Can we think of opportunities like that in organization?
2. Customer : Be obsessed with customer; customer is not just right; the customer is the truth. Also give superior experience. Remember, movie theatres - earlier it was about seeing a movie. Today it is about experience.
3. Creative : Strive to bring new ideas. If you doesn't come up with new ideas, someone else will. And technology aids forms of solutions to improve and continuously enhance experience and efficiency. One needs to think of new business models and challenge the paradigms that have long existed. For example, if car ownership is coming down due to car sharing and aggregators, what should car companies do?
4. Competitive : Benchmark with others and exceed the benchmarks, especially towards enhancing productivity and margins. Remember, the competition is not just from within the industry, it could come from any source and can come in any form. No one would have thought the competition to Walkman would come from mobiles.
How managers should manage the change and instil culture of excellence in approach and attitude of new-age workforce?
PN There will be three major changes in the workplace - 1) increased number of millennials and Gen - Z2) increased number of 'gig' individuals (who are not employees but consultants/part time employees who will be attached closely) and 3) levels of automation not seen before.
Managers need to connect with workforce, leverage the opportunities created by automation. The workforce cannot and will not be motivated by working in a hierarchical workplace setting - they would want freedom and autonomy. Managers need to align the work with their PASSION - we no need career plans, what we need are Passion Plan.
What are the challenges likely to be encountered in developing and sustaining the culture of excellence?
PN In this journey, there would be challenges - arising from fluidity of workplace, readiness of talent in market and unpredictability brought about by the changes. Is the organization ready for change? Are employees willing to let go and adapt to new ways of doing things? One of the key differences would be the extent to which the interface of organization with external environment would change.
In the current scenario how do you suggest to develop a culture of excellence?
PN One of important things organizations need to do is to clearly define the purpose and align employees towards the purpose. The culture cannot be created by policies, but it can be defined by the purpose. Another important factor is the need for leaders to walk the talk. There was a time when things could be hidden - no longer. Leaders need to demonstrate excellence in what they do. Given the challenges, what separates organizations is the focus on values - in some cases, there may be short term pain but it will add up to long term value. And sustaining and living the values are absolutely critical for creating culture of excellence. The leaders in organization would need to focus on creating an agile organization. Also organizations needs to embrace technology and leverage the opportunities created by it. Rather than getting driven, create and drive the agenda.
What is the role of HR in setting organisational expectations for excellence?
PN Once the purpose is defined, HR needs to take it down and align it with the passion of each individual. The earlier organization structure was defined by hierarchical design, for creating a culture of excellence; we need organizations that are networked. Earlier organizations used to look at employees as a mass or as one unit, future organizations would need to treat each individual who creates value as 'one' unit - how would HR design organization that is significant is scale and size but which gives individualized experience to all stakeholders. Earlier organizations used to be top driven, but for creating a culture of excellence, future organizations would need to be democratic and at same time, driven by value creators and they may be anywhere. Most of the HR systems are designed to be post facto - this needs to change. For creating a culture of excellence, we need real time applications.
HR has a unique opportunity to design and create organizations that can help create a culture of excellence. Can HR create an inquisitive organization? Can HR change itself from a 'policing' or at best a training function to a proactive value creator? 
There are challenges, some of which can be anticipated and some which cannot be. But this is a scenario which differentiates the great from good.