Change is being woven into the cultural fabric of the organization
In conversation with Arvind Thakur - CEO and Joint Managing Director NIIT Technologies
On a hot summer day I drove down to Noida to meet up with Arvind Thakur, CEO and Joint Managing Director of NIIT Technologies. Arvind, who has been a key driving force behind NIITs global success, welcomed me in his large office and over a cup of coffee we discussed our views on 'change'.
Change due to disruptive business models
Interestingly, Arvind finds that new emerging technologies are disrupting business models, 'Our customer's customer is driving change'. Disruptions create discontinuities and these discontinuities are exciting as they create new opportunities. He continued to explain that the value proposition so far for the industry had been essentially around cost arbitrage. However, with changing expectations, while cost remains important to customers, their expectation from NIIT as their technology partner, is to drive value in their business. This requires a change in mind set for the entire work force. A need to move, from doing what you are told to do well, to identifying opportunities for value add. As Arvind, put it aptly, "We now need to tell our customers what they should do, instead of them telling us what they want". NIIT is now working on uplifting its service levels by changing the very fabric of their culture to meet these customer expectations. They believe that while keeping quality principles of manufacturing in mind on execution, being in the service industry they need to focus more on delivering great customer experiences.
Acknowledging the need for change is a good start, I also knew that the real challenge lies in its implementation. So our conversation steered towards me inquiring about NIITs implementation strategy. Arvind explained, that to meet the changing expectations of their clients and address disruptions in the environment they articulated an engaging service vision "new ideas, more value". 'This is being woven into the cultural fabric of the organization'. To implement change, they identified and put in place, a set of building blocks that would support the change process. This included defining a common service language, a platform for ideation, driving behavior through rewards and recognition, identifying role models, measurements, and of course listening to the voice of the customer. These building blocks are supported by actionable education driven top-down covering the entire organization. As Arvind puts it 'We are keen to surprise our customers. The challenge lies in going beyond expected levels of service through new ideas which deliver more value'. It is about one's ability to step outside the comfort zone!
Culture change needs commitment starting right at the top. In Arvind's opinion one needs to walk the talk. The starting point is articulating an engaging vision followed by relentless pursuit of that vision. Top-down implementation addresses resistance. Measurement of parameters that are driving change and reviewing outcomes facilitates the change. NIIT has identified 5 behavior traits to be inculcated within its work force which are important for change, collectively addressed as the Hi-5. They include:
Challenge Status Quo
Unleash New Ideas
Role models displaying these traits are applauded so that others too can emulate this desired behavior. New ideas and value created by individuals is suitably recognized and rewarded too. To encourage employees to ideate, NIIT created an App called Ignite", a simple yet unique platform allowing employees across all locations globally to generate, record, and improve ideas while interacting with each other. 'You need to gratify people and carry them with you on this journey', Arvind emphasized. NIIT has popularized the App, enabling people to generate, share, and analyze ideas that will eventually benefit customers.
When NIIT embarked to involve its staff to generate ideas they received over 2000 new ideas. Most ideas however were internal, as the culture till date within the delivery organization had largely been towards driving internal efficiencies and productivity. A big shift was required within the workforce to change mindset of each individual to go beyond improving internal efficiencies and proactively identifying opportunities for value add. So they embarked upon an extensive communication exercise to orient the workforce to "Think Customer" in whatever they did. The results were inspiring, 99% of the campaigns in the current year are customer focused with over 1600 new ideas logged and still counting. Arvind views this as 'A big change and great success to realize their service vision "new ideas, more value".
Customer's commitment to change
Clients love this change. They like to see NIIT as their strategic adviser. Their engagement with NIIT till date, had been mostly for their engineering abilities, where NIIT would build solutions for them based on specifications they provided. Now, when technology is disrupting business, they want NIIT to step-up and go beyond problem-solving to foresee and identify problems to be solved. NIIT understands the business of its customers. With the change in mindset brought about by the new culture their teams are now focused in identifying opportunities for value-add. Value-add that goes beyond the mandate to merely deliver to specifications.
Change in approach
In today's fast changing world we need to change our approach from "sense and respond" to "anticipate and create". The past cannot predict the future. It is important to identify trends. This is what NIIT is doing with Digital Services. It calls for a new way of thinking. In the digital world the need is to think and behave like digital natives. The newer generation has unique characteristics. They are impatient, ambitious, have low attention-span, work hard, play hard, and expect direct communication with no hierarchies. To this effect Arvind has himself embraced many changes in his work style. To begin with, he interacts far more on social media with considerably greater time being spent interacting directly with the workforce on NIITs corporate social platform.