When you take the bull by its horns, never forget to be true to what you're doing, even if you're alone
In conversation with Mussarat Hussain General Manager in Education and Training Maruti Suzuki
Taking the bull by the horns
Imagine entering one of the largest manufacturing plants in India, where a car is churned out every 12 seconds. Manufacturing 1.4 million family cars a year!. Yes, we are talking about Maruti Suzuki. India's greatest car manufacturer with almost close to 50% market share, established in 1982 with a humble start of 40,000 cars a year. The vision to put "India on Wheels" through a revolutionary car, that would deliver great performance, efficiency, and yet be affordable for the aspiring middle class. The belief was in small cars with a bright future, taking India to great heights. Now Maruti Suzuki's target is to manufacture 2 million cars by 2020. A task, which can only be achieved by committed & competent people.
One such professional is Mussarat Hussain, now General Manager in Education & Training. He has more than 25 years of experience spanning across various facets of HR and manufacturing. He has worked across Corporate HR, Plant HR, Sales HR, and Strategic HR & now in L&D space in Indian as well as other MNC's. He has the unique experience of working in cross cultural environment like American, European and now Japanese. He is a man who talks straight. 'I want to be close to people and work for the benefit of people. I firmly believe that can only be done by challenging the status quo & taking the bull by the horns, which sometime results in creating friends as well as foes '.
Change to stay ahead of time
During his stint as Head of Corporate HR, Hussain explains that Maruti Suzuki decided to switch from a 6-day working week to a 5-day working week as they felt the need of the hour was to balance the business goals with the needs of the people. The average age of people within the company had reduced and the voice of the youngsters was loud and clear. The Gen-Y was looking for greater and healthier work-life balance. The analysis through Exit Interview, Stay Interview & Engagement Survey clearly indicated the need. While market demand had to be met, it could be done so only through people. A lot of hard work & planning went into bringing this shift, although in phases without compromising on business goals. The 5 day week across all plant has been finally achieved this year. The management was supportive and Hussain's role was to lead a cross-functional team to implement this challenge. The initial ground work was done by the CFT led by Hussain and even after his role change to L&D the new team was able to implement the change in a way that ensured that people's needs are met and there is positivity towards the change. This is just to cite one of the many changes that Hussain has helped implement for Maruti Suzuki. His passion originates from various other journeys he undertook before Maruti with the likes of Eicher, HEG Limited, and KHD Humboldt Wedag India Pvt. Ltd. to name a few.
"The point of life is that something can always be changed. There is always scope for improvement. The challenge is to quickly gauge what can be improved and start. My end result is to put checks and balances in place for the benefit of the people and the business."
Don't copy the existing culture!
When Hussain worked for Eicher he was thrown at the deep end. He was part of the crack team which was given the task of setting up a new Greenfield plant in Bhopal in the early 90's. The organization had immense faith in him, which in turn encouraged him to take it up. Eicher, known to be people-centric with a focus on having an inspiring culture at its workplace interestingly gave Hussain a free hand, categorically telling him not to copy-paste the existing culture. One of the examples of this cultural shift was computer literacy. They strongly conveyed to him the desire for a new culture with new structures and rules where creativity could blossom and people would thrive on learning constantly. Given the support and space for innovation, the plant was set up in a record time of 11 months. And the results were amazing. When you provide space, support and creativity to a small group of people to set up something new from scratch amazing results will follow. And this is exactly what Hussain tries to convey to others. Think out-of-the-box!
Lessons learned
As I requested Hussain to share some pearls of wisdom with others working towards change, an unstoppable flow of recommendations came from this man of action:
  • Have a clear and strong vision and involve everyone. Even the ones who resist.
  • Focus on big challenges to stay with the bigger picture. Small challenges will get solved on their own.
  • To be determined is a critical skill to acquire for implementing change but remember that people don't always see that. In other words, don't expect others to see what you see.
  • Change is never perfect. Make constant efforts and remember there will always be some who resist.
  • Do your homework well. Don't just jump into a change process. Prepare yourself, so that the change is meaningful and results in a successful outcome. Bridge the gap from 'As is' till 'To be' with a clear strategy for change.
In his humble experience the courage and conviction to lead, evaluates the change. "When you take the bull by its horns, never forget to be true to what you're doing, even if you're alone".
May 2016