Thursday, January 27, 2011
Employees First, Customers Second - Book Review
I chose to read this book which I first noticed in the "Management" section of the airport bookstore. I usually stay away from the MBA type books because, as all true scientists, I find it a little too esoteric for my taste. But the title intrigued me because conventional MBA philosophy advocates the opposite; "customer is king" is the mantra that is sold under different labels. It seemed a little contrary to my usual bias and I was curious to see what was inside.
Vineet Nayar, the author, took charge as CEO of HCL Technologies in 2005, at a time when the company was doing quite well in its stable position among the major IT rivals. Five years later, the company is one of the fastest growing companies which tripled its revenues, halved its attrition rate and grew its customer-base five-fold. All this in a period marked by one of the most severe recessions in recent history. The book provides the blueprint for this transformation.
In retrospect, a clear formula emerged for this radical transformation which included phases such as Mirror, Mirror; Trust through transparency; Inverting the pyramid and Recasting the role of the CEO. But the journey to transform a large, profitable company into a dynamic, forward-looking organization required a lot of courage and faith in its employees. Nayar shows through his simple narration, how it is possible to come up with totally new strategies that are focused on employees who are in the so-called "value-zone", the critical interface with clients.
With several initiatives with catchy titles such as Smart Service Desk, U&I,employee first councils and a revolutionary way of implementing 360 degree feedback, change of a unprecedented magnitude was enabled in a company with 55000 employees. With employees fully engaged and trusting, it is no wonder that HCLT is hurtling towards even greater heights.
Personally, it took me while to complete this book, but I also did not want to read it only half-way. As a former disgruntled employee of large corporations where I felt the greatest threat was in disengagement, the first symptom of further failure, I knew how little the management cares or can do about this. This book points to one option of how turning the entire management philosophy upside down, can work wonders.
For all you cynical workers and managers, here is book that shows another way.