This edition of my blog is dedicated to reviewing the book “Employees First, Customer Second (EFCS)” authored by Vineet Nayar, Vice Chairman & CEO of HCL Technologies. I recommend it as a must read for every Indian to understand the ethos of Transformation / Change. The most striking revelation from the book is the criticality of a narrative to the succeed in any Transformation / Change initiative. Mr. Nayar comes across refreshingly as a modern day CEO, sensitive to the changing dynamics of global commerce and the need for businesses globally to be adaptive and agile. His integrity (Personal, Professional and Emotional) and emphasis on action shines through; from the first to the last page and is a striking contrast to the mediocre landscape of the Indian Leadership scene. His aspirational analogy on an organization or enterprise resembling a starfish where every unit assumes a life of its own is a very mature depiction of the future of enterprises to succeed in a global commerce. His creative interpretation of the Amsterdam Window for his business should influence leadership in other businesses to become more convincing than concealing in their branding strategies at their respective enterprise.
As a proponent of continuous innovation and transformation in organizations, I have a few questions that seem to conflict in my mind with the narrative of EFCS.
- Despite the fact that Mr. Nayar maintains the tone of mutual inclusivity throughout the book, the very title of Employees First and Customer Second seems to negate that. The reason I bring this up is to reflect on the real world where co-creation is more a reality than a management theory. Isn’t this creating walls / boundaries when processes, roles and outcomes must collapse to create a more universal value zone? Should not the customer universe or ecosystem be inclusive of Employees, Customers, Shareholders, Stakeholders, Business Partners, Vendors and / or Society? So the question is not about Why Employee First but rather Why not the entire ecosystem first? In other words, why isn’t an employee a customer as well?
- Following from the above, is the question on the perception of value. In a truly process oriented enterprise, the measurement should be continuous with respect to process outcomes and measures with respect to Quality, Cost, Delivery, Service and Flexibility should be mandatory. Though Mr. Nayar mentions the implementation of the Balanced Score Card, there is hardly any mention of the Innovation Index; where HCLT would have created Mind to Market and Time to Market outcomes for their customers. Wouldn’t that be worth celebrating in a work such as this? An ideal Performance Measurement would aggregate and disaggregated elegantly between Enterprise, Process, Teams and Roles that participate; thus leading to an accurate measurement of an Individual’s contribution for a given context of Transformation.
- There is evidence of the growing realization that businesses such as HCLT are not about delivering software or services but rather enabling innovation and business strategy of customers through technology. However, this realization does not come across in terms of action where technology is bridged between HCL Technologies and its Customer Universe to participate in the continuous evolution of strategy and transformation. The mention that there is one part of the HCLT enterprise that is focused on cloud computing for example makes it even more confounding, raising a red herring. HCL has in this quarter announced 20 transformational deals. How can a deal be transformational, when it does not impact and / or transform the core process of the customer organization? The question is more about HCLites beign Connected and Capable of delivering Strategic Innovation, Transformation and consequently growth.
- There is a clear mention that nothing is ever perfect. Yet, there is a lot of energy spent on wondering about the longevity of EFCS. As a leader, isn’t the spirit of transformation that Mr. Vineet Nayar sows enough for the future generations to benefit from? Why the bemoaning on what would happen to EFCS after his time? Perhaps it will take a better and bigger shape for a different context of the environment that the HCLT business finds in. The real question is therefore, is there a doubt that the right seed has been sowed and nutured for future generations of the customer universe of HCLT to reap the benefits?
- Finally, in an enterprise such as HCLT, the majority of the workforce is at the bottom of the pyramid. Is there a measurement to link the Human Capital Index of the enterprise to the growth of the individual; directly relating it to the contribution to the growth of the enterprise and the customer universe? The only way to find this out would be if the enterprise has a continuous Intellectual Capital Management Process (that establishes the threshold of capability required) integrating with the Human Capital Management to build Value Capital and Managing it continuously. I am not sure there are references to any such processes being in place during this course of transformation led by EFCS at HCLT.
I recognize that transformation is a continuous process. However, speed is also its currency. It is possible that I have failed to interpret many of the meanings that could lead to answers to the above in the book. Despite these questions, I found it useful for me and a learning exercise while reading it. The lucid style and condor of expression help in empathizing with Mr. Nayar. As I said in my opening paragraph, he is definitely a cut above the rest as far as leadership goes in the IT Software and Services business.