Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lean - and the Power of ‘Why?’

Precocious kids ask it. Scientists ask it. Philosophers ask it. Inventors ask it.


It is the question that lies at the core of the principles of Lean. And it is a question that I have adopted as my personal mantra as I bring ‘curiosity’ in every aspect of business and life! It pushes me to ask “Why?” in anything that I see, anything that I experience - “Why do some transactions or processes perform so well? Why do others not?” “Why is this clients’ method of operating failing?” “Why is this client experiencing losses?” Over and over and over – “Why?”

And Lean and Six Sigma have always had the answers. Every day in our lives, in our business, in our operations and in customer interactions, there are opportunities to bring Lean thinking to drive improvement and value. The examples are all around us – a hiring process that takes too long, a customer service process that does not resolve a problem the first time round, delays and unnecessary money-wasting hold-ups. The Power of Lean thinking lies in the fact that it addresses all these questions – delivering utmost value from a customer’s perspective while consuming fewest resources. Powerful Lean principles such as ‘reducing lead time’, ‘reducing waste’ ‘driving continuous improvement’ ‘improved quality’ impact customer satisfaction and customer results positively – no matter what the situation is… always bringing in positive business outcomes such as increase in market share, reduction of costs, increase in profits - driving competitive advantage…each time, every time.
In fact Lean is a culture – the way we work, the way we do things, the way we deal with problems. Lean is all about creating an integrated system – a process – where it’s no longer about having efficiencies in individual silos…it’s about how all silos work together efficiently to bring in unprecedented value, end to end – bring in agility and flexibility.

But nothing works or makes sense unless it begins from the customer’s point of view. This is all-important and sacrosanct when one begins the process of attacking any area of improvement or opportunity. Never forget this. It is the way a leader has to think, it is the only way to successfully run a business. You have to know what your customer wants, ask all the ‘whys’ and then constantly look for causes that, when attacked and addressed, will drive improvement.

Our world is changing, our clients’ business needs are changing, processes are changing – and there are trends that are impacting not only the way our clients are thinking about the industries they are in and the customers they serve, but also how they run their businesses.  As companies continue to operate in a volatile, uncertain and lower-growth world, they are forced to completely transform their businesses by making them more nimble, with cost structures that are lower and much more variable. They are looking at adopting digital technologies, implementing new business models, creating new organizational structures, and making their processes more intelligent. And above all – they are looking for partners who can help them navigate their transformation journeys. Partners who truly understand their domain, their industry, their specific processes, the inter-linkages, the risks and the leverage points in the business. In other words, someone who aligns activities to business outcomes and speaks their language…helps them improve and grow in this ever-changing world…and this is exactly what ‘Lean’ thinking helps us do!

We launched Lean Digital last year - this is our unique approach that reimagines our clients' middle and back offices to generate growth, cost efficiency, and business agility. The feedback we are beginning to receive is that Lean Digital is a game changer that builds on our strength of using Lean principles to drive disruptive improvements. At Genpact, this launch has been the culmination of many months of building our digital smart enterprise process frameworks and getting a number of our key project and improvement leaders trained on specific Lean Digital capabilities. We now have a digital certification program for Black Belts and Master Black Belts that we are also taking to clients. For example, at one of the largest global banks, our Lean and digital experts are designing automated solutions leveraging new technologies for underwriting, customer service, and fraud detection, all critical areas for the bank and its customers. We are getting great initial feedback on the way the teams are reimagining the solutions and how other banking processes will run in the future. These are industry disruptive!

What is the richest reward for me at the end of the day? When a customer says - “We need you to help us reimagine our business, dramatically change outcomes – disrupt everything,  redesign our process and show dramatic improvements; no one knows better than you, work with us and I will pay for it” - there is no greater testimony to success than that. Lean defines us, it’s in our DNA and culture. It is a way of thinking for all our employees; it is a way of running a business. It is constantly looking for root causes that, when attacked, will drive improvement.

And it continues to make us ask ‘Why?’ – At its core it’s asking questions and listening
As long as we continue to question, and push and reach and aspire and work harder and do better – so long will we continue to reap the benefits of Lean. And as I have often said – there is no better and more important quality and behavior that I think is needed in today’s world than ‘CURIOSITY’!
I will continue to be intensely ‘curious’, and I hope that you continue to be that way too.

Good luck – and keep questioning the universe!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do you look for this trait while hiring?

Zig Zigler once very aptly said… “You don’t build a business, you build people and then people build the business”. It quite succinctly puts into perspective just how important people are to an organization and therefore just how important it is to hire the right people. I truly believe that it provides a disproportionate amount of support to the growth and DNA-building of organizations !!

At Genpact, we have always pushed for depth in domain. In addition to building a culture of learning where enhancing one’s skills – at every level – is actively encouraged, we also drive this in our recruitment by going for people who ‘really know their stuff’. 

But ‘really knowing your stuff’ comes packaged in a multitude of ways.

It’s not just about years of experience or how impressive a resume looks. There are a number of unique and dynamic traits that one needs to be on the lookout for, and know how to recognize, when one is going after new talent. This is what keeps a company agile and nimble to stay contemporary and navigate the changing landscape.

Award-winning author Maite Baron captures this shift in mindset in his book ‘The Rise of the New Entrepreneur’, where he describes the ‘SUPER+Generation’ as people “who are driven to succeed”. They are “energetic and passionate about making a difference, which frequently comes through in their innately entrepreneurial approach to life”. He is talking about people with drive and that ‘extra something’. Baron goes on to say that these are people “who don’t wait for things to happen, but who make them happen, which tends to make them more successful. They aren’t frightened to stand out and be different, which means they are independent thinkers, often with an unconventional outlook and approach”. Finally, he says that they “believe in making things happen through a collaborative approach, which is why they are relational, global thinkers who are able to see beyond “me” and “you” to “us”.

These are exactly the kind of people organizations should be looking to hire.  And often we find them in the most unexpected of places. We find them in resumes and profiles that don’t necessarily adhere to protocol… or check the traditional boxes on years of experience and skill set. 

Some of the best startups around the world are run by people with a fraction of the work experience we would typically look for in senior folks. Or else they come from very different backgrounds than the areas they are now excelling in. 

At Genpact, we really don’t need to look beyond our own corridors for proof that this thinking works. We have tons of examples of successful people taking on jobs where they didn’t have prior experience or enough years behind them and yet they have been terrific success stories. I can guarantee it that if we were weighed down by a person’s age or working background or a very narrow and specific skill set we would never have found these talented leaders.

So here’s what I truly believe about hiring – when you are interviewing, don’t focus merely on years put in or a pretty resume. Look also for someone with ‘boundless energy’! I know my leadership team at Genpact is fully aligned to this way of thinking – and is actively involved in passing it down, up, sideways, throughout the organization. Change has to happen in all directions and at all levels – in order to build up a juggernaut of people who are really going to make a difference.