When Vineet Nayar took the helm of HCL Technologies in 2005, the company’s legacy of success was threatened by global shifts in the IT services market that left HCLT struggling to keep up with its bigger rivals. Five years later, the company had become one of the fastest-growing IT services partners on the planet, world-renowned for its radical management practices. In fact, its bold management experiments enabled it to enjoy continued rapid growth through the economic recession.
What did HCLT do to effect such a transformation? As Vineet Nayar describes in this refreshing book – EMPLOYEES FIRST, CUSTOMER SECOND: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down – HCLT’s success resulted from putting employees first, especially those working in the “value zone” where company and customer interact. To do so, they did not institute any employee satisfaction programs, undertake any massive restructurings, or pursue any major technology initiatives. Instead, they employed a number of relatively simple catalysts that produced big (and often unexpected) results and proceeded through four phases:
Mirror Mirror: Nayar traveled around the world, bluntly speaking the truth about the company’s situation to employees and getting them to turn their eyes away from the past and toward a better future.
Trust Through Transparency: A culture of trust was created by opening the financial books, sharing information that would make other companies cringe, and enabling employees and managers (including the CEO) to ask questions of each other.
Inverting the Pyramid: The company redefined processes to make the enabling functions and company management accountable to employees – with resulting improvement in both their effectiveness and their passion for their work.
Recasting the Role of the CEO: Nayar sought to transform the company into a self-governing organization by transferring the responsibility for change from the office of the CEO to the employees in the “value zone”.
Nayar admits that he didn’t have a clue where he was headed when he started on this journey, and he candidly describes leadership missteps he made along the way. These concepts only became clear to him after the transformation, but he argues that many of these ideas and practices – which Fortune magazine has characterized as “the world’s most modern management” – can be successfully adopted by any company in any industry anywhere in the world, with similar results.