Monday, 1 August 2011

Three Steps to Success

Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies and leader of more than 72,000 IT professionals in 29 countries found his company dying on its feet. He told HR Daily that his company "asked ourselves some fundamental questions".

"First, what is the core business we are in? The answer, we are in the business of creating differentiated value for our customers.

"Second, who creates this differentiation in value? It gets created in the interface between our employees and the employees of our customers - the value zone.

"Third and most important, if that be true, what should the business of managers and management in any company be? The obvious answer is enthusing, encouraging, enabling those people in the value zone."

Like Nordstrom before them, HCL decided to try inverting their organisational pyramid to make their board, management and supervisory staff more accountable to their frontline staff. Nayar told HR Daily that this process began by examining transparency in the organisation; that any of HCL's 92,000 employees can ask a question of any other employee or manager via their intranet, and that every staff member can see all questions and answers. No one is anonymous; everyone 'owns' their comments and questions and all staff can see how HCL's values work as a 'whole organisation'.

Great work. So how do you repeat what HCL did to create whole organisation value for yourself?
  1. Identify your core purpose. Do you know what is it you do well? What it is that creates your unique selling point? What it is that makes your customers come to back to you? If not, then you need to know - you need to make it your business to know.
    How you find out is to ask yourself what is your enduring reason for existence? Can it ever be fully acheived? If so, it is not your core purpose. Does your purpose change? (then it is not your core purpose). Does it inspires change within your organisation? Is it beyond merely making money?
    As part of your core business, you also need to know what your core values are. Ask yourself "If today I started a new organisation, would I build it around these core values?". Would you do so in any industry? Would you remain true to this core value even if you were not rewarded for it? If you can answer yes to these questions, then your core values stand, adding to your uniqueness.
  2. Find the value zone in your business. The value zone is the frontier where frontline employees interact with your customers. Make yourself familiar with where this happens, where you add value in your business - and by that, you have to destroy the "CEO gap" and level yourself with the rest of the organisation. Know what it is that your company does better than your competitors.
  3. Enable the value zone. As leader, you must influence and drive change, be a collaborator and a team player obsessed with ENABLING your frontline staff. Axe barriers so that staff can make decisions, and empower them to add value for your customers. If you are clear about what your company values are, then staff can make a myriad of decisions which are aligned with organisational values, without the need for prescriptive policies, procedures and "could you please hold while I just check with my supervisor".


  • Collins, Jim, & Porras, Jerry (1994). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. USA: Collins Business Essentials.
  • Collins, Jim (1996). Aligning Action and Values. USA: Leader to Leader Journal, Number 1, Summer 1996. Retrieved 6 July 2011 from
  • HR Daily (8 June 2011). Empower your staff to turbocharge results. Retrieved 8 June 2011 from
  • Nayar, Vineet (July 2010) Who Is the New CEO? USA: HBR Online. Retrieved 6 July 2011 from
  • Nayar, Vineet (2010). Employees First, Customers Second. USA: Harvard Business Press

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