Posts Tagged ‘Vineet Nayar’

The Confusion Of Roles

September 23, 2013 1 comment

Scott Berkun’s books have always been lucrative gold mines for bloggers wanting to explore novel ideas and insights. His latest release, “The Year Without Pants, is no different.

In TYWP, Scott discloses a major cultural malady that plagues corpo America: “The Confusion Of Roles“.

One major mistake Schneider (Automattic Inc’s CEO) had seen was how companies confused supporting roles, like legal, human resources, and information technology, with product creation roles like design and development. Product creators are the true talent of any corporation, especially one claiming to bet on innovation. The other roles don’t create products and should be there to serve those who do. A classic betrayal of this idea is when the IT department dictates to creatives what equipment they can use. If one group has to be inefficient, it should be the support group, not the creatives. If the supporting roles, including management, dominate, the quality of products can only suffer. – Scott Berkun

The “Confusion Of Roles” is simply not a problem at Automattic Inc. That’s because there are no legal, human resources, finance, quality assurance, or information technology silos within the flat-as-a-pancake company.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy for a cozy, small company like Automattic. But there is no cure for the “role confusion” disease in big borgs like yours, right? Bzzzzt!

HCLT CEO Vineet Nayar wrote about the exact same productivity and morale killer in his shockingly titled “Employees First, Customers Second” book. Taking the bull by the horns, Vineet corrected the “confusion of roles” epidemic at his 30,000 person Leviathon by inverting the pyramid and instituting a transparent system of reverse accountability called the Smart Service Desk (SSD) .

The SSD is where front line employees can submit problem tickets against the (so-called) support functions. Each ticket has a deadline date and the submitter is the ultimate judge of results – not some self-important manager. Shortly after its introduction, the SSD was receiving tickets at a rate of 30,000 per month – one per employee. D’oh!


Why, you may be asking, aren’t there more “unconfusion-of-roles” change efforts taking place in the land of a million pointy hierarchies? It’s because the pinnacle dwellers who rule the roost don’t see it as a problem at all. It’s the way it is because it’s always been that way and, more importantly, it’s the way it’s supposed to be.

pyramid inversion

The Real Customer

October 8, 2012 7 comments

In “12 ‘best practices’ IT should avoid at all costs”, InfoWorld‘s Bob Lewis asserts:

I enjoy Bob’s books and columns, but I have to side with the likes of Russell Ackoff and Vineet Nayar on this one. All of an org’s “enabling” functions: HR, QA, Finance, Purchasing, IT, etc; should indeed serve the direct revenue-generating business functions and treat them as paying customers. Otherwise, the natural tendency of these groups in hierarchical orgs is to turn into obstacle-inserting, unresponsive, monopolistic dictatorships. Of course, in the “real world” this rarely happens because rational adults are in charge – and Bob is right. What is your opinion?

Watch And Learn

Vineet Nayar (HCL Technologies), Jim Goodnight (SAS Institute), Ricardo Semler (Semco), Terri Kelly (W. L. Gore), Tony Hsieh (, and John Mackey (Whole Foods Market). I try to follow and listen to what these CEOs say because they’re different, refreshing, authentic, and most importantly, eminently tweetable.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve just added Red Hat’s Jim Whitehurst to my CEO “watch and learn” list:

The quotes were plucked from “Management Tips From Red Hat’s Crazy Culture Every Company Should Steal”.

Skepticism, Cynicism, Transparency, Openness

May 19, 2012 2 comments

Much as reassurance is the antidote to insecurity, transparency and openness are the antidotes to skepticism and cynicism. Surgical strikes on cynics and skeptics only exacerbate the problem by creating a new batch of more deeply embedded bretheren who fly below the corpo radar. Because of their formless and distributive natures, ya can’t just “shout it out” or spray WD-40 on the stifling rust that keeps skepticism and cynicism firmly  in place.

The best large scale example I can cite for the trumping of skepticism/cynicism by courageous transparency/openness is the HCL Technologies transformation as told by CEO Vineet Nayar in his book “Employees First, Customers Second“. The HCL story is amazing because once unbridled skepticism and cynicism seep into the fabric of an org, it takes an act of god to clean the laundry. Mr. Nayar and crew must have consulted with god because they pulled it off at a huge company filled with the most hard core skeptics and cynics known to man – freakin’ engineers.

The fastest ways to bankruptcy are wine, women, gambling, and (cynical and skeptical) engineers. – Unknown

Ingrained Internal Shared Mindset

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

All Models are wrong, but some are useful – George Box

One of the models below puts the owners and managers of an enterprise at the top and the other model places them at the bottom. Which system design do you think is capable of creating more wealth for all stakeholders over the long term?

Fierce Transparency

February 4, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been trying to figure out why I admire (I know, I know, they had a nasty security breach recently), Semco, and HCL Technologies so much. Since I have a burning need to understand “why“, I’ve concocted at least one reason: Tony Hsieh, Ricardo Semler, and Vineet Nayar ensure that fierce transparency is practiced within their companies and all their “initiatives” are rooted there.

Working in an environment without transparency is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the finished picture is supposed to look like. – Vineet Nayar. Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down (Kindle Location 547). Kindle Edition.

Of course, I’m making up all this transparency stuff, but hey, it reinforces my weltanschauung (<- I had to look up the spelling a-freakin-gain!). That’s what humans do to give themselves comfort. No?

Cribs And Complaints

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

HCL Technologies CEO Vineet Nayar‘s “Employees First, Customers Second” is one of the most refreshing business books I’ve read in awhile. One of the bold measures the HCLT leadership team considered implementing to meet their goal of “increasing trust through transparency” was to put up an intranet web site called “U & I“. After weighing the pros and (considerable) cons, the HCLT leadership team decided to go for it. Sure enough, the naysayers (Vineet calls naysayers the “Yes, But“s) were right:

The U&I site was clogged with cribs and complaints, harangues and imprecations that the company was wrong about everything. The continents and questions came pouring in and would not stop. Most of what people said was true. Much of it hurt.

However, instead of placing draconian constraints on the type of inputs “allowed“, arbitrarily picking and choosing which questions to answer, or taking the site down, Vineet et al stuck with it and reaped the benefits of throwing themselves into the fire. Here’s one example of a tough question that triggered an insight in the leadership team:

“Why must we spend so much time doing tasks required by the enabling functions? Shouldn’t human resources be supporting me, so I can support customers better? They seem to have an inordinate amount of power, considering the value they add to the customer.”

This question suggested that organizational power should be proportionate to one’s ability to add value, rather than by one’s position on the pyramid. We found that the employees in the value zone were as accountable to finance, human resources, training and development, quality, administration, and other enabling functions as they were to their immediate managers. Although these functions were supposed to be supporting the employees in the value zone, the reality was sometimes different.

That question led to the formation of the Smart Service Desk (SSD), which helped the company improve its operations, morale, and financial performance.

So, how did the SSD work, you ask? It worked like this: SSD. Not like this:

The Value Zone

November 29, 2011 4 comments

Even though it’s been on my Kindle for a year, I just finished reading HCLT CEO Vineet Nayar‘s book, “Employees First, Customers Second“. It was low on my priority list because I already had read a slew of articles about the book when it was first released.

In EFCS, Vineet describes “the value zone” and “the so-called enabling functions” as follows:

So, how did Mr. Nayar “force” the superiors who dwell in the enabling functions to be accountable to the value-creators? He did it by effectively implementing the HCLT “Smart Service Desk” (SSD) – a twist on the typical problem management system employed by most companies to resolve customer issues. Here’s how it works:

  • Whenever an employee has a problem or needs information, he or she opens a ticket that is directed to the appropriate department for handling (including senior management and the CEO).
  • Each ticket has a deadline for resolution.
  • The system is transparent so that all could see the contents of the tickets and where they are in the process.
  • The employee who had opened the ticket is the one to determine whether the resolution is satisfactory, or if the issue has been resolved at all.

Shortly after placing the SSD into execution, people “were opening tickets at an average of thirty thousand per month (at a time when there was a total of about thirty thousand employees in the company)“. Vineet sums up the system’s success as follows:

People were embracing the system. It was a victory for honesty, transparency, and openness!

Revoked Membership

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

In Stop Coddling the Super-Rich, Warren Buffet states:

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. – Warren Buffet

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched. – Warren Buffet

As Vineet Nayar is to CEOs, Warren Buffet is to the super-rich. I luv both those guys. What about you?


December 31, 2010 5 comments

Whoo Hoo! I thought of a positive complement to my negative FOSTMA acronym. It’s, it’s, it’s….. NASHMA = Nayar, Semler, Hsieh MAnagement:

Of course, in order to prevent chaos, NASHMA orgs still have hierarchical structures, but they’re not run as stratified caste system CCHs. In NASHMA orgs, there’s real, two way accountability; and symmetric relationships exist up and down all levels. Most managers in NASHMA groups are PHORs and not STSJs who spend all their “valuable” time planning, watching, controlling, and evaluating.

Now mind you, to avoid the trap of dualistic thinking, an org shouldn’t be judged as fully belonging to one class or the other. There can be pockets of FOSTMA groups in a NASHMA org and vice versa. Nevertheless, my scientifically collected and analyzed data revealed this current distribution of institutions along the FOSTMA-NASHMA continuum:

Over time, hopefully the threshold will move to the left – increasing the currently miniscule NASHMA to FOSTMA ratio. However, there will always be powerful and scary psychological forces opposing the movement.

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