Monday, March 3, 2008

Outsmarted by Jim Champy

Is the US in recession and what are the portents for companies. Read on to find out more from the management guru.
It is not often that one gets an opportunity to interview a management legend whose books and theories have made a profound difference to companies, businesses and professionals the world over. I am talking about James ‘Jim’ Champy, the Chairman of Perot Systems’ consulting practice and the author of Reengineering the Corporation: A manifesto for Business Revolution which has sold more than 3 million copies. Champy, who was in India recently, spoke to me on a variety of subjects including his latest book Outsmart! to be published in April 2008.

It was an interesting and insightful experience to spend an hour with someone who has so much to offer and who did it with so little effort and such readiness. He had a point of view that he put forth lucidly and strongly. He was extremely bullish about India, its prospects and its people. Most significantly, individuals and organisations have benefited from his writings and teachings and I am sure there will be a lot of wisdom in his forthcoming book. Excerpts from the interview:

On the recession in the US economy and the strategy for companies
Yes there is a recession around the corner, perhaps caused by some imprudent actions by some bankers, but the fundamentals of business are strong. It is perhaps here that the relevance of a book like Outsmart! comes out loud and clear. Companies with good people and good ideas can actually take advantage of the recession to take customers away from their competition.
On globalisation and its implications
Today, the competition is perhaps a lot more intense than it has ever been in the past and we live in a truly global economy. When Perot Systems was founded, there were no companies like Infosys, Wipro and TCS to compete with it. The fact that these are performing well today is testimony to the success of a global economy. It is either a problem or an opportunity depending on how you view it. While politicians in the US are making it out to be a problem, it is smart companies who are capitalising on it.
On the readiness of Indian companies to compete in this marketplace
Indian companies have great ambition and a willingness to take risks. There are a number of young entrepreneurs who have started small and wish to go places. Let’s not forget that the human resources potential in India is enormous and there are quite a few investors with deep pockets who are waiting in the wings to invest in this country.
The role of the leader in troubled and competitive times like these
My advice to leaders is to keep your ambition high. Troubled times may actually provide opportunities to acquire some of your competitors, and remember that there are a lot of people waiting in the wings with cash. But leaders need to be transparent in troubled times like these and be more open in terms of communication as there will be a lot of uncertainty in the minds of young people, particularly those who have probably never faced a downturn. There is another related issue in technology companies, particularly in India, where companies are growing at a healthy rate still. The problem is that these companies and their leaders are not paying enough attention to their human resources and have not defined the career growth plans of the young people who work for them.

On the importance of “employer branding”
I think it is important to remember that a brand alone will not engage people. The great companies engage customers and talents. The great companies are not concerned so much about their brands as much as they are with a strong idea that is the core of their strategy that people can relate to. Engage your employees and give them an opportunity to do “virtuous work” and ensure their career growth. I really envy the companies that do not have to sell to consumers or to talent. Take Apple for instance. They do not have to sell the iPod, people want it. Similarly you need not sell your employer brand if people are drawn to it.

On innovation and how certain companies are better at it
Traditionally, smaller companies are geared to take more risks and tend to be more innovative. The business model and size of the larger companies actually make it a lot more difficult for them to take risks or even to be more innovative, particularly in comparison with smaller companies. Culture becomes very important in companies that seek to be innovative. Companies like these seem to draw people who are excited about ideas and there are shared characteristics that keep fuelling the spirit of innovation.

And finally, his advice to young people who are entering the work force
Work for a real company that makes something. Do not join a bank or a consulting company. Learn what it is to make something before you start to consult; you may even get discouraged by it, but you will learn in the bargain. Try to find a job where you meet customers, try not to spend your entire life in a cubicle and most importantly, learn from your customers.

(The writer is CEO of brand-comm and the author of ‘One Land, One Billion Minds’.)

No comments: