The ability to look far beyond into the future and plan for it
Date: Thursday , August 02, 2007
Management and leadership, two interconnected features
Management is basically about achieving the desired outcome with available resources, while leadership in a business context is management plus certain other essential elements. These include the following, among other things:
1. Building a sustainable model in an organization:
This primarily requires a team, and a work culture that is different from routine management.
2. The ability to shape the world around you:
An ability to envision and bring to reality an understanding of the world of a specific market at present as well as in the days to come.
So, to me management is a necessary condition for leadership, while not being the exclusive preserve of it.
Graduating from management to leadership
After my Ph.D. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I joined McKinsey & Company, the management consulting company, where I worked for five years, specializing in developing e-business and IT transformation strategies. I had joined as an associate and became a manager at the end of the second year. I have been in management since that time.
My transition to leadership, I would say, began about five years ago. In the initial stage of management, we are obviously focused on ‘task management’ that is getting things done to carry forward the business.
As you grow to higher levels of management you have people, who are already managers, reporting into you. Obviously they are themselves capable of delivering the results and therefore you now go to a level at which rather than actually planning yourself and getting the tasks done, you are working with your team to drive the responsibilities through. It is at this point of time I started making the transition towards leadership.
Challenges in Symantec India and organizational alignment
The first challenge I faced was the disconnect between our global organization and the India operations, and the need for organizational alignment between global business units and India product groups.
I first aligned the team structure; the roles & responsibilities of people that reported to me at the level of senior managers and directors were spelled out so that their alignment with our global business units became perfectly clear.
Aligning India within the global organization is a primary challenge. It has to be made sure that we are aligned with the product growth map, the technology architecture, the technical direction, ensuring that the innovation we make here gets included in the road map of the company, and so on. We must know how what we do gets closer to what the customers want, whether it is in the US market, the European market, or the Asian market. We must have an understanding about where the markets are headed.
Retaining talent, the second most important challenge
The next main challenge is retaining talent. As you know, we all have to work hard to attract talent these days since the demand is high, with many new companies entering India everyday. We in Symantec India have taken a systematic approach to this problem.
We focus on four key elements in relation to our employees:
1. Their work environment
2. The quality of the work they are assigned
3. Their total compensation
4. Their career development
Implementing an integrated approach towards retaining talent helps us to a considerable extent.
The facilities we provide, and the network and other services we make available to the employees make them develop a feeling of belonging in the first place. Simultaneously, we conduct a comprehensive review of the performance of each individual, at least once a year. We actually work with people to identify their abilities and what their career steps could be, and then we ensure that as and when opportunities arise in the organization, we take care of the interests of the people – the right people are aligned with the right opportunities.
At this stage, I can confidently say that we have succeeded in aligning our people as a whole with the organization while winning our fair share in the ongoing war between companies in India for talent.
A new vision of sustainability, obtained from my own experience
I was earlier running a business unit within our Services group called ‘Business Critical Services’. That team has continued to do extra-ordinary work even after I left it. I think that is demonstrating a sustainable model.
I had to solve two things while running that team. The first one was how to really position it to customers in terms of the value they could get out of that service. The second one was to figure out how to get potential customers to understand its features, thus resulting in increased demand for the service. Once these two things were realized, we found that the team could function well under the next leader who can take care of it.
Sustainability of a business model.
In this twenty-first century, market dynamics keep changing every day. The product a team works on and delivers to the customers today may not have demand in a year or so. Therefore it becomes imperative for some companies to switch products and technologies in order to remain in the market as well as to sustain themselves as an organization. Here, sustainability is dependent on the team and its product.
But, in the case of Symantec, when I talk about sustainability I talk about the team and the organization, rather than the team and the specific products they are working on today. There is a clear opportunity in the world of infrastructure software.
The world of infrastructure, though it is fragmented into several small and big organizations today, much like the applications businesses were, will get consolidated at one stage. It is not going to remain as it is today. It is Symantec’s aim to capture one of the prime positions even after this consolidation, much in line with the fact that we are already a prime leader in the field.
Just have a look at the technology that is changing, whether it is the software services, virtualization, or the rapid growth of open source, many different things impact the market. The product that is shipped today would certainly be different from the products we will ship next year.
But, the sustainability I am talking about concerns building a team that can take us through in such a situation. We do not think that the infrastructure software will go away because the infrastructure landscape is changing. The infrastructure software and its market will continue to remain there and the software will be needed for many things. We need to evolve a business model and a team to drive in that direction.
The author is the VP, India Technical Operations, Symantec.