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Remain Small to be BIG
Jaya Smitha Menon
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Prashant Ranade was appointed CEO of Syntel in February 2010, after serving on Syntels Board
of Directors since 2007. Earlier, he served as President and CEO of Siemens Logistics & Assembly Systems. He has also held leadership positions at Rockwell Automation and Siemens AG, where he began his career over thirty years ago as an engineer, before working his way up to General Manager of its automation division. Throughout his career, Ranade has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills, the ability
to understand and translate new technologies into global product strategies, and deep domain knowledge in healthcare and life sciences, high-tech engineering and manufacturing, and supply chain and logistics automation. He holds a B.S. in Engineering from IIT Bombay, an M.S. from the University of Cincinnati, and an MBA from Xavier University, Cincinnati.

If you look at the past, IT was what I would call a glass house of technology where few technologists in a company just wrote lot of code. But later, the glass house was broken and it became a companywide phenomenon where integration, collaboration, and ensuring that various applications were interoperable became important. Today I look at it as IT shifting to ET(Enterprise Technology) where all of what I just described as IT plus connectivity of various devices and availability of data in real time and not just information but intelligence that can be acted upon and controlled. And this change of going from technology glass house to IT created a tremendous opportunities, I expect this IT moving to ET will create many more such opportunities. Then there are implications around this because now the process in technology is intertwined, meaning Knowledge Process Outsourcing plus technology, as now companies need to have end to end view of the business.

Going to ET will createa opportunity in every segment. What each company has to look at is the capability they currently have in a particular domain or particular industry, what they want to build and can build, what foot print they need to have and this will determine which areas will see growth. But clearly outside the most popular industries of today there will be opportunities in areas that are going to see significant changes, like clearly the power or utility companies, technology companies, manufacturing segments, retailers, how they operate, all these are going through major changes and becoming bigger users of IT compared to how they use it today.

Priorities as a CEO
My first priority is being able to remain who we are and grounded what has made us successful and I call it ‘remain small, to be big’. One of our strengths is that we are small enough to listen, we have direct connectivity with our client, and we understand their needs, aspirations, and pain points. So clearly as we are growing and becoming bigger in terms of employee strength and revenues, ensuring that we remain small to be connected with the clients and to each other internally.

Second priority is as we manage growth how to keep all our associates keep growing and becoming better individuals, better performers and better equipped to handle challenges because personal development and professional development go hand in hand, and to deliver outstanding results you need outstanding people as well as outstanding skill sets, so how do we make sure we continue to evolve to that and stay ahead of the curve.

Thirdly, as we grow how we make sure that the culture of collaboration, you know the foundation of trust, remains. So these are three important priorities from my stand point.

Thoughts on Leadership
I believe that leadership is about change, how do we bring about the change and how we make sure that the ‘who, what, how and why’ are understood by all the people. It is about leading by expectations as opposed to leading by micromanagement. A leader should outline the thoughts and ideas of who we can be and then ensure that we remove all the barriers and prepare ourselves to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity that is present in the segment we operate in.

I began my career in Siemens 35 years back, and in my journey, I always felt that what differentiates an outstanding company and mediocre or below average company is leadership.

Leadership lessons learned along the journey
Leadership is all about self-awareness, recognizing your feelings and strengths. Then make sure that the passion in individuals and purpose of organization are alike as none of us like to be told what to do. However if they are inspired by how and what they want to be in a way that it aligns with the purpose of the organization, then ordinary people find a way to do extraordinary things.

All leaders should remind themselves that they are not tower of wisdom. Every individual has leadership in them. How do we create an environment where people are comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions. Because even the leaders in the world, they don’t have that glow around them where they have just brilliance emanating from them all the time. It is those flashes of brilliance that creates the impact. So how an organization and its leader create a culture where they can capture the collective flashes can be is very crucial.

Style of Management
My first priority is to make people around me comfortable. I do set demanding goals, but then they understand that everyone around them is going to help them succeed and we have an enabling culture as opposed to culture driven by fear and miss-trust. So building that trust, building the right environment, and getting people to be part of high performance teams to achieve extraordinary goals has been my style.

Passion and Paranoia
Those are really two sides of the same coin you have to be paranoid to make sure you don’t get complacent. But as long as you combine that passion with purpose then you stay away from that fear. When you are grounded in trust and transparency then it is not a conflicting situation but self supporting, because some paranoia actually helps you perform better.

Dilemmas and Challenges of a CEO
The challenge is making sure that we are getting better every day. We are in knowledge business and according to a lot of experts the world repository of knowledge is growing at 7-8 percent every year. So, no matter how good we are today as individuals and as organization, unless we are learning at a rate above 7-8 percent we will not remain relevant. Ensuring that we stay ahead of this curve is the biggest challenge for me and my counterparts.

Then comes the challenge of search and development of talent which is related to this knowledge business. The next challenge is around globalization. How do you keep global thinking and yet act local? That requires something that are global across the globe and something that are unique. Then how do you maintain government’s compliance and yet remain nimble, flexible, alert, and responsive to your client needs.

Dilemma is more about constancy and change.
Companies succeed because of who they are, so you have to stay true to who you are but at the same time make sure you are changing. Combining those two requires understanding of the four or five key values and attributes that have made you successful. Then also be aware of how the environment around you, the technology around you, the demographics, and aspiration of people are changing and balance all these factors.

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