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Organisational health: An untapped competitive advantage

Published on May 31, 2023

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There tend to be two sides of a business: the smart side and the healthy side. The smart side includes financial, strategic, marketing objectives of the company which are usually quantifiable. Considering its data driven nature, this facet receives a disproportionally high focus by leaders, including outsiders assessing the growth of a company. The healthy side on the other hand refers to minimal politics, high morale, minimal confusion, high productivity.  They are closely tied to the culture of an organisation. Inevitably, this facet is seldom in the spotlight.

In his EDGE Leadership Webinar, titled ‘Transforming Tata Technologies into a Healthy Organization’ Warren Harris, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Technologies lays emphasis on exactly this aspect of growth. He mentions how the healthy side of the business is given less importance due to myriad reasons, one of them being that building culture takes significant time and effort and is not an instant result.

Warren derives the principles of the talk from the book by ‘The Advantage’ by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni runs what is called the ‘Table Group’ which assists companies or organisations to build a healthy organisational structure and outlines four distinct steps in achieving it.

First on the four step list in building a cohesive and aligned leadership team. Harris mentions how if the values of the team are aligned behaviourally, it drives cohesion when decisions are cascaded downwards. This, he says, can be achieved by expressing vulnerability based trust, where leaders specifically share the issues and their causes which they might be facing. Conflict, which will inevitably and rightfully arise from these discussions needs to be managed by the leader. This, so as to reach what Lencioni calls in his book, a ‘conflict continuum’ or a balance where neither peers are engaging in artificial harmony, or hostile discussions. A consensus might not be reached by all members in the team, but it is crucial to give members the opportunity to debate, and commit. As a result, what follows is peer to peer accountability, wherein team members can respectfully hold their peers accountable and ask them questions about any failures that might transpire.

Next, is the importance of creating clarity regarding the organisational objectives. Harris mentions here the carefully constructed vision of Tata Technologies, ie. Engineering a better world. Here, not only does the vision cover the importance of innovating in the field of technology, but also placing emphasis on the wellbeing of their customers, across the globe. He mentions, how the purpose is also to connect to the people’s heart and spirit.

Thus, when measuring progress, this gives the company a specific parameter to which the success is measured. Further, he outlined the importance of core objectives or non-negotiable values, in addition to the vision of the company. Harris mentions the three core values which were codified by Tata Technologies, namely ‘one team with customers’, ‘a global mind-set’ and ‘a can-do attitude’. This helps defines what the organisation wants to create as a culture and continuously measure as against their over-all performance. In an example, Harris mentions how during the Covid-19 pandemic, while the company was losing revenue, such a framework helped them realise that this was an opportunity for the company to tell their customers that Tata Technologies was going to be there for them; which they successfully conveyed.

Once codified, the next step is to over-communicate the objectives. Harris emphasises on over communicating since it is only through repeated messaging that the ideas cascade down to the team members. This can be achieved through repetition in not only crucial internal events like town-halls, workplace posts, formal feedback mechanism but also through the group’s external communication through social media posts etc.

The final step is to reinforce clarity on the objectives. This Warren mentions, is a non-negotiable to maintain a long lasting healthy organisational structure. Further, an important point mentioned here, and at several times in the talk, is the importance of institutionalization without bureaucratisation of objectives.  Clarity on the organisational objectives can be reinforced in the way individuals are hired, the parameters for the rewards and recognition systems of the organisation, managing poor employees such that they can be trained to fulfil the organisational objectives outlined.

Organisational health is a tremendous source of untapped competitive advantage, if an organisation or team embraces it correctly. One of the single biggest reasons for Tata Technologies achievements over the past 3 years, is the commitment of the company and leadership team towards the organisation’s framework.