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Reverse Accountability: Even innovation happens on fringes!-Gary Hamel

Reverse accountability is just not limited to--
Employee opening a ticket and he only closing it for matters as simple as, unhappy with HR, expense claims processing taken time longer than expected or disagrees with Manager, he shall open a ticket. Tickets are online and public to company. Sounds outrageous, right? But this is how the beginning of Change Management looks like. Call it 'Reverse Accountability', as they call it at HCL Tech. This is equally true for innovation to customer delight to creating shareholder value!

We must destroy the concept of the CEO. The notion of the ‘visionary,’ the ‘captain of the ship’ is bankrupt. We are telling the employee, ‘You are more important than your manager.’ Value gets created between the employee and the customer, and management’s job is to enable innovation at that interface. To do this, we must kill command-and-control.” HCL Tech CEO Vineet Nayar

As a first step in diagnosing the company’s sub-par growth, Vineet met with thousands of HCLT’s employees in groups large and small. He launched each meeting by acknowledging what many had been reluctant to admit—HCLT was slowly becoming irrelevant. With each point of lost market share, it was going out of business. Having disrobed the elephant, Vineet asked his listeners to be equally forthright in analyzing the company’s shortcomings. The exchanges were brutally frank and as they unfolded, two conclusions started to take shape in Vineet’s mind.

First, HCLT was in a service business and it was first-level employees, not managers, who played the most critical roles in creating value. As Vineet saw it, the world was filled with customers who had knotty business problems, but those problems could only be solved by creative and highly engaged team members. For HCLT, the “value zone” lay at the intersection of employees and customers. That’s why the most important decisions for HCLT’s future were the ones taken each day by front-line employees.

Second, as Vineet would later write, HCLT’s top-down management model “exalted those with hierarchical power rather than those who created customer value.” This meant that the company’s management processes were better attuned to the needs of control-obsessed executives than of customer-obsessed employees. “The archaic pyramid … was shackling people and keeping them from contributing all they could and in ways they longed to.” This was particularly true for HCLT’s young, tech-savvy employees. Having grown up on the web, they valued collaboration and mistrusted hierarchy. 

'Innovation occurs at the fringes'--Gary Hamel

'We live in a world where never before has leadership been so necessary but where so often leaders seem to come up short. Our sense is that this is not really a problem of individuals; this is a problem of organizational structures—those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else.

So here we are in a world of amazing complexity and complex organizations that just require too much from those few people up top. They don’t have the intellectual diversity, the bandwidth, the time to really make all these critical decisions. There’s a reason that, so often in organizations, change is belated, it is infrequent, it is convulsive.'

I think the dilemma is that as complex as our organizations have grown, as fast as the environment is changing, there are just not enough extraordinary leaders to go around. Look at what we expect from a leader today. We expect somebody to be confident and yet humble. We expect them to be very strong in themselves but open to being influenced. We expect them to be amazingly prescient, with great foresight, but to be practical as well, to be extremely bold and also prudent. 

- Gary Hamel


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