Author: Vineet Nayar

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1422139066, 200 pages


When Vineet Nayar stepped in as president (in 2005) of India’s storied global IT firm, HCL Technologies (HCLT), the corporation was doing all right. That was the problem — just all right; it needed to do better. HCLT was beginning to stagnate, allowing its competitors to jump ahead. Realizing the need for unconventional thinking and management, Nayar derived the “Employees First, Customers Second” (EFCS) philosophy. In this short, personable book, he explains EFCS’s principles and how he put it to work at HCLT, turning the company’s fortunes around in just five years. The good news: EFCS strategies can work at your company, too. getAbstract found Nayar’s tale thought provoking, entertaining and enlightening and recommends it to CEOs, managers and all employees seeking renewed effectiveness.

Falling behind

India’s HCL Technologies, founded in 1998, steadily garnered increasing fame as a leading global IT provider. However, by around 2005, its internal mind-set was complacent, its market share was slipping and the company had begun to lose some of its luster. That’s the situation author Vineet Nayar found himself in when he became HCLT’s president in 2005.

Nayar knew that to arrest this downward slide, HCLT had to do something — maybe a lot of things — differently. Nayar believed that HCLT’s employees first needed to admit the company had stagnated. Then they had to re-spark its creativity. Because business methods give organizations their “greatest opportunity” to bring about change, that meant revamping the way HCLT did things. To fill that need, HCLT developed the “Employees First, Customers Second” (EFCS) philosophy, which focuses on the “value zone.”

Throughout the EFCS process, Nayar and HCLT relied on “catalysts” – small changes that, taken together, can transform a firm to respond nimbly to change. Using EFCS, HCLT flipped “conventional management upside down.” EFCS did not begin as a detailed map or grand strategy, but Nayar later divided it into four components:

1. “Mirror Mirror”

Nayar realized no one could explain what HCLT’s plans for the future were or why it wanted to move in one direction or another. The company’s leaders could not set a future path without first developing an awareness of where the company stood. This realization launched Mirror Mirror, a period of candid self-examination built on intense internal brainstorming so participants could recognize the company’s shortcomings and the need to fix them.

Nayar visited all HCLT’s offices around the world. When he spoke with employees and managers about the need for change, he realized that HCLT’s workers fell into three categories: “transformers,” who were eager to spearhead new initiatives; “lost souls,” who discounted any attempts to change as doomed to fail; and “fence sitters,” who might eventually join a change effort but who, at first, were more inclined toward watchful waiting. He also recognized that HCLT, like many firms, had an “excuse culture” that prevented people from taking action. These realizations further underscored HCLT’s need for serious self-examination.

When Nayar met with HCLT’s clients, he discovered that a certain subset of staff members was “creating the most value” for customers: employees from Generation Y. These workers were young enough to have escaped traditional hierarchical business methods and attitudes, and their work directly touched consumers. Generation Y staff members occupied a value zone that the corporation’s old-fashioned approach to business was actually hindering.

Nayar decided that his managers had to encourage and serve these value-zone employees, rather than having young workers serve their managers. The Mirror Mirror exercise demonstrated that HCLT needed to put its employees first in order to achieve more effective customer service. Concentrating on your staff members and how they can contribute to your business is the best method for ensuring continued success…

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