Position: The new president and chief executive of Computer Sciences Corp., a Falls Church-based company that provides technology-enabled business solutions and services.
Mike Lawrie chose his career path by asking himself some key questions: Which industry will create the most wealth and what is the most successful company in that industry? At the time he concluded the industry was information technology and the company, IBM. After 27 years there, he developed a turnaround expertise that he carried to other companies before arriving at CSC.
What leadership skills does it require to do a major turnaround?
The starting point is trying to determine with your team what do you want to be the best at and how you want to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. The second step is to get a strategy together that allows you to achieve that vision. The next step is to get an organizational structure in place that allows you to organize your most important assets — your people, your human resources, intellectual capital — so you can execute the strategy. Once you decide on the organization, you need to recruit the right leaders to actually run that organization. Then you need to get your compensation systems, measurement system and management system to monitor the progress that you make and then make adjustments as you go along. I have used that basic formula for 15 years. To a large extent, that’s the process I am beginning here at CSC.
Your first stint as chief executive was at Siebel Systems. What would you have done differently?
I would have tried to get more conviction and buy-in from the board as to what needed to be accomplished and the threats to the existing business model. I don’t think I did a good job in clearly articulating that. I also think I was slower than I should’ve been in bringing a team in that could execute against that changing business model.
You are known for improving client satisfaction at Misys. How did you do it?
The first thing we did was ask our customers how we were doing. Up until that point we had never done that. I hired a third-party firm to do that. It turned out we were not doing very well. It wasn’t hard to see the four or five things that we needed to improve on. So we put a game plan in place. We listened and acted.
Do businesses do that enough?
I think it’s spotty. Even at CSC, we don’t have a uniform approach to customer satisfaction. That’s one of the things I’ve uncovered in the first few days I was here. We do not have a consistent approach to how we go about soliciting feedback from our clients. As a result we don’t have a laser-focused action plan to address some of their needs.
In a turnaround situation, you mentioned the importance of hiring the right leadership. What is the best way to do that?
The more difficult part is identifying someone’s values. That’s where I spend most of my time is getting a handle on the values that make them who they are. I’m very strong on values. If you don’t get the right values in senior executives, you won’t be able to get the right values in the corporation and that will impede your ability to be a highly successful enterprise.
—Interview with Vanessa Small