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  • Balesh Raghurajan

Growing in a bootstrapped newnormal

Updated: Jun 8

As I spent my sunday late morning gleaning through the pages of the newspaper, I started smiling nonchalantly on a news item related to the containment measures for Covid-19

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-corporation-gets-a-special-coordinator/article31769413.ece

The news just robbed me of all excitement. Its like watching an action packed movie with a climax so predictable and boring. By now, most of us must have experienced this in various management escalations at our work place. When we have a major issue that balloons into a business crisis, hey presto - two more managers are assigned to "handle" the situation. As if the pressure from the heavy pyramid above you isn't enough already.

Progressive companies such as Irizar, Haier and several others have turned their crisis moments into an opportunity with innovative operating models not just to manage a serious customer escalation, but to take the company forward and put it back on a growth path

Re-look at the pyramid

A counter intuitive measure often ignored in most companies is to see how effective the pyramid is. As a company grows, promotions need to be given and often people get elevated to their level of incompetence or to their level of detachment. Those in the frontline - customer service reps, field managers, production supervisors, implementation engineers - often have more customer and market insights than the detached levels of managers who manage people who in turn manage people that do the work. Instead of adding layers at the top, a critical consideration would be to look at splitting the teams and assign individual managers to maintain better focus on the customer and the products/services being delivered to them. In a large IT company, the number of layers between Account Management role and the CEO grew from 4 to 7 over a five year period clearly demonstrating the layers that got added as the company grew. During the same period, the growth rate shrunk from industry leading numbers to low single digits


Pyramids look great, but it doesn't always have to be as big as the ones in Egypt.
Flattening the pyramid to a manageable level is key to driving more ownership and propel growth

Mastering in-house Talent

A great place to work is one that masters the talent pool available in-house. A golden rule often mis-used in companies is "pay for performance and promote for potential". We are used to a practice of good performers being rewarded with promotions with zero assessment of whether they have the potential to go a level up. In many companies, the promotion is only on paper. The role really doesn't change, but designations keep going up with no value addition to anyone - the individual, company, customer, product. A big shift that is needed now in the newnormal world is to redefine roles including merging roles. For example can a sales manager and sales director roles be merged if the only difference in role is hierarchy. If a role doesn't add value, eliminate the role and re-assign individuals to other roles based on the talent they bring to the table. That way talent is assigned to a role and not the cliched tried and failed approach of force fitting a role into available talent. As an example, a project manager who does exceedingly well need not be force fitted into a product development or account management role.




What happens when you replace job descriptions with inventory of talent? Employees have the freedom to display their talents and their droplets of contribution create a flood of growth for their companies. After all, companies do want to grow. Don't they?