Indian Takeaways - Lessons on Process from an Emerging Market

Steve Towers

From a sundeck on top of one of Delhi’s tallest building, overlooking the city’s sprawling skyline, it is hard to believe that Part Two of the Global meltdown is really underway.
In the vibrant economy of India there is a sense of growth and optimism shared by last week's Process Excellence conference hosted by IQPC. An excellent first time for IQPC here in Delhi were delegates welcomed the professionalism, efficiency and terrific agenda.
The top class surroundings suited the India industry leaders sharing their latest learnings and experience with Lean Six Sigma, BPM and Outside-In. It is a world away from the stagflation of the once exuberant West as India’s brightest consider innovation, growth and transformation.
Major companies see the current crisis in the economies and approaches of the West as a major opportunity to expand their process success, whether it is through Business Process Outsourcing, the latest Lean insights or in fact the rapid take-up of customer centric thinking. And I do not mean the strangled at birth CRM Systems variety.
There is an enthusiasm for realignment those elsewhere can only look on with envy as business powers ahead with a GDP of 10.4% (2010) placing India as the world's 4th largest economy by purchasing power parity (PPP). And this growth isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Is there anything we can learn from the process-getting expansionist firms adopting breakthrough approaches? Or do the rest of us - well at least those of us outside of Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and India - just have to hunker down and wait out the global economic storm?
Enough of the doom and gloom because there is very definitely a lot to learn. Last week saw Process Excellence Awards won by Reliance Industries, Max New York Life, Genpact & WNS. Each brought something new to the table however they were all focussed on business results. Not just faster and leaner. No, a genuine connection with company financials and shareholder value was the golden thread that connected all the Award winners.
Event delegates also turned their attention to 2012’s agenda to include hot areas of interest such as greater ‘C’ Level involvement in programmes, extending the scope of process across industrial sectors and deep diving specific success stories.
So can India lend the rest a hand in moving forward our projects and process transformations? Yes very much so as they also know everyone is connected through the global machine, and India cannot succeed in isolation. It needs the West to eventually grow again or its own progressive development will be curtailed. We are all in this together.
So what lessons can we adopt without hesitation? What initiatives should we focus on? How exactly can we help our organisations achieve sustained success?
At the close of the event we ran an exercise of Takeaways from Delhi (not the biryani type of course) and developed a hit list of learning points to consider. Mark these high on your agenda as they are in fact some of the reasons why India is booming and the process industry here is developing rapidly. Ask yourself whether these items feature in your process programmes and with the people in the frontlines. If they don’t you may wish to make sure they are embedded pretty soon.
1. Understand the "Real Value" orientation
The agenda has move on from efficiency and effectiveness. It is about delivering customer expectations and successful outcomes so as to win the triple crown – lower costs, improved service and better revenues (in the long run)
2. Ensure management buy-in
Talk with the top team about business results and not just the sterile removal of ‘non value add’ and streamlining. Unless it matters on the top and bottom line you will not sustain the management interest.
3. Invest in your people
Develop the people skills and competence to deal with the new breed of customers who are promiscuous, rebellious, short tempered, fickle and know more about your products and services than you do. It is a cultural thing. Are people trained to deal with the processes that demand immediate action in our always on world, or are they moribund in procedures and scripts?
4. Bridge that business technology divide before it becomes a chasm
Engage the techies and the business in mutual discussions around innovating process and truly helping achieve customer alignment. Gone are the days of throwing over the wall the business requirements documents to the IT guys who can then do their piece. It can’t be like that anymore – the world is moving too quickly. There is a need to adopt unified approaches that harness out people skills collectively on behalf of the customer.
5. Oh yes, the customer
Where should we start with that? As Richard Branson reiterated last week "People are your biggest assets. I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish if they’re praised."
Are you praising those around or finding fault and placing blame?
Alignment to Successful Customer Outcomes depends on the people, our colleagues, feeling needed. Reward them explicitly for customer success and encourage the destruction of inward facing attitudes such as ‘the customer is not my job’. Today more so than ever the end customer has to be in everyone’s job description.
And a final point our Indian colleagues suggested is:
6. Do what works for you!
There isn’t a single one size fits all technique that will move our organisations forward and achieve process success. Move beyond your own comfort zone of favourite tools and embrace the newer ideas proven elsewhere. That way we are all part of the solution.
And in the meantime, happy process improvement and Phir Milenge (we will meet again in Hindi).