The Leadership Files: D. Sangeeta, Chief Business Process Improvement Officer at Nielsen

D. Sangeeta

Six Sigma & Process Excellence IQ brings you the top process improvement executives to watch out for in 2011. In this Q&A, we profile D. Sangeeta, chief business process improvement officer at Nielsen.

Interview by Helen Winsor.

Please provide us with a brief background of your process improvement program.

The Business Process Improvement (BPI) organization at The Nielsen Company is a global, change-leading, talent-development group with more than 125 people. Nielsen BPI’s talent is partnered with clients and the business to reduce waste, cycle time and defects to drive lasting change that improves processes and client and associate satisfaction.

The Nielsen Company is the world's leading provider of information on what consumers watch and what consumers buy. By delivering an unmatched combination of insights, market intelligence, advanced analytical tools and integrated marketing solutions, Nielsen provides clients with the most complete view of their consumers and their markets.

Headquartered in New York, U.S., and Haarlem, the Netherlands, Nielsen operates in more than 100 countries with a global team dedicated to helping clients compete more effectively and discover opportunity with more clarity than ever before.

Why is the process Improvement program an important focus for your business and what role does it play in the business strategy?

Everything our BPI organization does has an impact on the client and is based on the client’s perspective, not just Nielsen’s perspective.

BPI is changing the DNA of the company by creating a talent factory of future leaders who can address any problem presented in an efficient and intelligent way.

How do you ensure your program stays sustainable?

BPI is a core competency for our company — it is not an initiative of the month or the year — it is here to stay. We recruit top talent, which makes this an exciting organization to work for in Nielsen. Everyone in BPI works on big impactful problems or new initiatives for the business.

At its core, process improvement is about observing the situation, analyzing it, creating an action plan to improve it and verifying the results. The resultant learning is to be shared through all levels of the organisation. This is essentially the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle and it applies to every aspect of the business, from strategic initiatives through to delighting the customer. The stronger the PDCA skill set, the healthier the organization.

What has your organization done to adapt and evolve the process improvement program in line with the current economic and business climate?

While our company had a hiring freeze, we in BPI at Nielsen were allowed to hire. Why? Because BPI is an opportunity to upgrade talent and the return on investment is a no-brainer.

How did you develop into this role and what steps did you take to get there?

I was in technology at the beginning of my career, which provided me a solid foundation on analytical and logical thinking. After I established my credibility in technology, GE [General Electric] wanted to stretch me into a brand new role. GE gave me opportunities to lead organizations that were completely new to me.

For example, these roles included marketing, operations, risk management of a $26 billion portfolio, mergers and acquisitions, and then finally the quality role. This experience helped groom me into a well-rounded business manager. GE continued to stretch me each step of the way because leaders saw I was able to deliver in each one of these challenges and consistently exceed their expectations.

What challenges did you have to face as a change leader and how did you overcome them?

Culture is always tough to change, but three things have helped us make this change possible. First having top-down support from my CEO, Dave Calhoun. Second, creating a genuine program that is here to stay. Finally, ensuring that the training and the program that we created was very practical and impactful for the clients and the business. People, including senior leadership at Nielsen, have told us our training is the best they have ever been through in their career.