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Strategy, change and leadership for businesses today

Fast replacing changes in competition, technology, and workforce values are compelling organizations to search for new and more human ways of increasing productivity and competitiveness.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 Nov 2020 3:16 AM GMT

Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

(The author is a Professor of Management and Economics, formerly at IIBM (RBI) Guwahati. He can be contacted at

Dr. Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay

(The author, international award-winning development and management economist, formerly a Gold Medalist in Economics at Gauhati University)

Fast replacing changes in competition, technology, and workforce values are compelling organizations to search for new and more human ways of increasing productivity and competitiveness. The role of machine learning and artificial intelligence today have taken our perception of business, society and life onto a new level altogether. The ability to access vast information resources within a matter of minutes and to communicate across huge distances at ever lower (or, no) costs while improving quality and convenience is transforming the way people and companies interact. Privacy and information security are facing increasing complexity nonetheless. For industry leaders, staying on top remains an uphill struggle – regardless of industry.

Global business evidences that there is a tendency to resist change, but the change itself in a business environment impacts employees, business relationships, customers, bosses, newer forms of contracts with suppliers and freelance workers. The change could be due to economic crisis, losing a customer, internal inconsistencies, failure to timely invest in R&D, gaining new customer groups (thus much more work), strategic product positioning due to market changes, developing and steering a new project, etc.

Today's business world competition comes in many forms: Price/ service/ quality/ speed of delivery/ uniqueness/ experience/ experience/ knowledge/ contacts/ resources /brand equity, so on and so forth. Alibaba's success, for example, is due to all the above – though the list is not exhaustive. Boosting service quality, keeping in view the very nature of effective demand, is the crying need. The challenge is not only to acquire the customers, but also to retain them and do so strategically for furthering the process of improved customer value.

Change is not a new phenomenon to the business world. From the barter system to today's e-commerce, from a system of transacting between individuals to transacting to bring transformations across the continents in an invisible scenario, the business world has experienced the change at various levels and layers.

There is no achievement without failure. The difference between average and achieving people is their perception of response to failure. The entire concept of "change" is influenced by the state of mindset. How one looks at a business is the question – will it give greater returns or will it cause more damage than good? It is like looking at "half glass full or half glass empty"?

Change management thus appears at the top of the agenda as acceptance of change is inevitable and always forward looking in nature. "It's neither the strongest nor most intelligent of the species that survive; it is the one most adaptable to change." - Charles Darwin

The choice of strategy also depends on facts and circumstances – when one particular strategy becomes outdated or calls for supplements, this may not necessarily call for entirely discarding the older one. The idea is to build on to something that worked once successfully, for some time, and then improvise it further with time. This renovation and some spillovers from incremental innovation are thus a continual and restless process. The redesigning of existing processes could effectively lead to dramatic enhancements in performance that potentially enables the organization to deliver greater value to customers in ways that also generate higher profits to the stakeholders. Some of the longest running businesses in the world – Mercedes Benz, IBM, Coca Cola have evidenced the above throughout the past century.

The happenings thus require a conscious and undivided attention. It is also the reason why organizations, at least the progressive ones, spend so much time on reflecting and taking stock of things regularly. The process of knowledge building within the organization is so very crucial.

A well-groomed strategy could not only help protect the fund deployed, but also enable to face competition through customers' confidence building. Business processes must become more mature and the institution must be able to deliver higher performance – spatially, temporally, hierarchically and functionally. To achieve the same systematically with a long run vision, Firstly, important to have the comprehensiveness of the specifications as to how a given process is to executed; Secondly, how talent management is managed looking beyond skill and technical knowledge; Thirdly, how leaders are accountable for both successes and failures, also the ability to pass on tacit knowledge and organizational stories; Fourthly, timely investment and maintaining the Management Information System (MIS); and finally, churning innovative ways to benchmarking and appraising talent and employee performance.

Enterprise capabilities are the crucial factors for the ultimate achievement and some of the most important ones – leadership, culture – recognising the values of customer focus, teamwork, personal accountability and of course the very willingness to change with a direction set on course; expertise [skills in / methodology for process design]; and governance [the very mechanisms for managing complex projects and change initiatives].

For developing high performance processes, institutions need to offer the very supportive and also enabling environment for recognizing and retaining talent and knowledge development. It is the greater competent institutions that emerge as the victor; while others struggle to keep the heads over water.

So, focusing on measuring and redesigning the customer-facing and internal processes improvements could be there in areas like: cost, quality, speed, profitability and other key areas. Arranging for such change-over calls for more than rearranging work- flows – which does what tasks, in what locations, as well as in what sequence. Structural integrity is also something that needs to be recognised and maintained.

Finally, quality now is all set to become a commodity. The age of quality improvements has passed. Quality has already become a commodity overseas. In another five years, the picture will be no different in India. Noted Japanese management guru Shoji Shiba – currently on a mission to help Indian manufacturing companies become champion organizations as part of a Japanese government initiative - has rightly noted that for a country where no visit to a store is often complete without getting to hear shop-keepers use terms like 'export quality' to indicate that the items in question are better quality-wise than the ones made for domestic markets, it is somehow difficult to imagine that in India where such descriptions don't exist. It has been rightly located that currently, quality standards in India, in most cases, mirror those that prevailed in Japan in the 1950s and 60s. 'But given the fast clock-speed of Indian companies, I expect them to also come up to levels that exist internationally by 2014,' according to the 'breakthrough management' expert.

Inadvertently, competition itself would leave domestic players with little choice but to work towards making a rapid transition from simply offering a range of products – not only high on quality but still on price, to ones which meet the 'latent requirement of customers.'

Thus, we can jolly well conclude following Management Wizard Shiba's advice that the best prospects for Indian companies lay at the 'bottom of the pyramid'. "Don't start out targeting the No. 1 slot and a dominant market share. Instead, try to be unique, rewrite the business by focusing on the bottom of the pyramid, and soon you would have found that you have achieved what you wanted to – the top position….".

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