Perspectives

Unilever and Tata are investing in Future. Are You?

I recently came across two news pieces in The Economic Times, which attracted my attention. For the past few years, I have been interested in studying new organizational forms, Indian enterprises’ competitiveness in the wake of globalization, new age leadership and related aspects.  My research quest has been to understand what is that organizations are investing in to become future ready. And the two distinct news articles in ET validated my thinking in some ways.

The first piece was the speech of Mr. Harish Manwani, Chairman, Hindustan Unilever Limited. The speech brings forth various dimensions of a future ready organization- new  talent, technology, innovation and inclusion. The second piece was about Tata Sons hiring a group CTO, who shall be reporting directly into Mr. Cyrus Mistry, Chairman, Tata Sons. It talks about an open acknowledgement of creating a digital core to place innovation at the center of the organizational focus.

Many leading organizations today are asking themselves, how future ready are they? In an increasingly connected world, prevailing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity and with power of entertainment, communication and social in consumers’ small palm, a new paradigm of business is emerging. In this new paradigm, change is constant, innovation is not by accident and information is the key asset.

The real question is how do organizations become future ready?

As a part of my research, I have been interacting with senior leaders of variety of organizations across industries. My research brings forth three important dimensions or levers, around which future readiness is emerging-

enabling leadership, empowered people and digital infrastructure.

As the leader of your organization, ask yourself, are you doing what Tata and HUL are doing to make your organization future ready?

Enabling Leadership

Leadership has always been about leading by creating a vision and exciting people to work towards that vision. It has also been about power and control to ensure that the organization fulfills its goals. But amid new dynamism, a lot of that power and control has to be subtle, if not completely absent. A new paradigm of leadership based upon empathy, collectivism and enablement is emerging. The role of leadership is moving towards creating appropriate enabling mechanisms, promote collectivism and institutionalizing a culture of performance and innovation.

Empowered People

The current and future generation of employees are an empowered lot. The social changes, globalization, economic development and technological progress are providing them with a higher sense of being in control of their world. They have aspirations and are defiant of authority. Controlling them in old ways may not work anymore. Rather they need enablement as discussed above. It also demands a new set of competencies to be further honed, new caliber to be further developed, which enables them to show their entrepreneurial streaks and become partner in the organization. No doubt, the lower levels of staff will still do the transactional work, but middle and senior management will need a different orientation.

Digital Infrastructure

IT is expected to play a big role in the above two points becoming a reality; not only from a basic process automation perspective but also from a process information and process capability perspective. Creating a digital infrastructure, which is agile and dynamic, shall provide the future organizations automated business processes and the power to change them or create new ones as demanded by the external environment. The emergence of Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) and industrial internet (Internet of Things) is making organization convert their digital infrastructure into strategic capabilities to compete.

Putting these three aspects of a future organization together, newer capabilities shall be developed. These new capabilities shall become the bedrock of the organizational strategy and choice in terms of how it competes in the market place.

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