Vinay Kamath

Sr. Deputy Editor - The Hindu/Business Line

 

Values that make a business tick

 

The authors use their experience to show that business should be about ethics, dharma and more...

“I passionately believe that companies with purpose last, brands with purpose grow and people with purpose thrive in uncertain times.”

This quote by Leena Nair, the chief human resources officer of Unilever, from the book, Above and Beyond: How to Build Impactful Businesses, pretty much sums up the zeitgeist of the times. That is, it’s purpose that has to drive organisations and the earlier dictum of the three Ps — planet, people and profit — has to necessarily be accompanied by the fourth P of purpose.

The three authors of the book, R Srinivasan, Shrihari Udupa, and R Mukund, take pains to emphasise that a company vision that focusses mainly on business-related goals and strategies does not normally include the interests of all stakeholders. At best, it addresses the shareholders’ interests in growing business and profits. But, organisation vision, which is limited to growing business, is somewhat ‘telescopic’. It needs to become wider to encompass people and the common good.

For an organisation to thrive and excel, they say, the full participation and contribution of all stakeholders, including the critical and most obvious one, the employees and suppliers, is important. And to that, one can add, the community as well.

“When people see themselves working for a larger and common good, they bring motivation and involvement to work energetically to meet business goals,” they say. And, to get them to do that, organisations need to develop a comprehensive vision.

The three authors spent long years in machine tool company Widia India, of which R Srinivasan was the managing director. It’s in this melting pot that their ideas on values, ethics, leadership, purpose and vision were shaped and practised as well by the company as it evolved. Whether it was in relationships with the employees or with their customers, Widia, the authors say, strove to achieve on a higher plane.

Apart from achieving a higher level of performance, the company looked to redefine relationships with customers. The book talks about how Widia started making tools for HMT’s upcoming watch factory.

Rejected a few times by HMT as a supplier for its tools division, finally the Chairman, SM Patil, told the Widia team they could supply for the watch factory for which tools were being imported at high cost.

At that time, watch-making tools were quite complex and outside the scope of Widia’s manufacturing capabilities. Also, commercially it was not making sense. But, the Widia team took this up as an import substitution challenge and made the tools and won deep appreciation from the HMT senior management and opened doors for Widia to supply the standard range of tools to HMT’s main business.

Widia, the authors say, viewed customer orders not merely from a profit angle but focussed on meeting their needs in a true sense of partnership. Widia’s sense of purpose to improve productivity for a customer was not the best decision in a commercial sense but it helped pave the way for a sustainable growth in business. It earned a reputation for the company as a reliable partner.

Many companies articulate and put up their core values, but at Widia, the leaders believed that business ethics alone was not enough to bind people. They broadened their horizons to include concepts like basic human values and dharmic values to be practised and ingrained in people.

Basic values, imbibed from families, school and friends are honesty, integrity, respect and care while dharmic values, the authors say, come with maturity of the individual and organisation. They are: selflessness, spirit of service, compassion and empathy.

Follow the right path

While one can argue what is dharma or righteousness doing in a business environment, the authors hasten to add that a dharmic code is nothing about spirituality but a code of conduct to follow a righteous path, especially when organisations are expected to be ‘good corporate citizens’.

Leaders can steer dharmic values through their conduct and it then becomes the culture of an organisation and helps people steer through various situations and make principled choices.

The book goes on to talk about inspired leadership and culture of organisations, all key to building an impactful business. The authors coin a phrase called psychic safety which great organisations offer.

A holistic set of values recognises them as capable individuals and the transformative leadership gives them the freedom to express their views, to raise questions and operate as an intrapreneur without fear.

An alignment of larger purpose and individual’s goals provide a strong alignment. A combination of these, they say, creates a work environment that provides psychic safety.

“Organisations that have a clear, comprehensive vision have identified their larger purpose and are able to provide psychic safety and offer people a way to connect the larger purpose with their own life vision and purpose. In this kind of environment people feel they are an intrinsic part of the organisation and are willing to give their best to the workplace and rarely think of leaving,” say the authors.

Above & Beyond has woven in several anecdotes and stories, including those of several Widia employees, and it makes for compelling reading. Though, to this reviewer, the excessive use of explanatory charts and tables in the middle chapters, though will appeal to practitioners, began to give the book an academic feel, detracting from the pace of the narrative the book sets in the earlier chapters.

The book gives many examples of organisations that have been impactful, but apart from may be a Tata group and a reference to Azim Premji, most of the examples are of organisations abroad. More anecdotal references to Indian organisations would have helped for a better connect and context.

The book has obviously been written in better times. In these pandemic times, organisations have been pressured like never before; profits have been deeply impacted and in many firms people have been let go. Many CEOs have been shown to have feet of clay. One wonders how the tenets that the book propounds, on how to build an impactful business, can be adhered to. But, that’s not to say that the bad times will last; when the good times return it’s the firms that have stayed the course and stayed true to their purpose, will be the impactful organisation.

K BHARAT KUMAR

The HINDU

 

What gives an organisation a greater chance of endurance and success ?

A story goes that three men engaged in laying bricks responded differently when asked what they were doing: one said he was merely laying a brick; the second said he was building a wall; the third proudly smiled and said he was building a cathedral. A variant of this story, which appears in the book Above and Beyond: How to Build Impactful Businesses, possibly best describes the ethos of such an organisation.

The authors argue that a business with a larger purpose, beyond just profitability and excellence, gives it a greater chance of endurance and success. Once the purpose is clearly articulated, it is easier to get people aligned to the goal as they find meaning in what they do. Then, the journey becomes as delightful as the destination.

Valuable anecdotes

Young entrepreneurs with dreams of building institutions, as much as seasoned businessmen, who want to take stock of where they are will derive valuable lessons from the book. To help them identify where in the journey their companies and employees are, the authors neatly lay out the evolutionary phases of both organisations and people — from seeking profitability or merely a job, to making a difference.

Anecdotes from the authors’ own working lives make it easy to understand the truisms they bring forth.

Case in point is that of Lakshmi, a regional accountant in a private bank. She had flagged some bills from regional managers that did not ‘look right’ to her. Her manager, with whom she had had some friction, was furious that she was throwing a spanner in the works merely because someone just ‘bent the rules’. Told to pass the bills, Lakshmi ended up asking herself if this was where she wanted to be in her career.

This is one of the examples that set the authors thinking as to how the Indian subsidiary of Germany’s Widia was different — as a maker of tungsten carbide cutting tools — from other companies. (All three authors had worked in Widia India. Co-author R. Srinivasan was among the first group of people that set up the subsidiary in the 1960s.)

A humorous jibe the authors take at a popular acronym from the West evokes a smile but also signals what red flags to watch out for: if your employees are relieved at the end of the week, saying ‘TGIF — thank God it’s Friday’ — then something is not right with your organisation.

Widia India was not content with supplying the right tools. Others were already doing that. It wanted to help customers with technical inputs to use the tools in an optimal manner for better output. Note the difference between making money from selling a useful product and the pursuit of a larger goal in which sales naturally occurred.

A larger purpose

And to boot, a vision statement alone does not make a company. People do. Employees find meaning when they work in a secure atmosphere that allows questioning the management freely and in which ideas come out uninhibited. The creation of an entire division in Widia, which emerged from a young engineer’s wild suggestion, exemplifies this.

What niggles the reader is the question of objectivity as the authors use the evolution of Widia India as the basis for the book, while that of other employees in the company serve as the proof of good practices in play. But the honesty of the writers inspires a counter: ‘Who better than the authors themselves to show you how companies ought to be built?’

TEHURIKO MASUDA

Ex President - Mitsubishi Materials, Mitsubishi Hitachi Tools

 

I agree with what the book endorses that “Human being does not live for only bread alone but Larger Purpose”. Even Materials have a soul, and so do human beings. Human being are not just to be merely there, but be meaningful. Humans are irreplaceable in heaven and earth. That is our Pride.

This book is not only Widia Story but also has elements of “Human Drama” which every mankind will use to change their lives. We can notice that in Japan, we have our own “Larger Purpose” encompassing respect, trust and love for each other. 

Indians and Japanese may be alike in basic human values through dharma, pride and contribution to larger good.

 

 

GAIL WEST

ICI Taiwan

 

Very timely in our current restless, conflicted, chaotic, unstable, divided and confusing world.

It seems that many organizations have young, smart people who learn fast, move quickly and succeed and then lose momentum.  These concepts could give them what they need… to keep their people and move into a whole new realm of success.

I actually scanned the book by studying the great graphics, read the personal stories, with that overview, I then came back and read straight through. Quite enjoyable”

BANMALI AGARWALA

President - Infrastructure,  Defence & Aerospace, 

Tata Sons Private Limited

 

The book “Above And Beyond” written by highly accomplished and experienced practicing professionals is a very timely reminder of what is truly at the core of any business. One has long heard the heard the paradigm, “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast” but one has also seen that over the last two decades or so the extreme focus on short term financial performance coupled with unrealistic “valuations” has resulted in a completely distorted behavior pattern among business leaders and employees. We have almost made employees into schizophrenics who follow one set of values from 9 to 5 in the office and another set of values from 5 to 9 at home. The book explains how Culture is developed and sustained over long periods of time. The book is almost like a manual that covers organisations in all stages of development and suggests a detailed step by step approach that are easy for any manager to follow.

The book brilliantly brings home the point that business is ultimately about making a difference to society that society is all about people.  Businesses can be huge drivers of social change which in turn can be only achieved if the employees see themselves as agents of change.

The simplicity of language and multitude of real life examples coming brings home the point in a vivid and easy way.

I would highly recommend this book to not only practicing managers but also for business schools and young students. I compliment the authors in having condensed their years of experience into easy to understand and practical wisdom.

HEMA HATTANGADY

Ex CEO – Conserve Systems (Part of Schneider Electric)

 

This is a must-read book for those wanting to build and grow sustainable organisations in the uncertain times we live in. I have known R Srinivasan and Widia for several decades. Both stand out for their focus on and commitment to excellence and are beacons not only for their industry but for the manufacturing world at large. The book is replete with relatable examples and conceptual frameworks thus providing today's leaders with a ready-to-use toolkit to create truly Impactful Organisations.

STEPHANE Lhuillier

Executive coach, Associate professor, Entrepreneur
Paris, France 

 

Over my years of business leadership, of executive coaching, of executive teaching and of entrepreneurship, I came to realise that offering purposeful situations to people, society, clients and owners was paramount to ensure business success, in the short and longer terms, irrespective of the current political, economic or social context. 

Putting together their business experience with academic perspective, the authors of this book, R. Srinivasan, Shrihari Udupa and R. Mukund, offer a practical guide for business leaders who dare to transform their company to respond to the need for Purpose, and for start-ups who want to lay down the foundations of their business in the most effective and lasting manner.

From big picture conversations to detailed decisions, from culture and leadership to recruitment and development, ‘Above and Beyond’ covers all aspects that business leaders need to address to ensure their company becomes an impactful organisation. An organization fit for the 21st century. 

PRADEEP MALLICK

Former Managing Director - Wartsila India

 

Well researched, prolifically anecdotal, philosophically laced with living examples of people, Organisations and situatuions, these three practicing Manager-Authors bring you a book with a different ending...An ending which keeps you going 'Above and Beyond' ...An ending which seeks to ensure that everyone lives happily ever after.

Written in a breezy easy-to-read style, this study is actually deep, insightful and thought provoking. By rightly bringing in a 4th P - PURPOSE - to Profit, People and Planet, the authors have highlighted the pressing urgency of sustainability. Remember, a Company's Purpose needs to address who it is today and who it wants to be tommorow. And without a solid, convincing purpose, no company can transform itself.

If achieving excellence and success are asymptotic phenomena, going beyond excellence on the path of sustained lasting success is a life long pursuit in seeking the very purpose of an Impactful organisation and linking it with it's raison d'etre, its purpose whilst simultaneously nurturing teams of motivated, inspired, self-fulfilled people whose own purpose resonates with the Organisational Purpose.

In our mission to sustainably go 'Above and Beyond' the authors beautifully weave in the vedantic message of a Larger Purpose ---a 'Higher Cause' that encompasses a Holistic Vision and values that inspire people to the mantra of seva bhava (selfless service), delighting the customer's customer and making a difference, with no exception of return, but with immense, innate gratitude for being able to perform that seva.

Above and Beyond deftly completes the virtuous cycle of how Impactful Organisations knit their Purpose with People to deliver sustainability and Profitability to the planet.

ROSTOV RAVANAN

Co-Founder Mind Tree Consulting

 

What I liked:


* Written in a very easy reading style. I was able to read the book, end-to-end in a single sitting. Was almost like reading a novel.
* The examples of various individuals and situations, whether on integrity or the sales guy who gave a discount without checking with the CEO, makes it very relatable to the situations we come across in our daily lives.
* Though the book has 3 co-authors, the writing styles and story lines come across seamlessly, unlike other books with co-authors, where the differences in styles are jarring.
* The book left me with a positive and uplifted feeling. There is so much negativity in the world today, it was refreshing to read this book and feel good.

Sandeep Maini

Chairman - Maini Group

 

Dear Mr. Srinivasan , I got the book yesterday and have finished reading it today. I cancelled meetings today to complete it. Simple, straightforward, clear and from the heart. I don't think I will read any other book on how to build an organization. I just need to keep reading this over and over again. It also made me think a lot - I have so much to unlearn and relearn. Lot of what I read echoes with my father's principles and his message to us but the essence of how it is done is so exceptionally expressed. I hope that this book was available 30 years ago when I started. I also wish that I had done an internship at Widia. I am sending this to my son in the USA.

Lots more to discuss when we meet.

Congratulations to you and your co-authors. My father always speaks very highly and fondly of you and Widia. Have a better insight today why he did so. 

Warm Regards Sandeep

Ravi Venkatesan & Sonali Venkatesan

Ravi-Chairman Microsoft India, Sonali-CEO - Fanuc

 

Thank you for thoughtfully sending along a copy of your book Above & Beyond.  I read it with interest.  What a remarkable adventure and story!  My wife sonali who leads Fanuc India also enjoyed it.  We’ve put the book in the Fanuc Library so others may also enjoy and learn. 

T T SRINATH

Entrepreneur, Coach, Trainer, Author

 

I have bought and read the book 'Above and Beyond', that you, R.Mukund, have authored with Mr.R.Srinivasan and Mr. Shrihari Udupa.

It surely is an engaging read.
I am struck by the constant emphasis all of you have placed on the 'need' to understand the 'human being' both within and without the business context.
The belief that all 'change and progress', in and to the business may happen only when there is a full appreciation of a person is a very compelling thought.

What Roosevelt says, and you quote him, is really the crux of relating. Unless leadership keeps this in focus any effort shorn of sensitivity will yield sub-optimal outcomes.

In the preface all of you emphasis the need to ignite greatness in people, and this by helping them align, renew themselves and grow. The bed rock I think and you confirm it is Psychic safety.

The magic lies, as you all point out, in synergy through congruence of organisation purpose and meaning to people. Every human behavior is directed by the 'pay off' the individual gets, so as you all write 'humans do not follow... they either chose to follow or not'.

I notice for myself and for some like I, who have lost our way, and this as all of you write is a 'vision is not just a picture', it is ' the fuel with energy and' requires from us endurance'. I think many business do not realize that ' while a vision provides the overall direction’, day to day strategies and realization of business goals are constantly changing.

Gestalt urges leaders to not allow themselves to be trapped by Charisma, it strongly suggests 'presence' instead.
Like the Sun whose Presence cannot be ignored so can it be with leaders.

Organisations stuck in a groove can still put themselves on the path of evolution if they bring in changes depending on their phase of growth; very well-articulated.

Finally you have collectively brought to bear almost or perhaps over 100 years of your collective wisdom and as you have all succinctly shared the phases of growth, I think a formula that I could have followed and did not forced my spiral down and that was my inability to realise ultimately only 3 things will determine longevity and they are ' survival first, followed closely by profit and cash generation and after that only comes growth'

Your book says it well and with impact.

 

K BALAJI

Ex - The Hindu

 

I have given the book a quick read, and would like to go back for a more detailed one. Very happy to see the focus on the "purpose" of a company's existence. Even the top leaders are not always clear about this; and if they are not clear, how are the other people in the organisation expected to understand? So a great deal of attention will need to be paid to how this "purpose" is communicated -- by word and deed --throughout the organisation, constantly.

A R Unnikrishnan

Managing Director - Saint Gobain - Glass Division

 

“Above & Beyond” - a must read on leading an organisation with a larger purpose. There is enough written off late about engaging Gen Y and Gen Z. It’s heartening to know that such concepts were successfully implemented decades back in the Indian context. Kudos to the authors !!!

CHANDRAMOHAN

CFO - TAFE

 

I must complement the authors in bring out this Outstanding work – “Above and Beyond” with concepts that they have personally lived thru & experienced towards making Impactful organization – WIDIA and many more. The timing of this book release is also very apt .. a time when “Make in India and Make for the world” is the emerging mantra for the Indian corporates to be Globally competitive & also have a global foot print.
As they say – a set of experiences leads to beliefs & set of beliefs leads to a culture. The leader, R Srinivasan along with the co-authors of this book, lived and practiced the beliefs in the holistic values [business ethics, Human values and righteousness (dharmic)], navigating thru the Five phases of Organisation evolution as detailed in the book; towards the larger purpose defined for the organization. This strong directional & hands on leadership created the experiences to the larger team to believe & imbibe it as a culture of the organization, creating the necessary Psychic safety & intrapreneurship among various levels/teams of the organization. It is this culture in the team DNA towards a common larger purpose, that enables & empowers the team to navigate the external & internal challenges faced (including technology shifts, changes in Market dynamics, Regulatory changes etc), leading to outstanding performances, innovation and organization sustenance.
This is a must-read book for all leaders, to internalize the concepts, and work towards creating a strong, impactful & sustainable organization catering to a larger purpose on a Global scale.

K RANGANATHAN

Sr. Partner Ernst & Young

 

I have done the first reading and felt I should have read it a few decades back. Of course there was no book then!

Mukund,  Very inspiring and written lucidly and elegantly. The get up and illustrations etc at par with top management books.

The epilogue is an excellent summary almost self contained. The verse as the tail piece nicely captures the theme of the book. I have taken photo and circulating to friends encouraging them to buy. Great effort and my best wishes to you and Udupa to write more .

Raj Nataraj 

Vice-President - Siemens Communications, Siemens Medical Systems, New Jersey, USA

 

4 Stars! Each year thousands of “how – to “books are inundating the Management Education space and more recently emphasis is correctly placed on developing sustainable organizations in a rapidly changing market place and consumer sentiments creating a great deal of uncertain times for managers.  When I read “Above and Beyond “authored by R. Srinivasan and his colleagues at Widia, it was indeed a pleasant task to be able to look at the rich experiences of the authors in the context of today’s difficult business environment.   Mr. R. Srinivasan, in the interests of full and complete disclosure, is a revered classmate of mine who had now distilled his enormous success and his own journey over the decades in building a successful entity whose foundations have withstood the test of time.

The book is highly readable by combining personal encounters skillfully mixed with underlying rules that one should follow to get to the end point successfully.  The language is appropriate for the intended target audience with illustrations that are clear and crisp. 

The Authors deal very effectively with the most important aspect of how culture affects an impactful business by providing the “smell and feel “of the organization.  The reader can clearly get the feel of the unique blend of understanding on how the leaders of the business can set this tone while day-to-day transactions are made by its numerous employees that eventually creates a “win-win” end point for its stakeholders.

While the book emphasizes what most of us knew that a “win-win” is always the goal, most other such books did not focus much on the cultural chasm encountered in Global business transactions where the risks of gross misunderstanding are very high. The reader can strongly detect the new found values in Holistic and Eastern Philosophy and their impact on modern human resources management that transcends national boundaries. 

Leadership quality in highly impactful businesses as taught by Institutions of traditional Business Education is proving to be not adequate in an age of millennials which mostly now wants to serve the larger needs of the society and the Authors of “Above and Beyond “have succeeded in driving home this great change taking place in our current social structure.   Such a perspective has almost become mandatory as more and more small businesses and Entrepreneurs are spreading their wings to span these regions of the Globalized Business environment. For this alone, this book deserves a thorough reading by those involved in such great transitional efforts in management. 

M S KRISHNAN

Ex President Harita Gramar

 

Above and Beyond is well written in simple language and easy to understand. It explains clearly the principles of Organisation and Leadership that looks at profit as a by-product and not as the only objective. The authors have shared their rich experience from all facets of Business to define what is beyond profit and excellence. The emphasis is on the foundation to build a lasting culture.
Larger Purpose with 'Dharmic values' enlightens the philosophy on which Business can prosper and withstand the turmoil in the market. How care for people and providing an enabling infrastructure and environment to harness their potential at various stages of growth is the hallmark in the latter half.
 

The book based on WIDIA story has lucid graphics for explanation and is a must read for all those aspiring to lead and leave an indelible mark in their career and business. A good case study for management schools.

D SARATHY

Vice - President (Widia/Kennametal)

 

Two things stand out in my view –
1) Simple and Effective – The book is written in a simple, lucid, illustrative manner makes the reading easy and comprehensible.
2) Bold and Universal – The book challenges the widely prevalent axiom – the sole purpose of Businesses is to make profit. It gives a different and holistic purpose to businesses – the larger purpose and people centricity as opposed to Strategic fit and Profit centric. It may be an Indian experience, but I believe the spirit and applicability is Universal.

That WIDIA nurtured a great many leaders who became CEOs/ entrepreneurs and leading their organizations in the typical WIDIA impactful way, is a tribute to the authentic leadership they experienced!
May more of the Businesses globally wake up to emulate the WIDIA way and deliver the impact the world badly needs!
My compliments to the authors for bringing out this book, sharing their experience and wisdom for the multitude who would be inspired and benefited from reading and applying the concepts in their own workplaces.

L  KRISHNAN

Managing Director TaeguTec, Ex President - IMTMA

 

Read the book . First easy to read . Great flow and not complex .Once you start you can breeze through quickly . Best part of the book is based on actual case study experience by Practitioners and not just a theory . This adds authenticity to the observations and inference . Very useful book for practicing managers on building organisation , Business and more importantly employee oriented culture . A strong" Read recommendation.

CHANDRASEKHAR  SHARMA

Ex Vice President - Kennametal

 

I must complement the authors in bring out this Outstanding work – “Above and Beyond” with concepts that they have personally lived thru & experienced towards making Impactful organization – WIDIA and many more. The timing of this book release is also very apt .. a time when “Make in India and Make for the world” is the emerging mantra for the Indian corporates to be Globally competitive & also have a global foot print.
 

As they say – a set of experiences leads to beliefs & set of beliefs leads to a culture. The leader, R Srinivasan along with the co-authors of this book, lived and practiced the beliefs in the holistic values [business ethics, Human values and righteousness (dharmic)], navigating thru the Five phases of Organisation evolution as detailed in the book; towards the larger purpose defined for the organization. This strong directional & hands on leadership created the experiences to the larger team to believe & imbibe it as a culture of the organization, creating the necessary Psychic safety & intrapreneurship among various levels/teams of the organization. It is this culture in the team DNA towards a common larger purpose, that enables & empowers the team to navigate the external & internal challenges faced (including technology shifts, changes in Market dynamics, Regulatory changes etc), leading to outstanding performances, innovation and organization sustenance.
 

This is a must-read book for all leaders, to internalize the concepts, and work towards creating a strong, impactful & sustainable organization catering to a larger purpose on a Global scale.

K GOVINDARAJ

Working in Widia/Kennametal for 36 years

 

The authors have explained the way to build ever lasting impactful business in steps and the critical phases of the journey has been brought out well with examples. Being a Widian I could live the book and whats interesting is that this book expalins how to make the business sustain and self-propel to grow beyond excellence. Large Purpose supported with holistic vision and values in a nourishing culture environment and assuring Psychic Safety giving fearless empowerment makes every employee to contribute and takes the organization to next level.
 

With these giving the thrust the Organization Wheel will be perpetual for sure
 

Looking forward to the next one from the authors

S. Ananthanarayanan

Ex MD - Amco(TAFE) Batteries

 

The thing that struck me, even before completion of the reading of the book, was the smooth flow of ideas and that too in simple, easy-to-understand language bereft of cliches or high sounding words. It was admirable.  Especially the way the book led the reader to understand the need for a wider Vision and Purposeful Values. 

The question ‘After all Certifications and Awards, then what?’ has been correctly raised and very well dealt with. Yes, Organisations need to understand and appreciate that there is a Larger Purpose to their existence.  

Coming out  at the time when organisations are being exhorted to make local and go global, this book will act as a good guide to all Enterpreneurs and Industry and Business owners.

My compliments to all of you.

 

Prof. S Balasubramanian

GRG Centre for Advanced Studies

 

Reading your book has been a fulfilling experience for me. Like all of you, I too believe in the basic tenet of a value-based leadership, Jim Collins’ Level-5, a larger purpose that goes beyond material considerations, and holistic vision. I could easily identify with your thoughts expressed in the book.

 

The language used in the book is simple and easy-flowing, easy on the eye and mind. The glossary at the end is a good idea to explain the specific context in which certain terms have been used. The flow of ideas from basic values and basic expectations through excellence and beyond has been well written. Citing examples of former colleagues from Widia is also neatly done, weaving the story to add strength to the expressed argument. Leena Nair’s quote is bang on and further helps the thoughts in the book.

 

Well done!

K K Verma

GMHRM and M.D. BOB Capital Markets

 

The three authors have dared to lead an unusual management theme. The theme is wonderful. The authors seem alike and devoted to the theme. Great ideals sought to pursue-all stakeholders winning and satisfied and organizational longevity. 

The purpose of a management/organization book is to disseminate new knowledge, expect readers’ simulation and guide improving human practices and organizational effectiveness. The book reads close to the purpose.

Each chapter begins with an interesting story of people who were seeking purpose of their career, perhaps of life. Analysis’s lead to linkages with the chapter theme. The book has given new meaning to certain terms used like holistic values, holistic vision, described in the glossary.

A new philosophy is found once one goes over chapter by chapter. What they talk is experience based. But like every big change may seem imaginary. They gained the experience from working together in Widia.  Widia is an Indian Wing of German Krupp Widia set up in Bangalore in late 1960’s to manufacture tungsten carbide cutting tools. R. Srinivasan who was working with the German company, was transferred to Widia India. He replaced the German managing director who was called back and relinquished after a long service, perhaps to write the book. This note covers the philosophy and the experience of this unique organization.

Indigenous German organization

The parent company lost interest in the India Company and stopped the supports like technology and knowhow. Srinivasan was left to himself to struggle and build Widia. He developed leadership team to participate in organization building activity. The book doesn’t mention why the German company behaved this way. 

Widia believed that organizations must be clear about their purpose. It devoted thoughts on what should be their purpose. Like in certain other activities, they did not do any written work. They kept discussing and developing the purpose of their existence i.e. what for Widia. Helping the customer was their initial response and enlarged to include larger purpose i.e. bigger things. This meant entering in to unknown, unexplored service to the newly emerging manufacturing industries in India. For example, Hindustan Machine Tools wanted tools cutting devices to enter into watches field and another, Indian army needed amour piercing shots for their anti tank ammunition. Both being complex, unattractive and not easy to make, Widia put the national interest at the top and jumped on the two opportunities. Tools cutting devices for the public sector HMT was fulfilling the needs of the customer and so was the army’s requirement in 1970-71.  It finally was rewarding enough as executing these orders helped sustainability of Widia’s growth. The Chief Human Resource Officer of Hindustan Lever, Leina Nair, says,

           “I passionately believe that companies with purpose last, brands with purpose grow and people with purpose thrive in uncertain times. Leadership is the key driver for the development of the organization

 

Human resource perspectives

The Human Resource (H.R.) philosophy of Widia is clear cut. It aimed at dealing with people-employees as well outsiders accepting them- as they areas they are-which increases good-will and makes interaction smooth. Recruitment policy was ingrained with a sense of human values and to take on responsibility without any selfish motive on the part of the entire organisation.  Expectations from employees to be honest and of high integrity were built. Expectations build mindsets and therefore the employees it seems start coming up to the expectations. Human values of respect and care for others and transparency were also ingrained in their bahaviour. H. R. played the enabler to skill the managers to practice as well to percolate these down at workerlevel.Another good feature was not to consider human resource a resource as traditionally held. H.R. is actually the mother of all resources-a living entity with head and heart.  H. R. enhances the value of other resources. It is distinctly overarching phenomenon. Controversies were thoroughly discussed and sorted out. Even among the leadership there had been open differing approaches but the superior never felt offended. Mistakes were forgiven but not dishonesty.

Customer centricity

Widia followed a customer philosophy. It is not restricted to supplying high quality cutting tools. But, much beyond that.  “It was committed to helping   customers with technical inputs to use the tools in an optimal manner and get better output. Improving customer productivity became the purpose of Widia’s existence.” They were firm in their belief that they make a difference to the country’s emerging manufacturing landscape. 

Because of the License Raj in India and company’s values not to use the easy way, their troubles compounded. Doing things right they had to face loss of time, protracted delays and opportunities. Company’s commitment by way of their purpose for existence to supply to the customers the quality tools and technical guidance has been a rare objective. 

Leadership roles

Above indicates some trappings of leadership’s creation of values organisation wide. In fact they developed leadership anchored in values. The values of the company were not for showing in publications and website; they tried deep rooting. They steadfastly stuck to them, come what may, loss of time or money. People thus are bound to same values as the leadership, at least the insiders.                     

Understanding values and binding people with purpose and holistic values was a key factor in the organization building activity. But they did it in close partnership with the employees. There was also a strong belief that leader’s personal conduct builds trust and inspires the teams. For change to happen, employees see whether change happening was at the top. Widia leadership was dedicated to such themes.

A limited vision limits”, they believed. Organization vision, therefore, needs to be comprehensive but clear and crisp. Vision statements should inspire to pull the organisation in one direction. Leader’s own actions should aim at alignment between vision and business. They were also emphatic that their vision links with all stakeholders so that the common good encourages all and their commitment. This is how the book mentions comprehensive vision, encompassing-Planet, People and Profit. As the organization grows over different phases, peoples’ expectations also grow. It is the people who drive the purpose and vision. Their changing expectations can’t be ignored.

Leaders, who realise that people development is crucial, try to help fulfill their expectations. The reverse is also true.

When your business passes through starting, stabilizing and profitable phases of growth, the next phase of organisation growth is excellence. Aspire for market leadership—strive for excellence—have business ethics and human values— keep people engaged-satisfy all stake holders—harness people potential—service driven (CSR). 

Widia approach is to create a nourishing culture-win hearts. Providing means to grow to employees/others is one way to win the hearts. For nourishing culture, the organisation cannot succeed with one leader. They need to create a structure for more and more.

Ignite greatness in people

Organizations which have great people, following features are seen there:

--Great admiration from stakeholders,

--Respect from Society,

--Trust of the people,

--An environment where employees are willing and energetic,

--Regular exercise of self-renewal and sustainability,

--A culture that makes its customers buy its products blindly.

Above conditions occur when constantly the organization takes change and development steps.

Widia’s employees (present and ex) have emotional connect with Widia due to steps taken by the leadership. Management was never upset when some people left after long periods of association (say 20 years). Authors say because they are in search for something-“Psychic Safety-” where people work without fear i.e. freedom to express, experiment—transformative leadership—recognition. The ex staffers keep visiting and recall the good days quoted several expressions in the book. One such graduate trainee, L. Krishnan left to join a large organization after 15 years. Now he is managing director of Taegu Tec India (a Berkshire Hathaway group). Excerpts from his statement:

“The level of Freedom to try out things and experiments was very high. The environment urged us to attempt something, even if didn’t always work. A very important legacy that Widia gave us was the belief that failures should never stop us. “When you get exposed to that culture in the early days of your career, it becomes a part of your DNA. It shapes the character and way of thinking.”

Aroon Raman

CEO - Telos INvestments, Author

 

I must say I enjoyed it a great deal – especially the account of early days at WIDIA. The chapter heading “Purposeful leadership anchored in values” itself constitutes a very powerful statement which sits at the core of the whole approach laid out in the book. Many aspects which you have subsequently dealt with, such as the comprehensive organization vision and taking the company to an altogether different level flow from this fundamental principle.

 

Many of the points made by you 3 authors resonated a lot with my own experience when you were involved with us in Raman Boards and Raman FibreScience. 

 

In today’s VUCA world, the solid foundations for building and sustaining organizations along the lines laid out in your book become super-important. Unfortunately, there is far too much lip service to these matters, and reduced merely to vision and value statements more for cosmetics. Even for well-meaning companies, the whole culture-building aspect falls into the “Not Urgent /Very Important” quadrant and they keep pushing this back.

 

In a subsequent edition of the book, I feel it might be worthwhile adding a chapter on the digital revolution and its impact on companies. With WFH spreading in all types of organizations, I find there is a growing physical disconnect between people and also a general belief that technology can handle most problems. In fact technology is a tool but not a substitute. Leadership and other traits are better developed in physical environments at least as of now, and harder to do in remote settings.

 

In my travels across the country to visit various NGOs, I have found technology causing a lot of hardship to the very poor people. Programs such as Aadhar have encouraged central monitoring of welfare benefits through mechanisms like DBT but I found the ground reality to be far removed—especially in the North, where they have led to severe problems, especially in biometric authentication. 

 

Hence while technology can bring major benefits in organizations it can cause several problems which might be worth considering. But that is possibly for your next work!! I do hope you will keep writing – as one writer to another that is the best wish I can give!!

Rajesh Mandlik

MD - SETCO

 

I completed 75% of reading, but though could not hold myself writing mail to congratulate you for coming out with such excellent book. I have read many books authored by foreign people and was always wondering that there is no rock solid book of an Indian. Above & Beyond certainly bridged the gap. 

 

What I liked the most that you have addressed the fundamental aspects of doing business i.e. values based and purpose driven. The book is articulated excellent writing skills, and since it is in context with Indian references, it hit the chord. The message is strong and assertive. 

 

I have already recommended this book to fellow entrepreneurs and probably will be in touch with you once I finish reading. 

 

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom which you gained over many decades of deliverance in the form of this book. This book should have place in every entrepreneur’s library.  

Jerry Kapoor

MD - Modine India

 

Above and beyond provides a framework, for leaders or aspiring leaders to pause and reflect or do a dipstick check, as to at what stage you / your organization is in the journey of evolution. The book helps provide insights on the fundamental question that leaders of companies ask: Are my people and organization more innovative, more impactful, and more profitable than others? What is next? Should there be a next? 

 

Quite clearly the development of people and transcending to gain purpose over "mere" excellence are doctrines the authors prescribe. One must commend the authors to have pushed the expectations on company leaders, not just to stop at excellence but to build long-lasting corporations and evolve a lasting purpose, if at all there can be one such. The reference to examples within Widia that the authors write may have limited the opportunity the book presented to expand to other company best practices. Nonetheless reflecting on own experience of the authors bring out the authentic aspect and practice of their preach. I expect that Above and Beyond is only the A & B of the series of books from the well experienced and industry respected trio.  Staying Tuned.

Anup K. Singh Ph.D.

Director General - Nirma University

 

I went through the book and found it very useful for both young and experienced managers.  The essence of the book is the softer aspect of management to make an impact on the harder aspect of the management.  Generally, managers pay greater attention to the tools and techniques of management at the cost of purpose, values and culture.  Your book reminds them that for developing organizational in long term purpose and values are more important.  The book has several illustrations and nuggets for the reader. The book is readable and the flow of thoughts is quite smooth.  I am sure that the Indian managerial community will find this book useful and benefit tremendously from it. 

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