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Leading Infosys into the future

June 1, 2013
Narayana Murthy, Chairman, Infosys, at the Hor...

Narayana Murthy, Founder, Infosys

Narayana Murthy returns to Infosys. Narayana Murthy’s return hailed by leaders of the IT industry.

In creating the powerhouse that became Infosys, Mr. Murthy demonstrated an ability to recognize what the market needed and put together a strategy that leveraged those conditions. He has to do the same thing today, in a very different scenario. 1. The world economy and the IT industry are not the same. 2. Infosys is not a startup but a behemoth trapped by its own character& design (much like IBM in the 90s)

As he steps into this role, the first bit of advice Narayana Murthy can heed is from Albert Einstein who said “You cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it”. And indeed that is what he needs to achieve: Help Infosys develop a new mindset about doing business.

The critical change required at Infy is new thinking: diversity of thought and leadership, risk taking and experimentation. And these need to begin at the top. Let’s take a look at the composition of the executive leadership team. For a global organization, you have one non-Indian leader. A pre-dominance of South Indians on the executive committee. And 1 woman. While it may not be conscious, there is certainly an unconscious selection going on here. Which could indicate the lack of a conscious focus on what will the future look like and hence, what leadership qualities and mix do we require?

When he speaks on Strategy, Prof. Ranjan Das of IIM-Calcutta, speaks more about Talent than about strategy. He asserts that strategy is an outcome of the quality of leaders who devise it. And he encourages organizations to map their leaders’ achievements and strategic ability against the best in class. Your marketing strategy will only be as brilliant as your Chief Marketing Officer, he says.

The best service that Mr. Murthy can provide for Infy is to re-staff the leadership team that runs the organizationand he must do this within 18 months. Bringing in outsiders is fraught with risk; there is enough research that indicates how often this fails. However, I believe that Infosys already has many diamonds in the rough, who are not noticed because they don’t “fit the mould”. This outdated and now irrelevant mould must now be discarded and a new one reconstituted.

Finding radical thinkers, explorers, pioneers, experimenters is critical. Giving a voice to the larger organization via processes like

English: Wordmark of Infosys

English: Wordmark of Infosys (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vision Communities will help throw up strategic/business ideas and pinpoint fresh thinkers from within the organization. Developing a more dynamic and inclusive leadership concept for the future, will ensure this is not repeated. Leading a redesigned talent assessment and identification process, rapidly bringing younger leaders up the ranks and restaffing the leadership team and board are the need of the hour.

All strategic thinking is an outcome of the quality of the thinkers, their alignment with each other, driven by a common purpose and objective. As soon as you ensure the right set of drivers on the bus, the direction (aka strategy) will begin to fall into place.

And in doing this, Mr. Murthy will need to get his hands dirty. A consultative approach will not work. Being nice will not work. He will need to place the greater good above individuals. And he will need to respect the needs of the future to pick a leader who will renew Infy and lead it into the next orbit. He can be aided and supported on this journey if the current leadership team realizes this and with humility seeks to support him in making this happen, even if it means a significant change for themselves.

Will he, or won’t he? Will they or won’t they? Time will tell. And in these times, rather quickly.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2013 7:22 pm

    Few thoughts – some gleaned from conversations with Infy employees (as am a recruiter) and some personal :
    1. The fact that he needs to come back indicates a lack of leadership within the institution in which the board can have faith in
    2. Therefore one of the most important things that Mr Murthy needs to do is to create a strong leadership pipeline and succession planning
    3. The landscape for the IT industry has changed dramatically over the last few years and the sales and the delivery processes needs to be reviewed. I guess Infy and the others have been facing a dramatic challenge from the others within the domain which they have not been able to overcome
    4. Strategies for domains / markets entered need to be reworked. While organizations like TCS have won major deals in the domestic market, Infy has not been able to keep pace on that front
    5. Am sure Mr Murthy knows all of this and much more. But it is interesting to see what strategies he will adopt in the coming future

  2. June 2, 2013 10:12 am

    Here are some more thoughts to chew on.

  3. Gayatri permalink
    June 1, 2013 8:10 pm

    The true test will be he demonstrating his determination and, his team building skills……but your thoughts are very well conveyed. Enjoyed the read.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      June 1, 2013 8:14 pm

      Determination he has, but this will be a different order of determination. He might need to cut of pieces of the business he built. Take tough stances with people who helped craft the organization by his side. And he will succeed faster and more effectively if the leadership team stands by him and supports him. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  4. June 1, 2013 4:37 pm

    Well articulated. Structured and your passion for people at the center of change shows.

    Several of the thoughts you mention are so vital. How do you re-engineering isnt more of the same! Especially in this context.

    Here is an ‘Insiders’ view

    Knowing a few folks from there, empowering the front end is crucial and building an entrepreneurial culture is a long road. Having said that, I wonder in the quarter to quarter existence of today, if people will have the patience for 18 months! Hope they do!

    I guess some level of confidence infusing for the Infy team is a crucial. While his return would do some, much more concrete stuff must happen for the crew to see the ship turning.
    New energy will sprout from thereon.

    Many measures both from within ( talent / people building etc ) and outside (new business etc ) will have to be woven in to create momentum.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Joy. It got me thinking!

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      June 1, 2013 5:36 pm

      He needs a quarter by quarter plan. If in the first 90 days, he can articulate a roadmap for change and make a tangible decision on at least one of the areas, he will have demonstrated a firm commitment to drive change.

      Secondly, he cannot do this alone. If the Infy leadership team isn’t willing to see the big picture and if some people do not put the greater good above themselves, then it is a long road indeed and fraught with risk.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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