ET, November, 2008
I could be bound in a nutshell & count myself a king of infinite space.
– Shakespeare, Hamlet
Where else could we get learnings on Globalisation, or should I say Universalisation, than the example of the Universe itself. Starting from The Big Bang & expanding to its current state ….. & still expanding !! The origin was a very high concentration of mass & energy hugely compacted into a small space, probably smaller than an SME. Was it this energy of God, The Leader, that was The Driving Force, Passion & Desire which drove Him to create history ? While it got Him to create The Big Bang & to lead the Universe to where it is, He used Good Orderly Discipline (Operating Principles) to guide the progress over time & space.
Lessons then, are many. The starting point of the journey has to be a Deep Passion, A Strong Desire to take on the challenge of expansion or, depending on the scale, Globalisation; only the variables & complexity increase. No matter what the current size of the organisation, a huge accumulation of energy is a must to be able to start on the path. It is essential that a Leader has the Drive & the Vision which leads & guides the organisation towards the future. We have examples like Ranbaxy, Dr,Reddy’s to name a few, though not SME’s now, but demonstrating the impact of such energy. In the absence of this, the initial energy can burn out. The initial energy has to last & last to ensure that the organisation has enough fuel at all times ….. The Entrepreneurial Drive.
While the Good Lord was probably ‘born’ with all Leadership skills, these can be surely developed in lesser mortals like us, to be able to leave the same kind of blazing trail. There are enough lessons from the expanding universe & the field of business too to learn from.
While the Universe continues to expand, it remains one unified whole. This ‘oneness’ ensures that there is a ‘commonality’ of character in all its components. The purpose, mission, values of an organisation also need to have a shared acceptance. The same energy flowing through all the divisions and subsidiaries. The Leader has to ensure that all elements of the organisation are bonded together by a common energy, the gravitational pull which keeps the Universe as One. We don’t have a ‘breakaway’ component of the Universe deciding to go its own way, creating its own ‘New World’. The common nature of things, the characteristics & the gravitational attraction ensure that different parts operate in a huge cosmic show. . Leaders in this show, need to demonstrate Inner Strength & Maturity & hence Transcend themselves. Tatas have demonstrated this again and again over their long history. In the recent past, companies like Microsoft, Google have given ample illustration of how organisations can leap into globalisation successfully and over relatively short periods. Scale does not matter then. In the absence of this bonding and shared purpose & values, the different parts of an organisation will never be able to work as one organisation. The implications of this are many. The case for a shared, all pervasive energy in the organisation is so strong, that even at the cosmic level, scientists once believed in the presence of an all pervasive ether to carry electromagnetic radiation.
Another interesting lesson is, that the way the Universe is expanding, even though at tremendous speed, it actually moves out stage by stage. We have yet to learn of a part of the Universe jumping out ahead, beyond the edge of the Universe, into ‘darker spaces’ leaving the rest of the Universe behind to catch up. Really speaking, the principles of adjacency, related expansion, laying a foundation & then moving on further are relevant when globalising. At each stage, knowledge of the market & having a global mindset are key. The Leader has to do a risk-return assessment while taking these calls. Lakshmi Mittal’s expansion, while balancing & weighing these factors, is a classical example. Moving to adjacent domains, whether in terms of geographies or choosing which products to move with or with how much adaptation, all should be governed by the principles of adjacency, related & synergistic expansion. These principles come into play while making decisions on market entry through acquisitions, alliances or the greenfield route. It definitely is more effective & efficient. Resources are always limited & a good judgement, in economic terms, is to allocate limited resources among unlimited demands. The Strategic Choices are then based on a risk-return estimation. Needless to say, the principle of adjacency allows an efficient, effective, productive & low cost option. The more distant the next phase, the more energy & resources it will take. A question that needs to be answered is how much gain & at how much cost ? The net has to be positive. The Universe, with all its so called Unlimited Resources, still decides to expand out in adjacent, next outer domain !!
At each stage of expansion, The Leader has to be conscious of Adapting the organisation & its constituents to be ready to embrace the next phase, leading to a one whole again. There will be differences still, like different particles vibrating at different frequencies. With the global scale of operations, different particles, the subsidiaries may not vibrate at exactly the same frequency due to local situations. However, it is important to match & adjust frequencies to allow resonance to occur. Reading the pulse of the market & recalibrating are needed at all times. Skills at managing local teams across a global canvas are to be developed. Local leaders may have to be developed at various locations. While the subsidiaries should vibrate in total resonance within themselves, to have a high level of operational efficiency with least wastage of energy & resources, there has to be an all pervasive wave engulfing all the subsidiaries, which has a uniform frequency. This is where the wave particle duality comes into play. If there is no wave engulfing all subsidiaries with a common frequency, they will move away like separate entities, the corporation becoming an agglomeration of particles doing their own dance, the only reason for staying together being like that of a portfolio of Mutual Funds, being managed for balancing financial returns. The organisational fabric withers away. The common purpose gets lost. This wave engulfing all subsidiaries with the same frequency is open, candid & continuous communication, leading to alignment of goals, cultivation of trust & clarity of team objectives while maximising benefits of requisite grouping of differentiated knowledge, competence & skills. Group meetings, regular communication, collaborative efforts play an important role. Organisations get leaders from across the world to meet in offsite resorts, sometimes by rotation across subsidiaries to build this common bond. Familiarity builds, understanding & empathy increases. In the absence of such a unification, a higher level of entropy in the system can lead to chaos at the micro level, with the macro organisation losing its appearance and character. No wonder one finds companies like Infosys, TCS, GE having a certain character, wherever they operate across the world. This wave engulfing the entire organisation helps to preserve the organisational DNA. At a subatomic level, the nucleus has a mass lesser than the sum of the particles that are bound together. This mass is converted into the energy that bonds the subatomic particles together & this is the energy that is unleashed in the explosion of a nuclear device. Not only internally, an energy exchange with the ecosystem external to the organisation brings in the many benefits of networking.
To make it all happen The Leader has to ensure Empowerment, Accountability & Execution Excellence. There have to be certain immutable, unquestionable principles & norms of operation of the organisation in place. Systems & processes have to be designed accordingly. These ensure that there is disciplined approach & thinking across the organisation, while different parts operate smoothly, with the required autonomy & in line with organisational objectives. Measures and Rewards should be designed to encourage desired behaviour of collaboration & knowledge sharing. Light has the same speed for all freely moving observers. The laws of nature appear the same for all freely moving observers. Only relative motion, which implies adjustments & adaptation due to local variances remain important.
While the Universe is many many years old, light from our distant past is still reaching us. We need to tune into the right frequency to catch the microwave radiation just reaching us from those days. The spectrum of that radiation shows the characterstics of our heritage. So also, after the SME has treaded on the path of globalisation, values, DNA, culture, character & purpose should be passed on through folklore, anecdotes & documented learnings, to keep that energy of initial The Big Bang alive leading to Infectious Enthusiasm over the space-time continuum!!
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