The Era of Hyperspecialization – What got us here won’t get us there

The Indian IT-BPO industry has scaled great heights in the past two decades- grown 20 times in revenues, contributing upto 7.5% of India’s GDP, and offering direct and indirect employment to over 11 million people. However, the next decade is expected to present even tougher challenges, and the industry is today experiencing an era of hyper specialization- which will require not companies as well as business leaders to reinvent. The industry markets, services and delivery models will be significantly different from what it has been in the past demanding a different form of leadership too, and which is where Marshall Goldsmith and his revolutionary thinking on how to change for the future comes in.

Marshall Goldsmith was recently recognized as the #1 leadership thinker in the world and the #7 business thinker in the world at the bi-annual Thinkers 50 ceremony sponsored by the Harvard Business Review. He is the million-selling author or editor of 31 books, His books have been translated into 28 languages and become bestsellers in eight countries.

At the NASSCOM NILF 2012, Marshall enthralled the crowd with his though provoking take on enforcing change management – what ails successful companies, and what they need to do to break the mould. We think we are special, having moved up dramatically – unstoppable, and going places. And maybe we are right; maybe we are special, our past achievements provide ample demonstration to the fact. But the specialness that has brought us so much success up until now may have blinded us to the things which maybe we are not good at, or has prevented us from trying new things. We have achieved success, but to keep moving up here is we need to address challenges that we do not believe that they exist, but they do.

In an excellent session hosted by Saurabh Srivastave, CA Technologies, Marshall said that successful companies and business leaders face two major yet unseen challenges:

  • Wanting to win too much
  • Adding too much value

According to Marshall, almost 65% of our interpersonal communication time is spend on discussing how special the person is, or how stupid/bad someone else is- and it is this right to pass judgment on others, to be negative , coupled with an uncontrollable need to win that prevents us from going to the next level.

Effectiveness of execution is a function of the quality of the idea multiplied by the executor’s commitment to make it work. Smart people though meaning well can get so wrapped up trying to improving quality a little that they may damage commitment a lot.

And what will be an effective solution to counter the intrinsic challenges we are facing- identify first the behavorial changes that will make the biggest positive difference, and why it will make a positive difference, and the understanding that we cannot change everything, but we can definitely change something.

Mr. Goldsmith suggested the feed forward technique which encompasses the following steps-

  • Letting go of the past
  • Listening to suggestions without judging
  • Learning as much as you can
  • Helping as much as you can
  • Learning points to help you be a great coach

He suggests that leaders should not aim to be managers, rather they should try to be coaches. They should learn to let go of past experiences and only consider current situation, listen to suggestions without judging, always be ready to lend a helping hand and keep a learning mindset not only to increase your own knowledge but also help in becoming a better coach.

Further, developing yourself as a leader will need the following-

  • Ask
  • Listen
  • Think
  • Thank
  • Respond
  • Involve
  • Change
  • Follow up

We will need to learn to elicit feedback, apologize for our mistakes, thank people who made a difference, commit to being better, and continually follow up, establish a feedback mechanism to check our own progress- it is then only that we can grow in new markets, and win new customers.

As the industry embarks upon an ambitious vision to treble its revenues in the next decade, it is pertinent that we have leaders that are willing to break out of the mould, admit weaknesses, be open to change and thus become change agents themselves which will drive organization wide focus towards hyper specialization.

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