Monday, 18 February 2013

The Roy effect

I have been with ThoughtWorks for a little over 2 years and in the many conversations and introspections surrounding the "secret ingredient" of ThoughtWorks, we have concluded that it has been the people who work at ThoughtWorks that have been the driving force. This obviously is true (why would I disagree with this appreciation which also includes me) and the pain and sacrifices that we make in hiring the "right" folks and the efforts we put in to give our best to our customers has played a very important role in making ThoughtWorks what it is. However, there is another element in the mix that deserves a lot of credit for making ThoughtWorks a truly unique organization, an organization that we all are proud to be part of, and that is our founder and chairman Roy Singham. 
Roy Singham

It is again obvious that he in his role as founder and chairman has been instrumental in shaping this organization but I truly appreciated his contributions when I reflected back on what he shared during his recent visit to the Gurgaon office. Mind you, I am not a person who gets swayed very easily and the thoughts that follow have accumulated over the last couple of years hearing and observing Roy.

Roy's ability to articulate his thoughts and beliefs and his passion and energy are enough to stir the human inside you. It's quite difficult to walk out from one of his sessions and not question your own thoughts and beliefs (some of which you may have nurtured for many years).
Roy has always been very passionate and vocal about our contributions to the underprivileged across the globe and has been actively involved in helping out on issues ranging from women and children health in the African subcontinent to the systematic oppression from the power hungry politicians and capitalists across the globe. 

Most of us within ThoughtWorks have heard him on these issues, the interesting part for me is that I have recently realized the vision that he brings to the business and operations of ThoughtWorks. To share a few examples, during his talk where he also shared the roadmap for the coming year he talked about the following:

  • Diversify - Diversifying the business (geographically) is by no means a radical thought but one that has been around for a long time and practiced by many organizations. However, in the context of ThoughtWorks and how we hire and engage with our customers (a separate subject on its own) it takes courage to diversify into new territories especially if the new locations are in underdeveloped/developing nations of Africa, Asia and South America.
  • Write-offs are not bad - Majority of businesses would target zero write-offs, its natural to expect payment for your services and avoid any form of losses like the plague. As an organization we strive to deliver our best and fulfill our commitments to our customers but we also want to make sure that every once in a while we make a bet on a customer who has an ambitious idea and help it take shape. Its a bet that we need to take and till the time we are able to control our losses we would have gained a lesson that success can never impart.
  • Tackle incompetence not the ability to generate numbers - Businesses are run and measured on the Monthly/quarterly/annual revenues and profits they are able to generate. We at ThoughtWorks also care about how we are performing and whether we are running a healthy and sustainable business, but do we only need numbers to measure that? If we hire the right people and are able to motivate and engage them then numbers tend to loose their significance.

Roy Singham

The examples that I shared above are just a few of many that underline Roy's role in making ThoughtWorks what it is. Also, I do realize that most of these points are debatable and we can't be sure of their long-term effectiveness, but what I do realize is that I feel privileged to have been a part of this journey, whatever the end result.

Now, considering that ThoughtWorks aims to be a 100 year organization the one part that does bother me a bit and was the original motivation about writing this piece, is the future. Do we have someone who can uphold the same principles and bring a similar vision, passion, energy and clarity of thought?

1 comment:

  1. Good article, Jagbir. Its a question that most organizations have to find answers to, especially the ones that are heavily guided by the force and vision of an individual or a group of them. Their intent of creating an impact is the vision itself, which may manifest into multiple operational nuances. One of the underlying core part is that of leaving behind a legacy.
    Building on that legacy is a responsibility, not another role - someone stepping into that space needs to be conscious of that aspect. Its beyond a specific role...someone will come along, at the right time, right place.. have faith.