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BW Businessworld

Buzzing Back Into Business

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In a world where book shelf browsing has become an intimidating act with words like ‘crisis’, ‘debacle’, ‘slowdown’  staring one in the face, John Kotter’s Accelerate is like a breath of fresh air. He draws upon his experience with multiple companies and shows how organisational hierarchies stifle the speed at which companies can harness growth opportunities. This has very high relevance to what we have observed in India as well. 

A large FMCG player started taking active interest in a large opportunity in the area of mid-priced household detergent once a small organisation redefined the rules of the game and created a market that did not exist. E-commerce in India is another great example. Although it is a fledgling industry at about $3 billion, unlike a China which is at $300 billion, the opportunity for future growth is immense. This industry was again created by small establishments with a passion for purpose versus large established players. This is the conflict that Kotter alludes to and espouses a concept of organisational hierarchies and organisational networks working in tandem to drive long-term, sustainable growth.

At this stage, I found myself asking the obvious question: Most organisations have networks of people working together in cross-functional teams, so what is new? As one reads further, one starts de-coding a lot better. Most network teams within the corporate structure are controlled by hierarchy and do not necessarily operate in tandem and hence are able to provide only short-term solutions. The author makes a compelling case for a symbiotic relationship between the networks and the existing structure as  only then they can play on each other’s strengths.
Debabrata Mukherjee
It is easier espoused than implemented. Several organisations, in India and beyond, have started off on this journey only to struggle as the rules of engagement were unclear. The author tries to provide a solution by laying out the eight accelerators which will help the dual operating system become effective.

If one digs deeper, one realises this has a lot to do with the leadership of the organisation that needs to be able to see the forest without losing sight of the trees. I once worked with a sales director who was a brilliant tactician was on top of his daily sales numbers and knew district-wise what was going on. However, he did not create a long-term sustainable set of “route to market” processes and the wheels came off quicker than he anticipated. A network team, working in tandem, would have been of tremendous help in providing him support to create a long-term strategic road map. I like the way the author has created a distinction between management and leadership. I have always maintained that all managers are not necessarily good leaders and the ability to inspire a team towards harnessing a big opportunity by removing the barriers and leading change is the true hallmark of a leader. This is reinforced by the author who provides multiple exa-
mples of how good leaders are able to organise the team to rally around and harness a big opportunity.

Kotter knows that managing the ecosystem of hierarchy and network is not an easy task and hence has allocated a section to Q&As. However, the book does raise more questions than it answers and is significantly thought-provoking. The fact that it is a pithy read and not a winding one allows it to maintain the momentum and keep the reader engaged. Whether the momentum will translate into acceleration via the convergence of a traditional and a new structure, only time and willingness to change shall tell.

The reviewer is VP, marketing & commercial, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 11-08-2014)