|Performance culture - a key need in Sri Lanka’s corporate sector for Peace building|
|Monday, 11 August 2008|
by: Rohantha N A Athulorale
With the recent cost increase of 43% in electricity and inflation recording a high of 28.2% in June, organizations must be lean in today’s business world. When an organization is lean, it can drive productivity and make quicker changes in a volatile market place that will result in a stronger contribution to the bottom line. This strong bottom line can lead to investments in emerging areas like the Eastern province of the country, that can lead to Peace due to livelihood development.
A good best example is Cargills PLC which has a culture that drives performance. This has led to a new business model being developed in supermarketing in the area of vegetables. Seven collection centres were set up where produce is moved directly from the producer to a Food City supermarket. This has resulted in lower costs and better value for the brand. Recently the company announced that it will begin a thrust to the Eastern Province with this same model that stemmed from its Performance Culture. The livelihood opportunities that this initiative will create will help to build the economy in the Eastern province which will help to bring Peace to its people.
The Lean Organization
When we analyze successful organizations like Dialog or Unilever which have invested in many livelihood development projects to bring prosperity and peace of mind to a set of people in Sri Lanka, we see that for an organization benefits from lean processes. This is true even of the management of a government.
A typical ‘lean process’ can help create a performance based culture within an organization due to the clear responsibilities and accountability that are necessary in a modern organization. A case in point is Brandix which has very clearly developed a lean structure. This assisted the organization to win the top exporters performance award in Sri Lanka for the year 2007 and to become the 1st large scale private sector investor in the East by establishing a Garment Factory in Polonnaruwa with an investment of Rs.400 million. Having moved near what used to be seen as a conflict zone when others were wary, Brandix should be encouraged to work further East too.
The ongoing success of corporations such as Toyota, the corporation that introduced and developed ‘Lean Manufacturing’, is largely due to establishing processes on the basis of their ability to deliver customer value and excising those that do not conform to this. Pruning down those processes will reduce costs more substantially than through direct cost cutting exercises that many companies embark upon
If we take a leading hotel like Cinnamon Grand in Sri Lanka, customer satisfaction at every stage is sought with a focused training programme called Cinnamon Magic. This has enhanced employee satisfaction and commitment, whilst making the customer experience unique. In short, “lean processes” have delivered a business culture which results in an ultimate win/win situation. Cinnamon Grand was voted as the best City hotel at this year’s Presidential awards. The company is now using profits to invest in key projects in the eastern province which will contribute towards bringing Peace to the people in that area through livelihood development.
Organizational culture has frequently been simplified and expressed as “the way we do things here”. It is more than that. It is, perhaps above all else, an expression of the values that drive activities within an organization and the norms or rules that ensure that those values are maintained in practice. The good news is that the work becomes enriched through customer centric processes leading to the performance culture becoming deep –rooted.In Sri Lanka Hayleys exemplifies this. It has invested Rs. 400 million in a project to develop agricultural products in the Eastern province with the European consumer targeted as the ultimate consumer. This endeavour is also based on the philosophy ot looking for ‘what I can do for Sri Lanka rather than what Sri Lanka can do for me’. In the process, given the win/win basis of successful business development, the ‘I’ too will benefit. So we see how a particular ethos is driving activity and in turn taking the company to a level that makes it a model for others to follow.
W. Edward Demming said “What cannot be measured cannot be managed”. In order to ensure that lean processes deliver as expected, measurement is required. Strategic objectives need to be broken down to tactical measures of performance that all involved must understand, accept and achieve. In Sri Lanka, Pizza Hut is a typical organization that monitors performance. If a Pizza is not delivered to a table within 15 minute of an order, the Pizza is given free of charge to the customer. Companies such as Hayleys and Cargills need to be pro - active and apply this same technique in their business initiatives in the Eastern Province.However, we must note that when targets are imposed people find ways and means of satisfying them on paper that may have an adverse effect on performance. If people are to take responsibility for performance at every level they must be given an opportunity, in collaboration with the management to set their own targets based on the strategic demands of the organization.
Research has revealed time and time again that when people are given an opportunity of setting their own objectives the role of management becomes more a task of injecting ‘reality’ than having to encourage them to achieve more. Involvement increases commitment, efficiency and morale. Experiences in both companies and government departments have shown that everyone helps to solve problems. With regard to the Eastern Province, what this suggests is that, the more consultation there is of the people therein, of those who must carry out the strategies that will contribute to their well being, the better the chances of success,
No rose garden
Nobody should assume that identifying and developing a true performance culture is easy. There may be significant existing cultural barriers to be overcome. Especially in government departments in particular the view that “the way we have always done things must be right” can be entrenched. The good news is, experience shows that once people in an organization begin to enjoy the benefits of “working lean” new attitudes become ingrained and unshakable in an amazingly short time.It is not only in the public sector that resistance to any thing different can be seen but also in the private sector.
But my experience as Chairman of an apex export institution in the public sector was, if the leadership is seen as credible and financially disciplined, change can be effected with least resistance. If this is achieved in the private sector it will lead to stronger profits whilst in the government sector it will result in higher productivity and stronger economic growth.An effective leadership is a pre-requisite for success. Unless top management is prepared to lead by example, addressing where necessary existing leadership problems, there is limited scope for even the most committed employees to achieve. Lee Kuan Yew is the best example of a visionary leader driving a country to achieve heights by addressing the key issues of the corporate sector.We in Sri Lanka have many examples of entrepreneurs in the Small and Medium enterprises who have demonstrated leadership qualities. They have transformed their companies and built a culture that inspires people to attain higher goals – Siddhalepa, Kandygs Handlooms, Odel, House of Fashions are such to name a few.
Leaders must have the courage to identify and resolve deep-seated organizational problems. It is not a quick fix. It is a strategic and tactical tool that must be applied consistently through out the organization. This is more relevant today, given that Peace building is a task for everybody and the corporate sector must play a leading role in it.
(Courtesy : SCOPP )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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