The big talk in these last 10 days has been restructuring. That’s been big news; beginning with the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and what started out as spot fixing has come to restructuring the BCCI board itself–Srinivasan moved out and Dalmiya coming back in. One doesn’t know how that is going to play out, we’ll have to wait and watch.
The other news in terms of restructuring is Infosys bringing back Mr. Narayana Murthy as Executive Chairman of Infosys. That has raised a lot of eyebrows; there’s been a lot written in the press and speculation as to whether it’s a good or bad move. Only time will tell! Yet, what Narayana Murthy has done is not something new. Many CEO’s/founders have returned to the organizations that they founded and have done turnarounds in the time that they have come back. Steve Jobs was the most famous of them all, taking over from from John Scully and turned Apple around. Howard Schultz did the same after an 8-year break from Starbucks, a company that he had founded. He came back and has taken it globally. Michael Dell came back again as CEO of Dell, a company that he started when he was 19 years old. I believe the jury is still out with him – a whole lot of other issues coming up and other companies like Acer and Asus giving them a run for their money. Then of course, Eric Schmidt was ousted by Larry Page, who came back to Google and now recently, Bob McDonald was asked to give way to A.G. Lafley at Proctor and Gamble.
So Narayana Murthy’s coming back seems to be something that has happened a few times over the last 15-20 years where CEO’s who have been very successful in building up the company have been asked to come back when their company has started to flag a little. But even as you read all the stuff that has been going on about Infosys, you begin to realize that there is so much more that really needs to be looked at before arriving at an opinion. Just reading about things in the press, doesn’t give you the full picture and it would be very premature to try and give an opinion on Narayana Murthy’s comeback to Infosys without a whole lot of other facts.
I was reading an article by Mitu Jayshankar. She says, “Two things really come to the fore in respect to Infosys. One of them is – What happened to their succession plans? What happened to all the plans that they had put into place that now needed to be shelved? And if they are going to be shelved, does it make those succession plans redundant?” I think those are good questions to ask because one of the keys in looking ahead and being futuristic is to be able to make sure that you have a succession plan in place. Yet, when you take a retro step like bringing back a former CEO, then somehow it seems to relay that the plans are not working out. So that’s a big question mark on people like Shibulal and what would happen to people like Kris Gopalakrishnan and others who are up there in terms of leadership.”
But the other question that Jayshankar asks is about the integrity and credibility issues that have come up. How do you look at the son coming on as Executive Assistant to Narayana Murthy? And while Murthy has been very careful to make sure that he is not coming on as an employee and he is not going to be the future CEO, etc, etc, there are still questions being asked.
But I thought, look at what he is trying to do: he is trying to bring in the young brains and talent of a 30-year old; yet one who is well-qualified and equipped to be able to speak from his world view (a younger world view) and couple it with the experience that he, Narayana Murthy has had over the years. Now, I think that’s a wonderful duality to have. That’s the kind of package that one needs to have today because the world is changing so rapidly. There’s so much that is happening, new innovations keep coming and while there is great scope for experience, it must be said that it is the younger generation that brings the cutting edge. Remember that Narayana Murthy was 31 when he started Infosys and Rohan is now 30. It seems that it is that 30-year gap that he is trying to bridge. It somehow raises questions as to whether succession plans that don’t include a good bridge of this 30-35 year old gap, are good succession plans.
I was listening to CNBC’s “Talking Numbers” hosted by Yahoo Finance and the anchor Brian asked the question, “Where are all the young CEOs? Is there anybody who is under 60 who is able to run a company these days?” As he said that, I thought that there is so much room for young people to be able to come up, who are able to look at the things that are happening, who are adequately trained, who have the credentials of academia behind them, and then to be able to step in and take experience along with it and form a powerful tool to lead a company forward. That, in essence, is what Narayana Murthy has put together. I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of succession plans and him bringing his son in, but I think that it is the ideal combination in today’s world.
Michael Dell is in India and today’s Times of India had an interview with him where he makes an interesting point. He says, “Founders have a kind of special permission to make changes in their firms.” I thought that we should just take this beyond the companies that we work with and take it to ourselves. In our own lives, we all are founders in one way or the other. We are all making something of our lives. I wonder as we look at our lives, as we look at the 20-40-60 years that we’ve been on this earth, do we say, “I need to look back and restructure some of the things. I don’t think some things are working out as well. I don’t think some of the plans that I put in place are really working out. Maybe I need to make some changes.”
That’s what I want to inspire you with this morning. Look at your own lives. Look at my life, your life and say, “Is it going according to plan? Are there things that I need to change? As a founder, do I need to go back in there and say that there needs to be some change?” We all have the prerogative to do that in our lives.
I’m reminded of a scripture that says, “God is the potter, we are the clay.” He’s molding us. Maybe today we need to find out whether we need to be remolded in some way. We need to ask Him whether there are things that need to be broken down and remolded. I’m sure that the Great Potter who’s fashioning the clay of your life and mine, will be more than willing to show us the things that need to go back on the wheel and be remolded.
That’s my thought for you. Beyond all the restructuring that’s happening in the BCCI and Infosys, let’s just ask the question, “What needs to be restructured in our own lives?” and then let’s have the courage to do so under the guidance of the Master Potter.