RIDING THE TIGER: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times
By Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen
Leadership and the ability to influence change can convert turbulence into an opportunity for success. Though most leadership books are written from the viewpoint of lessons on the path to great success, Riding the Tiger provides a rare opportunity to learn from a catastrophic event that shook the foundation of a thriving global organization. This book gives you a specific, step-by-step approach to take that tiger by the tail and benefit from the challenges of leading during chaotic times. You’ll discover many innovative leadership techniques as you read the fascinating, powerful stories about people who’ve implemented these tools. These experiences and techniques are universally applicable wherever people in an organization are facing turbulence-whether caused by the global recession, rapid growth, mergers and acquisitions, internal corruption, or any other changes.
In 2009, the authors, Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen, were flourishing as senior leaders at India’s fourth largest IT services firm, Satyam Computer Services, a 53,000 person company with presence in 60 countries. It all came to a startling halt when the CEO confessed to "cooking the books" and the company became known as "India’s Enron." Based on strategies, many of which they implemented during this crisis, Riding the Tiger provides outstanding leadership techniques steering the way to organizational renewal.
- Foreword—Ann Herrmann-Nehdi
- 1. Organizational Crisis Strikes: The Legacy of the Satyam Experience
- 2. The Role of Learning during a Crisis: Developing a “Lights On” Strategy
- 3. The Role of Leadership during a Crisis: Setting Guidelines for Key Concerns
- 4. Guiding the Evolution of Your Organization’s Culture during a Crisis
- 5. Coaching for Leaders
- 6. Using Social Networking Media
- 7. Caring for the Wounded
- 8. Salvaging Customer Relationships Through Real-Time Learning
- 9. Leading Through Learning: Creating a Postcrisis Plan
- Appendix A: The Legacy of Learning at Satyam
- Appendix B: Echoes of Innocence—More Voices from Satyam
It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten.” This is how Ramalinga Raju, the founder and chairman of Satyam Computer Services, based in Hyderabad, described the widening gap between the real and artificial numbers in the company’s books when he confessed to the actions that caused Satyam’s fall from grace on January 7, 2009. Satyam, which was founded in 1987, had grown to be the fourth-largest information technology services firm in India, with more than 53,000 employees working in 60 countries around the world. But now the adjectives used to refer to this once-iconic brand, whose slogan had been “India is IT,” were tainted, disgraced, beleaguered, scandalized, fraudulent, and crisis-ridden. The huge scale and impact of Satyam’s downfall were clear in the headline of The Economist’s cover story: “India’s Enron,” and BusinessWeek featured a photo of Raju on the cover with the headline “From Icon to I Con.”
Even in the maelstrom of this scandal, however, for the vast majority of Satyam’s dedicated leaders, daily life at the firm still came first—customer retention, revenue, collections, the delivery of projects, and tending to wounded employees. Yet Satyam’s leaders, and in fact most leaders in India, had never encountered anything like this. Employee morale had plummeted to an instant all-time low, no one knew whom to trust, and feelings of betrayal had left a sour aftertaste.
But this book does not tell the story of Satyam’s downfall. It tells about what happened after Raju’s confession and how a “leading through learning” strategy was implemented to stabilize the company and help it recover and rebuild. Moreover, though the story of the crisis endured by Satyam’s leaders and employees in Hyderabad is engrossing, the leadership lessons from their experiences are just as applicable to a nonprofit advocacy organization in Baltimore, an agricultural products firm in Omaha, a sporting goods retailer in Beijing, an investment bank in Sydney, or a high-technology firm in San Jose. These lessons, in short, are universal; whenever people in an organization are facing turbulence—whether caused by external recession, internal malfeasance, or anything else—the organization’s leaders and all employees’ efforts to continue essential initiatives play a key role in resolving issues and putting the organization back on an even keel.
This book gives you a specific, step-by-step approach to this organizational renewal spurred by leadership through learning. After chapter 1 introduces you to the cast of characters and main themes, chapter 2 shows you how to use an essential tool we’ve developed based on our lessons from Satyam’s experience (and those of many other organizations we’ve assisted over the years): the “Lights On” strategy—a vital first step for a business in crisis, simply to keep the lights on and do only what’s absolutely necessary to stabilize operations and regain forward momentum. Chapters 3 and 4 offer detailed practical steps and guidelines for leading through learning in turbulent times. Then several chapters cover essential aspects of this leadership and its related functions—coaching in chapter 5, maximizing the value of social networking media in chapter 6, caring for those wounded by a crisis in chapter 7, and responding in real time in chapter 8. Finally, chapter 9 distills the specifics of the earlier chapters to enable you to create a postcrisis, longer-term plan for growth. Throughout all these chapters, you will find fascinating, pointed stories about people who’ve utilized the tools we’re describing, and wise quotations illuminating the principles underlying these techniques. Two appendixes are full of even more provocative, inspiring lessons and stories from the Satyam experience.
Take that tiger by the tail so you won’t be eaten and learn how to actually enjoy the challenge of leading your organization through learning to survive and thrive during what you may have feared were impossibly chaotic times.
Who Will This Book Benefit?
These days, turbulent times appear to be endemic to the world of business, which is why the principles delineated in this book will be useful for every leader who wants to proactively prepare for the unexpected. Though most books are written from the viewpoint of lessons learned on the path to great success, this book provides a rare opportunity to learn from a catastrophic event that shook the foundation of a thriving global organization. Because this event was so tremendously earth-shattering, we believe the lessons it has taught—the valuable insights and actionable strategies for leaders and change agents as well as professionals involved in learning, human resources, marketing, and business development—can be scaled to assist in creatively making the best of any type of change happening in an organization.
This is a valuable book for business professionals and students alike who want to learn how to reverse a reversal of fortune or to continue on the path of fortune’s fortune.