Pris Nelson explains what we mean by leading through learning


Saving a Crisis-Ridden Company

Saving a Crisis-Ridden Company

After massive fraud was discovered there, Satyam Computer Services survived by helping its employees focus on their emotional trauma.

A senior executive of a scandal-rocked multinational computer services company broke down in tears during a session with his leadership coach, devastated that he had given more than 10 years of his life to a company whose CEO had been caught in massive fraud. With just a year to go until reaching mandatory retirement, he had invested most of his savings in the company’s stock, which was now worth next to nothing. Another of the company’s managers, 50 years old, received a call from his father urging him to leave the company before his own reputation was further tarnished. A young supervisor realized his impending wedding was at risk when it appeared he might lose his job because of the scandal. “The rug was pulled out from underneath us all,” one of the executives said. “We felt forced to heal rapidly so we could help others to heal. I broke down and wept; not once, but several times.”

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Strategy, Alignment & Leadership: Discussing Learning’s Impact

By Tim Sosbe on 09/17/2010
No matter the topic, no matter the individual drivers, it’s always energizing to sit in a room of like-minded individuals and talk about things in common. Even with desert temperatures of 106 outside, there’s a certain magic in the air when thought leaders, experts and practitioners come together to share, to learn, to advance the industry that embraces us all.
That sense of collaboration and purpose was certainly evident recently at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, AZ, when the annual CLO & Talent Management Forum was in session. Produced annually here in the United States by Richmond Events, the CLO & Talent Management Forum brought together about 150 senior learning leaders from organizations including Apple, ADP, Dow Jones, Bank of America, AARP, Hertz, Raytheon, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Coldwell Banker, Nationwide Insurance, Iron Mountain, Bristol-Myers Squibb, ManTech International and ESPN.
With topics as broad as workforce development and talent management on the table, the conference conversations were equally as diverse. In keynote presentations, breakout sessions, individual meetings and networking discussions, the attendees, speakers and suppliers share resources, suggestions and support for the full event.
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Reviving a Conscious Culture

Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen were senior learning leaders for Satyam Computer Services, a global organization that went through a $2.5 billion scandal when the chairman confessed to “cooking the books,” causing the near bankruptcy and closure of the company. They detail the lessons they learned during their 2005-2009 tenure in their book, “RIDING THE TIGER: Leading through Learning in Turbulent Times.”

Organizations are made up of both conscious and accidental cultures, and a crisis truly magnifies both, Nelson and Cohen note. The conscious culture comes from what’s written and documented. The accidental culture comes about from those accepting and performing around unwritten or unspoken behaviors and norms passed from one employee to the next, and even one generation to the next.
If the organization has planned and prepared well, Nelson and Cohen say, many programs and systems will be in place when turbulent times hit. “If not, then the road back will be tricky and filled with additional challenges because it requires shifting the organization’s culture to get it back on track. Attempting to shift from the accidental culture back to the desired conscious culture is a daunting task.”

Nelson and Cohen determined there are four steps to regain or establish a conscious culture:
Identify all of the components of the existing culture. Include the written, spoken, unspoken, and unwritten.
Facilitate what to keep, what to eliminate, and what to add. This step merges the positive accidental culture into the conscious culture and helps identify the negative accidental influences that need to go away.
Revisit your organization’s core purpose and values, and reorganize them if necessary. To get Toyota back on track, for example, Akio Toyoda realized the need to shift his purpose to “serving the greater global community” in addition to caring for his employees, the team, neighbors, and protecting the organization. When documented as part of the conscious culture of Toyota, this shift has the potential to positively change the organization forever.
Communicate and reinforce the core purpose and values. A conscious culture can drown out the accidental culture only when it is consistently communicated and reinforced.


Defining the Employee Relationship Chain

A successful employee relationship — which converts to strong retention — can be broken into three stages. The relationship begins with onboarding and evolves into alignment with the organization and recognition for his or her contributions. The final stage, which often is not achieved, is when the employee views the organization and its leaders as trusted advisers.

By Ed Cohen and Priscilla Nelson

Addressing turnover is critical. Many organizations cost-optimized without taking retention into account and they will now have to deal with the consequences of that. But it’s not too late for organizations to immediately begin taking advantage of this awareness by moving their employees up the value chain. Today’s economic marketplace has created the need to re-evaluate our past, current and future talent needs. While millions of qualified applicants are available, it goes without saying that many of them will not meet the criteria for each and every business requirement.
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Satyam crisis: Leadership lessons

9 Oct, 2010, 02.45AM IST, Moinak Mitra, Economic Times Bureau

“Do you know there was a fire drill at Satyam’s School of Leadership a few years back?” asks Ed Cohen , the dapper 51 year-old ex-chief Learning Officer of Satyam Computer Services . Of course, when the ‘fire’ broke out, Cohen was aghast to see people strolling out of the building casually.

He took it upon himself to explain to his colleagues why they should never take a crisis lightly. “When a crisis happens, you need to put a plan together for what you need to do and use the time to re-look at your core purpose and values,” says Nelson. The words turned out to be prophetic. On January 7, 2009 a multi-crore accounting scandal hit the company with promoter Ramalinga Raju admitting fraud.

After spending a year at Satyam post scandal, Cohen and his wife Priscilla Nelson begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting , who also worked at Satyam as global director of learning, quit their jobs. But the remark made by Satyam founder and chairman Ramalinga Raju in his confession — “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten” — stuck with them. No wonder then that their new book bears the title Riding The Tiger.

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Mahindra Satyam releases numbers for 2009 and 2010

Congratulations to Mahindra Satyam for being able to wade through the mess and get the numbers for 2009 and 2010 released.  This is a great step forward for a wounded company that has worked hard to rebuild itself.  We feature many of the leadership practices implemented to get Satyam through the turbulent times in Riding the Tiger: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times.

See Economic Times New video:

We are happy for their ability to pull through, and especially believe the way the people reacted, responded and courageously led through those darkest of times was inspriring.  However, we are concerned about the message delisting from the NYSE sends to investors and customers in the US in particular because such a large amount of their revenue comes from there.  What is Mahindra Satyam’s plan for the U.S. investors who are now let in limbo?

Read more at:

Wall Street Journal – FY 10 Satyam Not out of the Woods Yet

Economic Times –Mahindra Satyam Should be Higher in next 12-18 months

India’s fraud-hit Satyam posts loss but is on the mend

Business Week — Fraud-Hit Satyam Narrows Loss After Mahindra Purchase

Economic Times — Mahindra Satyam Board approves delisting from NYSE


‘Riding the Tiger: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times’ by Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen – launches on September 1st in India

Encinitas, Ca, August 30, 2010 / IndiaPRLine / — When leadership matters most, how prepared are you to influence change and guide your organization in today’s ever-changing business environment? Riding the Tiger: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times published by Cengage Learning, provides a rare opportunity to learn innovative leadership techniques and ideas for fostering change that are essential for everyone in these challenging times.

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Leading Through Turbulent Times

While working as senior talent leaders for a global organization that went through a 2.5 billion dollar scandal (not counting peripheral damages) when the Chairman confessed to “cooking the books” causing the near bankruptcy and closure of the company, we had the opportunity to observe and be a part of culture’s true influence. During turbulent times, like those we have been going through, leadership is not determined by rank but by the strength of the talent and conviction to build the relationships necessary to bring about collaboration and seek solutions. In our situation, leaders came from all areas and from all levels.

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Riding the Tiger launches in India

Riding the Tiger is about how people react, respond, and courageously lead during turbulent times.  This book gives you a specific, step-by-step approach to this organizational renewal spurred by leadership through learning.

You’ll receive fantastic insights and practical guidelines that can be implemented by leaders in any organization facing turmoil—and these days that includes most of us. The turmoil could be a result of significant change or lack of change; of rapid growth or rapid decline; of a merger, acquisition, or takeover; or of key leaders joining or leaving. It may be more extreme, resulting from a calamity such as a financial scandal or the theft of intellectual property, or an unnatural (terrorist attack) or natural (earthquake, monsoon) disaster affecting any part of the organization.

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CP Gurnani, CEO of Mahindra Satyam says, “While many continue to concentrate on what happened, how it happened, why it happened, and the sensationalism of the crisis, I am delighted that Priscilla and Ed are reaching out to the world through this medium as they present an objective view of what transpired inside the organization and how crisis engineered us even better, where we got far better prepared for the future.”

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According to Mukesh Aghi, CEO of Steria, India — “A smooth sea never makes a good sailor. Turbulence is essential to build character and strengthen resolve. Every organization and individual will have their moments of riding the tiger. Leading with a clear focus and with Integrity is essential to adequately manage these choppy times. Reading this book was enriching, educating, and entertaining.”

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INDIA PUBLISHER:  Cengage Learning

Write to Sunil Agarawal to find out where to buy the book

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September 3rd:  St. Mary’s College is sponsoring an event at the school and that evening at La Makaan

September 6:  Steria is sponsoring a Panel and Book reading at The Connaught, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

For an invitation about launch events or more information about the book please write to


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