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


This just in from a reader of Riding The Tiger

I received your book on Friday and have read it twice!  I will be reading it many times more, it’s like a new bible of usefulness in the work that I do.

As to page six, paragraph two “Somehow, something good must come from this catastrophe.” – Something phenomenally important and inspiring has indeed come from an event that I almost wish to have been part of.  Many congratulations to you both, I know too many people who very quickly wish to distance themselves from disaster, however, you have courageously ensured that all the good lessons and experiences are captured here for all time and in a most constructive and humanistic fashion. Genius!

I could almost write a whole book of praise after two reads!

I do hope that the “leaders” of the financial crises buy your book and learn from it.  Some day, when I put together my own book of life experiences in helping people to deliver sustainable change, I’d be grateful for your counsel. Many things in your book clearly articulated thing that I already knew but did not consider so deeply until now.

My very best wishes and look forward to reading of your next adventures.


Diane McWade
Evolution Network Limited


BP and Toyota, Rebuilding their Reputations

Rebuilding a reputation is a challenging task. If a company has had a good reputation going into a crisis then consumers are more willing to forgive, if not, the payment is dear. Building a conscious culture has been cited as an excellent example of how organizations thrive in good times and survive in bad times.

Looking at BP’s culture, how will they overcome the shame that their employees are now carrying with them? Taking measured steps to communicate with employees, to let them know everything about what is known and unknown is the first step. Beyond that, BP needs to invite their people to be a part of the solution (which is much more than capping the well in the gulf). BP could reap the benefits of maximizing the contributions of their dedicated workforce. If BP takes the right steps to reduce the fears of their people and to engage them in the process of revisiting their culture from the inside-out, then they will reap the benefits of having more than 100,000 brand ambassadors. Their employees and their culture could actually grow stronger as a result of this catastrophe. From their conscious culture, an aware, mobilized workforce could become a part of the story of BP’s turnaround. BP leaders need to “care for the wounded” and that includes their employees. Remember healing always starts from within. These lessons don’t have to be learned in crisis. Organizations can create and sustain a conscious culture that welcomes the positive accidental influences and eliminates the negative.

In contrast, Toyota, in its Lexus model, had to issue a major recall when it introduced the Lexus saloon in the US market. It was expected that their brand would take an enormous hit, yet the efficient manner to recall actually reassured customers, built confidence, and bolstered brand loyalty. Transparency is key here. Organizations that take responsibility and act swiftly and decisively are able to rebuild their reputations faster. While Toyota’s stock plunged, it is again on the rise.


Truth and Lies

Alas, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between truth and lies.

Published in MSNBC on May 17, 2010

In 2005, Ed Cohen left his job at Booz Allen Hamilton. His wife, Priscilla, left her consulting practice to take jobs in India with Satyam Computer Services, a top global IT outsourcing company.

Satyam’s Chairman and founder, Ramalinga Raju, “was the most generous person we had ever encountered,” said Cohen. “He would speak of ethics and integrity at every leadership training meeting.”

It turned out, Raju was actually cooking the company’s books. He was arrested in 2009.

“At the time the allegations came up, I thought it was a joke,” Cohen said.

Cohen, who was the chief learning officer responsible for talent management of Satyam’s 53,000 global workers at the time, said many of the employees, including himself, seemed to go through the stages of grief that people coping with death often face — betrayal, anger, depression, and eventually, acceptance.

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Tough Times Can Teach

By Adelia Cellini Linecker
Posted 06/02/2010 04:53 PM ET on 

It’s hard to see smooth sailing when you’re in the storm of a crisis. But there’s much to learn from riding the waves.

“Learning can be the very thing that stabilizes and carries a company through troubled times,” said Priscilla Nelson, co-author of “Riding the Tiger: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times.”

A crisis doesn’t have to be of epic proportions to fuel learning.

“It could be about acquiring another company or losing a key player,” Nelson told IBD.

• Reset priorities. When a crisis hits, it forces you to think about what your company must do to survive and thrive. The leaders should focus on: What must we start doing? What must we stop doing?

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From the Foreword by Ann Herrmann Nedhi

As a business leader and learning professional, my eye is always geared toward exploring insights into learning cultures and models. During my visit to India in 2008, I was the keynote speaker for the Indian Society for Training & Development’s annual conference, which was hosted by Satyam. I was immediately struck by the power of Satyam’s image and infrastructure. The support provided for the conference in the sparkling, high-technology facility in Hyderabad was impressive. Even more affecting was the learning culture that had been created by Ed Cohen and Priscilla Nelson. A few days later, I facilitated an offsite seminar for Satyam professionals on how they could use a “whole brain” approach in designing their teaching and learning. I had the unique opportunity to discover Satyam via this vibrant, growing team of professionals, who demonstrated such passion and dedication to their mission that, at first, I was a bit suspicious. As my time with them unfolded, however, I felt the power of an organizational culture that was designed on the basis of learning and growth—in contrast to so many, who treat learning as a separate function or an add-on. The leadership approach that Ed and Priscilla delineated at this seminar has as one of its core principles the recognition that a learning organization is engendered from within each employee and the infrastructure that is made available to them.

“I read it. I lived it, and I recommend it. Ed and Priscilla have carefully and eloquently captured the essence of the betrayal of a Leader (Ramalinga Raju) to those who not only respected him personally but admired his professional leadership vision.

This book highlights for the reader those attributes and characteristics of “true” leaders – who benefitted from Raju’s vision of “everyone is a leader” and the Satyam School of Leadership’s meteoric rise in recognition (Ed Cohen’s drive) that transcended the misplaced trust and actually provided the corner stone of a firms unparalleled successful survival. ” Hetzel Folden, CSC


The Rise of the Satyam Phoenix

When Ramailnga Raju confessed to cooking the books sending Satyam into a downward spiral many people thought the company would cease to exist.  The passion of the leaders who applied the leading through learning strategy sustained the organization until April 2009, when Tech Mahindra checked in. Since acquiring Mahindra Satyam, much has happened to put the company back on the path to success.  We are thrilled to see the organization rebounding under the leadership of Mahindra and Mahindra.  Keep up with what’s happening at:


Guiding the Evolution of Your Organization’s Culture


Throughout an organization’s life, additional norms, behaviors, and practices creep in. This reality is even more pronounced during turbulent times. Positive behaviors may include greater pride, fierce loyalty to the organization, a stronger work ethic, broader collaboration, and boosted collegiality. Negative behaviors may include fear, distrust, and anger that results in hoarding of information and unhealthy internal competition. Together, both positive and negative behaviors change the organizational culture.


Charles Hill and Gareth Jones (2001, 396) define organizational culture as the “beliefs and ideas about what kinds of goals members of an organization should pursue and ideas about the appropriate kinds or standards of behavior organizational members should use to achieve these goals. From organizational values develop organizational norms, guidelines, or expectations that prescribe appropriate kinds of behavior by employees in particular situations and control the behavior of organizational members towards one another.” Unfortunately, countless leaders do not recognize the influence that organizational culture has on the past, present, and future accomplishments of their enterprise. Even more important is their lack of understanding about how they influence the culture.

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Learning Strategies for a Turbulent Time

Published in CLO Magazine – Jan, 2010

At the end of 2008, Satyam was India’s fourth-largest IT services firm, with 53,000 employees based in 60 countries around the world. The rapidly growing company had doubled in size in 2007 and was on target to double again by 2010. That is, until Jan. 7, 2009, when Satyam founder and chairman Ramalinga Raju disclosed some of his alleged fraud, forgery, cheating, embezzlement and insider trading actions that would cause Satyam’s fall from grace. There was Raju on the right side of the television screen, along with the graphic image of the company’s stock plummeting on the left.

When referring to the widening gap between the real and artificial numbers in the company books, Raju described his situation like this: “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten.”

For the leaders of Satyam Learning World, obviously this accounting scandal presented a major challenge. Immediately following the announcement, the entire learning group from across the organization, almost 400 strong, convened for a virtual meeting. During that first meeting, we identified what we knew and requested all our learning professionals to demonstrate strength and solidarity for the company. And so began the journey toward a new learning strategy.

We chose to start with a few deep cleansing breaths. Exhale negativity. Inhale positivity. Try it now: first exhale and let a negative thought go with it. Now inhale, breathing in pure, fresh, positive air.

Act One: Now What?

Scene 1: Hold Everything
Except for compensation of associates, we would now move from a generous learning investment of 9.5 percent of payroll to a near zero. Pens, notebooks, bottles of water — all became luxury items. We put an immediate halt to all learning programs.

Scene 2: Everyone Needs to Be a Brand Ambassador
All our learning professionals took on an additional role, brand ambassador. Satyam’s internal and external brand was severely damaged. We taught our learning professionals how to interact with the media, how to respond to internal queries and, most important of all, how to remain calm in the face of extreme crisis and uncertainty.

Scene 3: “Lights On”
We unveiled the “Lights On” strategy with learning and communication as our two pillars. Change of the worst kind had come as a stranger into our comfortable existence, and now it was time to convert emotions to actions. “Lights On” was our understanding of what learning and communication absolutely had to happen to keep the lights on for the organization, including technology learning, domain knowledge, completion and closure of existing programs, prepaid vendor-supplied programs and regular factual updates.

Scene 4: Real-Time Communication
Constant real-time communication was imperative. We wanted employees to hear about the news from our leaders rather than the media. And, in the beginning, the media beat us every single time. This presented a significant dilemma. What could we do?

Act Two: Technology to the Rescue

Scene 1: A Scalable Solution
In 2007, we invested a reasonable $20,000 to launch our Web radio and television capability. Our facilitators did not feel comfortable with the medium. Participants grew bored and logged off rapidly. Basically, we had created a talking-head, death-by-PowerPoint approach to teaching using Web television as the medium.

We went from barely 80 hours of programming a month, both live and repeat, to more than 600 hours of programming each month. We implemented new rules: Lectures and PowerPoint would be banned, and programs would be 30 to 45 minutes long.

All our facilitators instantly became talk show hosts. They had responsibility for their own programs; they booked subject-matter experts; and they ran the programs with a list of learning objectives and no script. A TV guide was published indicating program times that covered all time zones around the world. Our programming mix was:

* Thirty-five percent learning.
* Thirty-five percent communication.
* Twenty-five percent edutainment (webathons, specials on green earth and family programming).
* Five percent program promotions.

We produced eight hours of live programming each day and then replayed it twice to complete a 24-hour cycle whereby employees anywhere in the world would have the chance to participate. To ensure programming and technology maturity, we developed program advisory and technical advisory committees.

Marketing and communications launched a daily program called “News Today Live” which covered the day’s developments, gave a message or comment from a senior leader and then went on to address rumors and representations by the media. “Direct from the Leadership” allowed leaders across the organization to roll out their plans, short and long term, for rebuilding.

Human resources, a key player in facilitating change, presented a weekly program called “Engaging Associates.” A daily series, “Weathering the Storm,” became one of the most popular programs. With a different guest each day, this talk show allowed people to hear about how others were coping, and it helped them to feel included in the solution.

Another extremely popular series was “The Rise of the Phoenix.” Harvard Business Publishing donated case studies about companies who had been shattered and then rose out of the ashes to greater levels of success. We used their lessons to set the agenda for our own rebirth.

Considering more than 80 percent of our workforce is technical, the program matrix included learning for their needs. Daily shows like “Tech Talk,” “Let’s Talk PM” and “Domain Speak” were of high interest for techies.

Scene 2: Acting Lessons
Still, our learning professionals were not comfortable with having the camera pointing at them and the lights glaring while they conducted talk-show format learning. So we hired a local acting teacher who taught us ways to handle stress, how to use improvisation skills and how to play.

Scene 3: On Demand
A few months later, with the help of the network and systems team, we implemented on-demand learning. Once a program was presented live and repeated twice during the same two- hour period, it was archived and made immediately available on demand.

Act Three: Reaching Out

Scene 1: Extending the Emotional Intelligence of Leaders
Few leaders had ever encountered this type of corporate crisis before. Even so, our employees needed to vent, speak without fear and to feel a part of the solution. Leaders needed to understand the significance of being people-centric, providing compassion, guidance and strength. An e-mail campaign was launched to help leaders be more sensitive and to provide simple tools for enhancing their listening skills.

Scene 2: RESTORE
RESTORE (Rebuilding Satyam Together with Renewed Energy) focused on rebuilding the morale of teams by giving employees an opportunity to meet in their workgroups to voice their fears and explore new paths together. More than 250 half-day workshops were held virtually and in person around the world. Participants stepped into three roles during the workshops:

1. Employees: Participants made their fears known by writing them on sticky notes, virtually or in person. Small teams organized them into themes and reported out to the larger group.
2. Consultants: Participants took off their employee hat to don the hat of consultant. We asked them how we should go about rebuilding.
3. CEO: Knowing we would soon have a new CEO, we asked participants to identify their top priorities if they were CEO. This advice was consolidated and presented to our new chief executive.

Scene 3: Coachable Moments
“Coaching Conversations” launched as a regular Web television series. Utilizing our base of more than 40 qualified internal coaches, we proactively reached out to leaders, matching coaches to assist them. In collaboration with human resources, we launched an associate coaching and counseling referral services program.

Act Four: What Next?

Scene 1: Sensitive Rightsizing
The brutal reality remained that we had to shed excess head count. By any modest assessment, it was a blood bath. The battle left nearly 10,000 employees without roles. Rather than immediately being laid off, they were placed in a virtual pool. Depending on level, they were provided four to six months with partial pay and benefits. During this time, they did not come to the office, and any openings that came up were filled from the pool first.

Scene 2: Partner in Change
In April 2009, after months of uncertainty, Satyam was purchased by Tech Mahindra, part of the $7 billion Mahindra Group. Our learning strategy expanded to helping the new owners understand the state of leadership and the value available from learning and development services.

Scene 3: Catalyst for Rebuilding the Brand
In the wake of all this devastation and reconstruction, we received numerous timely global recognitions for our learning programs. This included an award and six citations from ASTD and a ranking in the top 10 in the Training Top 125. The brand plan for showcasing learning as a strategic differentiator for the newly christened Mahindra Satyam was paying dividends even as the stock struggled to reach the $5 mark.


Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times

Published in ASTD Newsletter – Jan, 2010


The canvas we were painting was a collaborative effort, a true partnership. We were partners in developing world-class leaders. Our inter- and intra-team diversity made us stronger with team members from Nigeria, Germany, Greece, Columbia, Sweden, the United States, and of course India. We had measured significant business impact and won numerous international recognitions.

We created best practices and next practices that were being proliferated to diverse industries all over the world, and were the masterminds of a new model to build global leaders faster. We were the first organization outside of the United States to receive top honors in ASTD’s BEST Award; and we had journal articles, numerous interviews, and keynote presentations and requests to add to our beautiful canvas of success.

Then, without warning our canvas was taken from us. We watched as our Taj Mahal of learning began to crumble. On January 7, 2009, Ramalinga Raju, the founder and chairman of Satyam Computer Services, told his board of directors that he had inflated the amount of cash on the balance sheet by nearly $1 billion, incurred a liability of $253 million on funds arranged by him personally, and overstated Satyam’s September 2008 quarterly revenues by 76 percent and profits by 97 percent. There we were, close to 50 of us huddled in this small conference room, watching the television, shocked beyond belief…

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