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The power of the 5Fs – they can change the world!

It was the summer of 1992, one year into my CEO stint at APTECH when we had done much of the hard work of getting the company out of its loss-making morass and created a shared vision – to overtake the industry leader and be the world’s largest network of computer training centres by 2000. That was the time when our young team decided that we needed something fresh and peppy as our cultural framework, something that would inspire our youth and give them a reason to join stay and outperform for the organisation. A half day of brainstorming led to our five Fs – Fast, Focused, Flexible, Friendly and Fun, a mantra that I have personally carried with me into my subsequent fifteen-year stint as CEO of Zensar and now has become the name of my entrepreneurial venture 5F World.

The five Fs have always had relevance for individuals, organisations and societies but in today’s world, buffeted by the multiple forces of protectionism, automation, digitisation and jobless growth, following these tenets can open up the path to innovation and success despite multiple odds. Digital transformation has led to the creation of new customer journeys for most corporations and innovative learning paths have enabled new employee journeys in many firms. New learning journeys are also an imperative for youth who have to retrain themselves for the challenges of a changing world. In such a context, the virtues of thinking and moving Fast and maintaining total Flexibility in approach cannot be over-emphasised. Speed is of essence to capture and sustain leadership in existing and new segments of business and openness to new ideas and new desires of digital natives and millennials will create the flexibility needed to adapt business models to new realities. For youth entering the job or entrepreneurial arena in these times, the virtues of Fast and Flexible are equally vital, since it will enable them to look for the right opportunity from a galaxy of options and grab those that offer the most excitement and best likelihood of reward.

In this ever-changing environment, what is the value of Focus? While on the face of it, it may seem that being too focused will put an individual or organisation at odds with flexibility, the reality is that Focus and Flexibility are two sides of the same coin. While flexibility keeps one’s mind open and the intent should be there to quickly adapt to seize new opportunities, nothing is ever achieved without a strong sense of purpose and the ability to focus. In the companies that I have run, it was an incredible focus that got Aptech to a market leader position in over forty countries including China and it was a strong digital and e-commerce focus that enabled Zensar to record a market value CAGR of 44 percent between 2010 and 2015. Our One Zensar initiative got the entire team to focus on common goals and served as the glue to bind the organisation together to achieve stellar results in key focus verticals like Retail and markets like South Africa.

There was a time in India in the sixties and seventies when loyalty was everything and respected folks like my late father started their careers in one company and retired or even died while still in the same company. Those days of blind loyalty to one boss or one company have long gone and even my own track record of four employments during a career spanning thirty-six years seems boring compared to the need of youth to jump jobs at the slightest pretext and their attempt to meet all financial goals in the shortest possible time. In such a context, the value of the final two Fs, Friendly and Fun cannot be over-emphasised. This culture enables organisations to bind their associates together and generate common bonds of camaraderie and teamwork that are the surest way of building successful organisations.

At Aptech, an organisation where the average employee age was 24, we found myriad ways to have fun, both at work and beyond it. The rooftop rain dances every month where every Aptechite from Chairman to newest trainee would let their hair down and bond are still the subject of many alumni discussions and in spite of computer training not being the most sought after career options, we were able to inject a sense of joy and purpose into every job and make every employee enjoy the process of building a multi-national organisation in the nineties. And at Zensar, our focus on Friendly was what truly enabled this organisation to start from the ashes of an old hardware company and build a culture that has no parallel in the industry.

Harvard Business School has written an outstanding case on Vision Communities and the Associate Relations Function at Zensar, both of which were creations of a management team that truly epitomized friendliness and walked the talk when it came to making every one of our eight thousand plus employees and hundreds of customers feel part of one large and cohesive family. Friendly managers and a constant urge to design new dialog and feedback mechanisms are part of the wish list of every human resource department but getting the formula right and making employees feel truly part of a Fun and Friendly culture make all the hard work needs to be Fast Focused and Flexible truly worthwhile. Long may 5F organisations flourish in these difficult times!

Dr. Ganesh Natarajan is Chairman of 5F World, Pune City Connect, NASSCOM Foundation and Social Venture Partners, Pune.

Original: http://www.freepressjournal.in/education/the-power-of-the-5fs-they-can-change-the-world/1080110
By: Dr Ganesh Natrajan
Posted: June 5, 2017, 11:40 am