Juxt Smart Mandate (JSM) has just celebrated its nineth birthday. Its services and solutions are deeply rooted in predictive analytics solutions and its team is largely comprised of people from a decision sciences background. Culturewise, we have always believed in transparency and freedom for our employees. For example, we don’t actively track the amount of leave an employee takes and we do practice an “open office” policy whereby anyone can easily reach out to anyone else without any barriers – it’s an office which clearly shows that we are a flat hierarchy organization.
The company has struck out on a new direction all of its own over the last few years, venturing into text analytics, open data initiatives and proximity-based solutions. JSM is exploring completely new and uncharted territory which requires fresh new talent and has unfolded new product ideas with huge business potential. Fusing the old with the new and making it sustainable in the long run is the tremendous challenge which JSM has taken up. The transformation process is now well under way and now it is on us to live up to our values and goals. It was high time to formalize them and put some structures in place.
Change needs a different mindset
Exploring new territories successfully and making an impact on a society level calls for a shift in the way we operate. We needed to re-boot both our approach and our mindset; we needed to lever our past expertise to drive our future initiatives. To do this the leadership team of JSM (13 executives including management) headed out to a wildlife camp in Madla, close to Khajuraho, in Madhya Pradesh for a workshop with one single purpose in mind: “To create a powerful action plan for our change process.”
The setting, contrasting the world-famous ancient temples with their rich underpinning of philosophy and methodology with the unpredictable wilderness of Panna National Tiger Park couldn’t have been more inspirational. The workshop (8-10 October 2015) was spearheaded by Mehmood Khan, former global head of innovation at Unilever. An IIM-Ahmedabad alumni who decided more than five years ago to set up his own trust, the Rasuli Kanwar Khan Trust (RKKT) which uses innovative management tools to drive change at grassroots level in the Mewat region of India where he was born.
The workshop itself was laid out as an iterative process in which small groups collaborate and co-create. It’s a very open process that’s conducive to fostering discussions and finding real life solutions. The workshop had a threefold objective – to identify the purpose of the company, to voice the existing issues in the organization irrespective of hierarchy and to suggest possible solutions. And a whole battery of post-its, sketch pens and flip charts came into play as we ‘downloaded’ our thoughts for powerful change!
To get the ball rolling we focused on the –all-important question: Why does our company exist?’ This was a session we all immensely enjoyed. In many ways, we already had some inkling of what we are, what we intend to become and which steps we had to take in order to reach our goal. What was needed was to put clarity and order in our vague thinking. The final JSM mission statement which distills all our thoughts says: “We exist to be one of the society’s key change agents. We create solutions that solve customer’s problems using analytics. Innovation is not just a term for us, but the very core of all solutions we build. We are, and strive to remain a collaborative and equal opportunity workplace where passion rather than hierarchy determines respect, growth and success.”
The next session was all about our problems and challenges. This got off to a slow start as people were reticent to speak but the mood changed significantly as the process became clearer and more familiar to us and then team members really got to grips with it and we became much clearer and more forceful in our thoughts and responses. This process came up with a lot of thoughtful ideas and suggestions as we delved deeper into what our organization is capable of and what we needed to do to unfold our true potential. It was astonishing to see what came to light after just a few albeit grueling hours. We agreed on a list of the main challenges which JSM is facing: upgrading employee skills, adoption of new technologies, transparent and efficient communication processes, recruitment policies and feedback mechanisms.
Finally – after defining all our problems and challenges – on day two Mehmood beamed us up into “solution mode”. Once again we worked in small teams. In the morning hours we developed a pool of solutions which we thought would be useful for solving the problems we’d identified the day before. Once more a lot of flip chart paper, post-its and scribbles came into play. And once more we came up with a rich array of of useful outcomes. At the end of the day all our solutions were evaluated by the team and we summarized the most important and urgent ones in our action plan.
The plan – which is basically an excel sheet with three columns: a brief description of the solution, the names of those responsible for implementing the solution and the deadline date – included
- the relaunch of our website,
- a structure for our new intranet (communication and project management),
- a white paper for an official rewards & recognition program with 360 degree feedback and assessment,
- design and implementation of a portal dedicated to training new and existing employees, aimed at capability building,
- upgrade existing company infrastructure for greater ease of work.
Mehmood made us take an ‘oath of action’ to encourage us to build on this new-found enthusiasm. All kudos to him, he really crystallized our thoughts and channelled them wonderfully into four broad areas
- purpose of the organization,
- issues faced,
- possible solutions and
- a detailed ready-to-go action plan.
Thanks to Mehmood’s inspiriational leadership each of us became aware of what role we play in taking JSM to the next level. We were not anxious, we were pumped up, and excited about what lay ahead. This was heartening to say the least, all of us are now united and eager to work towards one common goal – taking JSM to the next level.
Work hard, play hard!
But it wasn’t all work – a 6 am morning walk to the Rajnee Café for a taste of its delicious dal pakodas, a visit to the stunning Khajuraho Temples, a night safari in Gangau Sanctuary, star gazing till 2 am and chewing over business ideas over a round or two of drinks shows that leisure time can also be quality time. Brilliant!
We also visited Janwaar Castle in the eastern buffer zone of Panna National Tiger Reserve. This is the very first skatepark in rural India and is the brainchild of Ulrike Reinhard. Ulrike is a digital nomad with a passion for the dynamics of change and how change can be triggered. Janwaar Castle is a classic example of what can be done, if you create an ecosystem that allows learning to be fun and self-organized and encourages achievement.
What we have learnt?
Both days were very different. On day one, most of us were still slightly inhibited, shy and with little idea about what to do or say. Yet day two was a revelation when amazingly it was the previously most introvert individuals who were now the very ones enthusiastically leading and managing the discussions. What a remarkable change!
What we have taken home?
What we brought away from the workshop is a sense of renewed purpose and vigour together with a solid understanding of what ‘real change’ means in the business context. As JSM people, we contemplate a bright future, but it is the perfection that we bring to execution that will really set us apart. But how do we achieve this? It’s our willingness to change and carve out our own path that will help us broaden our customer base and establish an even more solid reputation for ourselves.
In short we now move together, we succeed together and we change the world together.