What it Takes – The Need to Understand a Firm’s Culture

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Kaushik Palicha, an Entrepreneur, has been associated with evam’s Training Sideways as an investor, director and a mentor.


I must admit, this is a bit weird.

The last time I was so sleep deprived, and excited about something was, in my teens – maybe it was that first crush or something – seems too far away now to remember. And then we grow up, I suppose – evolve, understand, go beyond the first rush & have a sensible approach to things at hand.

Coming to more relevant things, I thought I would write about partnerships – more relevant to our role with Sideways and how we think about the business & the firm. Sideways works with organisations, to work with their most valuable, productive, dynamic, volatile & expressive assets – people. In any phase that an organisation is – whether a start up, growing, mature or decline and looking at new assets, its important that it remains invested in its people and they have clarity about the direction of the organisation, its abilities, challenges and desires – desires being most important. A lot of new gen businesses work through platforms such as town halls, newsletters, open chats & fireside events. Leadership in the firm, especially the decisive leadership, address the organisation – talking about the previous quarter, an event or a product launch – using the platform to weave their thoughts, about where the organisation is going, to get employees thinking. The moment you have a mass thinking process, innovation happens.

As they say – showing up is a good start. Even in the organisation where I work – it was a challenge getting people together, to join in for an event; it was tough to get off the blocks, as to what one should be saying. But eventually, we got it right. If any organisation achieves clarity in communication, on where its going – it makes life simple. The challenge is making it happen. We saw recently the amazing case of the Bansal’s at Flipkart, talking about their mortality & am sure it got people within Flipkart thinking about what matters – also a case of good leadership where the organisation is much bigger than the individual. What the Bansal’s also did was to set focus again on the culture of Flipkart, which was ease of doing business – the E–com model makes is amazingly easy for end users, ease of communication – with open flow emails & leadership reachable, there is always clarity in the decisions made & translated to the lowest levels of the organisation – ensuring the complexities of logistics & operations is a relatively smaller challenge. If people know and understand whats to be done – then whats left, is just the bit that’s to be done, making it easier.

Most businesses focus on getting their Four P’s out of four right always – product, placement, promotion & price, leaving the fifth P – People – to be affected by dynamism of the organisation. This is bit lopsided for the organisation – some of the functions are well developed and grown, while some are short changed. Imagine having an arm or a leg under developed – everything is a challenge isn’t it? Now imagine an organisation where its people are not fully engaged – its like having the brain out of sync with the rest of the person. It wont work.

We Indians are easily moulded – we make quick adjustments in the organisation and environment, a reason why we fit in the world all-over. In large organisations this would be a mass of energy, focusing in different directions, like a boat with many oarsmen – at some point it will only go round and round. The fifth P – People, in a collective, is a fantastic source of energy, harness-able energy, in particular. If harvested right, you would have a bunch of people turning up bang on time to work, knowing what to do and leaving when its done, or taking responsibility. Utopian? Not actually. While I agree that it could be tough getting it right, there has to be a beginning. If the leader of the business could create a platform where every single employee thinks in the same direction as the leader, can you imagine what a force that would be – case in point – Tesla, which works a lot on that thought process and has achieved a lot.

And the easiest thing to translate – is the culture of an organisation. Though its the toughest thing to translate. So what is culture?

Its defined as

Organisational culture includes an organisation’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid.

If that’s complicated, its just who you are – as an organisation. Simple statement – sitting on a lot of complexity. For instance – Uber is a transport company, which sells transport services through cabs. Apple is a media and communications organisation, selling services through the platform of their devices. Tesla is a power management firm, using batteries to operate cars, cities & now satellites. The culture, defining the product platform, can change how you & your people react, respond & deal with business opportunities in the marketplace. And the more clear the organisation is, the easier it is for the lowest player in the chain, to join the game and play it as a champ. For instance Tesla switches off lights at night, while the plants run as robots don’t need lights. Tesla makes energy, values it.

And what Sideways does is translate culture within the organisation, to a language, which is understood by all involved. Peter Drucker said that culture can eat strategy for lunch – I think culture will be done by breakfast. Culture will ensure people go beyond their briefs, stop being judgemental and use the rule as a norm to underperform. It will promote innovation, challenge limits, weed out inefficiencies and enter new markets. So that the Entrepreneur can build that one product, one company, one event in line with the original passion that he set out to do – sleepless nights, nervous energy and belief.

Similar to love isn’t it. We call it being an entrepreneur. Its fuelled by that sexy thing inside us called passion, and lasts much longer than that first rush. Its forever.

As a foot note – I have always found this to be a bit contradictory – why do we need an outsider to work with people who belong to an organisation, a function or a department, especially when people are part of a group. Maybe another time.

Kaushik Palicha

About EVAM

Founded in 2003 by Sunil Vishnu K. and Karthik Kumar, ‘evam’ today is a profitable young thriving arts organization making people believe in the power of the Arts.
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