No-1: Describe the culture of any organization you choose which is RELEVANT from the employees' perspective. (has an impact on students' learning and growth/objectives of the organization and the growth of the employees) It is required that you use interviews with people to arrive at the answer. The interview guideline needs to be prepared on the basis of the conceptualizations of culture (Read from different sources).
Ans. Organization : SAP Labs, India
Industry : IT Sector
About the organization :
As the world's leading provider of business software*, SAP (which stands for "Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing") delivers products and services that help accelerate business innovation for our customers. We believe that doing so will unleash growth and create significant new value - for our customers, SAP, and ultimately, entire industries and the economy at large. Today, customers in more thanÂ 120Â countries run SAP applications - from distinct solutions addressing the needs of small businesses and midsize companies to suite offerings for global organizations.
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SAP Labs India (SLI) is SAP's second largest Research & Development and Global Services & Support center in the world. Founded in November 1998, SAP Labs India is one of the four global development hubs (Germany, US and Israel being others) of SAP that contribute to all areas of the SAP product value chain- Research & Breakthrough Innovation, Product Development, Global Services & Support and Customer Solutions & Operations.
SAP's eight Labs in different countries are industry role models for globally distributed development organizations and contribute heavily to the goals of SAP's business units. Bridging the gap between local market demands and SAP's development organization, SAP Labs set standards for excellence in innovation, efficiency, and reliability.
SAP Labs India researches, designs, and delivers leading-edge software applications that enhance and extend SAP solutions, and is recognized within the SAP global organization as one of the prime contributors of innovation, quality and service.
Employees of SAP Labs India, totalling nearly 4000 in number, spread across Bangalore and Gurgaon are leading the way in building solutions for businesses across the world. SAP has been rated among the Top-5 Best Workplaces among IT Software organizations.
In this project we will try and analyze the organizational culture of SAP Labs India and chalk out the functional and dysfunctional aspects of the organizations. To get an idea of the organizational culture and ethos, interviews of 3 employees were conducted who had been in the organization for different periods of time and had different profiles. The three people interviewed were -
Hari M - Hari is 28 years old and has been with SLI for almost 2 years now. He is a contract employee i.e. he is on the payroll of another company which has sent him to the company on a 3 year contract.
Swetha Birdar - Swetha is 22 years old and has joined SLI immediately after her graduation. She is on the payroll of the company and will be completing a year in the organization.
Dhundiraj Gaidole - Dhundiraj is 33 years old and is a development manager at SLI. He has been with the organization for more than 5 years now. He handles a team of 20 people.
The interviews were in the form of informal discussions with each of the respondents. The interviews worked on the OCTAPACE framework to understand the organizational ethos. These would be elucidated below. OCTAPACE framework for the underlying ethos :
We asked the employees what they felt about giving and receiving feedback in the organization, were people open to listening to other's ideas and were meetings held in a way that something productive came out of it.
Dhundiraj : As a manager he felt it was one of his main responsibilities to give feedback to his team mates. He said he shared a good rapport with most of his team mates and was always ready to give advice if they asked for it and never hesitated to inform someone if he felt they were not doing something the way it was meant to be done. Having been in the organization for more than half a decade, this was the culture he was accustomed to where ideas were always welcome and senior management were informed of any path breaking innovations. As a manager he had to attend a lot of meetings and he felt that most of them were quite productive as each of them had a fixed agenda which was always adhered to.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Swetha : Swetha was initially apprehensive about what to expect, this being her first job she wasn't sure if her ideas would be given any importance. However as time has progressed she feels that she can speak her mind without fear of being reprimanded. She gets timely and constructive feedback from senior members of her team which she works on.
Hari : Since Hari is a contract employee he does not get all the benefits of a regular employee. His direct manager is not in SLI but in his parent organization, his feedback is given to this manager. However his daily operational tasks are similar to any of that of any employee, this has not gone down well with him.
We asked the employees if they came across any situations where they were in direct confrontation with any of their colleagues and if so how did they deal with it and what were the repercussions.
Dhundiraj : As a manager his role demanded that he play the role of an arbitrator/mediator if ever a conflict arose between employees in his team. He said that though such instances were pretty rare, they were always resolved amicably with all concerned parties sitting across the table and talking things out. Even when it came to dealing with similar situations with the senior management he said that people were always open to talking about issues and resolving them.
Swetha : Since she has been in the organization for a relatively shorter period of time, she has not come across any such situation as yet.
Hari : Hari said that when it came to operational tasks things were pretty smooth for him and he did not face any issues.
We asked employees if they felt that their colleagues were trustworthy, whether they felt that confidential information shared was never leaked out.
Dhundiraj : As a manager he is aware of senior level management decisions before his team. He considers other members of the senior management trustworthy enough to share the information with them and get their feedback. He also says that he has never hesitated in helping any of his team mates if they ever needed any help.
Swetha : Within a span of a year here, she has built a good rapport with her colleagues is confident enough to share information with them and they also reciprocate. She doesn't hesitate to approach her seniors for help.
Hari : He feels that because he is a contract employee people don't have the same amount of trust in him and provide him with just enough information for him to perform his daily tasks. He feels he is not a part of the bigger picture of the organization.
We asked employees if they felt that what was being said to them by the senior management was in congruence with what was expected of them.
Dhundiraj : He felt that there has always been resonance between what the senior management said and what was expected of him. This was something that he felt during his entire tenure at SLI.
Swetha : Since she is relatively new, her focus was still on completing her daily operational tasks and she did not pay too much attention to messages from the senior management as she felt it wasn't relevant for her at this stage.
Hari : As a contract employee although he wanted to know more about the organization, communication from the senior management was not shared with him. This leads to the feeling that he is a dispensable resource for the organization.
We asked the employees whether the management was quick in anticipating certain situations and planning for them.
Dhundiraj : He cited the example of the 2008 recession. Just as the downturn was beginning the senior management undertook some cost cutting measures which at that time looked a little extreme. However as time progressed and the recession started taking its toll on its competitors, the cost cutting measures made earlier made a lot of sense and the foresight of the management paid off.
Swetha : When it came to proactivity, Swetha spoke about it at more of an operational level. She was very impressed with how her trainings were planned so that she could easily move into her project without too many hassles.
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Hari : He too was appreciative about the amount of planning that went into the execution of any project. He mentioned that the resources required for any project were always ready before a project was to be executed.
We asked the employees whether they were give freedom in their work.
Dhundiraj : As a manager does not interfere in the day to day work of any of his team mates. He steps in only when help is required. Even from the senior management he gets the pre approved budget and he is free to utilise it in a way that he manner that he deems best.
Swetha : Initially she was assigned a mentor who would monitor her work on a daily basis. However 6 months into the job she was asked to handle projects on her own, as long as the deadlines were met without any compromise on the quality of delivered nobody questioned her working style, which she liked a lot.
Hari : This is one aspect Hari was highly appreciative about. Although he was a contract employee, when it came to operational tasks he always been given the freedom to work on his own terms.
Employees were asked about the work culture with regards to working together as a team and whether team spirit existed or not.
Dhundiraj: As a manager it was one of his prime responsibilities to foster a sense of team spirit within his team mates. He always encourages people to share with their colleagues the kind of work they are doing so that in case there is ever any kind of emergency, workload can be shared.
Swetha : In her short tenure so far at SLI, Swetha has realised that within her team for every project there is a concept of having a 'backup' - a person who is up to date on all the happenings in the project and can take over from the project in charge in case of any emergencies.
Hari: This is one area where Hari is not very happy. Permanent employees are taken out for lunches, dinners and parties with the purpose of team bonding. He feels if he is working for a team even he should be entitled to such privileges even though he is a contract employee. He doesn't feel as a part of the team and sometimes this affects his work.
Employees were asked whether they were asked to come up with innovative ideas to improve existing processes and if so how well they were received.
Dhundiraj: Whenever he has some process improvements in mind he approaches the senior management who give him a patient hearing. As a manager he encourages his employees to think out of the box and come up with solutions to problems faced everyday. He conducts workshops to facilitate this.
Swetha: Since she is still new to the organization she has not tried to experiment too much.
Hari: As a contract employee his inputs are not sought in such matters, he is expected to deliver on his daily operational tasks and nothing more.
Thus, keeping in mind the responses of these three employees coming from various verticals of the organization, we proceed to understand culture and change further in SAP Labs.
Question No-2: Identify functional and dysfunctional aspects of the organization's culture in the light of the mission of the organization:
Ans. SAP Labs Mission Statement :
"Our mission is to be a pioneer and leader in the creation and delivery of valued solutions for strategic business processes that enable our customers' realization of their business goals and objectives. By our participation in the innovative business and technology community, we pursue the ongoing discovery of superior technologies and their application by an empowered team of people".
Empowering the team of people involved at the workplace comprises of facilitating a range of factors as provided by the OCTAPACE model. The beliefs, values and norms shared within an organization help the organization to function in a more optimum manner satisfying the needs and expectations of all the stakeholders while fulfilling the operational attributes of the place.
The mission of SAP Labs, as we see, aims at reaching a new threshold in terms of business technology solutions through innovation and application. Essentially, this in itself calls for an ethical, positive, sensitive, open, social and spiritual culture of the organization.
This mandates that the culture in the organization facilitates the same through motivating its employees and stakeholders to contribute their best and help the organization excel and grow while progressing in their individual careers as well.
The essence of organizational culture is captured by the following characteristics. Hence, the analysis seeks to classify the responses under the buckets as defined below as functional and dysfunctional. Having said that, now presenting a comment on the functional and dysfunctional aspects of the SAP Labs culture in line with the interviews conducted with Dhundiraj, Shwetha and Hari.
Innovation and risk taking - This is an extremely crucial and differentiating factor in terms of the culture of an organization because it goes onto define how the policies and framework is designed in the workplace for all the employers and stakeholders. It also encompasses a number of other factors which can be grouped under innovation and risk taking such as flexibility in decision making at employee level and leadership level.
Dhundiraj - He agreed that the firm culture supported innovation in various forms and gave ample opportunities for ideas to be taken further for consideration through different avenues. His being at a senior position made it viable for his contribution to various policy formations.
Shwetha - Being a new employee to the organization, she agreed she sometimes felt the extra pressure of a certain degree of risk being taken. However, the culture at the organization permeated all employees and made them strive for better performance since they saw their peers and colleagues delivering under the same stress and challenges.
Hari - Hari said he felt his inputs were seldom taken seriously and that most of the open channel avenues for innovation and experimentation were applicable only for the permanent employees of SAP Labs.
Hence, innovation is usually a highly facilitating factor in terms of being functional. Risk taking can get a little dysfunctional if it adds way too much stress and pressure in terms of challenge and limits on the employee and can lead to negative outcomes.
Attention to detail - Being a leader in terms of business technology solutions, SAP knows attention to detail in the making of a product/service is as significant and crucial as the final deliverable itself. Hence, they score high in this regard as corroborated by the interview responses.
Dhundiraj - He felt the final finishing and review of any technical or business specification documents was done elaborately at three levels before being delivered to the client. The entire process of peer review and then senior review is ingrained in ever SAP developer as a routine activity.
Shwetha - She felt this was a crucial factor in her upbringing in the organization since she was a new employee and had been learning through her reviews and feedback sessions
Hari - He agreed that the competency of the organization was boosted by the level of importance given to details - technical or operational.
Outcome orientation - A global player always has to keep a track of its goal and mission. In delivering high quality business technology solutions, SAP has to ensure its employees and stakeholders stay focused on the end result, come what may. The culture of the organization, the mode of working across various verticals, the symbols and rituals all go into contributing towards a healthy progress growth rate in addition to a conducive atmosphere for learning and development.
Dhundiraj - He agreed how the organization laid more and more emphasis on outlining the final outcomes for the employees and channelizing the combined effort to the one directed goal.
Shwetha - She also had high regards for the working culture at SAP in helping her align herself to her long term goals and aspirations.
Hari - Despite his other differences with the firm, Hari agreed that the firm always believed in his abilities and put full faith in him in terms of work to be done, thus helping him maintain steady focus on the outcome.
Thus, SAP and its subculture across various verticals and professional designations promotes strong focus on outcome orientation which serves as a highly motivating factor in achieving functional excellence for the entire organization.
People and Team orientation- A global player such as SAP knows well that people are its biggest asset and resource management is the key to growth and success across all levels. Thus, the organization invests well enough in both new hire molding and team building sessions. How people orientation forms functional and dysfunctional aspects are evident from the following:
Dhundiraj - Having been in the organization for a long time now, he agreed how much emphasis was laid on resource orientation and development; right from the new hire boot camp to the new project startup sessions and a series of planned informal sessions with the senior leadership that helped people to connect and perform better.
Shwetha- As a new hire, Shwetha said she was highly impressed and inspired with the level of support she was provided by all peers and seniors and the program modules the organization conducted over the years at all levels of designations.
Hari-As a contract employee, Hari felt his not belonging to the organization was a highly impeding factor in his being seamlessly associated a part of the SAP culture. This led to a lack of drive sometimes which cascaded into a lesser quality of deliverables.
Hence, it was observed this turns out to be a dysfunctional factor partially for a particular category and though, can't be generalized, but still acts as a barrier in the functional excellence of the organization.
Aggressiveness - The brand image that a firm maintains in the global market has a lot to do with the internal aggression and external aggression as exhibited by the organization. Internal aggression is usually employed to motivate employees and stakeholders to give in more. External aggression however has more to do with the kind of standing the organization believes in having in the marketplace.
Dhundiraj - Being a senior level manager himself, he felt that the firm sometimes went a little overboard in terms of displaying motivational aggression and since he formed a part of the contingent that had to carry out the drive, he felt compelled beyond the required level, to haul the employees into active progress.
Shwetha - Being a new member to the firm, she found the aggression she witnessed within the organization to be highly challenging and looked forward to it during her projects as she felt it excited her about her work.
Hari - Hari felt that the levels of aggression witnessed from both inside and outside the organization SAP were two very different things. He said he had not expected the high level of internal aggression from outside the organization when he was working as a client with SAP. However, once he started working within the organization, he realized how much effort and emphasis the organization laid on keeping the resources under check to perform.
Thus, as evident, aggression in the culture of an organization is a double edged sword. In just the right amounts, it keeps the employees excited about the upcoming challenge. However, if overdone, it reflects in burnout and professional dissatisfaction.
Stability - Stability has various parameters attached to it, one of them being organizational resilience in times of recession as witnessed by the global workplace in recent years. Stability is perceived by different resources at different levels differently.
Dhundiraj - As mentioned before, he mentioned the firm went through tough times and downsizing and wage reduction happened. However, at the level of seniority he works at, the communication and terms were more clearly and kindly explained as against other cases where people were disgruntled in a similar situation.
Shwetha - She remembers how her joining date was postponed a couple of years back, because of the recession and global depression. However, she remembers the Resource Managers and the HR department being highly cooperative in helping them with the latest information and details. However, Shwetha does agree that at times, due to pressure from the onsite team from the US, sometimes the Indian SAP unit tends to be brittle and unstable.
Hari - Hari believes he faces the brunt every time the firm is faced with a crisis. Since he isn't a native employee, he perceives the terms and conditions dictated to him by SAP are highly skewed in their nature as opposed to those to others and his position is the first to be threatened at any unstable juncture. For example, in times of requirement of downsizing and layoffs, his post was listed despite his delivering excellent output and maintaining a high level of professional ethics in a contract organization.
This disparity in terms of employees and the terms meted out to them is extremely dysfunctional for an organization and usually spreads discontent which leads to lower output repercussions.
Having explained the various functional and dysfunctional aspects of culture, the same are outlined as under, for ready reference:
Aggression to challenge employees and keep them constantly motivated
Instability in downsizing and wages due to external factors such as recession and losses
Investment in team building and human resource orientation. Rewards and incentives.
Risk taking, if not done in the right amount, can lead to dissatisfaction
Focus on the outcome and final deliverables to the client produces better results
Reserved Culture and absence of openness even in one vertical can lead to a negative influence in overall results
Attention to detail helps the culture of the organization to make everyone more alert and dedicated in their methodology
Disconnect between the various levels and verticals of the organization
Innovation and Experimentation leads to a vivacious culture that connects minds and people both
Lack of transparency, if any, in the culture of the firm
Question No-3: Devise an action plan (with specific steps) by which dysfunctional aspects of the culture can be changed in order to achieve the mission.
Ans. In order to implement change across the culture of an organization, we considered following the Kotter's model to devise the plan for implementing change:
Create a sense of urgency by stating the compelling reason to change
The firm's culture should encourage all the employees to be proactive in seeking change for the better and for the same, a constant sense of urgency should be maintained in order to initiate the process in good time.
In SAP Labs, instability due to external factors should be judged beforehand and foreseen so that various arrangements can be made so as to minimize impact of the same. The HR Department should consider a range of factors to finally decide what terms and conditions should be meted out to which employee.
Crete a coalition with enough power to lead the change. Create a new vision to direct the change and strategies for achieving the vision
A strong coalition essentially means a strong leadership base that can help in laying the foundation for sound effective decisions for the growth of the entire firm.
In SAP Labs, the top leadership strata should emphasize the need to bring in transparency in the appraisal and promotion policies in the firm's culture. The leading group of people should stress to the HR the importance of having the right terms and conditions in place
Communicate the vision throughout the organization
Internal communication is extremely pertinent to deciding the culture of an organization. The top leadership should ensure that the communication conveyed across all the functions is consistent with the mission of the organization.
SAP Labs should re-define it's take on being aggressive within the confines of the organization. They should ensure that the standard that is followed for all internal mails and communications is in cordial agreement with the expectations of all the stakeholders. For the same, the Brand Communications Cell of Corporate Communications should go back to the white board and elucidate the policies framed in a more elaborate and prudent manner.
Empower others to act, remove barrier, encourage risk taking and problem solving
The risk taking component is one of the factors that need to be converted into a functional factor rather than dysfunctional aspects of SAP Labs culture. SAP top senior managers need to connect with the lowest strata of employees to remove all barriers that prevent healthy direct interaction between all levels.
Plan for , create and reward short term wins that move the organization to new vision
The rewards and incentives program for recognition to the most outstanding employee at SAP is already in place. However, it can be improvised to ensure that it raises the overall level of the morale of human resources across the organization.
For example, for short wins, need to be given more focus, about ensuring that they manifest into bigger successes.
Reinforce the changes by demonstrating the relationship between new behaviors
Most importantly, the change to be demonstrated has to be explicitly seen through every aspect of culture in the organization. Hence, there is a need of constantly updating and reinforcing the plans for change as discussed to ensure success and growth of the organization.
In a nutshell, the action plan detailed above can be outlined as follows:
Develop a better internal communication strategy to channelize consistent communication across all verticals.
Introduce change in policies such that all employees, whether contract or permanent, are treated equally.
Revisit the working business technology methodology so as to ensure that all risk taking is prevented from cascading into unnecessary stress and pressure.
Conduct programs for top leadership that helps them to connect themselves better with the lower designation employees and also, align all stakeholders with the vision and mission statement of the organization.
Reinforce the change action plan by repeatedly conducting quality control checks as part of the annual and quarterly reviews and appraisal cycles.