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MindTree is a mid-sized 278 million Indian Information Technology firm known for its knowledge management practices, strong culture and values, and collaborative communities. Its strategy is to become a company that is consulting-led in the IT services business and intellectual property led in the R&D-services business. Currently the CEO of the firm has set an ambitious goal of becoming a $1 billion company by 2014. This requires that employees innovate and create new businesses.
How would you characterize the culture of MindTree?
In an industry where all firms are assumed to possess homogenous skills, MindTree knew that, in order to succeed, it had to differentiate itself from its competitors. The company realized that culture and values were key elements that could be used as "Soft Differentiators." Also, being a multicultural company, MindTree realized that it could not possibly manage all the different cultures efficiently. Instead, it decided to develop a common set of values which could be shared by people from across different cultures. The company has always strived to become an 'emotionally bonded organization.' In this regard, the culture of MindTree can be characterized as a people-centric culture.
According to the MindTree senior management, "Every MindTree mind is driven by CLASS - Caring, Learning, Achieving, Sharing, and Social Responsibility." From this, it is evident that MindTree wanted to create a culture rich in innovation and creativity. MindTree's emphasis on aspects such as High achievement orientation and high caring further shows that MindTree aimed to promote a culture of high performance, stakeholder responsibility, cooperation and corporate citizenship.
Transparent and Participative:
Transparency and rich, frequent communication were cornerstones of the culture. Mindtree incorporated participative decision-making by promoting openness across organizational levels. This resulted in the company's 95-95-95 principle, which stated that 95% of the people should have 95% of the information 95% of the time.
How has this culture been created and institutionalized?
At MindTree, the management's belief that 'values drive behaviour and behaviour drives results' was at the heart of all decision-making processes.
Internalizing CLASS Values:
Mindtree sought to internalize the CLASS values by integrating them into its recruitment, recognition, and reward systems. The process started right from hiring of a new employee, whereby the candidates were assessed on whether they would be a good fit in the organization's culture. New employees then participated in extensive sessions with the senior management, which emphasized the importance of these values in the company's culture. The process continued with performance appraisals, where each value had a clear metric and 40% weight was assigned to performance against these values. The success of MindTree's endeavours to internalize the CLASS values can be seen from the fact that 90% of the senior leaders voluntarily asked for 360o feedback on how well they were complying with the company values.
Other initiatives like rechristening the HR dept. as the 'people function' and giving stock options to its employees, have also helped MindTree in building and promoting its culture among its employees.
MindTree has also employed the use of several socialization tactics to foster and institutionalize its culture among its employees. When a new employee joins MindTree, she is given explicit information about the sequence in which she will perform new activities or occupy new roles (Sequential Role Orientation). As employees gain experience, they are allowed to pursue their interests by joining or initiating a community (Random Role Orientation).
Senior employees at MindTree actively engage with new hires and act as role models (Serial Tactics). This not only helps MindTree imbibe its core values in the new employees, but also promotes the participative culture within the organization.
Building Knowledge Communities:
Knowledge management was another activity that supported and contributed to MindTree's culture and values. MindTree adopted a holistic, encompassing approach to KM, as it believed that KM could play an integral role in helping people perform their jobs better and develop themselves, which again reflected on its goal to be a High Achievement oriented and High Caring organization.
To implement KM a work, MindTree encouraged its employees to self-organize and collaborate through communities of practice. MindTree also took a number of steps to build a supportive environment for cultivating KM. The development and contribution of the KM function has been discussed in detail later in this article.
What role does culture play in MindTree Consulting? How does it contribute to strategy of the organisation?
MindTree has always believed that its values are one of its core competencies and a key factor which differentiates it from its competitors. At MindTree, its values define its culture and are a cornerstone of decisions concerning future strategy.
Core values such as "Learning" and "Sharing" have allowed MindTree to develop an extensive intellectual property base, which gives it a clear advantage over its competitors.
MindTree's focus on building a people centric, emotionally bonded organization has allowed it to retain its employees, and has also led to higher job satisfaction levels among the employees. Together these factors have directly contributed to MindTree's success in delivering better service to its clients.
95-95-95 principle - To ensure transparency and rich, frequent communication, two key elements of culture at MindTree, the management realized that it needed to make information available to its employees. Hence was born the 95-95-95 principle which aims at providing 95% information to 95% employees, at 95% of the time.
'The Gardener' program - As a part of this program, the leaders at MindTree actively engage with employees to develop them into future leaders of the company. The program stems directly from the company's goal to institutionalize its culture and ensure that the core values are carried forward by the next generation of leaders.
The '5*50' program - MindTree's participative culture and its integration with the company's strategy is best highlighted by this program. This initiative called on all MindTree Minds to offer innovative ideas for building new $50 million businesses from scratch. Knowledge Management (KM) would help in the ideation process and would provide critical IT systems support. The fact that MindTree entrusts its employees with resources and encourages them to build businesses, demonstrates the importance of culture in the company's growth strategy.
What role have knowledge management practices played in developing and instilling culture at MindTree?
Knowledge Management (KM) refers to the processes, activities and technologies that are specifically aimed at improving organizational performance, by acquiring, organizing, applying, sharing and renewing both the tacit and explicit knowledge of its employees.
KM's role at MindTree, however, is not limited to helping employees perform their jobs better. KM plays a vital role in carrying forward the core values of the firm.
KM enables knowledge creation, which leads to innovation
KM enables the environment, which leads to knowledge sharing & collaboration
KM enables processes and practices, which helps build a knowledge culture
KM directly enables changes and shifts in mind sets
MindTree's communities of practice reflect the company's socio-technical approach to KM, which emphasize social interactions as a means of enabling knowledge sharing and collaboration. A community could have members working in different departments. This ensures that the best practices and expertise of various departments go into creating the knowledge repository. It also ensures holistic development of employees who participate in the communities, through interaction with fellow members of varied expertise.
Community Maturity Levels:
The first level is a community of interest which is a collection of individuals who share an interest and enjoy talking about it. The main purpose here is sharing.
The next level is competency building in which individuals learn from one another in face-to-face meetings.
At the third level is capability building which enabled achieving better results in the company by improving existing processes, software and building relationships between communities and other organizational activities.
At the highest level was capacity building in which communities would absorb knowledge from external experts and the focus would be on innovation.