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The smell of the place

Lynda Gratton has pioneered a special field of management; her quest is to find employees and companies that “glow”, to learn about ...

By Lynda Gratton 01 September 2009

Lynda Gratton has pioneered a special field of management; her quest is to find employees and companies that “glow”, to learn about people and organizations that abound with enthusiasm, innovation, productivity and an effervescent espirit de corps. How does one identify a glowing business? It’s important, she says, to first identify “the smell of the place”.
ThesmelloftheplaceOne thing about recessions: there’s sure to be lots of change. Many times, this involves changing jobs. Sometimes this means changing your job.

There has never been a more important time to get your job choice right. When you move to a new job – especially now in this uncertain job market – you need to be sure you are moving to an organization that will support and enable you to do meaningful work. What does that mean? Simply put, you want a job that enhances your skill set and working life, one that creates long-term value for the organization (and for you!). The last thing you want is to take a leap of faith, leave a stable job at a company in which you don’t feel comfortable and move to a new firm that ends up as no change or, worse, one that depletes your energy and skills even more.

People who glow have mastered three distinct areas of their lives: they have built deeply trusting and cooperative relationships with others (a cooperative mindset); they have extended their networks beyond the obvious to encompass the unusual (jumping across worlds); they are on an inner quest that ignites their own energy and that of others (igniting latent energy).

Companies that glow feel a great deal like Tata Motors in India. In fact, Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata Group in India, not only glows personally but he has formed a company that engenders that feeling in most, if not all, of its 23,000 employees. I was in India this year when the Tata Group launched a new car called the Nano. The question Tata asked of his colleagues was deceptively simple: “How do we create a safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport for a typical family of four, for the price of one lakh?” (That’s 100,000 rupees, the equivalent to about $2,000 – and an incredibly low price for a car.)

As a result of this igniting question, Tata Motors’ engineers and designers gave their all for about four years to realize this single goal. When I spoke to the engineers about their feat, their sense of pride was palpable. As one of the engineers told me: “It seemed like an absolutely impossible question. No one could believe we could do it. There was a lot of cynicism – but we were determined to do it. It meant going back to basics, re-engineering many of the parts, working closely with our component suppliers and fundamentally questioning the way we do everything.”

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