Our values: The backbone of the Aditya Birla Group

1st July, 2012

Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla

"Over the last few years, the Aditya Birla Group has been building critical infrastructure on the human resource front to realise its leadership aspirations in the global business arena. Gyanodaya, our management learning institute; Aditya Disha, our intranet; Aditya Birla awards, our salutation to our committed achievers —- are all milestones of this purposeful journey. And very recently, a new and significant initiative has been launched across the group wherein we have more sharply defined our values framework.

The values of any organisation define its character and personality. Values guide, shape and influence our behaviour and actions. The external world perceives and responds to an organisation based on the way that it goes about conducting its business. The world of business today is going through a crisis of trust, where the credibility of business leaders and the legitimacy of business organisations are subjected to questioning. This scrutiny from the government, media, analysts, investors and action groups, is becoming more stringent every day. In such an environment of skepticism and cynicism our actions alone can inspire confidence. Once again, people are searching for the soul of the corporation, its values.

Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla stresses on the importance of the group's values

In the Aditya Birla Group we are becoming more heterogeneous as we globalise. Also, 30 per cent of our people have been with the group for less than five years and 48 per cent are below the age of 38 years. With every acquisition, we add a significant number of new colleagues with diverse backgrounds, and experience and most importantly, with different expectations from us. While these developments are exciting, I firmly believe that we need a stronger organisational glue to hold us together, apart from the time-tested bonds of our legacy, heritage, a shared set of systems, processes and best practices, an activist corporate centre, our logo and our name.

People contribute when they relate to an organisation and they relate, when they understand the organisation. And people understand an organisation through its values, by experiencing the culture that the values create and by using the systems and processes that the values define. In large organisations, such shared understanding cannot be created through the leadership of individuals alone, it requires leadership of principles, of beliefs, of conviction — these together constitute what we call the "values".

The articulation of a common set of values, I believe, enables organisations to pull in a common direction, gives employees something they can easily identify with, helps them to find common cause with each other and creates a common sense of purpose. It also takes the assimilation of new employees and cultures easier and faster in periods of rapid growth. With these objectives, and also a view of the future in mind, I had articulated and proposed a set of values for the group about six years ago.

However in this period, we as an organisation have confronted many moments of truth and one thing became very clear to me. We needed a values framework for the group as the foundation for our future, which must have wide ownership, deeper understanding across, larger application, stronger implementation and most critically, be backed by the active personal sponsorship and role modeling of us all.

An exercise for identifying values is never easy. One has scores of values and values-related practices to choose from. An emotional attachment with the past and multiple views of the future complicate the task. Nonetheless, supported by a presentation by corporate HR, all our directors and business heads worked through a common session to take a view and we agreed on the five of: "integrity, commitment, passion, seamlessness and speed".

Let me say a few words on how we view each of these values and our future plans for disseminating our values framework through the organisation.


Integrity

We define integrity as honesty in every action. We shall act and take decisions in a manner that these are fair, honest and follow the highest standards of professionalism. Integrity shall be the cornerstone for all our dealings, be it with our customers, our employees, suppliers, our partners, shareholders, the communities we serve or the government.


Commitment

On the foundation of integrity, we see commitment as doing whatever it takes to deliver as promised. Each one of us shall take ownership for our own work, teams and the part of the organisation we are responsible for. Through this value, we shall build an even sharper results-oriented culture that is high on reliability and accountability. Our commitment is likely to make us a formidable leader and competitor in every market that we are in.


Passion

We define passion as a missionary zeal arising out of an emotional engagement with work which inspires each one to give his or her best. All of us are expected to be enthusiastic in the pursuit of our goals and objectives. We shall recruit and actively encourage employees with a 'fire in the belly'. With this value, we hope to build a culture of innovation and breakthrough thinking, leading to superior customer satisfaction and value creation.


Seamlessness

We understand seamlessness as thinking and working together across functional silos, hierarchy levels, across business lines and geographies. Each one of us shall demonstrate high level of teamwork through sharing and collaborative efforts and garner the synergy benefits from working together. Before we can truly benefit from a borderless world, we need to build a borderless organisation. We visualise free flow of knowledge and information across the group.

I am reminded of the words of my father, the late Aditya Vikram Birla: "Our search for knowledge is not limited to within the group. We seek knowledge from every nook and corner, from our competitors, suppliers, customers et al. Even the worst run units in India would have something to teach us. It is with this humility that we seek knowledge."


Speed

 

 

We look upon speed as responding to internal and external customers with a sense of urgency. We shall continuously seek to crash timelines and ensure expeditious completion of our tasks. Through this value, we hope to build an agile and proactive organisation that is prompt to respond to the present and future needs of our customers.

All these values together form our core ideology. They are all equally important and no value will take precedence at the cost of the other. It is in the harmonisation of the five that we see the prospect of greater value creation for all our stakeholders.

Let me conclude by saying that great businesses are never built on the quick sands of opportunism. I reiterate that, if living by our values means, perhaps growing at a pace slower than we would otherwise have liked, so be it. For us, leadership lies at the heart of knowing what we stand for."