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“Ask yourself ‘What is new?’” –An informative Monday morning with Professor Ram Charan

Prof CharanProfessor Ram Charan is an Indian American business consultant, speaker and writer. Today, he visited Invest India to share with our teams, his insight and perspective on the current state of the Indian economy, enhancing individual capabilities and methods to increase efficiency in the workplace.

Prof Charan has spent the past 35 years working with some of the most coveted companies, CEOs, and boards of our times. He has consulted for companies such as General Electric, MeadWestvaco, Bank of America, DuPont, Novartis, EMC, 3M, Verizon, Aditya Birla Group, Tata Group, GMR, Max Group, Yildiz Holdings, and Grupo RBS.

He has also authored over 25 books since 1998 with over 2 million copies sold in more than a dozen languages. Three of his books were Wall Street Journal bestsellers, including Execution, which he co-authored with former Honeywell CEO Larry Bossidy in 2002, a book that spent over 150 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

His main area of expertise lies in complex problem-solving in today’s fast-paced and evolving work environments. His real-world solutions have been shared with millions through his books while his articles in top business publications have been praised for being practical, relevant and highly actionable.

Today, Professor Charan stated that he abides by simple rules, most of which focus on the importance of an individual’s growth. This contrast is an integral element in all his arguments. His focus, one discerns, lies in studying and appreciating the balancing act of an individual versus a larger organization. In almost sociological terms, he talked about the principles and ideas that he shares with other leaders of organization and industry.

In the conversation, which remained largely informal throughout its duration, Professor Charan gave anecdotal advice, citing real-life examples from his own vast experience. He mentioned how a CEO friend of his always hires people he considers his betters, in that way, ensuring that there is a healthy competition and incentive for personal and professional growth in the workplace.

One such rule which is a ‘real truth’ is that one should spend two - thirds of their time on three main problems or subjects. According to Prof Charan this is the way to maximize capability and efficiency in problem-solving and task management. This same principle must be applied in order to build the $5 tn Indian economy. A $400 bn growth engine is required to meet this goal and the only way to reach it is by breaking down a complex problem into its various aspects such as exports, imports, infrastructure until finally shortlisting three key areas to fix and where energies can be focused.

Another such rule is to expand the individual’s awareness of external factors. “The external is always changing,” Mr Charan says expansively. “It is important that a leader is aware of change so he can see what comes next.” This, he believes, is the defining characteristic of a successful leader or CEO.

When asked about the values which he lives by, Prof Charan said that he holds his Indian identity close to his heart. The greatest values to him are his dedication and willingness to sacrifice. To this end, he says, “Do the task the best you can.”

Famously known to not set goals, he said in a Business Today interview, “I never have, and I never will. I truly believe in the Indian culture of dedication. It has served me well. Do the best you can and learn to be the best. Focus. It will take you there.”

Prof CharanProfessor Charan took questions from the audience and during one of those, expounded on his methodology to diagnose a problem. He begins with the assumption that the problem stated is not the actual problem. He also does not rush to conclusions and stated quite frankly that he works slowly. He talks to people involved to get a better understanding and finally tries to ascertain the cause of the problem. As a consultant who works on his own, this methodology, he says, suits him best.

To conclude the dialogue, our CEO Mr Deepak Bagla asked Professor Charan to share some tips on what Invest India employees should look for in future employment opportunities. Prof Charan’s answer was simple: look for a place that demands from you what you can offer and make sure it is a good fit. The most important thing to know about a workplace is whether or not it is in line with your values and therefore, conducive to your productivity.

This article was authored by Kartikeya Saigal.