Culture Shift: How to take a company from good to great
On Wednesday, March 22, KPCC’s Ben Bergman spoke with renowned management consultant and author Subir Chowdhury about the importance of workplace culture. Chowdhury discussed the concept he outlines in his newest book, “The Difference: When Good Enough Isn’t Enough”: A “caring mindset,” he argues, is the difference between those companies that excel and those that lag behind. At the end of this morning event, Chowdhury accepted questions from business leaders and professionals in the audience.
Subir Chowdhury is the chairman and CEO of ASI Consulting Group and the author of 15 books. As a management consultant, he has worked with many Global Fortune 100 companies. When Chowdhury and his team realized not all of the companies using their process were excelling in equal measure, he said, they wondered why. “Why is one getting 10 x [return] and why is one getting 100 x?” he recalled asking. The answer, he said, was mindset: “At the end of the day, it’s not about the process. At the end of the day, it’s about the people who are using the process.” Unless everyone at a company, from the bottom to the top, adapts what Chowdhury calls “a caring mindset,” a company will not excel, he said.
The mindset, Chowdhury said, consists of four qualities (acronym STAR):
During the conversation, he explored the importance of a caring mindset through anecdote and example. “Volkswagen had lots of great processes,” Chowdhury said. The company’s emission-reporting scandal, he said, like failures at the companies he has worked with, was the result of culture. “Straightforward’s opposite is dishonesty,” he said.
“I don’t expect each of you to become Mother Teresa. That is not my goal,” Chowdhury said, discussing the importance of thoughtfulness to a caring mindset. Listening, he said, is the key to thoughtfulness and empathy, and it is crucial for company leadership to practice it. “Listening is not hearing. Listening is internalizing…putting yourself in that other person’s shoes,” he said.
Chowdhury also spoke to the importance of humility and teamwork. When he was a child in Bangladesh, he said, his grandfather used to ask him whether the number zero or the number nine was most powerful. “‘Always remember zero,’” he recalled his grandfather saying. “Zero on its own doesn’t have any value, but if you put any number in front of it, it will become very powerful,” Chowdhury said. “Always remember you are zero.”
While Chowdhury’s STAR qualities may seem simple, he said that practicing them daily in one’s professional or personal life is challenging and powerful. Chowdhury admitted that personally he is still trying to be great at embodying each.
This program is part of a business forum series produced by KPCC In Person and sponsored by UC Riverside School of Business.