April 2015 | Gayatri Kamath

'A climate of respect is vital'

Chief culture officer and head of business excellence and transformation, Vivek Talwar, on what makes Tata Power a sustainable organisation

What steps do you take to ensure that employees across the organisation strive for excellence?
The strategic intent of the organisation, the challenges we face and our sense of urgency are communicated to all employees at regular intervals. The main element of the organisational strategic intent — for instance, the current vision is to achieve 18,000MW of generation by 2022 — is known to all employees. Breaking down and cascading the organisational objectives and a rigorous review of the performance of all work units help align the company on performance and excellence. An integrated improvement model spans the organisation, creating a language of improvement and excellence.

What are the benefits of this improvement model?
The improvement method used is the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM). We have internalised TBEM, and while it is an endless journey, we are proud to say that we have moved from TBEM compliance to doing it with a deep sense of commitment.

How does the company work towards instituting a common culture across diverse geographies?
First and foremost, there has to be a climate of respect for one another, which includes being sensitive to cultural differences. Next, it is critical to objectively narrow down what needs to be integrated, and what needs to be kept different. Third, the adoption of practices across the organisation has to be based purely on what works best, irrespective of where that practice is residing. And finally, we must ensure that the people we send across to diverse geographies demonstrate the perfect ‘face of the organisation’. After all, they are our ambassadors and they need to have a global mindset and be sensitised to cross-cultural differences.

What are your primary goals and responsibilities?
My role is to help future-proof the organisation by building the desired culture. Diagnosing the current state of the organisation, in terms of orientation, style and skills, and then defining the desired state and designing the interventions that will help us reach the desired state is all part of the job of the culture building team, which is what I am a part of. My role includes defining the values, and then the initiatives, behaviour and etiquette that will help us live those values.

Integration across the larger organisation, which includes our subsidiaries, joint ventures and partners, through organisational transformation interventions is also a role that I handle. In most companies there are different constituencies that often take conflicting positions vis-a-vis one another: the young versus seniors, corporate functions versus line functions, front-line functions versus the back end, etc. My role is also to try and understand these differences, and design interventions that help bridge the gap.

A 100 years and still going strong. In your opinion, what is that makes Tata Power a stable organisation?
I think the most powerful reason for our being a successful enterprise for a hundred years is the quality of our people. It is not just about having a high performing team; it is about having the right DNA, where organisational and personal values are intertwined closely.

This reflects in the kind of choices we make every day as a company; the kind of conversations we have with each other, and with our customers and partners; the kind of involvement we have in our programmes that focus on community development and environmental conservation; the kind of boundaries we set for ourselves on what we will do, and more importantly, what we will not do. We have tried to capture the essence of this in the theme of our centenary year, which is ‘invisible goodness’.

Know more about Tata Power's fascinating journey:
Overview: 100 years of high-wattage performance
A century ago, Tata Power ran a single hydroelectric project in India. Today it has grown to a $5.6-billion global enterprise, with coal mines in Indonesia, wind farms in South Africa, energy projects in Turkey and Zambia and technology partnerships in Australia. It is India's largest integrated private power producer, spanning power generation, transmission, distribution and trading
'We will continue to bring new technologies to India'
The path that Tata Power has chosen for itself is global and clean, as the company’s chief executive, Anil  Sardana, explains in this interview
'The consumer will reign'
Tata Power’s chief operating officer, Ashok Sethi, who has clocked 39 years with the company, shares his views on the organisation’s evolution
'We have to slog our assets'
There are challenges as well as opportunities on the path that Tata Power has chosen to take, says chief financial officer Ramesh Subramanyam
'People policies are linked to the company's strategy'
Employee engagement is critical to improve staff morale and the sense of belonging in the company, says human resources head Chetan Tolia
The going is green
A presence across hydro, wind, solar and geothermal makes it easier for Tata Power to target a cleaner energy portfolio
Chain of excellence
From renewable power to consumer friendliness, Tata Power’s associate entities have set the standard for the industry
For country and community, in the spirit of giving back
The corporate social responsibility initiatives of Tata Power have made a tremendous difference, in a wide variety of ways, to the lives of the countless people they have touched
'We were getting marginalised'
Tata Power had to think beyond Mumbai to stay relevant in a rapidly changing industry, and that’s what it did, writes Prasad Menon
From dependable to adaptable
Tata Power has grown spectacularly in scale and spread thanks to its ability to reinvent itself, says Adi Engineer
When 'farmers' became 'hunters'
Where once reliability and continuity were prized, Tata Power has moved on to find its balance and to flourish in a business arena rendered volatile, writes Firdose Vandrevala
'It was easier to run back then'
KM Gherda remembers the days of Tata Electric Companies, of ‘reasonable returns’ and a business where the big complexity was accounting for three rather than one
A pioneer all the way through
FC Kohli on the company where he made his mark as an information technology whiz, at a time when government permission was needed to get computers installed