Awakening Leadership… Shaping the Org Culture

How India’s software giant took the lead in organizational culture

Engagement Period: 1999 - on going

Sector: Software Products & Services

Client: Tata Consultancy Services

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is a global leader in IT services, digital and business solutions that partners with its clients to simplify, strengthen and transform their businesses. They ensure the highest levels of certainty and satisfaction through a deep-set commitment to their clients, comprehensive industry expertise and a global network of innovation and delivery centers.


In 1999, TCS was an emerging software giant with an employee strength of 15,000. However, they faced a challenge in the nature of attrition rates. One of their major concerns was in reducing the rate of attrition within the company.

TCS was also poised for growth. The need of the day was to enable managers to take further steps towards leadership. At that level in the company, one would be handling a portfolio that would be equivalent to an independent mid-sized business. The focus was on how to get people who were good managers to think like independent business leaders. How do we design our own future? This was the important question.

What we did

Following our initial discussions with the management, it was decided that a lower attrition rate translated to a sense of belonging to the organization. Therefore, our efforts in the initial phase, revolved around organizational culture and fostering a sense of ownership among employees.

The initial diagnostic assessment was held in 1999. After presenting our findings to the management, we helped redesign HR processes and initiated a set of workshops with members of top management to help them write a scenario for the future. Unlike a vision statement, a scenario is the story from ‘where I am’ to ‘where I want to go’. By creating three different possible scenarios, top management engaged in dialogue with each other to ultimately arrive at a shared picture of the organization they wished to build.

Our initial intervention, called Propel, aimed at creating a sense of belonging within the middle management, which would induce continuous development. The theme of this intervention was ‘Care, Share, and Grow’ and was a breakthrough in organizational culture within the company. It was the first time where people came together to share their experiences and perspectives, as well the issues that they faced on the ground. Propel was carried out in two modules, a Camp and a Confluence, both of which began to create a sense of trust and camaraderie amongst employees.

TCS identified individuals within the company who would belong to particular streams to create a sense of ownership structurally, and we trained ‘propelers’ though a set of programs to run the Camps and Confluences within their respective teams.

In 2006, the delivery of Propel was handed over to internal facilitators. To enable a consistent delivery of the basic components, TAO created a set of video aids called CCC.

Around the same time, TCS was planning a restructuring of the organization into verticals and horizontals. TAO was invited to facilitate the transition from the monolithic structure to the ISU structure by designing and delivering the Leadership Development Programme. We designed a three pronged approach that focused on improving basic managerial skills, strategizing skills, and the behavioural aspects involved.

TAO took on the delivery of the behavioural module, which we called “A Leader Prepares” (ALP). This comprised of a 5 day intensive experiential learning module followed by coaching sessions. Working with Will, Emotional Anchorages, and the Dream, the participants, batch after batch, were initiated in to the practices of mindfulness and self-reflectivity on the one hand, and through the innovative use of the 5 Pandava hero archetypes from the Mahabharata and an extensive use of theatre, the five approaches to leadership have been enthusiastically imbibed by participants from 2006 till date. The program design has also evolved through this time, to cater to the changing business contexts of the participants.

ALP has been running within TCS from 2006 till date. Through the years, we have run 100+ batches with about 25 - 30 people per batch. More than a 2500 people have been trained for leadership through this process, and many have gone on to fill senior management positions within the company. TAO also responded to the pandemic challenge of continuing to run the program online without any significant gap, and without dilution of the experiential learning process.

Responding to the contextual demand for reaching this set of practices to a larger population of budding leaders, TAO piloted and have been running a modified version of the program for younger managers (ALP-ARROW). We have trained more than 6000 people since the start of pandemic, in batch size upwards of 100 participants.


From its origins in 1999, the employee strength at TCS went from 15,000 to 6+ lakhs and they have continued to have the relatively low attrition rates within the industry over a long period of years.

Both the versions of ALP have been well-received with the Net Promoter Score of 99% and above. Participants have especially appreciated both the depth of the concepts and the ability to start applying these right in the program itself. It has been acknowledged that this is indeed a life-long exploration, but they are leaving with tools and strategies and a group of peers with whom they can learn and grow and deploy these in the workplace to create positive impact.

Organizational culture is often taken for granted in industries. By bringing the personal back into personnel, TAO and TCS worked on the invisible element of work culture within an organization. Rather than looking at strategy and performance management, we focused on the mind-set and heart of the organization. Our efforts were simply to create a fertile ground for growth. We can proudly say that our association with TCS over the years has made a significant impact on the way managers think and feel, preparing them for leading the organization into a brilliant future. 

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