Thinking Like A Leader

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 four coaching sessions. 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.

ALP has been running within TCS from 2006 till date. Through the years, we have run 53 batches with approximately 25 people per batch. More than a 1000 people have been trained for leadership through this process, and many have gone on to fill senior management positions within the company.

We have also worked with specific ISUs to help redesign themselves.  


From its origins in 1999, the employee strength at TCS went from 15,000 to approximately 3.5 lakhs and they currently enjoy the lowest attrition rate within the industry.

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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