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TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP A CASE STUDY

A real life case where one Divisional General Manager, through his
transformational leadership, could convert every adversity into opportunity and transform
a low performing Division into a well disciplined and high performing Division achieving high
growth in all key result areas consistently for three consecutive years.

Context
Sitting in my office in an utter frustrated frame of mind, I was lost in thoughts when I
joined HAL. It was like a dream come true for an electronics Engineer joining HAL and that too
posted to Avionics Division with ample opportunities to work on advanced core electronics and
communication equipments. Somehow, as years passed, I started repenting joining a PSU as
there was neither the culture nor motivation for performance. Posted in CS Department, I was
just passing my days with very little job satisfaction. Few incidents of past had made me to
realize that the place was not meant for me. I was forced to relook my decision and explore
better opportunities outside HAL.

Background/Overview
HAL, Avionics Division Hyderabad designs, manufactures and repairs a variety of
communication, radar and navigation equipments. It has a vast separate research and design
Centre with approximately 400 employees and a production unit with more than 2500 employees.
The Division is headed by a General Manager and four to five Additional General Managers
working under General Manager. Additional General Managers were typically heading two to
three departments. General Manager along with the team of additional general managers used to
take all the strategic decisions and almost all operational decisions in the Division. The design
centre is headed by a separate General Manager.
HAL, Hyderabad used to do its business as a standalone unit and record its profit/loss and
turnover targets. Targets were mutually set within the Division and Corporate office and flown
down to departments as MoU. Production targets were made quarter-wise for a whole production
year by Central planning department and distributed to all production head. Integrated material
management (IMM) department, headed by one additional general manager, used to plan and
procure materials as per the production requirements. All the produced items were supposed
through internal QC checks and certification by DGAQA. The major customers were Indian
Defence customers (85%) and few export customers in Russia, Mauritius etc. (15%). Almost
65% of total revenue came from supply of new equipments and balance 35% from repair/overhaul
of equipments returned from service.

Problems/Issues
One of the major problems faced by the Division was non availability of raw materials for
the production shops in time. The advanced planning in the Division was very poor though
everything looked good on paper. Production schedules were way behind the targets and more
than 60% of production used to be pushed during last quarter. Production heads used to put all
blame on IMM department for late supply of materials and delay in production of equipments.
There was customer services department which used to work as liaison between Division and
customers. All the flow of information from customers to Division used to pass through CS Dept
and vice versa. CS Dept used to literally face the heat of customers for delayed delivery of
equipments and had little control over the production department. In fact, CS Dept used to be
considered as a department of laggards and given least importance.
Another major issued facing the Division was indiscipline. The general shift used to start
at 8:00 AM and close at 4:30 PM. However, no body turned up in time. It was acceptable to reach
office by 8:30 and many of them used to conveniently come around 9:00 AM. There were two tea
breaks in a day each for 15 minutes which used to extend for more than 30 minutes. Lunch break
of 30 minutes was easily extended to 1 hour or more. The shift of 8 hour 30 minutes easily
shrinked to 6 hours or less of productive time. Workers were strongly guarded by Union and
demanded compensatory off for any extra time and in fact were used to work only during
overtime. The organization used to pay a huge amount of overtime incentives while availing
almost little benefits with respect to productivity. Executives were almost free to move in and out
of factory at any time with just an entry in a log register kept at security gate. There was no check
on number of time an officer is going out and for how much time he is not available in factory.
Many executives used to go out for lunch at 12:00 to their residence in the township and used to
come back after 1 or sometimes 2 hrs.
There was a clear lack of motivation among employees to improve their performance or
put their best at work. There was no incentive for working. All employees were treated equally
and incentives/promotions were only at wish and mercy of seniors. Performance related benefits
were negligible. Seniority was almost everything and junior executives were supposed to follow
reporting hierarchy strictly. There was no connect between top management and junior and
middle management. GM was seen only during Independence Day and republic day celebrations
or sometimes during closing of production year in a formal thanksgiving/appreciation speech.
In a nutshell, the organization was going the way environment was taking it. Though it
was showing profits which were mainly an act of book value showoff, the turnover had started to
take a decreasing trend and corporate management was only putting pressure and warnings were
issued for improvement. In fact, then Chairman of HAL on his retirement speech warned that the
Division has to improve on both fronts design and production efficiency or get ready to be closed
down within next 5-10 years. There was a clear lack of leadership who could drive the strong
workforce of HAL towards a nurturing culture and improved productivity standards.
General Managers who were nominated as head of the Division were from the lower ranks
in the same Division and had worked for more than 15-20 years in that Division and were able to
only carry on with same standards set by predecessors. Somehow, management realized that there

is a need to change the leadership in the Division and bring some outsider who can steer the
Division and set new standards.
Change of Guard and change of Organization fate too!
Shri Sunil Kumar was posted as General Manager of Avionics Division of HAL, Hyderabad in
2010. He has earlier worked as AGM in other Division and transferred after promotion as GM. I
still remember his second day in office when I got a call from GM office that GM wants to see me
immediately. I had my own apprehensions to meet GM directly and more than me was my head
of department. He was shocked that a Dy Manager has been directly called by GM himself.
Traditionally, GM was supposed to call AGM and brief the issue who in turn brief HOD and work
requirements will be given to me through HOD.
Left with no choice, I went to meet Mr. Kumar at his office thinking that it may take an
hour or so in the process, major part in waiting outside his office. To my surprise, the moment I
reached, I was called inside. After a brief review of my work profile, Mr. Kumar advised me to
make some vital changes in one of the reports and meet him again after completion. This event
was the first step in breaking the bureaucracy and meeting the General Manager itself enthralled
me. The first meeting with Mr. Kumar and few subsequent meetings made me realize that things
can be changed in the Division and improvements are possible. I was closely associated with Mr.
Kumar since then which in way made my life more hectic.
Mr. Kumar started his work with a deep understanding of all departments. Departmental
heads were supposed to make a sharp presentation on their work area which was attended by all
senior officers of the Division. Improvements in processes were sought from all including junior
executives and many modifications were decided immediately.
GM was involved in almost every forum and listened carefully to the problems faced by
individuals as well as the department as a whole. There was a strong connect between GM and
other officers. Any executive was allowed to meet GM anytime for any legitimate issue and a
solution to the problem was forthcoming in almost all situations. For any business issues,
concerned executives were called at the moment to discuss, evaluate and arrive at a feasible
solution. He followed an open door policy with an aim of transparency at every level.
A list of all business issues was made which ran into pages. Cross functional teams were
formed to analyze the problems and suggest a solution within a given time frame. Executives and
workmen at all levels were given every chance to put their points and suggestions for any problem
and well listened. The employee involvement was his first priority. A bucket of officers were
made responsible for liasioning with all cross functional teams and advise them in case of any
hurdles. They also worked as moderators for resolving inter departmental conflicts.

GMs approach to People and Performance


The second major change was focus on discipline. Advisories were issued to all the
employees to adhere to work timings. The timings were monitored centrally by IT department and
GM used to seek a report on late arrivals. Subsequently individuals were also advised personally
to adhere to the timings. Many of employees even got a call from GM himself or from AGMs
who were willing to listen as to why the employee is coming regularly late. Within a span of 6
months, more than 90% of employees were punching their cards in time. This was believed to be
an impossible task earlier but was achieved through persistent efforts and a humane approach.
GM used to be present in all meetings 5 minutes before meeting time and this embarrassed many
senior officers who used to arrive 10-15 minutes late as a natural habit.
Production meetings were scheduled on a fortnightly basis to review the progress to avoid
surprises at the end of quarter. Other than production, employees were encouraged to offer
innovative ideas in process improvement and in fact targets were set to improve/redesign a
number of processes every quarter. Design & Engineering departments which were called as most
sluggish departments faced a lot of challenges to match the speed of production. Drawing changes
were required within few days while the traditional norm was a month. They really need to pull
their socks to cope up with production requirements. IMM department was almost restructured
and process of tendering and fie clearance were made smarter for faster, better and timely
procurement and sourcing.
There was also a drastic change in people centricity. Executives and workmen both were
asked to indicate their satisfaction levels at their work area. In case they were not satisfied, they
were asked to indicate reasons and what they need for improved satisfactions. First category of
employees was those who indicated a skill-role mismatch. Most of these employees were Job
rotated to their choice of job or closest to their choice. Second category of employees was those
who were not happy with their Bosses or team and felt disconnected. These employees were
counseled first individually and then along with concerned team to work out a solution. A number
of programmes like sports events, cultural events and social gatherings were organized
periodically to create cohesion among the employees. Employees felt a very strong connect with
the top management and a sense of motivation and ownership was coming through rapidly.
Conclusion
Mr. Kumar was generally energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate. Not only was he
concerned and involved in the process; he was also focused on helping every member of the
group succeed as well. Through the strength of his vision and personality, Mr. Kumar was able to
inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work towards common
goals. Mr. Kumar helped followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual
followers needs by empowering them and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual
followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organization.
This is a case which I have lived through and made me understand the real meaning of
transformational leadership. It was proved that even a PSU has a lot of scope for improvement
and things can be turned around even in a most stubborn environment. If you care for people,

people care for you. In this new era, people cannot be controlled, they can only be guided and
inspired to do their best. Control brings only fear, not the performance. With all the changes and
inspirations coming from top, many employees started putting their best for the organization and
the Division started regaining its lost luster. The profits were to the tune of 15-20% which was
considered a very respectable figure in a PSU like HAL.

Yogendra Pratap Singh


Roll Number: 49, Sec A
MDI, Gurgaon