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The creation story

Not too long ago, I heard a common refrain from a group of CEOs of small/medium sized firms.

I wish my core team would keep pace with me. That would enable faster growth.

Apparently, their core teams’ basic capabilities were fine. What was needed was: boldness, speed, decisiveness and action-orientation. And to match that effort, the CEOs were willing to give significant leeway in operating.

Some had tried MDPs or training programs, which didn’t move the needle. Others considered hiring talent from outside, but that was expensive and not guaranteed to work.

One of those CEOs offered his own venture as a test case, if I could come up with a novel way of solving this problem.

We co-designed a 3-month program to address the issue, and immediately put it to use. Three months later, here is what our CEO had to say:

We are a fast-growing start-up in the agri-tech space. As the MD, I have multiple demands on my time – investor meetings, long term strategy and supporting our Vertical Heads in their work. 

When we were smaller, I could get involved in every decision my team made and handle most customer negotiations myself. But as we started growing and expanding into multiple segments and geographies, I needed to be able to take a step back and think more about our long term goals. My team needed to manage day-to-day operations, without having to check with me at every step. 

Working closely with Shirish on the HumSarathi program for 3 months, I slowly saw my team get more independent. We still have weekly reviews, but I am no longer the bottle neck for small decisions.

Both speed and quality of decision making of the team has improved.  Now with my team on auto-pilot, I can devote more time to strategic growth projects and long term initiatives for the company.

So that’s the creation story. The CEO was happy. His team had taken charge and unblocked growth. And I had become the first “Sarathi” – someone who takes you where you want to go, and doesn’t leave till the job is done.

Rest of the story

I’ll continue the rest of the story FAQ style.

What is the offering, again?

We help CEOs unblock growth.

In 3 months.

We do that by unshackling the performance of core team members. So they operate with speed and decisiveness and action-orientation.

Who are SARATHIs?

A network of people operating out of major Indian cities. Some of us are venture founders. Others have held positions of responsibility in startups & larger organisations. Some are full-time coaches who have experience with helping people change. Quite a diverse lot, actually. But when they take up assignment as a Sarathi, they have laser sharp focus on just one thing: move the needle in 3 months!

How exactly does a Sarathi help your DRs?

A Sarathi engages each of your team members individually.

Initial conversations are about identifying the bottleneck … it could be avoidance of risk, fear of confrontation, a narrow view of their own roles or lack of a crucial skill. It could even be their past experience with you.

That done, the Sarathi supports your team member in overcoming the bottleneck. Teaching, coaching, provoking, role modeling, providing feedback, setting practice tasks and tracking completion. And connecting with you intermittently, to check progress.

The entire journey is structured as an exploration phase, a sandbox phase and a test-flight phase. Typically, its done in 3 months, give or take a few weeks.

Here’s a case study of one of our projects, as a quick-read 1 page PDF.

How is this any different from other MDPs?

Typical MDPs are an intense burst of 2 to 5 days of activity… followed by NOTHING. In the absence of implementation support, the manager loses momentum soon. The time and money invested is almost totally wasted.

But in a HumSarathi program, interaction with the Sarathi is EVERY WEEK for 3 months! The agenda of speeding up performance remains on the table till old habits change.

Another big difference: We do whatever it takes. We employ coaching, give straight-forward advice when needed, meet as often as needed, spend time in the field to understand the context and even arrange meetings with well-matched mentors. We think strict adherence to ONE methodology damages chances of success. We’re goal-focussed… and we think the methods for each individual will vary.

Here’s another one: Unlike traditional training/MDPs, there is no loss of productivity. Your team doesn’t need to go anywhere… the program comes to wherever they are, at home or office. The time investment is speaking to the Sarathi is about 2 hours a week, and the rest of the effort is about doing their existing work differently.

The result is: You get serious value. Here’s a comparison of alternatives, as we see it.

What does the CEO need to contribute?

You must be willing to give your team members significant leeway, as they become more capable. Speed and decisiveness of a manager depends on not having to check with the boss for minor matters.

Without that, it simply won’t work. Surely, we’re not expecting you to move to the other extreme and abdicate responsibility. But we are talking of loosening your grip on the steering wheel and letting your team take that up.

Logistics?

The Sarathi meets your team members either at your office premises or online, depending on the need and COVID-related restrictions. Typically, one meeting every week, with additional interactions where needed.

I need to know more. What next?

Simply write to me. I am at shirish@HumSarathi.com

I’ll answer any questions you have. Then, should you wish to engage, we’ll pull out all the stops.

About Shirish Kher (Founder of HumSarathi)

Shirish has taken quite a circuitous (hence interesting) route to where he is now. Started off with an Engineering (IIT Kanpur ’97) & Management (IIM Ahmedabad ’99) education.

Gather corporate experience at IT departments of Asian Paints and General Electric. Roles involved evaluating software user’s requirements, roll-out of ERP software and leading a team for maintenance of software.

Switched track to the Learning Industry and managed sales to large corporate accounts in NCR region for iDiscoveri, an experiential education startup.

Since 2005, he has been an independent professional in the learning and HR consulting space. The predominant area of work has been culture building in teams and raising the quality of decision making. In terms of methodologies, he has used training & coaching, classroom & outbound settings, individual and group engagement.

Along the way, out of a desire to make history education engaging, he co-founded DeepDiveIndia, an immersive travel startup. It seeks to use storytelling as a tool to explore history of a region. Operations are currently in 2 north-Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. The COVID pandemic, which was a challenge for the tourism industry, was an opportune time for a pivot: to webinar-based storytelling. Now, both physical tours and webinars have become lines of revenue.

He actively blogs about his experiences and insights on his personal website and on Linkedin.