'Large levers have a profound impact on organisations, but expect resistance'

A new mental model creates a seed for innovation, and its impact is immense, said Rajesh Uppalapati of Intuit, on day 4 of TechSparks 2021.
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“When you employ larger levers to shape an organisation, the impact can be profound, but be prepared for resistance,” said Rajesh Uppalapati, Vice President, Product Development, Consumer Group and Platforms, Intuit, on day 4 of TechSparks 2021, India's most influential startup-tech conference organised by YourStory.

With the theme 'What's Next: Rethinking the future', TechSparks 2021 is providing a platform for the most defining conversations on how disruptive technology innovations can shape our lives post-pandemic. To this end, it has brought together more than 400 global leaders, technology startups, large enterprises, and thought leaders from the global innovation ecosystem who are rethinking the future to enable what’s next.

Rajesh's keynote on 'Toolkit for driving organisational changes' began with the scientific analogy of a lever.

“Just as a physical lever influences distant objects — where if you move one end of the lever, it causes a change at the other end — levers can help you shape parts of an organisation where you don’t have direct visibility,” Rajesh said.

He listed six levers in the context of an organisation: mental models, goals and metrics, organisational structures, policies and rewards, communication channels, and resources.

While resources and communication channels are smaller levers, Rajesh said mental models constitute one of the most important tools a leader can apply.

“Mental models are assumptions in an individual or a group of people that fundamentally shape how you view and engage with the world," Rajesh asserted.

"Each time you create a new mental model, you are creating a seed for innovation, and the impact generated from it is immense,” he added.

He delved on organisational goals under two categories: managerial challenges and leadership challenges.

“Managerial challenges are super-critical, and come with an urgency tag, which means they are time-sensitive and require sensitive execution, whereas leadership challenges require substantial adoption and change in the organisation,” Rajesh explained.

An Amazon veteran, Rajesh Uppalapati joined Intuit in April 2021. He recounted his experience of hiring more than 100 engineers after joining Intuit as a managerial challenge. Intuit, a financial software platform, was unprepared for such a hiring surge.

“What made this even more challenging was that we were in the midst of a pandemic that impacted most of the employees in some way, and our recruiting team was not skilled for this surge,” Rajesh said.

Intuit used its resources lever to increase staff in the recruiting team, and added more external agencies to source resumes.

“We needed to get organised to hire fast. We looked closely at the recruiting funnel, studied the previous data that showed us the conversion metric, and then used the current funnel metric to extrapolate what kind of sources we need,” he recalled.

Rajesh also drew from his experience at Amazon India, where he rose to be Head of Engineering - Consumer Reach and Engagement. He said the mental model set by Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos for India had a profound impact on the ecommerce company when it launched operations here.

While the smaller levers are useful to overcome managerial challenges, larger levers are imperative to conquer leadership challenges, Rajesh said.


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For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out TechSparks 2021 website.

Edited by Kunal Talgeri