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Turning convention on its head

Youngsters have been roped into managing and imparting agility to the company.

N. Madhavan | Print Edition: September 19, 2010

Gelled hair styled into a spike, a soul patch below his lower lip and, quaintly, an Orkut account with over 400 friends. B. Chandrasekaran - Chandru to friends and colleagues - resembles a typical member of GenY in a call centre or retail outfit. But at the 62-yearold truck maker, he clearly stands out.

Chandru has clear views on what he does and what he does not. Facebook is too intrusive, tweeting is not cool. He loves to dance and has been learning hip-hop and gymnastics to make a mark when he hits the dance floor. At Ashok Leyland, or ALL, he is a high performer. In less than eight years, he has risen to become a deputy manager in charge of product development, from a trainee engineer, and is today part of the company leadership pipeline of 150 managers in a 4,000-strong executive workforce.

When he joined ALL in 2002, the company was in the throes of a churn among GenY workers frustrated with managers used to hierarchy. "We were given a list of things to do and told how to do it. We were supposed to just deliver. That's it," he recalls.

Things began to change in 2004 after ALL introduced "Mission YEs" - an initiative aimed at engaging the GenY. Soon, seniors "began delegating a lot of work and responsibility was shared", says Chandru. Today, in Chandru's team of 12 freshers, there is freedom to work, communicate and offer solutions. Decision making is transparent and each team member's contribution is recognised. On his calendar is the occasional dinner and, even, a trip to the disco with colleagues. By the time his department head knew him, "I was already four years into the company," says Chandru, determined to learn from others' mistakes.

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