As the Managing Partner & Co-Founder of Kuroshio Consulting Inc., a management consultancy based in Chicago, Krishna Kutty advises clients across North America on strategy (corporate, product, IT), leadership (with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion), and transformations (digital, functional, and operational).
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We’re happy that you could join us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your story?
Krishna Kutty: I am a proud Canuck (Canadian), but currently work (and play) in Chicago, Illinois. I had been working as both an internal and external management consultant for 17+ years between Canada and the United States before I decided to set up my own consulting practice along with my business partner. We had both spent years in male-dominated industries and were looking for a way to change that – in our case, it is a women-led consulting practice. This career path truly chose me, more than the other way around! I really enjoy thinking through complex problems that my clients face and designing pragmatic strategies and tactics that help them obtain real results.
CEOs and leaders usually have different motives and aspirations when getting started. Let’s go straight to the beginning. What was your primary goal for starting your business? Was it wealth, respect, or to offer a service that would help improve lives?
Krishna Kutty: It was to offer management consulting services that would be practical for our client organizations – we wanted to eschew generating consulting reports that would become shelf-ware or desk ornaments, and instead strive to deliver implementable and lasting change.
Tell us about 2 things that you like and two things that you dislike about your industry. Share what you’d like to see change and why.
Krishna Kutty: I love both helping Kuroshio’s clients solve their most pressing problems and the continuous learning that is part and parcel of management consulting. Two things that I dislike are the unnecessary jargon that consultants tend to use and the fact that in many consulting firms the retention and advancement of women continue to fall short. My business partner and I are currently working on our debut book on how women, specifically women of color, can better navigate their career paths in male-dominated workplaces in corporate America. Stay tuned!
Companies around the world are rapidly changing their work environment and organizational culture to facilitate diversity. How do you see your organizational culture changing in the next 3 years and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Krishna Kutty: Greater diversity in the workforce results in increased profitability and value creation, period. Making DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) a business imperative is still a work in progress for many organizations – a shift from just paying lip service towards setting the right targets and metrics, is needed. Kuroshio Consulting advises client organizations on people strategy, including around DEI and organizational culture transformations, and we also implement several practices and set measures within our own consultancy around recruitment, retention, representation, pay, and advancement.
According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?
Krishna Kutty: We try to instill a high-performance culture within Kuroshio Consulting. As we have a staunch commitment to providing practical advice to our clients, we only hire seasoned consultants with a minimum of ten years of experience in either industry or management consulting. Just as we would advise our clients, we have tried to align our purpose (our why) with our strategy (what we do) and our culture (how we behave). We focus on finding exceptional talent who are problem-solvers with an internal locus of control, retaining our high performers (through competitive salaries and revenue sharing options), and cultivating a learning culture (space to try and fail, but always learn). Our culture has helped us navigate the first few years of our venture successfully and we believe will also help us with our growth trajectory over the coming years.
Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?
Krishna Kutty: Creating a great organizational culture requires intentionality and long-term commitment. Setting principles that guide strategic initiatives and drive desired outcomes (aligned with both market and business conditions) is the start and should help you articulate your organizational culture aspiration. Ensuring that leaders throughout your organization are acting as catalysts for the desired changes, is the next step. Aligning your company’s organizational design, systems, practices, and processes to support your aspirational culture is the third critical step. Last but not least is continued monitoring of how your culture is stacking up to your aspiration, and course-correct, as needed. With these steps, you can create a tailored and “great” organizational culture that can help you drive outcomes – internally, with an amazing employee experience, and externally, with your customers.
The overwhelming majority of more than 9,000 workers included in a recent Accenture survey on the future of work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward, a major reason for that being the improved work-life balance that it offers. How do you promote work-life balance at your company?
Krishna Kutty: We operate on a remote work model, as our consultants span North America. We also promote work-life balance by supporting employees’ volunteer activities (with both time off and with financial contributions), offering health coverage, focusing on outcomes not hours worked and tailoring our approach to our employees’ unique needs.
How would you describe your company’s overall culture? Give us examples.
Krishna Kutty: Our high-performance culture entails trust, outcomes, and shared goals focus, clear direction, and space for diverse perspectives and healthy conflict. As an example, our Principal Consultants manage their own work streams and as an executive team, we encourage honest dialogue and foster accountability through regular discussions of delivery progress (the positives and the opportunities) on client portfolios and by offering aligned reward mechanisms.
It is believed that a company’s culture is rooted in a company’s values. What are your values and how do they affect daily life at the workplace?
Krishna Kutty: Our core values include strength through diversity of thought (how to approach problem-solving), radical accountability (having an internal locus of control), and value delivery (by provisioning post-client engagement care, free of charge). These values have helped us create a workplace culture built on principles that we all rally around – and so, they guide our decisions and help us work toward the same goals, with the same intentions, behaviors, and desired outcomes.
An organization’s management has a deep impact on its culture. What is your management style and how well has it worked so far?
Krishna Kutty: Adaptive, is the best way that I can describe my style. Depending on the situation, there are times where I have to lean into different terrains – from pace-setting (leading by example), to consensus-building, or coaching. It works well because I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership – your style is influenced by your own traits, your employees’ needs, and the type of task at hand.
Every organization suffers from internal conflicts, whether functional or dysfunctional. Our readers would love to know, how do you solve an internal conflict?
Krishna Kutty: I believe that it is important to have a process for conflict resolution. Setting clear accountabilities upfront for who gets to make what type of decision within defined bounds, can help with internal governance and role clarity. That being said, with diversity of thought comes conflict, so be prepared for it. Actively listen to the differing positions, ground yourself in fairness and facts, and create an environment of cooperation not competition between team members. In addition, treat conflict as an opportunity for positive change and growth.
According to Culture AMP, Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention. What is your organization doing to facilitate an inclusive and supportive environment for women?
Krishna Kutty: As the majority of our executive team is comprised of women, and in particular women of color, we take the facilitation of an inclusive and supportive environment for women very seriously. At Kuroshio, we have fair hiring practices, have incorporated “strength through diversity” as one of our core values, offer flexible working hours, provide equal pay for equal work, and invest in driving a learning-driven culture.
What role do your company’s culture and values play in the recruitment process and how do you ensure that it is free from bias?
Krishna Kutty: An organization’s culture and values can help you identify traits that are crucial to success and to market your organization to potential candidates. Cultural fit has impacted not only performance but also retention. For Kuroshio, it is important that we are both transparent and accurate about our shared norms and expectations – we want the right candidate to fill the right role, and join us with eyes wide open. To ensure that we reduce biases in our hiring process, we build awareness around hiring biases with our recruitment team, remove restrictive language from the job description, standardize the interviews, and utilize a collaborative hiring process.
We’re grateful for all that you have shared so far! We would also love to know if there was one thing that you could improve about your company’s culture, what would it be?
Krishna Kutty: Continuous improvement should always be embraced and as such, I would say that continuing to be intentional as an executive leader about making the time to nurture our company culture, in the midst of delivering on client engagements and growing our team, is something that is important to me.
This has been truly insightful and we thank you for your time. Our final question, however, might be a bit of a curveball. If you had a choice to either fly or be invisible, which would you choose and why?
Krishna Kutty: I would choose to fly! One of my favorite hobbies is gliding (sailplanes), so with this superpower, I wouldn’t need an aircraft at all – efficient and effective.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Krishna Kuttyfor for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Krishna Kutty or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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