Cultural Awareness in the Workplace with Mick Burn

Navigate Disruption Podcast

Episode 09 – September 2023

As part of Infosys Consulting’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives, we are pleased to launch our new podcast: Cultural Awareness in the Workplace. This series will create a space for our colleagues and leaders to share their lived experiences working in multicultural environments and how they embrace lessons on adopting cultural sensitivity. Our goal is to help develop awareness around national and corporate cultures that shape our interactions with clients and colleagues alike.

In this episode, we speak to Mick Burn, Partner and EMEA Lead for our Talent & Organization practice, about how organizational culture is so important and how to nurture it.


Max Russell
You are now listening to Infosys consulting short bite podcast on cultural awareness hosted by myself Max and my wonderful co-host Neetika.

Neetika Kapur
Thank you, Max. Hello, I’m Neetika. I have a background in coaching and learning, and as a change consultant here at Infosys consulting, I enable our clients for success by empowering people undergoing change.

Max Russell
I am Max, and I joined Infosys Consulting last year as an Analyst. In my work, I focus on change management and cultural awareness. Our podcast will have a new guest from across Infosys Consulting each week, all of them able to offer unique insight to cultural differences in the workplace.

Neetika Kapur
We hope listening to these stories and lived experiences will be a valuable learning experience to you, and it will help show you the impact cultural competencies can have in the workplace, but also how we can leverage them effectively.

Max and I work together in the talent and organization practice of Infosys Consulting and have worked together on change management projects that focus on cultural awareness. Working on these projects, we are convinced that this work is not just relevant to our client stakeholders undergoing any cultural transformations, say by means of a software implementation or recent mergers, but it’s also useful to work in diverse teams across Infosys consulting.

So, we’ve put together a string of our lived experiences shared with you as crisp bitesize podcast, hoping to develop the knowledge of our colleagues. In this third episode we have with us, Mick Burn, who leads our T &O practice. Welcome Mick. In this episode, we’ll listen to Mick’s experiences with culture, and take some time to discuss and digest them for learnings.

Hi, Mick, would you like to introduce yourself to our audience?

Mick Burn
Hi Neetika Thank you. Yeah, my name is Mick Burn. I’m a partner at Infosys Consulting. I lead our Talent and Organization practice for EMEA. I’ve been with Infosys for about 11 years. Prior to that I was at Accenture for about 12 years and a few years in industry. So probably about 25 years of helping clients to implement technology enabled change and ultimately help to improve and impact their culture.

Max Russell
So, Mick, why is culture important to you, and what culture are we trying to build here at Infosys consulting and more specifically the T&O practice?

Mick Burn
So yeah, fantastic. Thank you. Thank you, Max, great question. I mean, culture is an interesting one. It’s vitally important. Within an organization culture really helps to personify an organization’s common values or the behaviors that exist within any given team or within the workplace. And, you know, other than financial compensations and the job description, culture is one of the most important aspects that influences people’s decision to join an organization and remain in that organization. So, it is vitally important. Now I can, I can speak within an Infosys perspective, I can speak about my individual experience and my individual interpretation of the culture that I see within Infosys Consulting, in comparison to my previous employer.

And I think there are some nuances that we’ve got within our Talent and Organization practice as well. I think firstly if I look at Infosys culture, Infosys Consulting culture, it is very entrepreneurial. We’ve got a very flat structure, and we’ve got a culture that allows the individual to speak up, it’s nonhierarchical.

I believe that’s been, and we’ve been able to achieve that through our size, we’re only about three and a half thousand consultants globally, which is large, but it’s quite small in terms of the comparison to the overall size of Infosys, which is about 350,000 people. So, we’re only 1% of headcount. And with that gives us the ability for everyone to have networks and know most of the individuals across their practices and across their teams, and it really creates a very flat structure that has that ability to speak up.

The other piece that’s important for me is people feel that they’ve got the opportunity to gain exposure very early on in their careers, and the roles that you’re conducting as junior members of the team gives you a lot of responsibility. It also gives individuals the ability to make their mark and see the impact and the value of them individual merits, which I think is very important in consulting. It helps you to progress quickly, but it helps you to ensure that you’re, feeling that sense of purpose and sense of pride continually throughout your career.

Certainly, if I look at my experience over the last 11 years at Infosys consulting, I’ve learned through experience I’ve been given. I’ve been given multiple opportunities to own projects, to own bids to have senior, very, very senior relationships with C level executives, and be able to drive forward those responsibilities.

Within T&O, I think we’ve also got some nuances around our culture as well, we’ve got a huge sense of community and collaboration. You know, and whether this is driven through the Infosys wider Indian culture, but there’s a huge sense of willingness and desire for individuals to help one another. And it seems like there’s a real culture of, you know, the community first, and then the individual second, and that’s something for me, that’s really allowed me to continue to retain and stay at Infosys for the last 11 years, you know.

I believe in the power of the practice ahead of myself. I think another important contributor to that is the diversity of our team. We’ve got a wide range of nationalities, a wide range of languages and ethnicities, our gender mix is fantastic. We’re about 47% females across the team now. And with that, those different varieties of diversity across our organization, it really gives us multiple different perspectives on the same problem and allows us to have a much broader range of, of insights.

Final one, for me is around learning. And, you know, I think we’ve got we’ve got a culture or a phrase at Infosys of “always on learning”. And I think there’s a common culture across all of our consultants in terms of that willingness, and that desire, to continue to inform themselves and build knowledge, we’ve got a wide range of diverse backgrounds, and with that people are very, very keen and willing to share their levels of expertise. Individuals have got lots of experience prior to joining Infosys and are not shy and afraid to share that as well. So, you know, we have many brown bag sessions and knowledge sharing sessions, where we are able to enlighten one another on the on the insights outside of typical Infosys ecosystem.

Max Russell
Thanks, Mick. I really agree with your point about kind of being pushed and giving opportunities as part of culture, and as an analyst, I’ve been put in a lot of positions I didn’t expect to be put in so early in my career, but I was really glad I was. As part of this podcast, we like to ask our guests about their kind of specific experiences and try to find out what we can learn from them.

Neetika Kapur
So, Mick, looking back at your over 25 years of experience in change management and consulting, what things have stood out to you? Can you share some learnings with our audience to help them build awareness and learn from experience at Infosys?

Mick Burn
Well, I mean in Infosys, and I’ll focus this more on the Infosys and my last 11 years of work within Infosys. But from my experience, there are many different subcultures within Infosys. So, we’ve got the mothership, Infosys Limited 350,000 people, born in 1980s, In the early 80s, as an outsourcing organization. I think about 80% of our employees are still based in India. So, it’s huge. The Indian influences is very important, and it’s very paramount in terms of driving, and dictating the culture of organization versus consulting.

But there are other cultures, there are other subcultures within that as well, you move into the different business units, you go from Infosys Consulting to the CSG or the Client Services Group, you go into the delivery unit, you go across the different geographies, from APAC, to India, to North America, to Europe, even within Europe, from the UK, to the Netherlands, to Switzerland to Poland, there are some nuances in terms of the cultures and the accepted norms in those in those individual areas.

But what’s common is our individual Infosys values, and we’ve got something within Infosys called C-LIFE, and these are our five values that really dictate or define. I should say, not dictate, define our culture. They are as follows.

First, the C is Client value. So, I mean, within Infosys we do put a great emphasis on our clients, and you know, the client is king, and client is queen. We make sure that whatever we do is really defining and making sure that we’re not just agreeing to the SOW, and you know, what’s in the contract, but we’re delighting, we’re delighting the client with every interaction, we’re delivering that phenomenal experience that allows the client to come back again and again and again. And what’s paramount importance to me, I’ve only been here 11 years, but Infosys has existed over 40 years, and many of our clients are still clients today, from 40 years ago. They’ve been clients with us since 1981 and that’s amazing-that whole focus on client.

The L, the next value is L, which is Leadership by example and again, we have something baked into our performance management metrics around Leadership Score. Leadership Score is not something that just partners and executive vice presidents are measured on. The Leadership Score is something that everyone across the organization is measured on, within Infosys Consulting, from an Analyst to Partner and all of the business support functions as well. Everyone has this metric, and there’s this key KPI on their leadership contribution. And that’s really, that’s really interesting, that’s different to what you would get in a, in a big four big five consulting organization. And that really, for me, denotes the lack of hierarchy, in our culture. Everyone is expected to play a role in terms of driving leadership across the organization, whether that’s being involved in recruitment and training activities, building community events, such as brown bag activities, or whether you’re involved in sales and business development and thought leadership and intellectual property, everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the leadership of the practice.

The next value is I: integrity. Integrity, I think is at the heart of what we do, we need to be able to look ourselves in the eye in the morning and the eye and our team’s calls and be able to say, right, we’ve made the right decision here, we made an integrity decision that we we’ve got that right, we were able to act, act in the right way to our colleagues, and to our clients. And sometimes it involves making a difficult decision. Sometimes it makes calling out poor behavior, if we see that sometimes it’s around calling out, others or recognizing others when they’ve made good decisions and they’ve demonstrated fantastic behavior. I think that’s something that we’re really trying to do as part of our D, E and I, initiatives across IC and particularly within T & O.

The fourth value is F and the F stands for fairness, I think it links back to integrity as well. You know, we’ve got to ensure that from our people care and development initiatives that we are fair with one another. We are fair with our performance management cycle, we’re fair with the way that we are coaching and managing ourselves and the rest of the individuals around us. And fair is not always a nice and easy conversation as well. Sometimes, in order to be fair, we’ve got to be honest, in feedback, you know, everyone has developmental points, everyone has improvement areas to make. And what I really appreciate from my peers and my leaders is when people sit down and they gave me some fair feedback, saying Mick’s here’s an area of improvement for you, yeah, you’re doing well, you’ve got to partner, but that doesn’t mean that you are the complete article. Here’s three areas that you need to develop on in the in the given year. So, I think we all have that obligation to provide fair and timely feedback to one another to help us develop as a collective.

The last value is our E, E for excellence, and, you know, and it’s linked back to client value, it links back to all the others as well, leadership, integrity, and fairness. I think in everything we do we need to be able to say, we’ve done that to the best of our ability. We’ve driven for client value or community value or individual excellence in what we’re delivering. I touched on the Indian culture earlier as well. And I think, you know, that does dominate, I’d say dominate our culture within Infosys. But as I say that there are some nuances in Infosys Consulting, and particularly within the IC (Infosys Consulting,) EMEA team. As I said we’ve got this community first mantra with less hierarchical, we’re very much around the individual, and that, for me, is something that’s really been quite useful and important for me today.

Last point that I wanted to share was just about the adoption of culture as well. Within in Infosys yes, we’ve got our C-LIFE culture, we’ve got our T&O culture, but we also spend four or five days a week working with our clients. And I’ve been working with many organizations over the last 25 years, I spend a lot of time at the moment with BP, British, British Petroleum. When myself and our clients or myself and team members are working with BP, we tend to adopt the culture of BP, we tend to take on the culture.

So, we are masters of transformation, not just in helping organizations to transform, but also to be able to adjust our style and be able to fit in and take the best of cultures from the clients that you work with. And I think that is hugely beneficial for us because there are aspects of culture that we see, and we are exposed to on a daily basis from our clients. We tend to bring those back into in Infosys as well. I’ll touch on the DE&I agenda in a moment, but there’s some amazing DE&I examples that we’ve borrowed, and we’ve taken from BP and we’ve brought back into our own world within Infosys Consulting.

Max Russell
Mick one thing I wanted to ask a little bit more about was how, in your view what you think some of the best ways to impact culture and build cultural awareness are?

Mick Burn
Yeah, that’s a great question Max. And listen, culture is notoriously difficult to change. I think it was McKinsey quote saying culture eats strategy for breakfast. It’s true, and it’s still true 25 years after that, quote being made, and often, it takes many years to influence culture. Therefore, you need a strong, intentional roadmap that recognizes and celebrate small incremental achievements.

Often CEOs and leaders don’t have multiple years, it’s a bit like being a football manager in a football club, you’ve got to make immediate results in a season or in a quarter to be able to, you know, to be able to justify your leadership position. So, culture is one of those things it’s notoriously challenging to influence. But at the heart is change management, change management, helps to impact culture. And I think it was Gandhi’s quote around your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, their actions become your habits, and your habits become your character, or your culture. For me, I think that’s key and paramount in terms of being able to influence change management, and how we how change management can have an impact.

So, if I give an external example, again, working with one of our manufacturing clients, you know, the majority of our work within Infosys Consulting is really helping our clients to implement new technology, and people may say, well, you know, how does technology change culture? Well, it does, because it starts with the back to those things, we change actions, we change habits, and therefore we change culture. So those small incremental steps of maybe introducing a new technology platform, standardizing some processes, introducing some change management campaigns, and we build up the commitment, we are influencing behavior, we’re gradually changing people’s hearts and minds, and we’re bringing them up the change commitment curve.

We also, within our Infosys Consulting change methodology, we recognize that not everyone accepts change at the same pace, there’s not a one size fits all approach. We’re able to segment audiences, we’re able to design and implement change interventions, that helped to bring users up the change curve at their own pace. We’re able to build that powerful coalition of supporters and champions that will own and then personify a new culture. So, you know, I think that actually, although we’re in the technology space, a vast amount of what we’re doing is we’re actually changing culture. We’re changing culture, we’re maybe implementing a new SAP system in a manufacturing client, but ultimately, that is embedding new behaviors, that is embedding new culture, it’s changing the overall mantra and the DNA of an organization.

And finally, I’ve given an example of how we’ve done that internally within Infosys as well, and particularly within Infosys Consulting, one of the other hats that I wear is one of our global DE&I leads. We’ve been really trying to change our approach and our metrics around how we recognize DE&I within the organization of Infosys Consulting. One of the things that we’ve seen a massive improvement on, in the last couple of years is number of females coming into the technology sector, and we’ve been able to embrace that within Infosys. We’ve seen a 6 or 7% increase in the number of females in Infosys Consulting in the last two years, and a lot of that is around culture, around really making sure that we’ve got the right behaviors, we’ve got the right rewards, we’ve got the right recognition processes in place, and we’re putting in place the KPIs we’re measuring, we know that what gets measured gets done. So, putting the right measures in place to be able to reward good behavior. So again, it’s bound to actions becoming habits, and habits becoming to influence culture.

Neetika Kapur
I agree wholeheartedly Mick. Having lived and worked in the beginning of my career in an Indian workplace, I see us at Infosys consulting, taking the best of both worlds, in terms of absorbing national and corporate cultures to embed new behaviors. We have a constant stream of knowledge sharing, and osmosis of best practices to enable workplace cultures to be aware, diverse, and inclusive. Thank you, Mick, for sharing your lived experiences and learnings with our audience.

Max Russell
Great. Thank you so much, Mick, for coming on.

Mick Burn
Thank you for having me. Let’s continue this amazing culture transformation journey.

Max Russell
Thank you, Mick, for sharing your experience and we hope you all enjoyed listening to today’s podcast. So those of you listening at home or at work, have you worked in multicultural environments, are there any learnings or tips you want to share with our audience?

Neetika Kapur
We would love it if you’d come and share them with us on the podcast. We also respect if you wish to share your experiences anonymously and can work with you to facilitate this. Please reach out to me Neetika Kapur or my wonderful co-host Max Russell on teams or over email. Until next time, stay aware. Stay empathetic!

Hosts: Neetika Kapur and Max Russell
Guest: Mick Burn, Partner T&O, EMEA
Editing: Max Russell
Sponsors: Paula Forzani & Andrea Palmer

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