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Posts Tagged ‘interactive planning’

Successful Triple Bottom Line Sustainability Depends On Board of Directors’ Leadership

May 23, 2011 Leave a comment

The notion of organizational leadership has traditionally been viewed in a top/down reductionist thinking fashion. At the pinnacle of the organization is the CEO, followed by the other C-Suite incumbents, then senior executives, then middle management and so on and so on. The idea that an organization’s board of directors has the ultimate leadership responsibility is either not typically considered, or the role of a CEO has become so dominant that no Chairman wants to fight that leadership battle anymore.

This is no trivial mater in regard to who should lead sustainability initiatives, and triple bottom line sustainability (tbls) in particular. It’s one thing to report good intentions through a Corporate Social Responsibility report, but another entirely to envision and lead the complex long-term business changes entailed in a tbls strategy, since this is one of the most systemic and challenging change-related journeys on which any organization may embark. The complexity of triple bottom line sustainability has been emphasized in previous blogs, and is further inferred from the following tbls definition adopted by The Leadership Alliance Inc: “Triple bottom line sustainability is the result of the activities of an organization, voluntary or governed by law, that demonstrate the ability of the organization to maintain viable its business operations (including financial viability as appropriate) whilst not negatively impacting any social or ecological systems.”

The board of directors in principle is ideally placed to envisage and lead this demanding journey, given that it has responsibility for the interests of all the stakeholders, not just shareholders, as its mandate. Without the board of directors’ interest, broad experience, vision, knowledge, and leadership, regarding a chosen sustainability variant, it is not likely that anyone else in the organization will pay much attention, other than for “window dressing”, and this has been born out through our research [1].

Furthermore, even a top management that is committed to sustainability does not last forever, and the responsibility for maintaining a change initiative falls back on the governance structure. If the board of directors does not understand the essence of an organizational change, the risk is that top management will be replaced with new managers who have new ideas of their own – organizations are replete with change-credibility “black holes” created when change sponsors have moved-on from much hyped initiatives without accomplishing their objectives.

As I look around at sustainability initiatives in progress, I see more and more evidence of the application of the traditional reductionist approach, whereby responsibility for sustainability is parceled out to individual organizational entities without regard for the need for a new and innovative organizational strategy plus an overarching planning process capable of addressing systemically the unpredictability and dynamic complexity in which today’s organizations operate. All too often innovation, the key to sustainability, is targeted to saving electricity, reducing waste, or preventing usage of non-biodegradable materials; of course such initiatives are important, but typically they are cherry picking, and no consideration is given to applying innovation to business planning that could lead to restructuring of the organization, and the optimal redesign of its strategy to eventuate in an organization truly designed for the tbl sustainability journey.

This kind of bold new thinking must come from the board of directors which has the power and the mandate to exercise leadership in setting organizational direction for the CEO and the C-suite … when will you directors heed the call? If someone in leadership is reading this blog and would like to know how we at The Leadership Alliance Inc. can assist an organization to set-off optimally on the tbl sustainability journey, please contact us, and as always your comments are of great interest to us.

 Reference:

[1] Smith, P.A.C., Sharicz, C., “The Shift Needed For Sustainability”, The Learning Organization, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2011

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Identifying Stakeholder Representatives For Interactive Planning

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the problems with attempting to include the input of all organizational stakeholders in planning and decision making relates to the shear size of the population, and the associated difficulty in reaching consensus on any given point or issue.  This challenge is particularly acute when Interactive Planning is undertaken because of its continuous planning ethos and its organization-wide relevance. This Blog demonstrates how legitimate stakeholder representatives may be identified and how, through these “opinion leaders”, stakeholder views may be presented and addressed. In addition, these representatives in turn help their constituents to understand and commit to plans developed through Interactive Planning e.g. for Triple Bottom Line (tbl) Sustainability.

Across an organization’s social fabric, individuals learn to trust each other and form groups capable of sense making and knowledge sharing. It’s not just ‘What you know’ (Human Capital) or even ‘Who you know’ (Relationship Capital) that ensures this inter-connectivity, it’s ‘Who you know well enough to trust for advice, or have confidence in to get things done efficiently and effectively’ (Social Capital).

Although there is no uniformly accepted definition of Social Capital (SC), its meaning in an organizational setting can be defined as “The resources, tangible or virtual, that accrue to a corporate player through the player’s social relationships, facilitating the attainment of goals.” Each individual’s relationships with other individuals in an organization form that individual’s SC for better or worse; close relationships enhance SC, whereas distrust and lack of openness cause low SC (sometimes termed Social Liability).

Some individuals in groups and communities achieve particularly elevated prestige or influence with their peers. They form core groups and their names come up time and again in their peers’ hearts and minds and stories, not so much because they have authority but rather because they have attained legitimacy. Individuals demonstrating such characteristics have accumulated considerable SC and are termed here “Opinion Leaders”. In a sense they assume archetypical characteristics within an organization through emergent stories and myths, or attain their status by matching existing ‘trust norms’. Opinion leaders are highly trusted as advisors by their colleagues for a variety of complex and often systemic reasons, e.g. personal attributes, expertise, knowledge, longevity, local deployment, power etc. They are frequently seen as removing risk from organizational situations by providing a positive evaluation of “local fit”.

Such influential individuals typically gain elevated SC by having well-developed meta-abilities such as excellent cognitive skills, self-knowledge, emotional resilience, and personal drive. The development of meta-abilities results in improved interpersonal influencing skills. This contributes to these individuals being more astute and insightful, able to make better judgments, and identify more alternative actions. This means that they can better navigate the typical complex and dynamic organizational reality and influence effectively within it. Opinion leaders usually have greater exposure to mass media, are more cosmopolitan, have more change agent contacts, have a higher socioeconomic status, participate more in their social system than their followers, and are especially important for interpersonal networks whose members differ in many aspects.

If an organization has identified its opinion leaders, these individuals may legitimately represent their constituent stakeholders regarding the stakeholders’ views, and contribute to Interactive Planning in their behalf. As noted above the opinion leaders have themselves personal characteristics that make them particularly well qualified to participate in planning activities.

Theory and means relevant to the identification of opinion leaders based on using Network Visualization Analysis (NVA) have been presented elsewhere. The identification method is very cost-effective and is highly recommended to represent appropriately the various stakeholders across an organization.