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Hiring Strategy for Developing TBL Sustainability and Supply Chain Viability

April 10, 2011 Leave a comment

In recent blogs I have underlined the radical changes in organizational thinking, design, and culture that are associated with developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability. These changes are fundamental to the success of any plan for progressing toward TBL Sustainability. It is also evident from the extended discussion I have provided in a co-authored series of six bogs detailing the organizational conditions for addressing TBL Sustainability, that leadership and management characteristics are critically important for success. I have also explored the views on leadership of various generational cohorts in regard to emerging knowledge sharing (KS) organizations. It is clear from these data that for organizations embarking on, or already pursuing, TBL Sustainability and/or KS, the roles, thinking, and behaviors of leaders and managers will need to be re-tailored drastically to satisfy the demands of these increasingly popular strategies.

Whether existing leadership and management cadres have mindsets consistent with undergoing development to cultivate these appropriate new capabilities is a big question. Furthermore, conventional wisdom may work against the hiring of new individuals with appropriate skill sets since organizations typically seek to hire individuals who display capabilities consistent with those displayed by incumbents who have been successful in the past. This is a sourcing process that has worked well historically, but one that is a recipe for disaster when there is a change of era such as seems to be the case now.

There are a number of reasons to believe that we are indeed either transiting such a change of era, or are already immersed in the early phases of the new one. Just as water power facilitated the emergence of the industrial era, so the ubiquitous penetration of digitization into all aspects of business and social life is facilitating emergence of a new social-networked era.  The focus of the industrial era was profit; the emerging focus of this new era is stewardship and TBL Sustainability. Resourcing for any management level of an organization must take into account not only in-depth familiarity with all of the digital platforms and their properties, but in addition the impact of their usage on organizational design and social interaction. This is a difficult problem when filling senior levels of an organization, since this typically entails hiring cohorts of individuals over 30 years of age, and such cohorts exhibit less and less familiarity and understanding of the current digital and social know-how with advancing age.

A further question relates to inter-organizational collaboration and regard. For instance, in a previous blog I explored the need for promotion of socialization both within and between the members of supply-chains. How will such relationships be affected by the leadership and workforce capabilities explored in previous paragraphs? Will a sophisticated organization following a TBL Sustainability and/or KS strategy be willing to include in its supply chain an organization backward in any of the respects discussed above? And if it did, what would its stakeholders have to say about it, and would its governance be influenced?

We are in a business era that moves at breakneck speed, and it is not too soon for forward-looking organizations to think about the notions touched on here. Indeed, if these notions indicate a fundamental change in hiring and development to provide longer-term tenure for young people to mature their leadership and management capabilities to match their already significant digital and social acumen, then the sooner an organization starts to address this issue, the better off it will be.

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Successfully Developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability: #4

November 9, 2010 4 comments

This is the fourth of six Blogs dealing with TBL Sustainability to be published over the next few weeks. All these Blogs are being co-developed with my colleague and TLA Associate Tia Carr Williams.

“Prosperity is the best protector of principle.” – Mark Twain

Right to Market™ (R2M™) involves introducing the right products and/or services at the right time in the right contexts with the right supply chains, and then continually updating, optimizing, and retiring them as necessary. In Blog #2 of this series, we noted that both Sustainable Advantage (SA) and Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) are based on achieving R2M. We also noted that SCA pits both employees and organizations against one another in a never ending competitive “survival of the fittest”, whereas SA strategy and implementation are based on a much more desirable win-win collaboration of all parties. In other words, SCA tries to push change into being – yeah, just like pushing on a rope – while SA pulls change into being. Now however it’s time to pull a different rope!

Given the growing business sensitivity to ecological and social concerns it is apparent that R2M™ has become outmoded, and that SA will be less and less persuasive in the future. This is because innovations must now combine economic and social knowledge with technological and scientific knowledge to ensure that an organization’s products, services and activities are meaningful and sustainable in a triple bottom line (TBL) sense i.e. in an economic, social, and ecological harmony we call Organizational Sustainable Advantage™ (OSA™).

OSA™ results from following a Right for Market™ (R4M™) approach. R4M™ is an innovation on the R2M™ approach, whereby an organization makes sure that its R2M™ strategy and implementation plans are based not only on a win-win collaboration of all parties, but on strategy and implementation plans that are ethical, and without negative impact on relevant ecological, sociological or environmental systems. In other words, OSA™ is still pulling change into being, but it goes to a new level by adding the TBL elements as a significant component of sense making and decision making. This must be achieved whilst still emphasizing the culture value-set that enfranchises, to the greatest extent feasible, employee participation through informal learning and the social technologies that act as stimulus for positive behavioral drivers.

OSA plays a powerful role in transitioning an organization to the polyarchic structure highlighted in earlier blogs. This structure accords the degree of distributed influence requisite to shaping a new culture, and shaping occurs from the bottom up as well as from top down to effectuate a gradual acclimation to new processes that form the necessary foundations. Drucker noted that: “Every enterprise is composed of people with different skills and knowledge doing many different kinds of work. It must be built on communication and on individual responsibility. All members need to think through what they aim to accomplish-and make sure that their associates know and understand that aim. All have to think through what they owe to others-and make sure that others understand. All have to think through what they in turn need from others-and make sure that others know what is expected of them”. OSA incorporates key Network Visualization Analysis capabilities that help to acknowledge which and where key personnel are contributing, and acts to direct the organization to incentivize appropriately.

Sustainability models derive conceptually from natural self-organizing structures that build colonies of knowledge aggregation and mobilization that effortlessly optimize ‘the best solution’ –  a process greatly hindered in standard top down cultures. The natural state of every sustainable system moves toward balance that is fluid and freely adaptive to necessary improvements.  Responsiveness to critical knowledge is a core exemplar of OSA functionality.  The capacity to observe, address and respond in a timely manner to key issues affords the agile organization the capability to stay ahead of the marketplace by authoring and acting in anticipation of, not only reacting to, marketplace demands.

In the upcoming fifth Blog of this series, the triple bottom line approach to sustainability plus its monitoring and reporting are discussed in more practical detail.

Successfully Developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability: #3

November 2, 2010 1 comment

This is the third of six contiguous Blogs dealing with TBL Sustainability to be published over the next few weeks. All these Blogs are being co-developed with my colleague and TLA Associate Tia Carr Williams. In this third Blog further cultural implications of Sustainable Advantage (SA) are explored.

“It is not who is influential that counts but who acts as a catalyst for conversation” – Keith O’Brien

Sustainable Advantage (SA) has been discussed in Blogs #1 & 2 of this series dealing with TBL Sustainability. It is clear that change is fundamental to SA, and change is a constant continuum – a flowing circadian dynamic that yearns to be harnessed. The ability to purpose the momentum of change is colored by an organization’s prior experience of change. When starting to contemplate SA as an organizational change opportunity, and how it might be managed, it is useful initially to spend time reviewing and learning from previous change-related experience, and re-assessing the organization’s culture and design.

Change takes root best in a culture of innovation that incorporates an inclusive collaborative mindset, and that embraces change as an organic evolutionary process of co-production. As emphasized in Blog #1 of this series, a decentralized organization has distinct market advantages over a wholly centralized organization. In particular, the sense of incorporation from many perspectives in a decentralized organization creates a balance and an harmonious relationship with change, rarely the case in current or previous models of ‘change management’.

How well or badly churn has been integrated into the daily work flow is also an indicator of sustainability potential. Churn is typically viewed as deleterious from an organizational harmony viewpoint, but for a decentralized organization focusing on SA, churn is integral to its change momentum, and new and existing incumbents can champion innovation from a place of congruence, comprehensively cognizant of choices and challenges.

An organization seeking SA must cultivate a culture enfranchising sustainable principles and innovation at its foundation. There must be a synergistic co-operative culture that fosters thinking on how everything can be improved. Management must seek a balance between financial viability and strategies to gain and maintain market uniqueness through environmentally sustainable practices, including product and process innovation, as well as the development of sustainable supply chain management. There must be a motivational visionary strategy allied with a deep human context structure, and workforce integration systems of high efficiency, capability and efficacy. Costs must be reduced, and there must be task agility for optimal productivity. Leadership is at the heart of a healthy organization, but it must beat with the ring of authenticity – people will follow where their heart is engaged.

This kind of strong organizational culture confers a fundamental and unique advantage. If building and sustaining an innovation culture focused on commitment to the organization’s goals remains central to all activities, the potential for sustainable success is increased immeasurably. To promote creativity the organization’s leaders must pull the culture into being by giving the right incentives to key people, encouraging them to think creatively, and with every achievement, giving them the confidence to think ‘out of the box”. This can only be accomplished where the environment supports such activities. ‘Soft spaces’ within the formality of the corporate environment nurture such engagement to great effect; it is no surprise that the factors that most strongly predict rapid change, adaptation, and innovation introduction, are related to collegial, participative and open organizational systems, and cultures that permit joint problem solving without boundary interference. These are the kinds of decentralized organizations where individuals have the freedom to take risks and develop new ideas, be creative, and challenge existing organizational norms.

In the upcoming fourth Blog of this series, the implications a Triple Bottom Line approach to SA will be explored.

Successfully Developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability: #1

October 22, 2010 6 comments

This is the first of six Blogs dealing with TBL Sustainability to be published over the next few weeks. All these Blogs are being co-developed with my colleague and TLA Associate Tia Carr Williams.

“We now know that the source of wealth is something specifically human: knowledge. If we apply knowledge to tasks we already know how to do, we call it productivity; if we apply knowledge to tasks that are new and different, we call it innovation. Only knowledge allows us to achieve those two goals. Organizations that are efficient and effective in applying knowledge will succeed better than their competitors” – Peter Drucker

Business as usual is no longer an option – it is obvious that traditional organizational design has not worked in today’s complex business environments. New ways of thinking and organizing are critically important if organizations are to do more with less, and ensure ongoing business growth and renewal.

Most of today’s organizations are set up like spider webs with thinking and command at the centre, and planning and control exerted through the web threads. The problem is that command and control operation is far too inefficient in terms of speed and efficiency, too clumsy in terms of knowledge management, and too lacking in variety for today’s complex dynamic business contexts. Top-down corporations need to adapt their fundamental structure to change from a command and control model to one that promotes facile communication incorporating social trust and widespread knowledge sharing – in other words to survive surging market competition organizations must decentralize.

A decentralized organization has distinct market advantages over a wholly centralized organization, allowing not only for the natural development of the key capabilities needed for the organization to operate creatively and successfully in face of today’s constantly changing circumstances and environmental demands, but equally to address the needs of a churning workforce that increasingly includes a new breed of worker – the Generation Y Millennials, the cohort born between the mid-70s and the early 2000s. Organizations challenged with three generations of employees need novel organizational strategies to accommodate employees’ varied learning requirements and to foster work satisfaction. Decentralized organizations are more responsive to market forces and employee variety, are agile in implementation, and are consistently adaptive to innovative processes that promote and empower continuous improvement at the rock face of employee daily-deliverables.

Decentralization as it is implemented today typically involves creating a starfish configuration, comprised of small hubs capable of operating, growing and multiplying interdependently of each other. The starfish model is used by innumerable organization designers around the globe today. Although it is an advance over the spider web design, and does facilitate significant strategic advantages to emerge from daily operations in ways that play a significant role in continuous improvements informing sustainable advantage, the starfish model still does not go far enough to provide a truly sustainable systemic approach to organizational design.

Genuine Sustainable Advantage (SA) demands a much more polyarchic approach, providing both independency and interdependency of all major components of organizational processes. In the SA model people become epi-central to the co-evolution and co-maintenance of strategy, structure, processes, and rewards. Human-centric organizations include employees in most of the organization’s responsibilities and decision-making, ensuring incremental investment by each member in the rigors and rewards of a profitable company.

In the second Blog of this series the critical differences between Sustainable Advantage (SA) and Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) will be explored, and the relevance and promotion of innovation reviewed.

Change Proofing

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment

In 1995 I co-authored a paper [1] about “Change Proofing” – the ability of a commercial organization to manage change stimulated by largely unanticipated, hard-to-predict events and shocks. Examples up to that time included trauma due to third world debt in the 1970s, the energy industry in the 1980s, and commercial real estate and corporate buy-outs in the 1990s.

History shows that the consequences of failing to recognize and interpret harbingers of change can be devastating. It is said that the ancient Peruvian Indians were unable to “see” the sails of the invading Spanish fleet, and dismissed them as mirages. More recent historical (hysterical?) examples of myopia include US automobile manufacturers who were blinkered to Pacific-Rim competitors, and even IBM, which was long unprepared for opportunities presented by the explosive growth of personal computing.

Clearly-identified business trends, such as globalization, technology, demographics and new social orders, had often been cited up to 1995 as drivers of change. However, little attention had been given to management of change stimulated by largely unanticipated, hard-to-predict events and shocks, such as rapid oil price changes or the sudden collapse of centrally-planned economies. Few models of such change, or techniques to plan or cope with it had been presented in the literature in 1995 or since for that matter, although even in 1993 according to such an authority as Ed Schein [2]: “…the problem is not management of change but the management of surprise”.

Change Proofing was not intended as a means to resist or avoid change, but rather a process for becoming more flexible and responsive in order to cope with it. The Change Proofing paper proposed that environmental shocks and surprises could best be managed by increasing the ability of the organization itself to anticipate, recognize and respond to them – surprise surprise – before hand! The paper set out theoretical reasoning, but more importantly it detailed a straightforward practical Change Audit that would help organizations of all types and sizes frame and address critical factors for Change Proofing; form more realistic and objective views of radical environmental change; and develop better means of coping with surprise. The paper also recommended that the Change Audit should cover organizational learning processes and their impact on strategic focus, motivation and core capabilities.

So what can one say about current events? Too bad so many of today’s organizations haven’t read the paper or didn’t heed its message?! Well, it’s not too late to plan for next time – and there will be a next time – so I invite you to have a look at the paper now …

[1] Drew, S.A.W. & Smith, P., The Learning Organization: Change Proofing and Strategy, The Learning Organization, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1995

[2] Schein, E.H., How can organizations learn faster? The challenge of the green room, Sloan Management Review, Winter, 1992; pp. 85 – 92

Developing Sustainable Organizations Using the Sustainability Score Card™

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Blog by Peter A.C. Smith and Dr. Carol Zulauf-Sharicz (Suffolk University, Boston)

Definitions of sustainability range over many different domains such as profit, viability, energy, ecologies, natural resources, organization, and society to name just a few. Most of these definitions are different and none of them totally satisfy requirements to cover all aspects of the subject.  We feel that since a complete definition is not feasible at this time a pragmatic approach based on relevant current research and practical concerns is valid. Therefore we focus here only on the sustainability of commercial organizations, especially organizations functioning in complex environments such as those that face firms locally and globally today and for the foreseeable future. This is not to say that some or all of the following may not be more generally relevant. Further, we define sustainability as the capability of an organization to be viable over extended periods of time in a commercial sense whilst being an exemplar in avoiding potential or real negative ecological and social impacts related to its activities.

What makes an organization sustainable?  First, achieving “Right for Market™” (R4M™).  R4M™means introducing the right products and/or services at the right time in the right contexts at the right price with the right supply chains, and then continually updating, optimising, and retiring them as necessary; and secondly, making sure that achieving R4M™ does not negatively impact relevant ecological or social systems. These two points demand extensive internal and external knowledge and awareness. This may only be satisfied if the organization is founded in complexity and learning based on systemic approaches.  In particular sustainability demands innovative approaches and fresh thinking for the necessary transformative changes to take place and organizational self-actualization in terms of sustainability to be achieved.

With respect to individuals and their self actualization, Abraham Maslow developed a well-known hierarchy of needs.  Maslow postulated that human beings have an innate drive to satisfy these needs, and that they form a hierarchy – Maslow drew the hierarchy as a pyramid. At the lowest level he placed a person’s physiological needs e.g. food, water. Once the physiological needs are met humans look to satisfy what Maslow called the safety needs e.g. law, stability.  When the two lowest needs are largely gratified, there emerges the need for belongingness e.g. love, community.  According to Maslow, only when the three lower needs are satisfied will the individual seek esteem.  Maslow divided this class of needs into two sub-classes.  The first involves the need for self-evaluation e.g. self-esteem, confidence; the second involves the views of others e.g. reputation, prestige.  There is a further less-well formulated stage that often, if not always, develops even if the lower needs are satisfied whereby individuals feel a new discontent and restlessness unless the individual is doing what they are fitted for – this is epitomized in the expression “What a person can be, they must be” and relates to self-actualization.

Maslow made the point that some needs are under the control of others (in the others’ domain), for example safety, recognition, enumeration. Other needs can be satisfied by the individual him or herself (one’s own domain), for example self-esteem and self-actualization. In this regard, Maslow had the further notion of “threshold limits” making the point that individuals should set a target for satisfying their own needs “in others’ domain” at the boundary between “justifiable appetite” and “greedy desire”.  Maslow further postulated that the energy used in seeking to satisfy “greed” saps the individual’s capability to satisfy needs “in one’s own domain”.

So what does this have to do with sustainability? Turns out by analogy “quite a lot”! We can view the needs and development of organizations in a similar way to those ascribed to individuals by Maslow. Further, by equating this development as a journey toward self-actualization in sustainability terms, we can identify organizational behaviors and stages of sustainability development. For example, the initial stage is related to making a profit sufficient to stay in business; short term viability is the key concern and other sustainability aspects are not of concern. The second stage is related to having standards and laws that protect the organization and sustainability other than viability is seen as burdensome. The third stage involves lip service to the communities and the ecological and social standards in which it operates; the organization no more than complies with regulations that govern organizational conduct. It is not until the organization has satisfied these needs that the organization will address Maslow’s “esteem” level when what employees think becomes important, and the organization is confident of its viability and its place in the world of business. After this what others in the broader community think becomes very important, and since this organization now yearns for high reputation and prestige it will take the initiative in preventing negative ecological and social impacts. Finally, an organization will truly become sustainable when it applies the idea that “what an organization can be, it must be” and it then operates as an exemplar of all that is included in our sustainability definition. Further, as Maslow suggested, such an organization will operate at a commendable boundary in “others’ domain” and will be thus able to channel its energies internally to appropriately satisfy the needs of “its own domain.”

For organizations to meaningfully contribute to their own sustainability their activities need to be reported and measured against identified goals. To this end the profit/ economic survival balance sheet must be amended to include bottom lines for environmental and social accountability. This has become known as the triple bottom line and there may yet be other measurements that will be added.  This new way of assessing an organization’s performance is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today; however, the application of the Maslow hierarchy to an organization allows stages and behaviors on the journey toward sustainability to be described, and a “Sustainability Score Card™” developed, that allows the organization readily to track progress and report measurements.

Please clic the link to if you would like information concerning the related Seminar. To get to  know more about building & leading sustainable organizations and how the Sustainability Score Card™ enhances your potential to achieve this goal, please give us a call through The Leadership Alliance Inc. …. our best to you, Carol and Peter