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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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Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Sustainability Via Interactive Planning

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

In a previous Blog, it was noted that organizations critically need new ways of thinking and organizing if they are to do more with less, and ensure ongoing growth and renewal in today’s business “Perfect Storm” – A Perfect Storm is the term that describes the situation some organizations and programs are experiencing today. This situation is a product of an exceptionally new and rare combination of unforeseen circumstances. Circumstances that produce severe business turbulence that drastically aggravate an already perilous situation. Sound familiar?.

How successful your organization becomes at acquiring and retaining a leading position in your niche marketplace in this Perfect Storm depends critically on how you position your business relative to other businesses. In that Blog, why the concept of gaining Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) over “competitors” was outmoded was also discussed, as well as why it has been replaced by Organizational Sustainable Advantage™ (OSA™). In OSA™, strategy and implementation are based on the win-win collaboration of all parties, and on plans that are ethical, and without negative impact on relevant ecological, sociological or environmental systems (Triple Bottom Line Sustainability).

Genuine OSA™ demands a decentralized organization founded on independency and interdependency of all major components of organizational processes. Stakeholders at all levels must be epi-central to the co-evolution and co-maintenance of strategy, structure, processes, and rewards. This human-centric style organization will include stakeholders 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.

To deal with the overwhelming complexity that an organization faces when it begins to navigate the transition from SCA to triple bottom line OSA™, The Leadership Alliance Inc. [TLAINC] recommends a design process that utilizes the stakeholder-centric Interactive Planning Methodology first introduced by Dr. Russell Ackoff (1981; 1999; 2006); this planning methodology  addresses planning on any scale from local to global.  Interactive Planning is highly relevant to successful design of an organization seeking OSA™ since, as mentioned above, the organizational climate will be characterized by the need for inclusion and alignment of all stakeholders in the planning process in conditions of increasing rate of change, complexity, and uncertainty – conditions that make it very hard to plan for the future using typical non-idealized planning methodologies.

Interactive Planning Methodology is guided by three operating principles:

  1. The participative principle which implies that no one can plan effectively for someone else. Professional planners and planning units should provide whatever motivation, information, knowledge, understanding, wisdom and imagination required by others to plan effectively for themselves.  Indeed, participating in interactive planning promotes the development of the members of an organization. Development, as opposed to growth, is defined by an increase in competency and one’s desire and ability to satisfy one’s own desires and those of others. Interactive Planning enables members to acquire an understanding of the organization, making it possible for them to serve organizational ends more effectively.
  2. The principle of continuity which is important because plans, no matter how carefully prepared, need to be continuously reviewed and, if necessary, modified as there are events that cannot be foreseen, especially in conditions of complexity. Changes in facts also alter the value we place on such plans. Interactive Planning is a system that allows continuous monitoring, evaluation, and modification of plans.
  3. The holistic principle that illustrates the importance of planning simultaneously and interdependently across all levels of the organization and all parts of a system. This principle has two parts, coordination and integration, each focusing on a different dimension of the organization. The principle of coordination implies that all units at the same level should be planned for simultaneously and interdependently. A threat or an opportunity that appears in one unit may best be treated in another unit or in several units simultaneously. For example, a marketing problem may best be solved by a change in production or sales or vice versa. The principle of integration asserts that planning done independently at any level of a system cannot be as effective as planning carried out interdependently at all levels. Conflicts between and within levels of organization can be avoided if planning is done in a coordinated and integrated fashion, as everyone is aware of the effects of what one level or unit does on other levels or units.

Interactive Planners believe that the future can be created and is dependent upon what one does between now and then. In planning, it is not the plan, but the process and the associated learning that are the most important products. Interactive Planning participants first dissolve a problem by changing the nature of either the entity that has it, or altering the environment in order to eliminate the problem entirely. They idealize by designing a desirable future and inventing ways to bring it about. The methodology aims for the participants to collaboratively and collectively design an ideal-seeking system based on the fundamental premise that the “system (with the problem) was destroyed last night.” The purpose of this is to free the participants from the trap of just improving the limitations of the current system – clearly a demoralizing proposition when transiting from SCA to OSA™. Rather, they are encouraged to be as creative as possible in coming up with out-of-the-box ideas that lead to innovation. The only constraints are that the new idealized system should be technologically feasible, operationally viable, and have the capacity to learn and adapt quickly.

If you are serious about having your organization achieve Triple Bottom Line Sustainability by navigating the transition from SCA to triple bottom line OSA™, TLAINC is the consultancy to help you make it a reality – why not give us a call?

References:

  • Russell L. Ackoff, Jason Magidson, and Herbert J. Addison. Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow’s Crisis…Today, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 2006
  • Ackoff, R.L. Re-creating the corporation – A design of organizations for the 21st century. New York, NY: oxford university press, 1999.
  • Ackoff, R.L. Creating the corporate future – plan or be planned for. New York, NY: John  Wiley & sons, 1981

The Why, What & How of Organizational Sustainable Advantage™

February 1, 2011 1 comment

This blog is condensed from a six part blog that was published beginning October 2010 co-authored with Tia Carr-Williams.

In 2011, business as usual is not an option – organizations need new ways of thinking and organizing if they are to do more with less, and ensure ongoing business growth and renewal. How successful your organization becomes at acquiring and retaining a leading position in your niche marketplace depends critically on how you position your business relative to other businesses. In the past this involved gaining Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) over “competitors”; we recommend replacing this outmoded concept with Organizational Sustainable Advantage™ (OSA™).

OSA™ differs significantly from the familiar SCA. Both OSA™  and SCA involve 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; however. SCA pits both employees and organizations against one another in a never ending competitive “survival of the fittest” which is out of date in this era of open innovation and collaborative stakeholders. OSA™ strategy and implementation are based on the win-win collaboration of all parties, and on plans that are ethical, and without negative impact on relevant ecological, sociological or environmental systems. In other words, SCA tries to push change into being – yeah, just like pushing on a rope – whereas OSA™ pulls change into being and at the same time adds the desirable Triple Bottom Line (TBL) elements as a significant component of sense making and decision making.

Implementation of OSA™ mandates an engaged workforce as a necessary component of its culture. This employee-centric culture then becomes as much the organization’s foundational differentiation as the products or services it provides. Having significant differentiation continuously proposed from an engaged workforce provides a formidable distinctive resource for promoting and maintaining marketplace uniqueness.

Genuine OSA™ demands a decentralized organization with a polyarchic approach, providing both independency and interdependency of all major components of organizational processes. People at all levels must be epi-central to the co-evolution and co-maintenance of strategy, structure, processes, and rewards. This human-centric style organization will 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.

So how is OSA™ introduced into an organization?  To ensure and encourage the necessary organizational climate of innovation and TBL focus, monitoring, and reporting, when an organization begins to navigate the transition from SCA to triple bottom line OSA™, The Leadership Alliance Inc. [TLAINC] has led the way in creating an easily understood seamless performance-based process. This process is one that an organization may readily morph into. It reduces the organizational complexity typically involved in such a large scale change; promotes formation of a fractal organization; fosters common OSA™ understanding and values across all organizational levels; nurtures a culture with innovation at its heart; encourages collegial, participative, open business systems; promotes and leverages networks and social interaction; and provides systems to measure and report progress continuously.

In order to easily understand and rapidly adopt TLAINC’s seamless performance-based process to navigate the transition from SCA to triple bottom line OSA™, organizations need to cultivate a culture having sustainable business principles, learning and innovation at their heart. There must be a motivational visionary strategy allied with a deep human context structure; workforce integration systems of high efficiency, capability and efficacy; a synergistic co-operative culture that fosters thinking on how everything can be improved and costs reduced; and there must be task agility for optimal productivity.

This is a tall order, but to achieve these ends, TLAINC supports its clients in undertaking two processes concurrently. One process involves creation of an organizational “attractor” – a central core of strategic business concepts, business processes, and social norms to be refined and used by employee networks at all levels to mutually shape the organization in a dynamic manner; the second process is cultural, and involves creation of a socialized environment based on trust, true dialogue, and the lessening of the power struggles that exist in organizations.

These interventions may be optimally achieved based on TLAINC’s transformative approach. This involves forging a unique ‘solidarity network’ that is inclusive of all the important organizational networks. In this approach representatives of all the various key organizational and governance networks, including the Board and CXO’s, hold dialogs together for the good of all the stakeholders. TLAINC has the proven capabilities to identify the representatives of the key organizational networks, and the real-life organizational experience to assist formation of the solidarity networks.

These solidarity networks re-design and re-develop the systemic organizational structure, business processes, roles, and tools, to specifically develop an environment where learning and adaption will be essential to successfully carrying out the work of every employee. In this pursuit, new structures and ways of working to adjust to, and to continue adjusting for, a changing set of conditions are created by the continuous dynamic process of co-evolution with a changing environment that is underpinned by learning. This approach leverages a distinctive characteristic of complex systems which is their ability to create new order; that is, a different way of working, thinking and relating —  OSA™ is this continuous process of co-evolution. It is neither a one-off change which remains static, nor a reversion or adherence to the status quo. This means understanding and working with (not constraining) the characteristics of organizations as complex social systems.

The measurement, monitoring, and reporting of the above pivotal features are critical to success. TLAINC will collaborate with a client to provide a customized version of TLAINC’s Sustainability Scorecard™ to truly reveal the advances that indicate improvements are being realized, and to highlight next steps. If you are serious about having your organization navigate the transition from SCA to triple bottom line OSA™, TLAINC is the consultancy to help you make it a reality – why not give us a call?

Successfully Developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability: #6

November 24, 2010 3 comments

This is the last of six Blogs dealing with TBL Sustainability. All six Blogs have been co-developed with my colleague and TLA Associate Tia Carr Williams.

“Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today.  When a man learns to fish, he will feed himself for a lifetime.” – Author unknown

In earlier Blogs of this series, we noted that both Sustainable Advantage (SA) and Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) are based on achieving superior market position. We also noted that SCA is toxic in that it 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 on the rope of change whereas SA pulls change into being. Organizational Sustainable Advantage™ (OSA™) was introduced and defined in Blog #4 of this series, and is an improvement on SA since the OSA™ approach certifies that strategy and implementation plans are based not only on a profitable win-win collaboration of all parties, but that they are ethical, and without negative impact on relevant ecological and sociological systems. In other words, OSA™ is still pulling change into being, but it goes to a new level by adding the essential triple bottom line elements (social, ecological, financial) as a significant component of sense making and decision making.

To ensure and encourage the necessary organizational climate of innovation and TBL focus, monitoring, and reporting, when an organization begins to navigate the transition from SCA or SA to triple bottom line OSA™, The Leadership Alliance Inc. [TLAINC] has led the way in creating an easily understood seamless performance-based process. This process is one that an organization can readily morph into. It reduces the organizational complexity typically involved in such a large scale change; promotes formation of a fractal organization; fosters common TBL OSA™ understanding and values across all organizational levels; nurtures a culture with innovation at its heart; encourages collegial, participative, open business systems; promotes and leverages networks and social interaction; and provides systems to measure and report progress continuously.

In order to easily understand and rapidly adopt TLAINC’s seamless performance-based process to navigate the transition from SCA or SA to triple bottom line OSA™, organizations must cultivate a culture having sustainable business principles, learning and innovation at its heart. There must be a motivational visionary strategy allied with a deep human context structure; workforce integration systems of high efficiency, capability and efficacy; a synergistic co-operative culture that fosters thinking on how everything can be improved and costs reduced; and there must be task agility for optimal productivity.

This is a tall order, but to achieve these ends, TLAINC supports its clients in undertaking two processes concurrently. One process involves creation of an organizational “attractor” – a central core of strategic business concepts, business processes, and social norms to be refined and used by employee networks at all levels to mutually shape the organization in a dynamic manner; the second process is cultural, and involves creation of a socialized environment based on trust, true dialogue, and the lessening of the power struggles that exist in organizations.

These interventions may be optimally achieved based on TLAINC’s transformative approach. This involves forging a unique ‘solidarity network’ that is inclusive of all the important organizational networks. In this approach representatives of all the various key organizational and governance networks, including the CEO, hold dialogs together for the good of all the stakeholders. TLAINC has the proven capabilities to identify the representatives of the key organizational networks, and the real-life organizational experience to assist formation of the solidarity networks.

These solidarity networks re-design and re-develop the systemic organizational structure, business processes, roles, and tools, to specifically develop an environment where learning and adaption will be essential to successfully carrying out the work of every employee. In this pursuit, new structures and ways of working to adjust to, and to continue adjusting for, a changing set of conditions are created by the continuous dynamic process of co-evolution with a changing environment that is underpinned by learning. This approach leverages a distinctive characteristic of complex systems which is their ability to create new order; that is, a different way of working, thinking and relating. OSA™ is this continuous process of co-evolution. It is neither a one-off change which remains static, nor a reversion or adherence to the status quo. This means understanding and working with (not constraining) the characteristics of organizations as complex social systems.

In promoting organizational learning and adaption, TLAINC through its Associates can accommodate the integration of peer and supervisory coaching, where required, with a highly experienced team of coaches with proven track records. This ensures adaption to a specific strategic or tactical behavioral assessment that obviates hierarchical appraisal in favor of self appraisal procedures. Milestones are configured from qualitative and quantitative measurements aggregated from contributions and co-operative peer review.

The corporate-structure model for the decentralized enterprise described in earlier Blogs in this series demands strategic leadership, corporate identity, capabilities distribution and access, low-cost capital access, and enterprise-wide control. Implementation must be based on socialization, knowledge management, and coherence. The measurement, monitoring, and reporting of these pivotal features are critical to success. TLAINC will collaborate with a client to provide a customized version of TLAINC’s Sustainability Scorecard™ to truly reveal the advances that indicate improvements are being realized, and to highlight next steps.

If you are serious about having your organization navigate the transition from SCA or SA to triple bottom line OSA™, TLAINC is the consultancy to help you make it a reality – why not give us a call?

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Successfully Developing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability: #5

November 17, 2010 1 comment

This is the fifth 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.

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations” – The Great Law of The Iroquois Confederacy

Organizational Sustainable Advantage™ (OSA™) was introduced and defined in Blog #4 of this series. OSA™ results from following a Right for Market™ (R4M™) approach. R4M™ is an improvement on the Right to Market™ (R2M™) approach associated with Sustainable Advantage (SA) that was discussed in an earlier blog, and which involves the more basic method of 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. An R4M™ approach makes sure that R2M™ strategy and implementation plans are based not only on profitable win-win collaboration of all parties, but on strategy and implementation plans that are ethical, and without negative impact on relevant ecological and sociological systems. In other words, OSA™ is still pulling change into being, but it goes to a new level by adding the triple bottom line elements (social, ecological, financial) as a significant component of sense making and decision making.

The difference between SA and  OSA™ is particularly important because in our contemporary social-media savvy culture, how a corporate entity performs in environmental, social and economic dimensions has begun to have significant impact, either positively or negatively with respect to the judgments of all stakeholders, including shareholders, consumers, customers, and clients. Whilst there is a clear understanding that businesses are about making profit, firms may no longer profit at the expense of populations or resources at risk. Such a profligate mindset alienates an increasingly aware market-base that is continuously making choices based on their sophisticated understanding and informed awareness of today’s corporate activities. Their perceptions are globally relevant, acute, timely and dynamic, gratis of the Web and the popular groundswell of interest in, and concern for, social and ecological issues.

To further facilitate tracking the impact of commercial activities, the triple bottom line (TBL) monitoring regime has been introduced into the business world. The TBL is sometimes known as ‘people, planet, profit’, and is a commercial measurement and reporting approach that is intended to capture a new set of values and criteria for measuring organizational success in social, ecological and financial parameters. TBL monitoring is directly related to OSA™, and is more rigorous and inclusive re: people, planet and profit than has so far been achieved via Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting.

In essence, the triple bottom line expands the traditional accounting framework to truly include and give equal weight to the new ecological compliances and social responsibilities, as well as traditional financial performance. In the past, in the private sector, a commitment to CSR has only incurred commitment to some form of ecological and financial reporting; however, research has shown that CSR has typically been used as a smoke screen behind which companies carried out “business as usual”. TBL measurement and reporting are intended to provide more rigorous and robust monitoring of a corporation’s demonstrated desire for accountability and transparency in regard to people, planet and profit, and its progress toward attaining OSA™.

To ensure and encourage the necessary organizational climate of innovation and TBL focus, monitoring and reporting, The Leadership Alliance Inc. [TLAINC] has led the way in creating an easily understood seamless performance-based process that an organization can morph into as it begins to navigate the transition from Sustainable Competitive Advantage to the triple bottom line driven OSA™.

This process reduces the organizational complexity typically involved in such a large scale change; promotes formation of a fractal organization; fosters common TBL OSA™ understanding and values across all organizational levels; nurtures a culture with innovation at its heart; encourages collegial, participative, open business systems; promotes and leverages networks and social interaction; and provides systems to measure and report progress continuously. We will expand on this process in Blog # 6 of this series.

In the upcoming sixth and final Blog of this series, practical processes will be described that are used by The Leadership Alliance Inc. and its partners to assist client organizations develop triple bottom line OSA™ capability.

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: #2

October 27, 2010 3 comments

This is the second 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 second Blog, differences between Sustainable Advantage (SA) and Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) are explored, and the relevance and promotion of innovation are reviewed.

“It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change.” – The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin

How successful you become at acquiring and retaining a leading position in your niche marketplace depends critically on how you position your business relative to other businesses. Having significant differentiation continuously proposed from an engaged workforce can provide a formidable distinctive resource for promoting and maintaining marketplace uniqueness. Sustainable Advantage (SA) advocates an engaged workforce as a necessary component for continuous improvement, and this employee-centric culture becomes as much your foundational differentiation as the products or services you provide.

Organizational culture is defined as the collective behavior of a group of people aligned to a corporate vision, demonstrating shared values, habits, common working language, systems and ethos. The ecosystem infrastructure is defined as a common support environment, interwoven with processes, and underscored with the necessary technologies, where the behaviors of different individuals bring to the SA workplace uniqueness in knowledge conditioned by social attitudes. A given corporate culture invariably reflects the moral, social, and behavioral norms of the constituents of that organization, based on their values, attitudes and priorities. When efforts have been made to create a commonality of values that all can aspire to and adopt, it is provable that just the day-to-day work climate can en-culturate a population. For example, without regard for diversity, the bond forged corporately mashes the workforce under a common banner – in this case SA.

SA differs significantly from the familiar Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA). Both SA and SCA are based on achieving Right to Market™ (R2M™), where 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; however. 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 win-win collaboration of all parties.

Innovation is vital for bringing about improved performance and efficiency, and is widely acknowledged to be a critical determinant of uniqueness, profitability and overall positioning. SA ensures that innovation is being enabled by the knowledge present across an organization’s marketplace networks, and at every level and from every departmental corner of that organization, propelling and accelerating such innovation. SCA is only qualified as a continuum of innovation to build perpetual differentiation among employees and with, and among, competitors. In contrast, SA promotes open innovation through communication and collaboration in an organization’s marketplace networks, whilst also creating conduits of continuous communication to capture contributions by collaborative employees. This co-opts commitment and buy-in from other organizations as well as every member of staff. The result is a formidable benchmark, and a peer culture of personal accountability, that underscores a daily commitment to improving how things get done. The SA ‘sweet-spot’ is quickly identified, since engaged internal and external networks provide a stream of qualified improvements – they are engaged because they invest in the high value of the ‘relationship capital’ that such broad collaboration rewards.

To grow a culture of innovation it is critical that an organization evolve an SA that instills a long-tail objective. Over what time horizon is your organization really forecasting? Beware! If it isn’t at least the next decade, your vision is short term, and your SA will be unsustainable!!

In the upcoming third Blog of this series further cultural implications of Sustainable Advantage (SA) will be explored.