While many organizations have slipped into a “Survive” mentality since the pandemic began, just trying to make it through this experience, this thought process is quite dangerous to their ability to thrive. So how do organizations remain “sustainable,” or are you falling prey to this “we just have to make it through this next year” mentality? This type of thinking in the marketplace serves as a cancer to sustainability.
For decades, linear thinking and linear-charged positions such as analytics, finance, accounting, engineering, operations, and administration have dominated sustainability. Unfortunately, this doesn’t communicate the entire picture. Sustainability is a 360-degree conversation and application – each business unit, to include the C-Suite as a whole, has the responsibility to understand and implement sustainability strategies and behaviors. Sustainability is a universal issue and is far more reaching and impactful on an organization and the human capital they represent.
The business annals are littered with business organizations and individuals that embraced survival mentality and no longer exist. But, conversely, the annals also boast many great best-in-class organizations in the private sector and non-profit space that are examples of sustaining, thriving organizations.
For example, in 1971, the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (aka US Jaycees) had more than 500K members. Today, the US Jaycees sustainable orientation is in survival mode and boasts less than 30,000 members. The organization is knocking on death’s doorstep. Their Mission Statement from nearly a century ago is still 100 percent viable, but decades of flawed execution has become its’ GPS to derailment. Another organization, the United Methodist Church, has lost more than one million members at their local level leadership positions in the past decade because of survival mentality and not addressing a progressive forward-focused thrive sustainability mindset.
The concept of sustainability has been bastardized in business conversation of late. The term has been grossly misinterpreted to discuss topics such as “green and/or conservation” or “ecological and/or alternative energy” or “global warming” applications. In that context, sustainability is a mere marketing gambit to attract people to false, emotionally charged narratives and business endeavors that would otherwise not be profitable or relevant. People get to feel good when they say they are engaged in “sustainable projects.”
Sustainability in organizations is universal and should be considered, benchmarked, and applied in many ways. Here are a few of the potential nontraditional lenses to look through when considering the matter of sustainability:
SUSTAINABILITY through Values=Visions=Mission Statement: This is where thriving organizations live. These three variables serve as the GPS from which all other factors are born. It starts with a deep reflection on the organization’s core key stakeholders’ personal Values and how they evolve into its Value System. Values drive the Vision of the individual and the organization and are typically communicated publicly through a Mission Statement. Every endeavor, deliverable, decision, and all human capital moves should be aligned with this statement for the organization to survive (meet minimum business standards to stay viable) and thrive (performance standards that excel beyond).
SUSTAINABILITY through Viable, Evolving, Real-Time Deliverables: Keeping people focused in a short-term world perspective when the long term matters is paramount for sustainability – both for the immediate timeframe and for the long term! To be sustainable, organizations must embrace a culture and attitude of agility to ensure that what they consistently serve a real market need. The “this is what we have always done” thinking must be respectfully challenged at all times. Conversely, avoid implementing change for the sole purpose of change. If it does not move the organization toward a thriving state, it’s not necessary.
Survival sustainability is calculated using the analytics of your organization’s present deliverables, the demographics you serve, what really is profitable, and what your organization should remain connected to, and what should be spin-off to remain viable. Once this is done and monitoring systems and processes are in place for constant data feedback, then the organization’s C-Suite is responsible for the viability of survival tomorrow. They’ll do this by recognizing what the market will tolerate and need in the immediate, intermediate, and long-term future and then by determining ways to be market-ready as those needs appear. With a thriving sustainability mentality, organizations and their C-Suite (accelerated by an engaged Board of Directors) will know and create the future to lead the market into thriving sustainability.
SUSTAINABILITY through Trajectory Codes (TC): The Trajectory Code refers to an individual’s personal-professional values, goals, aspirations, and needs (on immediate, intermediate, and long-term time frames). This then must be determined if this aligns with the organization’s (as a whole) Trajectory Code gains, buy-in, alignment, and thriving energies. When trajectories align, the organization can operate from a baseline of sustainable trust and will thrive. The organization’s TC must be supported by every business practice within that organization and by all human capital. Organizations derail and fight daily to survive when these TC’s are not aligned.
Watch the YouTube video (youtu.be/Ts Wrtgre29A) and gain a better understanding of Trajectory Code modeling (www.barnes andnoble.com/w/your-trajectory-codejeffrey-magee/1120376074?ean=978111904 3232&itm=1&usri=9781119043232).
SUSTAINABILITY through Human Capital: Misaligned TCs must be set aside in order for organizations to attract best-in-class human capital and execute best-in-class practices – both of which are necessary to be sustainable. Organizations that go beyond survival mode have one guaranteed variable in play; they have the right human capital in the right place at the right time and are cultivating a strong human capital bench two to three levels inward or downward! Human Capital involves a deep understanding of a broad cross-section of diversity drivers. Understanding and applying generational diversity as an asset mentality, culture imprinting on individuals and within the organization, the sub-entities within organizations, and how other factors of ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, social-economic drivers, etc. impact sustainability.
SUSTAINABILITY through Virtual. Hybrid, E-Business and Traditional-Business: Whether your organization is internet-based or you have traditional brick-and-mortar locations, sustainability adheres to this same conversation. A critical change agent factor differentiator is that in the e-world, one must be even more responsive and agile to factors that impact sustainability. This allows for pro-active organizations to address immediate needs (Survival Sustainability endeavors) and allows a pathway for organizations and individuals to evolve forward (Thriving Sustainability endeavors). Having connectivity into valued identified constituents, both internally and externally, will provide clear TCs for any organization in any situation to ensure thriving sustainable actions, commitments, deliverables, and energies.
SUSTAINABILITY through Economics: Ensuring cash flow management in times of survival will ensure sustainable, thriving business practices. Understanding scalability dictates whether an organization can evolve into thriving states such as how AR, AP, Compensation and Benefits, Inventory Control, Shared Partnership Resources, Budgeting & Planning, Investment in all Capital areas, etc., are managed.
SUSTAINABILITY through Next Generation … Evolve or Die: Another aspect of sustainability applies to practically everything you do. From the Boardroom to the C-Suite and from the frontline to the customer, you must constantly look to the future. How might the next-generation deliverables look? How can you develop your human capital? What programs and policies foster thriving energies? Be on the lookout for what you can acquire, onboard, partner, and create as next evolution realties.
SUSTAINABILITY through Engaged C-Suite Architecture: First, the Board should be aligned with your C-Suite for sustainability to be individually owned. Establish the architecture layout of your C-Suite (i.e. CEO, CFO, COO, CIT, CLO …), with (as an example) a dotted line from the CFO to one member of the Board that has had CFO experience. This should be done for every person on your Board as it creates accountability and ensures that you don’t end up with multiple redundancies on the Board.
Second, each C-Suite position should be mirrored to a Board member and challenged to evaluate and stress test present Sustainability factors within their respective enterprises for survival, and then pushed for action consideration for thriving sustainability opportunities!
If stakeholders with a survival mentality drive your thoughts or actions in an organization, you will be limiting your possible reality. These people and this thinking are the factors that will challenge the health and the future of your organization. Embrace the thrive mentality and create true sustainability.
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