Dr. Jeffrey Magee
Organizations across the globe are facing a major threat to their survival and a direct impediment to their ability to accelerate and thrive: the equation of sustainability.
Sustainability has for decades been owned by the linear thinking positions: analytics, finance, accounting, engineering, operations, administration, etc. Sustainability is a 360-degree conversation and application: each business unit, including the entire C-suite, has an ownership stake in understanding and implementing sustainability strategies and behaviors. Sustainability is a universal issue and is far more reaching and impactful on organizations and human capital than most realize.
Survival mentality in our marketplace serves as a cancer to sustainability. Business annals are littered with organizations and individuals that embraced survival mentality and no longer exist. Conversely, the annals also boast many great organizations in the private sector and nonprofit space that are achievers and winners.
In 1971, the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) had more than one million members, as a thriving sustainable organization. Today, the US Jaycees boast fewer than 30,000 members and are knocking on death’s doorstep of defeatism. Their mission statement from nearly 100 years ago is still 100% viable, but decades of flawed execution have derailed them. In the past decade, the United Methodist Church has lost more than one million members from their local-level leadership positions 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 as applied only when discussing topics such as conservation, ecology, alternative energy, or global warming; this is a gross misrepresentation of the concept. In that context, sustainability may be a marketing gambit to attract people to emotionally-charged narratives and business endeavors that would otherwise not be profitable or relevant. It makes people feel good to say they are engaged in sustainable projects.
Organizational sustainability is a universal and should be considered, benchmarked, and applied in many ways. Here are a few, albeit not conclusive, non-traditional lenses to look through when considering the matter of sustainability.
Sustainability through Values-Vision-Mission Statements
These statements are the GPS from which all other factors are born for thriving organizations. It starts with a deep reflection on the organization’s core stakeholders’ personal values and how those evolve into the organization’s value system. Values drive the vision of the individual and organization and are typically transferred into the public mission statement. Every endeavor, deliverable, decision, and all human capital moves should be aligned into this for survival, meeting minimum business standards to stay viable and determining performance standards that excel beyond to attain a thriving state.
Sustainability through Viable Evolving Real-Time Deliverables
Keep people focused on a short-term world perspective with continuing relevance when the long-term matters are paramount for sustainability. To be sustainable, organizations must embrace a culture and attitude of agility to ensure that what they engage in with business practices, deliverables, etc., serve a real market need. Mindsets must be respectfully challenged at all times and with every incident. Conversely, an organization that is executing action plans and deliverables doesn’t need to change, if change would not move it to a thriving state.
Survival sustainability is predicated upon the analytics of your present deliverables as an organization or nonprofit, measured against the demographics you serve, what really is profitable, and what your organization should remain connected to and what should be spun-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 must ensure tomorrow’s survival by recognizing what the market will tolerate and need in the immediate, intermediate, and long-term future, and determine ways to be market-ready as those needs appear.
With a thriving sustainability mentality, organizations, management, and boards will know and create the future so as to actually lead the market into thriving sustainability.
Sustainability through Trajectory Codes
Blend involved participants and their personal/professional values, goals, aspirations, and needs (on immediate, intermediate and long-term time frames), their Trajectory Code® (TC). This must be in alignment with the organization’s TC gains, buy-in, alignment, and thriving energies. When the constituents’ trajectories align, then organizations operate from a baseline of sustainable trust and organizations will experience daily thriving realities and advances. The organization’s TC must be supported by every business practice within that organization and by all human capital. Thriving organizations derail and fight daily to merely survive when these TCs are not aligned, and personal pet agendas and egos get in the way.
Sustainability through Human Capital
Misaligned TCs must be set aside if organizations will truly be able to attract the best human capital and be able to execute the best practices and be sustainable. Organizations that go beyond mere survival mode have one guaranteed variable in play: they have the right human capital in the right place at the right time, and endeavor to cultivate a strong human capital bench two to three levels inward or downward!
Human capital involves a deep understanding of a wide cross-section of diversity drivers. Whether understanding and applying generational diversity as an asset mentality, or culture imprinting on individuals and within the organization, the sub-entities within organizations, as well as how other factors of ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, social-economic drivers, etc., impact sustainability.
Sustainability through E-Business and Traditional Business
Whether your organization operates within the internet or the traditional brick-and-mortar world, sustainability is the same. The difference is that in the e-world you must be even more responsive and agile to factors that impact sustainability. This allows pro-active actions in addressing 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
Cash flow management will ensure sustainable thriving business practices. Understanding scalability dictates whether an organization can evolve into thriving states such as how accounts receivable, accounts payable, compensation and benefits, inventory control, shared partnership resources, budgeting and planning, investment in all capital areas, etc., are managed.
Sustainability through Next Generation … Evolve or Die
From the boardroom to the C-suite, and from the frontline to the customer, always have a forward focused initiative on what the next generation deliverables must be, for the programs and policies that foster thriving energies, to a full-scale approach to developing your human capital upwards, the never ending capacity to always be looking outward for what you can acquire, partner, and create as next evolution realties.
Sustainability through Engaged C-Suite Architecture
First, your board must be aligned with your management for sustainability to be individually owned. As you establish the architecture layout of your C-suite (CEO, CFO, COO, CIT, CLO, etc.), whether on paper for future implementation or in real-time, you should have a dotted line from a management member to a member of the board with matching experience, so as to have an accountability conduit between management and the board. Ensure that you don’t end up with multiple redundancies on the board or a C-suite occupant with no advisory-accountability board connection.
Second, each management-board pair should be challenged to evaluate and stress test present sustainability factors within their respective enterprises for survival and then be pushed to consider action for thriving sustainability opportunities!
If your thinking or actions within an organization are driven by stakeholders who fight you over what you do to survive each day, then you’ll be limiting your possible reality. These people and this thinking are the factors that will challenge thriving sustainability. Sustainability relevance within your organization should no longer be one of unspoken shame of survival versus embracing the thrive mentality!
Dr. Jeff Magee, CMC, CBE, PDM, CSP, accelerates organizations forward through his Leadership Academy Of Excellence™ Series, keynotes and performance based coaching. Jeff is the Group Publisher/Editor and Chief of PERFORMANCE360 Magazine™ (www.ProfessionalPerformanceMagazine.com), Editor of Performance Execution and Performance Driven Selling™ Blogs, former nationally syndicated Radio Talk Show Host (www.CatalystBusinessRadio.com), as well as the author of twenty-three books, including best sellers The Managerial-Leadership Bible, Revised Edition, Your Trajectory Code, Performance Execution, and The Sales Training Handbook. He is also a columnist and highly sought motivational-leadership speaker. The recipient of the United States Junior Chamber’s Ten Outstanding Young American’s (TOYA) Award and the United States National Guard’s Total Victory Team Medal for civilian contribution to the Armed Services. DrJeffSpeaks@aol.com.
This article is reprinted from Issue #8 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!
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