A video released earlier this month highlights the problem with irresponsible supply chain selection. Some companies simply make supply chain decisions never considering the conditions or standards of their sources. They focus solely on price, forgetting there are other serious “costs” involved. Read more
Effective systems are critical to success. Businesses have multiple systems: lead generation, sales, accounting, workflow, customer service, etc. These systems and processes are set in place at the beginning however once set up, should be reviewed regularly. Adapting to unforeseen variables, technology, social behavioral changes and expectations, and innovations is an ongoing effort. Continuing adaptation is non-negotiable if a business is to experience any kind of sustainability and success. While commitment to transformation has always been important in the modern era, the speed of change has increased dramatically.
Sadly, the temptation in many organizations is not just to avoid change, but actually punish anyone or anything that hints at the need to change. Leadership often looks at the cost of change in the short term rather than the long-term cost of being locked in a concrete (aka safe, proven) system.
Some organizations are trying to “transform”. They get that things have changed and they need to adapt. Unfortunately, the aspiration to change is much easier than actually doing it. Transformation requires continual learning and the ability to adapt, over and over again. Businesses struggle with this because they rely on choosing solutions to create their way of doing things, and those solutions are based off knowledge and ways of thinking.
Yet to be successful, positive change must be ongoing. The burden falls on leadership to:
- 1) be committed to continual education and long-term change,
- 2) provide an environment that allows for flexibility and adaptation and
- 3) empower workers rather than inspect them.
Dr. W Edwards Deming is considered to be the father of modern quality control. He popularized the process of Plan/Do/Check/Act. Later in his career, he modified it to Plan/Do/Study/Act because he felt that the emphasis on “check” was interpreted as inspection. The difference between “check” and “study” is enormous. “Checking” can be used to threaten workers and create fear in the workplace. “Studying” looks at the system and allows for understanding and growth. Far too often quality control is used to bludgeon the workers rather than modify a faulty system. As always, the root of the problem falls on leadership’s ability to allow ongoing transformation.
Another popular Darwin misquote came through my Facebook feed yesterday.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
While I would love to use that sentiment to talk about sustainable business practices, Darwin never said this nor is it consistent with his theories.
My friend Carol recently had an article published in a local print magazine. The inexperienced editor changed her word segue to Segway and made other erroneous editorial changes without her knowledge before publishing. She shared her dismay with me that readers will think she made those errors.
Now someone is claiming the tragedy at Sandy Hook is a hoax in order to gain gun control. No doubt there will be some people who leech on his conspiracy invention. With the abundance of conspiracy aficionados, who knows how long this one will float around and whether it will eventually disappear or worse yet, pick up new believers.
Most people are aware that information on the internet and passed around through social media is not necessarily true or even close to accurate. Words get invented, massaged or distorted much like in the game of Telephone I played as a young child.
The problem existed long before internet or other broadcast technology, even before the printing press when people relied on scribes (many who were uneducated) or tribal storytellers for their most vital information. So how is anyone supposed to know what is true?
- Confirm, fact-check, do your own research. While we can confirm some facts through research, sadly much information gets filtered through personal or corporate agendas and belief systems.
- Commit to personal and corporate integrity. Make sure what you put out to the world is as true as you know it to be. If you find out later you were wrong, own up to it.
It sounds simple but it’s amazing how many people find honesty so difficult.
The internet and mobile device technology has changed the world by giving instant access to nearly all information and a voice to every person. The postal system is nearing collapse, news publications and advertising agencies are folding daily while free social media is being used to build virtual communities, impact elections and give a voice to revolutions. 3-D printing will be bringing even greater shifts in what we consider normal. Technology’s transformation of long held paradigms will continue to unfold while business leaders scramble to adapt.
One of the clearest shifts is the empowerment of the individual to choose what they want as well as when and how they want it. To say this has a radical impact on business is an understatement. Before the Human Age, businesses and media outlets could dictate what you knew and how you’d receive that information. They were in control. Corporate interests were the primary focus and to be honest, they didn’t really need to care about the personal wants or needs of the customer. Now that the customer can edit out ads, eliminate information overload based on their personal preferences, easily find competitors and broadcast publicly their dissatisfaction with any aspect of their experience with you, the power shifts dramatically to the customer. Suddenly, the individual is king while corporate kingdoms are dissolving overnight.
One of the most amazing aspects of this new dynamic is the return of humanity. Since the customer has the power, the business world is now forced to care. The corporate and business world must prove they genuinely care about the customer, the community, the earth, human rights, etc, because the individual now has: 1) information, 2) options and 3) a very public voice.
Material needs represent only a part of basic life requirements. To be a fulfilled human, we must address our emotions, hopes, values and greater purposes. Businesses who are able to figure that out, adapt and communicate it in time will be the truly sustainable businesses of the future.
Change is interesting on every level. I’ve heard that public speaking is the #1 fear, even more so than death. My experience with business owners and corporate execs tends to indicate that change is even more frightening.
We soften the concept of change by calling it innovation. Still, innovation seems to be interesting mostly if someone else is doing it. When it comes to your own doorstep, as in you have to learn or do something differently now, it loses it’s sparkle.
There are a few companies who recognize that business must systemically and fundamentally change in order to be relevant and sustainable going forward. These are the brave ones, the committed leaders who’ve embraced the understanding that all business is ultimately human business and as such, must appeal to the higher nature inherent in humanity.
The old days of simply looking at bottom lines and profit margins for maximizing revenue is over. People, at an increasing rate, are choosing to do business for nobler reasons and are voting for attention to human values with their dollars. They have figured out that lower prices for them may mean hardship for others or a manufacturing process that is unhealthy for workers and/or the environment. In other words, low cost may be more expensive than anyone wants to pay.
The companies that don’t want to change will ultimately be forced to accept their responsibility to society and the environment (either by loss of sales, government regulation, or public disgrace, etc) or they will cease to exist.
It’s time to reimagine business. Do good while doing business. Make it a part of your business model, your processes, your supply chain, your people, your services and products. Perhaps you need to chuck the status quo and even daydream a little bit. What should a company looked like that actually cared about the people it impacts?
The business leaders that ask that question and make the changes necessary today will be the true leaders of tomorrow.