Sustainability or Survivability

So, what do you think of when you hear the term, “Sustainability Initiatives”? Many people think of the increasing flow of advertising that touts companies concern for the environment and our future. Indeed, the 2010 MIT Sloan Boston Consulting Group Sustainability and Innovation Survey revealed that 49% of executives thought the greatest benefit of sustainability initiatives is improved branding reputation. Executives, however, also identified benefits like reduced energy and material use and increased competitive advantage. The specific merits of sustainability varied by industry, but all executives pointed to the ability to make more money.

Diminishing supply of fossil fuels and global labor pools pose serious threats to US business; but government and regulators were identified by the MIT/BCG survey as the greatest influence on sustainability initiatives. The survey also found that larger companies were more prone to embrace sustainability programs than small companies. Perhaps this is because smaller companies need to be more agile in this economy are more concerned with survivability. Whether the concern is sustainability or survivability, there are two focus areas that all businesses should entertain:

  • Integrating Sustainability into Strategic Planning

Will scarce resources impact your future?
Are there disruptive technologies impending on your future?
Are there opportunities for new revenue streams?
Are there investments that can gain competitive advantage in your market?

  • Periodic Review of Operational Processes

Are there labor and cash savings to be gained from cycle time reduction?
Are there automation investments to improve price competitiveness?

It is in every business’s interest to observe and take notice of our changing world. Those who accept and plan for change will thrive in the future. Click on this link to take an assessment that measures your level of engagement with supportability initiatives.

It All Starts with a Plan

In a difficult times, it is natural for organizations to focus more closely on achieving revenue requirements and critical objectives and to place business planning on the “back burner.” If these reactive periods continue over an extended period of time, inefficiencies and missed opportunities can ensue; not to mention exhaustion. Taking a few hours with your team to compare the business plan to current market conditions permits necessary correction to the plan and reinvigorates morale. The plan review can uncover insights, such as:

  • Changes in the competitive landscape
  • Opportunities to extend offerings by integrating complementary products and value-added services
  • Identify investments that can improve competitiveness, responsiveness to customers, or profitability

Taking your eye off the strategic issues can move an organization from challenging times to challenges that may be difficult to recover from.

The previous comments assume an organization has a business plan. Small business leaders often operate without a formal written plan. While many business leaders are skilled enough to steer the business without a formal plan, these leaders are forfeiting opportunities to engage their employees with a planning process. Diminished employee engagement will weaken management systems and hinder initiative.

The key elements of a strategic plan are:

  • A Five-Year (or longer) Vision for the Business
  • Market Trends and Competitive Analysis
  • Strengths and Weaknesses of the Business (as perceived by the customer)
  • Market Opportunities and Threats
  • Growth Strategies (including organization measures and objectives)
  • Specific, Measurable Action Plans

The Action Plan is the most critical piece of the plan. These plans align employee efforts, reflect progress, and move accountability to the lowest level possible in the organization.

As the year wraps up, take a minute to understand why you achieved your level of results and discuss with your organization the best plan forward.