Staying In for the Long Haul

Last month I discussed managing organizational anxiety. It appears that the Sequester is a certainty and the odds makers in Vegas are turning their attention to whether the Federal government will shut down on March 28th.  One would hope that the ideological divide between our political parties will dissipate as the electorate slips through the five stages of loss.  (I think I’m stuck in depression…)

Accepting or not, there are trends that will be with us in the long-term and businesses had best learn how to cope with change. Managers need to become more innovative in addressing:

  • How to retain and develop a talented workforce
  • Managing the consumption and procurement of natural resources and energy
  • Coping with increasing taxation and regulations
  • Remaining competitive in global markets with global supply chains
  • Nurturing employee innovation and engagement to invent new products and services

While this list can seem daunting, the rewards for those who plan and succeed will be great. Sustainability Planning is a vital element of a company’s management process. These plans identify which of the externalities listed above pose the greatest threat to an organization’s future and allocate resource to action plans that assure competitive advantage and sustainability. Sustainability has many parallels with the Quality Movement of the 1980’s. Like Quality, well-reasoned sustainability measures generate cash in the short-term and profitability in the long-term. I’m happy to field questions on this topic and please comment on any successes you have had with sustainability initiatives.

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.