During the past few years, sustainability has become the new business buzzword. Many organizations are investing massively into something that can be called “sustainability transformations” and have started to think about sustainability as something strategic. In 2018, a whopping 86% on S&P 500 companies published sustainability reports and the share is still growing. Sustainability was also the central theme in Davos Summit 2020 where a bigger vision for stakeholder capitalism was grounded in the minds of the world leaders. Some companies have started with deliberate “nonmarket” strategies by understanding that actors beyond their own market are influencing the bottom line (ecosystems thinking).
Figure 1. Nonmarket environment by Bach and Allen 2010
For business leaders sustainability transformation is not only about an ethical choice, but also a business necessity to survive in the 2020s and beyond. This can be seen for example in the wide support from the corporate world for the #blacklivesmatter with publicity and investments for equality. They cannot afford not to.
Sustainability can be a win-win scenario because investing in sustainability is good for business and it is good for the planet as a whole. Sustainability is also tightly coupled with purpose, which organizations and individuals, especially millennials, are searching for and even struggling with now more than ever. What would be a greater purpose than saving our planet from the climate crisis and create more happiness in the world?
We are not on track
The cold fact is that we are not currently on track in reaching the sustainable development goals set out for 2030. Even though the COVID-19 crisis has brought many positive side-effects for the climate, in the big picture we are not currently achieving the 17 SDGs outlined by the UN in 2015. When the world’s countries are turning more inwards, we are looking for global corporate leaders and organizations to take some more leadership and responsibility in sustainability. The policies and regulations are not changing rapidly enough but fortunately, corporations could and should do it instead. Sustainability is not always mandatory from a regulatory perspective but is becoming it from a customer value perspective. An EY publication states that the main benefits from sustainability (reporting) include improved reputation, increased employee and customer loyalty, and refined strategy and vision.
Figure 2. Ways that sustainability reporting provided value by EY Publications
Strategies for sustainability
According to Professor Mike Rosenberg, there are six distinct strategic options for sustainability that companies can apply. In order to understand which strategy to apply, there needs to be an assessment of what kind of environmental sensibility exists in the ecosystem of the organization, e.g. among its customer, employees, investors, and other stakeholders. One of the strategies is a “break the law”, but in the year 2020 this is not a viable option for most organizations.
Figure 3. Strategic options for sustainability by Prof. Mike Rosenberg
- Take the low road strategy. In this strategy, the corporation only complies with the regulations of each of the countries laws and regulations. The company only reacts when the regulator demands it. From a legal perspective, this strategy is rock solid, but it might get costly for a late adopter in the long term since the regulations are bound to change.
- Wait and see. In this strategy, the management looks a bit beyond and adapts to the pressures that are coming from its customers and competitors for not to fall behind.
- Show and tell. In this option, the company chooses to do more, and tell the world about by actively using sustainability topics in its marketing. Professor Rosenberg notes that there is a fine line between the show and tell strategy and “greenwashing”, in where the company is portraying a picture about its brand that is not really true. Marketing cannot be anything else than the level of conviction and sincerity of the company. There is a big risk of exposure (e.g. Volkswagen scandal). The company needs to have a culture and a monitoring system to unlock this strategy.
- Pay for principle. In this strategy, the company decides to sacrifice some financial performance metrics in order to meet ethical and environmental standards. Here the rationale is not a medium-term business case, but instead, a deep belief in stopping climate change should be on the corporate agenda. In this scenario, the company is doing all possible measures to become more sustainable and e.g. carbon neutral. This could mean e.g. switching to all-vegan lunch options that are more expensive, green offices, or committing to pay the carbon offset or all corporate flights.
- Think ahead. In this strategy, the company understands that there is also a hard business logic that sustainability can build a competitive advantage. The company understands that it needs to be at the leading edge of the sustainability and immerses itself into a continuous sustainability transformation. This strategy means that the company needs to always be innovating around sustainability topics.
More than ever is sustainability on the table of boards and management teams. The people responsible for the corporate strategy need to have a deep understanding of sustainability issues but also an understanding of the future. For this, it is recommended to use methods like scenario analysis and futures thinking. Also, a main point is to include the whole organization into the sustainability transformation by co-creating a clear and compelling purpose and vision of the future. People need more education about these topics in order to understand where we are now. As organizations and individuals, we can make a difference. The sustainable development goals provide an outstanding framework as a starting point. It is time to prioritize solutions over the problems and understand that sustainability is a strategic choice.
Rosenberg, Mike: A Strategic Approach to Sustainability (2016). IESE Insight.
Bringing hard-paced technology into an organisation’s operations is demanding. Despite the changes in the organisation and its core business and the day-to-day work, organisations must also be able to ensure the excellence of its customer experience.
In order to succeed in change, strong change leadership is needed. Understanding of the structures and processes of the organisation and its various stakeholders is needed to support collaboration and joint development. Organisation design is required to implement the changes.
Customer-oriented work on organisational change
Organisation is a system in which all components are more or less interconnected. As a result, changes in the organisation will also affect its operations in areas that do not seem obvious at first. Therefore, organisation design is a tool to construct a framework, which provides the synergies of the system (and ensures customer orientation), during the organisational design process.
Organisation design is work on change, based on design thinking, with the aim of developing a strategy that guides the organisation, its management system or structures, and its operating models, in a human-oriented manner.
Instead of service design that focuses heavily on customer experience development, organisation design focuses on the “big picture”, whereby the resulting operating models, process descriptions, or concepts linked to the system framework, create the foundation for the organisation’s operations and also its operating culture.
Collaboration and research in the core
Strategy-based organisation design always looks beyond the internal functions of the organisation, as well as at the outside world. We need to form a common understanding of what matters to our customers and how well it meets their needs. Therefore, one of the key dimensions of organisation design is gathering information through collaborative work and research.
Organisation design is both a human-centred and a quite economical way to develop organisation structures, processes and operating models in a direction that supports its transformation in a holistic way – in a customer-oriented direction.
Support for scaling customer experience
In order to create an excellent customer experience by designing an organisation’s operating models, deep customer understanding is required during design work. In addition, it remains to be determined how the varying expectations of a large customer base will first be exceeded, before the customer experience is scaled in a way where value is determined by experience.
Value is always relative; it is important to consider whether scaling such a deeply based experience into the structure, processes and operating models of an organisation is possible – and if so, how.
Could it be possible to support the scalability of the customer experience by combining customer-driven structures, technology opportunities and deep customer understanding through organisation design?
We are living in the middle of a data revolution. In a digitalising service society, value and wellbeing are increasingly being created through services and platform industries. Data is at the heart of this reform, enabling intelligent and human-centered services.
Organisations are striving to collect and utilize all available data; otherwise they may fall behind in terms of development and competition. They have difficulty distinguishing the important from less important things and – most frighteningly – they are unable to transition to data-driven operations.
Much is said about the importance of data, but too little on the importance of strategic work on data, and far too little on setting guidelines for MyData.
MyData – what are we talking about?
MyData refers to an entity that promotes people’s visibility and right to their own digital information. MyData becomes a model of personal information management and exploitation, where a person is given the right and the means to access, use and pass on their own information.
MyData should not be confused with open data, which means data that is open to everyone for free and is free for any purpose. MyData is only freely available to the person him/ herself, and he/she has the right to decide where to share – if anywhere.
Create a data strategy for your organisation
Data strategy is based on the value the organisation expects to bring to its operations. The data strategy can be divided into four tasks:
1. Set a clear vision for data utilisation.
2. Define the value of data to the organisation.
3. Create clear actions to implement the strategy.
4. Take MyData principles into account in your strategy.
The vision crystallizes the organisation’s ideal situation for exploiting data. However, the vision alone does not motivate people to do the necessary things. Instead, there must be clear and simple tasks that people can grasp. It is the responsibility of management to set the vision and its value, and to get people interested.
Aurora AI: impact on societal level
In Finland, society is being developed to be more proactive and human-oriented. This work is being run and supported by the state. An example is the Aurora Preliminary Exploration Project of the National Artificial Intelligence Programme, where the strong background factors were:
– ethical sustainability
– trust in society
– safe technical solutions
– more comprehensive use of technological potential than before
– empowering citizens
– improving the overall wellbeing and vitality of people and organisations.
In Aurora, work was based on data and its different levels of utilisation.
We individuals will benefit the most
As we build a better and more sustainable society for us all, MyData’s role for the individual will be enhanced in the development of our services. On the other hand, organisations can use MyData to get more complete insight into their services as well as their strategic leadership.
How to create High-Performance Teams?
Where to start? There are three things every team member can start doing immediately to foster team building:
1. Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
2. Acknowledge your own fallibility.
3. Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.
This is a great place to start. If you are interested in more detailed and longer approach, continue reading.
Two perspectives to building high-performing teams
Google researchers believe people can do more working together than alone. Here is their proposal of the characteristics of a high performing team.
According to Patrick Lencioni there are 5 hierarchical levels of dysfunction that might be blocking the way of the team being high-performing. (Patrick Lencioni, 5 Dysfunction of a Team )
The levels are objects that prevent the team from reaching their full potential. In other words, by winning all of these barriers, teams are able to scale their performance almost infinitely and in a sustainable way!
In my experience fixing the absence of trust is “the 20% of work which you get 80% of results”.
Absence Of Trust, Level 1
We trust who we know.
How well do you know your work colleagues? Their hobbies, ambitions or personal background? Forming closer connections with your team members, leads to improved team collaboration. You’ll learn what fires their ambition and keeps them motivated.
– Personal Maps, Improving team collaboration
Absence of trust is the first of five significant factors which prevents teams from reaching their full potential and the high-performance state. It is caused by people are unable to show their weakness and true self in front of others.
Absence of trust causes:
- Time, resources and energy are wasted because of people are building “protective shields”.
- There is a huge barrier to ask or even give help inside the team.
- People feel the need to be invulnerable.
- Team meetings (all) are ineffective.
- People are trying to hide mistakes.
What happens when trust is achieved?
- Innovations are enabled! People aren’t afraid to speak their thoughts and there is no need to be afraid of being mocked by anyone on team.
- Cooperation improves radically.
- Psychological safety is reached.
- Failures and mistakes are shared openly and they are used as opportunities to learn.
How to reach mutual trust?
To practice vulnerability and to improve team spirit can be easily done with the Personal Map method. Personal Map helps team members to share experiences while everyone gets to know each other better (goals, passion, worries and so on). Psychological safety is prerequisite for teams to be proactive. Without trust and safety team members cannot trust that working for team goals also helps them to reach their own goals. Without trust and safety team members will set their own interest before teams interests when making decisions.
Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team – Lencioni.
Here is how to create a Personal Map (Absence of Trust)
A) Personal map for the whole team
Use this in a team building or retrospectives. Any mind map tool can be used, but I prefer using tools like Miro or Mural. Here is a link to anonymous Mural login: team map. Please contact me, if there are any problems with the Mural.
You need to have an account to use Miro. If you prefer Miro over Mural, here is a team map for you.
Follow these steps when using the team map:
- Create copies of an empty Personal Map for every team member.
- Split the team into 2 person groups (or any other suitable group).
- Randomly give 2 team member names to teams where they are not part of.
- Fill Personal Maps for persons whose name you got.
- Time cap 20min (10min/person)
- Use Post-Its to fill Personal Maps.
- Fill everything you know about the target person in your group.
- Important thing is that in this phase target person is not allowed to participate in filling Personal Map information.
- After Personal Maps have been filled
- Group by group present your Personal Map to target person and rest of the team.
- Target person can fill “gaps” in a way he/she wants.
- Target person can reveal as much or as little information as he/she likes.
- Go through every Personal Map
- This will take time about 5-10min/person.
- That’s it!
- Main point in Personal Map is that it is first created by other team members (that way teams find out how little they know about other team members)
- After that anyone can reveal as much as they like from themselves.
Note! Save your team’s Personal Maps to a common place where anyone can access them if needed.
B) One Person at a time
This is useful when a new member joins the team. The same links and instructions work with this option. The most important thing is that target person is not allowed to participate filling of their own Personal Map. Other team members must do it first. After the Personal Map has been presented to the new member, they can fill in the gaps.
There are also other tools that you can utilize to create psychological safety. Check them out in here.
“A team feels psychologically safe to its members when they share the belief that within the team they will not be exposed to interpersonal or social threats to their self or identity, their status or standing and to their career or employment, when engaging in learning behaviors such as asking for help, seeking feedback, admitting errors or lack of knowledge, trying something new or voicing work-related dissenting views.” – Amy Edmondson
The Personal Map is a very easy method to implement with any team. It is suitable for introverts and extroverts as you can reveal as much as you like from yourself. Do you know how you can grow the feeling of relatedness in your team in order to achieve trust and flow state within a team?
Technical Project Manager (Scrum Master, Agile Coach)