11 Aug #081 – Integriosity – Re-Imagined Implementation – Culture and Products
ESSENCE: Just as a Re-Imagined Purpose and Re-Imagined Values drive a Re-Imagined Culture for an organization (assuming they are the real Purpose and Values of the organization), a Re-Imagined Culture can have important implications for the very nature of the organization’s activities, including the products and services it offers. If a Re-Imagined Culture aligned with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities treats people and maximizing human flourishing as the “end” of the business (rather than a means to maximize profit) and profit is viewed as a means rather than the end, then evaluation of the products and services offered by the organization will look very different from an organization driven by Profit as Purpose. Analyzing economic and financial factors will still be critical, because profit is necessary both for flourishing and for sustainability; however, other important “people” factors must be assessed and prioritized.
Our last few posts have been Re-Imagining “upstream” from Culture–what are the important factors in Re-Imagining, defining and shaping the Culture of an organization. Ultimately, it is Purpose as translated through Values, and what matters is the real Purpose and the real Values, which may or may not be the lofty ones highlighted on the organization’s website. We also looked at what a Biblical Culture looks like, as well as the nature of the Purpose and Values required to cultivate a Biblical Culture.
The next few posts will look at Re-Imagining “downstream” from Culture–what is the likely impact on an organization of Re-Imagining a Culture aligned with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities? A recent McKinsey article made the following observation:
Connecting purpose with the heart of your company means reappraising your core: the strategy you pursue, the operations driving you forward, and the organization itself. . . . Your stakeholders care about the concrete consequences of your lived purpose, not the new phrase at the start of your annual report.
Re-Imagining Implementation: Culture and Products
A well-managed organization must constantly re-evaluate the products and services it offers. For a business focused on Profit as Purpose, that means primarily (or exclusively) analyzing economic and financial factors such as profit margin (and all its components) and markets. Maximizing profit may require discontinuing certain products or even lines of business. It may drive product innovation, new product introduction or expansion into new markets or new business lines, all based on identifying, assessing and pursuing opportunities that have the greatest positive impact on profitability. Whatever is an organization’s purpose (maximizing profit or serving people), that becomes the key metric for determining the products and services it offers.
The products and services an organization offers can impact the flourishing of its personnel and its ability to promote flourishing among its external stakeholders. For example, an organization such as a consulting firm that offers a service of placing its employees for extended periods at a client’s location profoundly impacts the family life of its employees. The manufacture of certain products can subject employees to risk of injury from factors such as machinery, heat and chemicals. Tolerating clients or customers who are abusive to employees affects their flourishing. Serving customers in industries that can be seen as “exploitive” (e.g., gambling, pornography, addictive substances) can impact the flourishing of employees. Opening an office or facility can enhance the flourishing of the surrounding community, and closing one can devastate the community, including families, churches and other organizations.
As we emphasized in post #080, a Re-Imagined Culture aligned with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing of all people. If people and maximizing human flourishing are treated as the “end” of the business (rather than a means to maximize profit) and profit is viewed as a means rather than the end, then evaluation of the products and services offered by the organization will look very different. Analyzing economic and financial factors such as profit margin (and all its components) and markets will still be critical, because profit is a necessary (as we explained in post #059) both for flourishing and for sustainability. However, those factors do not rule the day.
Finding meaning and a redemptive WHY in work can be difficult. Wayne Grudem offers a path:
Christians involved in a business should remember that they are making, distributing, or selling products that help other people. These products may help others to eat and sleep and be healthy, or to learn and communicate, or to enjoy family and friends and the many wonderful resources of God’s amazing earth. In other words, if you work in a business, your work is doing good for other people. You are doing “good works”.
We agree–most of the time. One of the ways work Beautifies the world is by creating goods and services that help the world to flourish or that restore brokenness in the world; however, a person making widgets on an assembly line, for example, needs to think more deeply about purpose than a nurse in order to see the redemptive or restorative nature of their work. One way to do this is to keep asking “Why”, or ask “what is the highest and best result of what I am doing” and then ask the same question about that result until you come to the biggest, most redemptive or restorative WHY. As difficult as it may be for someone making useful widgets to see the redemptive or restorative nature of their work, there are still those “exploitive” goods and services that may never fit within a redemptive or restorative vision of “good works” or within a Re-Imagined Culture that aligns with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities.
If people rather than profits are the “end” of the organization, then evaluations of the products and services offered by the organization need to include questions such as:
- Whether the organization offers products or services, or services particular markets or customers, that result in a significantly negative burden on personnel, whether financial, physical, social, emotional or mental, that outweighs the marginal profitability of those offerings.
- Whether the organization offers products or services, or services particular markets or customers, that are fundamentally inconsistent with, or make it difficult for the organization, its leaders or its employees to live out, the organization’s values.
- Whether discontinuing a product or service, or closing an office or facility, would have a negative impact on the overall flourishing of the organization’s stakeholders that outweighs any marginal benefits to overall profitability.
Connecting purpose with the heart of your company means reappraising your core: the strategy you pursue, the operations driving you forward, and the organization itself. (McKinsey)
Imagine as You Re-Imagine
As you take the tools of RENEW and begin to RE-IMAGINE Culture, just imagine an organization:
- Where products and services are determined based on what will maximize the flourishing of people internally and externally, while maintaining adequate profitability.
- That is prepared to forgo an attractive market, vendor or customer that endangers living its values.
- That is prepared to forgo an attractive market, vendor or customer that would have an adverse impact on the flourishing of its personnel or other stakeholders.
We believe it is time to RE-IMAGINE organizations as “human-oriented” and have the courage to embrace all the implications of a bigger WHY—RE-IMAGINING the heart of the organization by pursuing business a better way in alignment with Biblical values and priorities–it is time to begin faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity®.
SPOILER ALERT: In the next several posts, we will explore how Culture relates to Operations, Governance and Connection.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): In an earlier post (#074), I shared that when I was a partner at a large law firm, my stock explanation of the societal value of corporate law that I shared with all recruits went something like: “What is good for American business is good for America, and we help American business achieve its goals. So what we do matters.” I really didn’t think too deeply about whether something American business considered “good” might actually be “bad” for America, until one meeting.
My client was acquiring a company and we were sitting around a conference room table as a young investment banker presented an analysis of the facilities it made sense keeping open and those it would be better to close. The analysis was purely financial and the main concern was ensuring that notices were properly given under the WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act. All of a sudden, I began to grow a conscience. I started to imagine the employees who would lose their jobs in some small town. I imagined them coming home to tell their spouses, and I imagined the impact on their families. Then I started to think about the small businesses in that small town and how they (and their owners and employees and their families) would be impacted. I had a sense this young banker had never visited a factory floor. People were literally numbers on a spreadsheet.
It all hit home because I grew up in an industrial town, and my father was the plant manager of a factory that made automobile antennas. More than that, it was an industrial town that had suffered a devastating blow before I was born. At one time, Amsterdam, NY was known as the “carpet capital” of the world, with a population over 50,000. In the 1950’s, the two carpet manufacturers moved their operations to the South for financial reasons–it was devastating to the community (and our family). As I was growing up, the population was closer to 20,000 people and the economic story of the community was one of continually trying to entice manufacturers to move into the decaying carpet mills.
The tension between a business caring about the flourishing of people vs caring only about profit has been a topic for the movies. Most classically, we have George Bailey vs. old Mr. Potter. And then there was Wall Street (1987) staring Michael Douglas (and his famous “Greed is good” speech). More recently (but still old) is Other People’s Money (1991) starring Gregory Peck and Danny DeVito. An even more recent movie is New in Town (2009) starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick. Below are links to Gregory Peck’s and Danny DeVito’s speeches to the shareholders of the New England Wire and Cable.
I’m not saying that the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan, Teldar Paper, New England Wire and Cable, or the New Ulm yoghurt manufacturing plant were being properly stewarded and maximized flourishing by continuing to operate, but the movies highlight a dark side of Profit as Purpose.
Gregory Peck - "Other People's Money"
Danny DeVito - "Other People's Money"
Copyright © 2021 Integrous LLC. Integriosity is a registered Service Mark of Integrous LLC.
Photo Credit: Original photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels (photo cropped).