What comes to your mind when you think about the concept of sustainability?
Possibly you think about the environment… can we minimise the impact to our ecosystems?
Perhaps you think about your community… like how can we all access and benefit what modern society provides us today such as health and education?
Maybe you think about your business… all that work you have given to get it up and running, but will it survive the test of time?
In my view, these aspects, and many others, are all intertwined. There is no separation because we are all connected and the sustainability of one, can influence the other. I also believe that we all have a role to play and for business specifically, it is about managing the day to day challenges, while also focusing on the future.
Now doing this of course is easier said than done. Stuff gets in the way and your view of what is the “future” might be just tomorrow!
But what if your business was over 1300 years old like Japan’s Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan, a hot springs hotel, still in the same family after 52 generations!
Does this challenge your view of what long term is?
Or even several years ago when I was visiting southern Sweden, and met a farmer who explained to me that the forest he was soon to harvest, was planted by his grandfather, and the forest he was now planting with seedlings, will likely to be harvested by his son, who was currently only five years old!
Yet somehow the focus today is short term. Annual performance reviews, shareholders to front up to. Quick profits where we have terms like “flipping”, and not necessarily building solid assets of value.
Surprisingly, I am not alone in these views either. In fact, this short-term view of modern society is often brought up regularly as an impediment of doing remarkable things.
That is why I always encourage my clients and business owners, even if they are in the early startup phase, to think longer term, because when you do this, I believe it does start to take away many restraints – of which many are self-imposed anyway.
Like, can you imagine business entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Elon Musk, to be just thinking about the next 12 months? Of course not! These guys are big thinkers and big thinkers look way beyond themselves and what is front of them to what is being imagined or envisioned while also getting things done.
So, we all need to do this as well in our own way.
At The Startup Business, one of the things we do is support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – seventeen goals to transform our world! On our own, probably not much of an impact, but as Helen Keller once said…
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much
Are you at a crossroad in your career or business at the moment?
I mean, are you are in a position where you need to make a significant decision?
Do you turn left or do you turn right?
Do you step back, or do you step forward?
Do you step down, or do you step up?
I was reminded recently of that quote from Steve Jobs that he gave during the Stanford University Commencement Address in 2005…
You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards.
So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.
These are very powerful words and ones which are worthy of reflection and consideration.
Often we are all too pre-occupied with the day to day to give ourselves this gift.
We have our eyes so close to the ground that despite wanting to see the bigger picture, we wonder why we cannot.
Think about the Nazca Lines!
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. The only way to view them in their entirety is from the air!
I mean, what a metaphor that is for many of us – yet somehow we cannot see that big picture from where we currently stand today.
I believe, that half the battle when we are at a cross road, is to see that bigger picture.
We may not always get it right, but we need to sometimes step up from where we are currently, to gain that clarity required.
Patterns, cycles, decisions…
I can see them all very clearly now, the dots that Steve Jobs refers to because I have a few years under my belt, but as for the future, that is another question!
To address this dilemma, it is essential that you create this time and space to gain clarity.
If you have a business, then make sure you take time out for your annual retreat.
Make it a ritual where you are in an environment that allows you to expand and see that bigger picture.
Years back, I worked for a company in which I would participate with my divisional management colleagues on a retreat at a small lodge in the country – nothing fancy, but it allowed conversations and reflection and then momentum.
I even remember attending one retreat, where we we waking up to the news of 9/11. It certainly a different focus on things that day.
Since then, I have replicated something similar on an individual basis where over the Christmas / New Year period, I will take stock of the past year and plan for the next.
This personal ritual, allows me to move forward on my goals and ultimate life ambitions.
As that other quote says…
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination
If you are at a cross road today, then give yourself and / or your team the gift of time out and step up to see the bigger picture.
moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity.
“medical ethics also enter into the question”
synonyms: moral code, morals, morality, moral stand, moral principles, moral values, rights and wrongs, principles, ideals, creed, credo, ethos, rules of conduct, standards (of behaviour), virtues, dictates of conscience
“the ethics of journalism”
the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles.
“neither metaphysics nor ethics is the home of religion”
It seems that never a day passes without some mention of ethics in the daily newspapers.
Just in this last week, I have seen it enter into the conversation around the US Presidential elections, in Australian politics and also as a result of some internal behaviour being conducted by specific individuals at a major global financial institution.
Now one could take a very pessimistic view and wonder where all this is taking us.
For me however, yes the true optimist, I believe a focus on the morale aspects of daily life whether that be in government or business is a good thing.
After all, I once heard it said we live in societies, not economies and how we behave and treat others accordingly, is essential for the well-being of our societies
But what are ethics and what is behaving in an ethical way?
Well I will not even attempt to answer that question as there are certainly many more people much more credentialed than me to do so.
However, one definition from Wikipedia suggests ethics as:
Ethics is the branch of philosophy that examines right and wrong moral behaviour, moral concepts (such as justice, virtue, duty) and moral language
So if we generally accept that this is the definition of ethics, I believe here lies the problem we have today and why we are constantly seeing matters which are about a lack of ethics reported in the daily news cycles.
How often have we heard the line “I did not break any laws”, or “I was within the company policy”?
You see I strongly believe ethics and an understanding of ethical principles, are at the core of societies before written and legislated laws, or in organisations, policies.
I also believe it is essential that organisations (government, non-profit, profit, small, large) need to have ethical principles and guidelines imbedded in their respective cultures.
I also believe that they need to go beyond the documents they are written on and lead to an ongoing conversation that takes place to all constituents as to why an ethical foundation is even more important than it has ever been.
I am early in my personal journey in studying ethics.
However, I have published for my own business a document which I share with my constituents (clients, employees, partners) of what I believe and how I expect myself and business to behave, in regards to ethics.
Since doing this, I have observed that the depth of conversation that is now taking place, is rich and is leading to strong relationships.
I have also seen other businesses also adopt a similar process in terms of ethical principles of policies.
Of course at the end of the day it is about behaviours. As I said, it needs to go beyond a document – but this is a start.
The first step.
As Wikipedia reports, the good, Socrates says, is like the sun. The sun gives light and life to the earth, the good gives knowledge and virtue to the intelligible world. It is the cause of goodness in people and actions, and it also is the cause of existence and knowledge. The pursuit of and love of the good itself (rather than any particular good thing) Socrates thought was the chief aim of education and (especially) of philosophy.
“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us” – Anonymous
When I worked for a global consulting company in my earlier days, I would be travelling all the time. It was very exciting to get instructions the week before and then find you were then assigned to a client in a new city, or even a new country. I must say say over those years I had a chance to visit some extraordinary places. From Seoul, Hong Kong, Glasgow, Wellington, Perth, Mumbai, the list goes on.
But then at some point I realised all I was doing was going from airport to hotel to the client offices. I was not really taking in the culture and all the interesting sites.
In fact, despite all the “prestige” of frequent flyer points, that life style was no longer enjoyable. To me it was a facade. Those on the outside were envious, but in reality, it was no more exciting than just commuting to work each day in my own city of Sydney.
Today though it is different!
I have my own businesses and I can choose where ever I want to work, while remaining plugged in.
For example, just last night I received an enquiry from a potential customer, “Anne” from Ireland, wanting to purchase some fair trade gifts from my ecommerce store and have them shipped to her family in Vermont, USA. I received her email while waiting in the lounge at the airport on my way to Thailand. I did some quick online research, answered her question within minutes via my phone and then boarded my flight – too easy!
I must say I did feel a little empathy for some business people in the same lounge – they seemed to be in some intense calls with their colleagues – for me, Anne was a delight and yes she then went and placed an order!
Over the next month I will be visiting numerous startup businesses across South East Asia while also catching up fellow entrepreneurs at Koh Samui in an event hosted by Andy Harrington of Jetset Speaker fame and the world’s leading public speaking expert.
I am also trialing what it is like to live the lap top life style and be travelling while I am also managing several business and a broad client base that include people like Anne shopping on my ecommerce platform, to more high end consulting clients representing large corporations.
I now feel that travelling is no longer demanding as it once was when I was an employee in that corporate world.
I believe anyone can live the lap top life style if they really want to
It will mean you have to be open to change though and implement systems into your business to enable it – but what sort of cost is that when you could as I am, for the next month, be making a living while visiting some beautiful parts of the world which I am more than too happy to share with you in the coming weeks!
“A rolling stone gathers no moss”
The modern interpretation of this old proverb from the 1500’s, is about being agile and moving forward, but are you being agile in the right way and are you moving forward in the right direct?
In business a way to ensure you are, is to put in place a form of management operating system or MOS.
Basically this is an elegant framework or “system” to drive consistency and discipline in your business. It incorporates all the aspects of the Plan – Do – Review cycle but also encapsulates long term goals through to daily tasks. In other words, ensuring strategy drives the daily focus and the daily focus is aligned to strategy:
To some, a fully implemented management control system is their worse nightmare as it provides full transparency of performance and surprisingly, some people do not like this. However, to others, a MOS provides the certainty and consistency of work being done to the required expectations, while also driving significant productivity benefits.
The key elements of a MOS are Forecast, Plan, Control, Report and Review:
Another approach is what we do at Phykon with our outsourcing clients. Regardless of client size, we recognise the importance of having systems by way of repeatable processes. What this means is that irrespective of the clients we are working with, specific activities occur at specific times. We have implemented this approach because we realise that in outsourcing, maturity is key and hence there is a journey the client needs to go on and in partnership with ourselves in order to establish a long term sustainable relationship.
For us at Phykon, this relationship consists of three phases – Set Up, Scale Up and Sustain. Our objective is to take that specific client relationship to the Sustain phase in the shortest amount of time as possible – generally after six months, or two sprints of 90 days each:
For each phase there are pre-determined tasks, tools, processes and governance and at the end of each quarter, we go through a methodical process of which includes these four steps – Reflect, Recognise, Reinvent and Renew:
At each phase and at each step we work with our clients to ensure alignment. This ensure an environment of no surprises.
Now some of our clients can find this initially as an overkill, after all, they just wanted to have some simple outsourcing performed with minimal interaction. However, as we work with them and engage them in the process, they can see how important to their business that their outsourcing partner is being aligned to their specific goals and objectives.
In short, it is a win-win for all, but this is only being achieved because we have implemented our own management operating systems to make it this way.
However, there is something else that needs to be done in conjunction with your management operating systems and that is to ensure there is humanity as well. People are not machines! That is why it is important to celebrate the milstones achieved, provide the leadership and coaching where there are performance issues and engage everyone whenever possible. In our management operating system, the Recognise step is a key reminder for us on this.
What are the management operating systems that you can implement into your business that could drive improved performance and outcomes?
“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great” – Jim Collins, Good To Great
Do you want to be good at something or do you want to be great? How about then totally magnificent?
How would that make you feel? How would your peers look to you? What about your competitors and what would your customers say if you were truly “magnificent”, that is, living and breathing excellence on a daily basis?
You see, fundamentally what I am referring to, is about getting work done, but in a way that is through high performance and that achieves your vision, mission, goals and objectives. Whether this is you as an individual, or your business, or larger again, your global corporation.
Over my career, I have had the opportunity to work in a large number of diverse businesses, from the multi-nationals through to the micro startups and while I continue to learn about high performance, this is what I know so far…
Greatness, magnificence, excellence and high performance does not just happen.
Nor is it just down to luck or a specific characteristic that you may have had when you started.
For example, if you ask any high performing athlete about this, they will say that the difference between them and the person who did not show up, is about having a vision, laser focus and hard work done consistently. This is regardless of any genetic advantage that they may have also had at the beginning.
Similarly, in what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’s found in their research, which was translated later into their 1997 publication “Built To Last” and Collin’s follow on 2001 publication “Good To Great”, could be said for businesses. However, the critical success factors that I took away from their study (as well as similar research) is around the need to have disciplined execution that is constantly undertaken.
So if we can all agree that “greatness” as Collins defines, is a place we all should aspire to be in our businesses (or as individuals – think Michael Jordon) and one of the keys to achieve this is through disciplined execution that is constantly undertaken, then what do you need to do to enable that?
Well this is where the concept of “systems” come into it.
For example, going back to our high performing athletes, how do they organise themselves for training? What is their repetitive routine? For business, a way to understand what systems are, is to consider the McKinsey 7S Framework.
The McKinsey 7S Framework or model, named after the consulting company, McKinsey and Company and is attributed to McKinsey consultants Pascale, Athos, Peters and Waterman. The McKinsey 7S Framework was created as a recognisable and easily remembered model in business. The seven variables, which the authors term “levers”, all begin with the letter “S” and include structure, strategy, systems, skills, style, staff and shared values. The 7S Framework is largely an internally focused model of which all of the seven “S”s are equal in terms of influence over the business (of course there is some licence here with my statement). In terms of what the model refers to as “Systems”, these are the routine processes and procedures followed within the business – in other words this is how work gets done.
Now if you are a startup entrepreneur, you may be thinking that implementing “systems” into your business environment should not be an imperative at this stage. After all you need to be agile and flexible don’t you?
Well if this is you, I would just ask you to think about this again.
You see, even if you are just starting out, it may even be more critical now, so that as you scale, you are doing this in a more disciplined way. So at a minimum, you need to consider implementing the three primary macro systems into your business…
- Planning Systems
- Execution Systems
- Review Systems
Now I am sure you think this is so obvious!
Well it is, but take a look around you, are you doing this today in a disciplined and in a consistent way? Because I can certainly say from my own experience now working with a diverse range of businesses for many years, it is seldom done – yet is a critical success factor for greatness!
To paraphrase Jim Collins, do not let mediocracy be the norm and rob you from greatness. Better still…
“Demand more from yourself than anyone else could ever expect.” – Tony Robbins