By Don Richardson, Managing Partner, Shared Value Solutions Ltd.
Corporate visions and policies don’t have to be boring!!! In business, we get to create the corporate culture, and we get to live it, every single day. We can create bland, ugly, soul-destroying cubicle corporate culture or we can create remarkable, fun and authentic corporate culture. Culture doesn’t happen – we create it.
We’re in the midst of drafting our corporate vision and a series of supporting policies. We’re actively creating our corporate culture.
After reading Coleman’s ideas, I thought it would be a good exercise to compare our emerging corporate culture to his six components of “great corporate culture“. To do this, I draw on our current draft Corporate Vision Statement, crafted by Scott Mackay and Laura Taylor. Scott and Laura have (wonderfully) managed to summarize our thoughts from a series of internal workshops and conversations, and the stories we tell to each other, our families, our friends and our clients.
1. Vision. A great culture starts with a vision or mission statement that orients every decision employees make. Coleman says that “when they are deeply authentic and prominently displayed, good vision statements can even help orient customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders”. Our Mission Statement is: Have Fun – Make Money – Do Good – Do Good Work. Our vision is in our name: We believe shared value is real. In a few short months we have become a recognized leader in Canada for creating shared social, economic, and environmental value – resulting in our involvement in many of the most pivotal Ontario/Canadian development projects and issues of our time. Our vision seems to have connected.
2. Values. Coleman believes that while a vision articulates a company’s purpose, “values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviours and mindsets needed to achieve that vision.” We believe we have a funky, flexible, unbounded corporate culture that generates a high level of performance, initiative, job satisfaction, creativity, and loyalty among a group of self-motivated and creative employees. We share in the risks and rewards of our work by partnering or joint venturing with our clients or other parties to advance the interests of our clients, to create shared value, and to advance our own long-term interests in creating a stable, diverse revenue stream. Central to our values is our client-centred approach – a continuous effort to see things from the client’s perspective, to understand their organizational and political universe and provide unparalleled responsiveness and flexibility to meet client needs.
3. Practices. The day-to-day things we do and encourage can reinforce or detract from achieving our vision and supporting our values. Coleman says that “values are of little importance unless they are enshrined in a company’s practices.” We manage our company in a way which promotes integration, minimizes costs, encourages leanness, adaptivity, and resilience, and enhances performance and affinity amongst our creative, self-motivated employees. We manage our company with the core ethic of Creating Shared Value. We support personal freedom and flexibility, self-motivation, creativity, and initiative within the framework of demonstrating strong performance. We minimize hierarchy and integrate our diverse disciplinary skills for rapid problem-solving and ease of communication. It’s not always easy, but it works.
4. People. Coleman says that great firms have great recruiting policies. “People stick with cultures they like, and bringing on the right “culture carriers” reinforces the culture an organization already has.” We look for people who are:
- Self-aware and expressed; reflective, introspective; able to balance intellect and intuition – living with integrity
- Positive, welcoming, open, appreciative, kind, curious, empathetic, respectful and willing to help
- Collaborative, collegial, inspiring people who enable and encourage creative exploration
- Communicators – able to give and receive constructive feedback; listen, hear and speak up when needed
- Entrepreneurial and self-motivated and want to play a role in building the business.
We seem to be attracting people with these attributes – that’s very helpful as we grow.
5. Narrative. Coleman sees storytelling and celebrating unique stories as key to great corporate culture. We love story telling – multimedia storytelling is core to being a full-service human environment consultancy. It can be challenging to describe what it’s like to integrate environmental planning, community engagement, socioeconomics, and program evaluation. As a result, storytelling is woven into the fabric of our culture - our stories about our “ah-ha” moments for creating shared value with our clients and their partners communicate the essence of what we do.
6. Place. According to Coleman, “place shapes culture. Open architecture is more conducive to certain office behaviors, like collaboration. Certain cities and countries have local cultures that may reinforce or contradict the culture a firm is trying to create. Place — whether geography, architecture, or aesthetic design — impacts the values and behaviours of people in a workplace.” We love our place – our funky office space, our downtown Guelph location, our community and the wonderful two-rivers ecosystem that nurtures our souls and bodies.
Vision, Values, Practices, People, Narrative, and Place? I think we’re on the right track. What do you think?
By Don Richardson, Managing Partner, Shared Value Solutions Ltd.
As we grow and create new shared value solutions for problems and opportunities, we engage with smart people as partners, affiliates, and new and potential team members. We find ourselves gravitating to people who know how to “figure it out.”
A recent Harvard Business Review article called “Figure It Out” by GE’s Chief Marketing Officer, Beth Comstock, got our attention. Comstock identifies the reality we live every day working at Shared Value Solutions. We face new problems for which road maps to solutions simply don’t exist, and we find that the necessary resources are scarce or are not in the obvious places.
So what do we do? We figure it out. We engage with people who are, as Comstock notes, “inventive, capable and enterprising. Above all, they must be able to improvise – to take whatever they have to work with and make the most of it.” We face problems and opportunities that push us to improvise and reach out to others who may have the ideas, resources or experience we need to help our clients.
Very often, for the problems and opportunities our clients provide us, no one has the exact training or detailed experience with what we’re handed. We figure it out. We pull in people from our extensive professional and personal networks. We venture into new networks and look for radically different ways to address the problems and opportunities. We often abandon our assumptions about what we think our clients need and instead, we spend time observing, listening, engaging and understanding how people actually live and work, and how they experience problems and opportunities. Whiteboards, flipcharts, napkins and “what if” discussions are key tools.
No surprise that my favourite movie scene is from the film Apollo 13 where a technician dumps a mess of material on a table and tells his colleagues that they have to use this mess to build a new carbon dioxide scrubber to keep the flight crew alive. They figure it out and the crew gets to come home.
At Shared Value Solutions Ltd., we figure it out. We get resourceful, we network and we partner. This is how we get to work with people who help us innovate with clients for initiatives such as helping:
- Resolve a multi-year contaminated drinking water and lake water challenges for a northern First Nation using innovative technologies and creative resourcing approaches yielding over $8 million in new funding and new community partnerships
- Research new supply chain approaches and linkages to agribusiness for biogas enterprises
- Develop innovative community engagement strategies for different interest groups in urban mixed-use communities
- Develop appropriate approaches to regional environmental assessment initiatives that match environmental goals with infrastructure development goals for northern tribal councils
- Design and value engineer a new major highway to accommodate traditional Aboriginal ecological knowledge and current land use activities
If you can “Figure It Out”, let’s talk.
Why research says you should try for a glass-is-half-full outlook
By Nichole Fraser MacDonald, M.Sc., Managing Partner, SVS
SVS talked in our October 2012 blog Bringing Empathy Back into “Development Deadlocks” (check out the full story) about our philosophy that bringing empathy and trust into the equation can help short-circuit conflicts between proponents and communities regarding environment and natural resource developments.
Optimism builds on empathy and trust as a third key concept that SVS employs to help our clients navigate through situations with high degrees of conflict. I’m currently taking a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB – www.cfib-fcei.ca) course which talks about the importance of optimism – communicating a positive outlook, both verbally and non-verbally, even in times of stress. This concept really speaks to me.
Apparently research shows that optimists tend do better at school, win more elections, succeed more at work and are more effective leaders. I think we could safely add “negotiate win-win solutions” to this list.
My course claims that optimism is an issue of personal control and a habit of thinking; that it provides people with the ability to change things through their actions. Those who can stay optimistic and upbeat, even during periods of high stress, radiate positive feelings to those around them, which affects the social environment, productivity and overall positive outcomes. Powerful stuff.
… just a little inspiration for topping up your proverbial glass today.
We’re working with research partner Sarah Megens, and one of our clients, on a project that combines agribusiness with energy opportunities. We seek to understand the economic, technical and business clustering feasibility of pursuing agribusiness-energy opportunities in Ontario
The project includes:
- Research/feasibility assessment for the development of an Agribusiness-Energy business cluster in Ontario where biogas facilities may combine with local value-chain assets that include excess industrial heat, industrial lands, agricultural lands, agricultural input providers & growers and potential regional fuel users,
- Examining requirements for determining generic location requirements for an Agribusiness-Energy business cluster: centralized or a distributed business cluster that includes several agribusiness and/or industrial site locations,
- Addressing research and knowledge gaps,
- A case for support to attract additional research funding and partnerships.
Making Money and Doing Good can go Hand-in-Hand
Is it just me, or does there seem to be a directly proportional relationship between how well a company does financially and how evil people think they are? Maybe it’s because we so often see the Big Bad Corporation crushing the Little Guy (who we all have a soft spot for) in movies and other popular culture.
The desire to combat the Big Bad Corporation stigma, the push from industry and investors, and the pursuit of a social license to operate has driven many companies to invest in social, environmental and economic programs – also commonly known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. All of those reasons to “do good” are fair, but they could be more strategic.
Creating Shared Value (CSV) goes a step beyond CSR. It’s where a company’s business performance intersects with its social investments. When a company decides to invest in social, environmental or economic initiatives, it can do so in a way that also makes good business sense; in other words, creating shared value for society and the company at the same time.
Wondering how to go about creating shared value? You need a strategy.
7 Critical Steps for a successful CSV strategy
1. Pick an Issue – can you see a social, environmental or economic issue that needs to be addressed?
2. Identify Business Activities – what relevant business activities can you undertake to help address the issue? This could include[i]:
- Reconceiving products and markets – environmental, social or economic benefits realized from a company’s products or services
- Redefining productivity in the value chain – environmental improvements, better resource use, investment in employees, supplier capabilities
- Enabling cluster development – community investments and strengthening local suppliers, institutions and infrastructure in ways that enhance business productivity
3. Plan Your Resources – what inputs (costs, staff, time, infrastructure, other resources) are needed to implement the changes?
4. Identify Desired Outcomes – be intentional about the desired business and social benefits you hope to achieve
5. Implement the CSV Strategy – implement the changes
6. Monitor and Measure Shared Value – build in a robust evaluation strategy to understand your return on investment and the benefits relative to your costs
7. Continue to Adjust the CSV Strategy as Needed – adjust business and social activities accordingly to ensure they are carried out as efficiently and effectively as possible
So can Creating Shared Value initiatives help combat the Big Bad Corporation stigma? Maybe to some degree.
Likely, there will always be people who think that making a buck is a bad thing. But being up front about investing in social issues because they make good business sense (as opposed to doing it for a PR stunt) is definitely a good start to making your company a whole lot more “real”. And the only thing we cheer for in the movies almost as much as the Little Guy is people who are “real”.
[i] Measuring Shared Value. Michael E. Porter, Greg Hills, Marc Pfitzer, Sonja Patscheke, and Elizabeth Hawkins