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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Healthy Profit Thinking

Busy weeks. Last week I delivered a speech at an EABIS-PLEON dinner in The Hague. They asked me to place Corporate Social Responsibility into my theory of timeframes and share some of my concerns about the translation of corporate vision into new reality. That often doesn't work because some levels of a corporation have a conceptual mind, while other units have a pragmatic approach, leading to irritation, malfunction and sabotage ("Distant Dreamer!" versus "Figure Fucker!"). There is, of course, a way to connect conceptual vision with pragmatic acting.
Fragments of my speech will be placed on the Pleon.nl site soon. Or you can ask me for the content of my speech. Here is a fragment:
"In my day to day work I have noticed a huge gap between the visionaries and the people that have to implement their vision. And I am not the only one. EABIS sponsored research that even proves it. I quote: “There is a growing gap between business leaders’s understanding of the complex challenges that their companies must address, and their own organization’s ability to manage the desired response." CEO’s with all their good intentions can’t understand why the media do not believe their plans and goals, and even more disturbing, why their own organization does not seem to believe them. Well, after 20 years, it dawned on me. The answer, I can tell you, is easy: I have found there are 12 steps to be taken between the first vision and a new reality. 12 steps, that together form a circle. Only 12 steps to take. And in daily practice it already tends to go wrong with step 2.

My first experience is that all levels below boardroom often lack a clear and exciting image, a practical vision of how the new strategy will look and will influence their daily job. The frightening thing is, most just have no image at all. They do not really understand what CSR means, and when talking about it, they talk about it in what Freud would call superego terms: it is something we ‘should’ do. CSR is like when your partner starts complaining: ‘when will you finally grow up and take responsibility?’ Then you know the nights of drinking, lusting, abundance and Freudian ‘id’ are gone. What remains are the days of endless, responsible, discussion. Willem Lageweg from MVO-Holland even said ‘business people want to do their bit for a better world, BUT need to earn their profit.’ Mark the BUT. He’s reducing CSR to a sacrifice your company has to make. You are being reduced to a defensive, responsible individual. Do we really want CSR to be about defense and reduction, about something we do not really like, but rationally think must be right? Or do we want something that also feels right?"
And then I introduce the concept of HPT: Healthy Profit Thinking. More about that later.

21 comments:

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