Posts Tagged ‘mission’

Are You Mistaking Vision for Strategy?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

By Kathleen Hosfeld

At the heart of organizational meaning-making we find corporate vision and mission as definitions of the good or the change that we seek to create in the world. While this is absolutely essential to thriving organizations and engaging the passions of  stakeholders, this is not strategy.strategy in colour 2

Vision and mission are the “what.” Strategy is the “how.” Strategy is the distillation of opportunities and maneuvers that will make it possible to realize your vision and mission. In a recent article in Strategy + Business, Ken Favaro writes that many organizations mistake what he calls “The Corporate Five” for the “Strategic Five.” The Corporate Five are mission, vision, purpose, plan and goals. You can have all of those things and still be missing a strategy.

In order to develop strategy, a firm has to be able to answer what Favaro calls “The Strategic Five” :

1. What business or businesses should you be in?
2. How do you add value to your businesses?
3. Who are the target customers for your businesses?
4. What are your value propositions to those target customers?
5. What capabilities are essential to adding value to your businesses and differentiating their value

Although most companies can articulate a vision (for instance, “to be the leading biotech company”), a mission (“to find and commercialize innovative drug therapies”), a purpose (“to improve patients’ lives”), a plan (“to develop molecule X, enter market Y, and partner with company Z”), or a goal (“to bring three innovative molecules to market by 2025”), few convincingly answer all five strategic questions, especially with one voice across their top teams and down their organizations.

They can’t answer those questions because often they haven’t asked them in a very long time, if at all.

Favaro says that companies that focus on the “Corporate Five” are mistaking execution for strategy. I’d counter that since there’s no strategy to start with there’s nothing to actually execute. The so-called “plan” is a checklist of technical to-dos, when in reality an adaptive challenge is at hand that requires new thinking. Strategy work is intrinsically adaptive change work.

Development of mission and vision and purpose are engaging exercises that tap the imagination of all stakeholders. If they are developed outside of a framework that addresses “The Strategic Five,” they are likely to lack substance and fail to achieve traction within the organization. An effective business transformation process will embed the Strategic Five into the entire process.

To read Favaro’s whole article go here.

Interested in finding your own answers to “The Strategic Five?” Read our article “Finding Time To Be Strategic.”

A Rose By Any Other Name: The Case for “Good” Business Smells Sweeter and Sweeter

Friday, August 10th, 2012

By Kathleen Hosfeld

You may call it the triple bottom line, sustainable, green, conscious, responBusiness Case for Good Businesssible or worthy business. Underlying the labels is a common commitment to maximizing value for multiple stakeholders including the community and the environment.  Research continues to show the approach pays off. Financially.

Many people find their motivation for “good” business in an instinctive or intuitive desire to “make a difference,” even if it risks lowering profitability. In the early days of so-called green business, most mainstream business owners and executives saw efforts to manage environmental and social concerns as expensive indulgences that would ultimately cost money and possibly competitiveness.  That perception has shifted as organizations realize meaningful cost savings and risk mitigation from entry level commitments to waste and energy reductions.

But the strategic upside potential of a values-based, stakeholder approach is growing increasingly clear thanks to books like Good Company: Business Success in the Worthiness Era by Laurie Bassi, Ed Frauenheim, and Dan McMurrrer  with Larry Costello.  The book travels many of the same paths of the book Firms of Endearment, by Rajendra S. Sisodia, and colleagues in 2007.  Firms of Endearment made the point that a positive relational approach to multiple stakeholders resulted in superior financial performance. The companies they profiled achieved a higher return on equity (10 year rate of 1025% compared with S&P 500 of 122.3% and Good to Great Companies 331%) in spite of spending considerably more on employees and other stakeholders than most companies.

Bassi et al have done two things to advance the conversation. First, they have compiled a boat load of more recent “hard-nosed” evidence that companies who do well do better and those who do not do poorly by comparison.   A sampling of their citations:

  • In a recent study by consulting firm A.T. Kearney, firms that embraced sustainability outperformed industry averages by 15% from May through November of 2008.
  • According to a study by Packaged Facts, in spite of the recession, sales of “ethical” consumer products have grown at a rate of high single and low double-digits to a projected $38 billion in 2009.
  • Firms on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For outperform the stock market as a whole.

Bassi’s group has taken this analysis one giant step further. They created a quantitative index of what constitutes a “worthy” company, profiled all the Fortune 100 companies and compared them on three levels: as employers, as sellers and as stewards of society and the environment. They found that companies with a higher Good Company score outperformed their peers with a lower Good Company score by an average of 19.8 percentage points.

On the strength of their findings, the Bassi and her colleagues created Bassi Investments, a money management firm that invests according to the Good Company criteria. The funds were established in 2001 and results continue to support the finding that investing in employees is a best practice of wealth creation.

It may seem counter intuitive that in order to be more profitable a company has to invest more money in an area.  These business results point to the new insights that are emerging as the way we do business continues to change.

More about the Book:

Good Company

Reclaiming Trust: What Marketers Can Do to Help Their Companies Restore Relationships

Friday, October 1st, 2010

By Kathleen Hosfeld and John Forman

Trust in business is starting to make a comeback from historic lows during the Recession, according to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer research.  It’s a fragile trust, the report tells us. Those surveyed say that after the economic pressure is off, they expect business to go back to unbridled self-interest. In other words, they don’t really trust business – not for the long-haul. At a Young Presidents Organization event last week, members said that “trust” was their number one concern, regardless of the specific business they were in. The gap is enormous.

The Business Case

The business case for trust is well established. A lack of trust can create a number of problems for a company. It can impact reputations as conversation in the market place is fueled by assumptions of ill-will (like BP), gossip and innuendo, slower decision-making processes, as well as loss of sales. And the misbehavior of one Bernie Madoff can sour public perception for organizations that have never been connected to him.  On the other hand, a company that has the trust of its customers or other stakeholders can count on better collaboration and decision-making, resilience in the face of a crisis (like Toyota), more word of mouth advertising from advocates, and fewer legal or regulatory costs.

Trust matters to a lot more companies than a skeptical public might imagine. While there are egregiously self-interested firms that can be said to not care about trust, the larger part of the business world cares deeply. Yet, in the current  environment, positive intent may not be enough to reclaim trust.

The Trust Formula

One model of trust in relationships offers some lessons for senior executives and marketing specialists for how to reclaim trust with customers, partners and other stakeholders. The trust “formula” has four factors: Credibility, Reliability, Openness, and Self/Other Orientation. This model is adapted from David Maister’s “Trusted Advisor,” a classic in the field. All four elements in the model play an important part, but the fourth — Self/Other Orientation — can either undermine or enhance the other three factors.

Credibility – The credibility of a firm is built on the truthfulness of its communications, its reputation, its experience base and credentials. If there’s a gap between what a firm says and the customer or partner’s experience, trust can break down. If the firm’s reputation or verifiable credentials or experience don’t line up with its claims or communication, trust can be lost. Marketing initiatives to build credibility center on brand alignment, certifications, client/customer testimonials, promotion and sales processes.

Reliability – The reliability of a firm is demonstrated in its actions. Does the firm follow through and keep its commitments? Does it create predictable experiences, does it set expectations that it can keep? Uneven quality, inconsistent experiences, poor performance, lack of follow up or follow through, all contribute to a loss of trust. Marketing initiatives to build reliability include product management and sales and customer service.

Openness – In interpersonal relationships, openness is often confused with sharing intimate information. That does not foster trust. Openness that fosters trust involves the risks taken  in the relationship, and  the discretion and empathy with which one treats other people’s risks. In business life, this translates to transparency, and sharing information with stakeholders, sometimes hard-to-admit information like “we made a mistake.” Marketing initiatives that demonstrate openness include stakeholder engagement, supply chain transparency, sustainability reporting and open design standards.

Self/Other Orientation – In individual relationships, we most deeply trust those people who we feel have our best interests in mind. So too with companies. We trust companies that  care for our benefit as much they care about profit.  Marketing initiatives that foster trust also include integrating social good into all aspects of mission, marketing and communication. Demonstrating this commitment amplifies the benefit of a firm’s efforts in regards to Credibility, Reliability and Openness. Marketing initiatives that “go first” involve making a stand for social and environmental responsibility in the communities and the environment where they operate. But efforts at these forms of conscious capitalism must be genuine, and seen as genuine, efforts to make a positive difference.

How are We Doing?

Each of these qualities shows up in organizations in slightly different ways, but all lend themselves to meaningful measurements. As a result, organizations can benchmark perceptions and behaviors, and objectively assess progress towards trust goals.  Companies can be comprehensively assessed on these four qualities to determine the greatest opportunities for reclaiming or enhancing trust with customers and other stakeholders.

Kathleen Hosfeld is the principal of Hosfeld & Associates, a strategy and marketing firm.  John Forman is the principal of Integral Development, a teaching and consulting firm focused on leadership, performance, strategy and decision-making.

The Transformation of Marketing

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

An emerging model from high-integrity organizations

By Kathleen M. Hosfeld

The phone rings at our house on any given evening. A member of our family looks at the caller ID. “It’s Evans Glass,” he or she calls out to the rest of the house. The call goes unanswered. This is one of between four to 10 calls we receive from Evans Glass each week. We made the mistake once of talking to someone going door to door offering estimates for window replacements. When we found out that the estimate process would take two hours, we said, “No, this isn’t what we want.” We asked that they not contact us again. They have continued to call. And call. And call.

This is one of the practices that have led to another kind of call – a call to “reform” marketing. These and other common marketing practices “work” for companies – they do result in sales. However, research shows that there’s a long-term consequence associated with intrusive and coercive tactics: cynicism and resistance on the part of consumers. Studies by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Yankelovich show that from 1964 to 2004, the number of people who say their feelings about advertising have become negative grew from 15% to 60%. Forty-five percent of consumers say that the amount of advertising they are exposed to every day detracts from their experience of everyday life (Yankelovich). Yet, companies are spending more to overcome resistance, doing more of that which created the resistance in the first place. This is a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.

What’s to stop it? Some believe that more regulation is the answer. While regulation and public policy always play an important role in systems change, a change from within – a transformation – will ultimately reach parts of the system that regulation can’t touch. Pioneering firms have been blazing this trail for almost two decades and research is starting to show that companies that take a higher road are achieving higher returns as a result (Studies by Sisodia, Raj, Jag Sheth, and David B. Wolfe in 2007; Sully de Luque et al. in 2008; Kearney in 2009).

The Emerging Model

Consider this article an introduction to a much wider conversation about how pioneering firms are transforming marketing. To start that conversation, I’m offering a 50,000 foot level management perspective of the model of marketing that is emerging as an alternative to the vicious cycle described above. This includes sustainability and the triple-bottom-line, but this is not a model of sustainability marketing per se. It’s meant to suggest a model of marketing that is emerging in companies who have made sustainability a way of life and are continuing to evolve. I have avoided references to tactical execution and, for now, case histories. I’ve avoided elements that might be more appropriate for specific industries (hard goods manufacturers), and tried to synthesize elements that are universal to all firms.

In working with clients, I often translate assessments into “Key Issues” for the sake of simplifying what must be addressed to accomplish their objectives. Key Issues are sheltering wings under which a variety of other issues or factors can find a home. In the following diagram and texttransformation-of-marketing-hosfeld-dot-com, I frame three “Key Issues” for transforming marketing, and some (but not all) of the factors they represent.

A Fundamental Assumption: The most important difference between companies that are transforming their marketing practice is their interpretation of the purpose of marketing. In traditional practice marketing is about “selling stuff.” This follows the perception of the purpose of the business, which is to create profit. In firms that are transforming or have transformed marketing, marketing is about creating value for stakeholders – not as a means to an end (profit) but rather as the end in itself. Within this shift, profit is the measurement of how well the organization is achieving that end.

Embracing a Systems Perspective – A competence required for this emerging model is the ability to navigate complexity and engage with diverse, complex, adaptive systems. In transforming marketing, this includes issues such as:

Adopting a Multi-Stakeholder Orientation – In transformed marketing, the organization enlarges its focus from stockholders to stakeholders who include investors, employees, customers, partners and society. The intent is not to “manage” stakeholders but to serve them.

Cross-Functional Collaboration – In the traditional paradigm, marketing is frequently siloed and given increasingly tactical focus. In transformed marketing, value creation for stakeholders (marketing) is everyone’s job and requires cross-functional collaboration across departments – finance, human resources, manufacturing.

Industry Collaboration and Partnerships – Organizations transforming marketing are not isolated competitors seeking dominance and hoarding information. Rather they participate in industry collaborations to advance standards or other initiatives for the benefit of stakeholders.

Reclaiming the Marketing Mix – In traditional practice, marketing has increasingly focused on sales and promotion due to an emphasis on measurement. Organizations that are transforming marketing seek to maximize stakeholder benefit through all aspects of the marketing mix (product, price, promotion, distribution/sales). These marketing decisions may not take place in the marketing department per se but through cross-functional collaboration.

Creating Social Good – A radical departure from serving simply the profit motive, to one that says profit is the measure of how much value or benefit the firm creates for stakeholders. This includes issues such as:

Purpose and Culture Founded on Ethics and Responsibility – There’s a constant focus in these organizations around “doing the right thing,” which begins with purpose and a culture that supports ethical action.

Defining Success Beyond Profit – Financial measures are insufficient determinants of success for many organizations who care deeply about their impacts on the environment, on customers, on employees, vendors and more. Whether it’s two, three, four or more “bottomlines” – transformed marketing evaluates success in more than financial terms.

Organizational “Calling” – Those practicing transformed marketing are guided by goals that serve a shared understanding of the organization’s “calling” or intent to create stakeholder (or world) benefit.

Sharing Power in Exchange Relationships – Transformed marketing seeks to create partnerships with stakeholders in which power is shared. This capacity separates these organizations from those that are merely well intentioned, yet feel entitled to cajole customers into decisions that are “good for them” or to “sell what we make” without meaningful input from the customer or market.

Living the Brand – From one perspective brands are “perceptions” that are created to influence purchase decisions. In organizations practicing transformed marketing, however, the brand IS the company, and the company lives the brand. It’s not perception. It’s reality. Branding campaigns seek to create awareness of that reality, not to create it virtually. Elements of this include:

Brand Rooted in Clear Differentiation Strategy – In transformed marketing the brand is rooted in a solid business model that articulates a long-term strategy for creating value for stakeholders distinct from that of other firms. By contrast, head-to-head competition or competition on perception alone reinforces the vicious cycle of promotion to compete, leading to ethical “trade-offs”, and a firm-centric view.

Operations Aligned to Fulfill Brand Promises – The “operational side of branding” means taking the brand deeply into every aspect of the organization. This requires translating the implications of the brand for the day-to-day functions of departments. Representative questions to ask in this process include: What type of person should we hire to reflect the brand values? How does the brand change what our office looks like? How do I need to share information with other departments in order to help them live the brand?

Commitment to Stakeholder Benefit – The “right thing to do” in a transformed marketing environment is a radical commitment to making sure all aspects of brand execution translate into benefit for stakeholders. This includes ongoing reflection and action concerning methods of creating products/services, their features and benefits, the materials they use and the transparency with which the supply chain is managed.

Continuing The Conversation

Although the era of sustainability shines a brighter light on companies who practice marketing in this way, many companies – including ours and our clients’ – have been marketing in the spirit of the emerging model for years if not decades – long before frameworks for sustainability or the triple bottom line were as accessible as they are today. As more organizations adopt social enterprise models and similar forms that blend mission and revenue creation, transformed marketing offers an approach that better fits their values.

Many of the companies who have been pioneering in this model have done so based on the intuitive conviction that it was simply “the right thing to do.” We are fortunate in this time that research, including the studies referenced above, is confirming their collective hunch that a seemingly radical commitment to marketing that works for all also turns out to be a good way to make money. Many today are trying to approach the triple bottom line from a single-bottom-line perspective. Perhaps now there’s enough empirical research to encourage such firms to explore this emerging model more deeply.

There are many stories to tell and many interrelated ideas to unpack as we continue our own exploration. We’d love to hear from you about your experiences, ideas and questions.

Social Enterprise and Non-Profits: Holding Mission and Financial Sustainability

Monday, April 30th, 2007

By Kathleen M. Hosfeld, President

Anyone involved with non-profits – as an employee or board member – is concerned with their long-term financial sustainability. Increased competition among non-profits combined with declines in government funding and changing patterns in personal philanthropy have forced many to look at new sources of income to stabilize or strengthen their bottom lines.

Enter the concept of social enterprise. Technically, both for-profits and non-profits can be social enterprises. The new definition of social enterprise, adopted by the Social Enterprise Alliance is: “An organization or venture that advances its social mission through entrepreneurial, earned-income strategies.”

But, as Alliance board member Kirsten Gagnaire pointed out during the organization’s April 2007 national Gathering, for-profits that start out with a social mission (think Flexcar, Great Harvest Bread Company, Seventh Generation) frequently have the inherent entrepreneurial strengths to figure out how to balance mission and profit. Non-profits that have historically seen the world through the lens of those without ability to pay have unique challenges in learning how to court those who can.

Social enterprise is not a new phenomenon. Since the early 90s, our firm has worked with visionary non-profits seeking to change the traditional industry ratios of earned to unearned income. In the Pacific Northwest, there are a number of highly successful social enterprises including Pioneer Human Services and FareStart. Nationally, Goodwill Industries has been pursuing social enterprise since it was founded in Boston in 1902.

Today, more nonprofits than ever before are exploring models of social entrepreneurship in order to survive financially – as well as to expand their mission. Types of ventures include:

  • Developing mission-based products or services for those with ability to pay
  • Creating curriculum or training programs for sale or license to share core expertise
  • Enhanced corporate sponsorships – treated as earned income rather than corporate philanthropy
  • Retail or internet sales of donated, low-cost or mission-based products, and
  • Partnerships with corporations such as cause-related marketing campaigns.

Social entrepreneurship brings new tax and legal questions. When is earned income taxable? What activities threaten our non-profit status? For visionary social entrepreneurs there’s the challenge of financing growth. Where do we find patient capital to either start a venture or bring it to scale? For many non-profits there’s the difficult cultural shift from working only with those without ability to pay to working with people who can pay. How do we do that without feeling like we are “selling out?”

A common issue for those exploring social entrepreneurship is finding the right fit. Too often the earned-income venture can seem like a “thing apart” — separate from the “real work.”  That’s just something we do for money.

Through an appreciative analysis of an organization’s assets and competencies, however, would-be social entrepreneurs can align their income-generating initiatives with their mission, values, and constituents. Doing so brings earned-income initiatives closer to what organizations feel is their “real work,” serving both mission and the organization’s need for financial sustainability.

New Strategy: Three Questions That Connect Us To The “Great Story”

Sunday, March 27th, 2005

By Kathleen M. Hosfeld, President

Three questions can help organizations connect their strategies and brands to The Great Story, the important work of our time. I first realized the value of the “great story” more than a decade ago, in listening to my retired father and a colleague reminisce about their days in the aluminum industry. At a dinner together I heard the two former executives wax nostalgic.

“It’s not the same as when we were there, Bob,” his friend Clay said. “All these young guys care about is their careers. You and I, what we cared about was aluminum.”

The reverence with which he said the word aluminum went beyond the value of excellence, beyond the pride of creating quality. Mass production of aluminum changed everything – from airplanes (once made of wood and fabric), to rail cars, to building construction materials, to medical tools, to food storage. Aluminum was the metal that would carry us to the moon.

The power of aluminum to create a better world was the kind of purpose that called for service beyond self-interest. It was clear in the way Clay said the word aluminum that to him it meant a brighter future for his children and grandchildren. That future was worth his dedication and creativity.

Whether we work in a for-profit or a non-profit, for government or private enterprise, the larger story of our work makes it worth the best we have to give.

The Three Questions

In strategy work with clients, I’ve found that defining the organization’s purpose around something compelling to people both inside and outside the organization depends on answering three questions:

  • What is the change we want to see in the world because of our work (shared vision)?
  • What are the means we will use to create this change (shared means)?
  • How do we want to be together as we do this work (shared values)?

Seeing the Change

When we ask the question, “What is the change we want to see in the world because of our work?” we assume that we have a degree (if small) of influence over a vast system. The question implies we’re looking for a point of leverage in the system. Another way to ask the question is “Why make a change at all? What is the need?” Sometimes, we already know the change we want to create in the world – more home ownership, greater fuel efficiency, healthier kids, engaged citizens. We can look around us and see that others care about this same change because they too are working in their own way to address this need. This gives us a sense of who our partners, collaborators or competitors might be. Most of us are unaccustomed to thinking about our work in terms of our impact on the world. Some entrepreneurs respond to this question by realizing they’ve lost track of their original goals for their business.

Creating the Change

The next question, “What are the means we will use to create this change” defines the day-to-day tasks and methods you use to achieve your goal. A technology support division of a local city government might have a goal to become an essential resource to the entire city system. But there might be many roads to get to this shared destination. Is it through superior help-desk solutions? Is it through catalyzing technology upgrades? Defining shared means is an agreement about strategy.  Clarifying “shared means” results in focus, and thus creates greater return on investment of learning and capital. It often requires sifting through what others (competitors or collaborators) are already doing, what your organization does best or most successfully. It also means listening to what customers or other constituents validate as meaningful. This validation can be purchases and customer loyalty in a for-profit venture. In a non-profit it can be expressed through grants and donations that support the work.

Being The Change

How we create the change is very often influenced by asking “How do we want to be together as we do this work?” This speaks to something very different than the values statements senior managers post on bulletin boards for everyone’s compliance.  This question gets at the underlying values that reflect how we want to be treated or how we (the people) agree to treat each other in the workplace even when there’s no external reward. Creating alignment between the goals and organizational culture creates integrity; it says “we walk our talk.”  For many employees, agreements about how we want to be together can be as important as the change we want to see in the world. Positive social networks, being a valued member of a productive team, and the ability to take pride in their work create meaning for many employees that brings out their best contribution. These agreements can create stability at times when the larger strategic vision is shifting.

Answering these three questions benefits an organization in several ways. It:

  • Creates efficiency through clear focus and alignment resulting in faster progress and fewer wasted resources;
  • Articulates a compelling foundation for brands and other marketing messages;
  • Fosters productive social connections among employees who then share the same goals; and
  • Establishes a positive purpose for the organization in the context of a larger, dynamic system.

These questions and their answers lead us back to that place of the great story of our work. We’re not just telling a good story about our company and work as many corporate storytellers do. Rather we are seeing the Great Story of our time, finding our place in a story that is bigger than us, bigger than the place we work, and committing ourselves to work that is worthy of our passion and service. This is living a great story.

(This article was originally published in March of 2005.  My father, Bob Hosfeld, an Alcoa executive, contributed significantly to the original version. Its continued publication is dedicated to his memory and his legacy as a “spiritual advisor” to his colleagues.)