Last week, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie unveiled renovation plans that would transform Lincoln National Field into an eco-friendly stadium -- equipped with wind turbines, solar panels and biodiesel power. This eco-transformation, set to be up and running as early as next season, has many praising the Eagles owner, including President Obama himself. And the praise is certainly warranted -- it's about time we recognized our impact on the environment and took action.
Others in the business world are involved in similar green transformations; Coca-Cola launched the "PlantBottle," made from up to 30 percent of plant-based material, and Nike released its Environmental Apparel Design Tool.
But let's be clear: one-off initiatives are only a starting point. While sustainability initiatives and corporate social responsibility programs are a first step toward developing a triple bottom line capability, they are just that -- a first step; they don't create a sustainable effective organization that performs well financially, socially and environmentally.
What's Going On?
Today, we live in a world of increasingly rapid change and complexity where multiple stakeholders require organizations to adapt quickly and perform in ways that go beyond simply generating a high financial return.
Faced with these new demands and rapidly shifting market conditions, traditional hierarchical organizations are barely able to sustain their financial performance, much less respond to the other demands. They launch programs and products that focus on social responsibility and sustainability in the hopes of getting watchdog groups, consumer advocacy and other NGOs off their back.
But programs and initiatives simply are not enough. All too often, they end up generating changes -- the equivalent of putting "lipstick on a pig" -- that fail to support sustainable effectiveness.
How Sustainable Effectiveness Can Happen
Simply stated, there is no substitute for organizations that are designed for sustainable effectiveness. Organizations need leaders who direct, support, and role model sustainable behaviors and adaptability.
Sustainably effective organizations have structures that adapt to environmental changes and develop new sources of competitive advantage, while focusing attention and resources on work that generates triple bottom line outcomes.
The Big Picture
Creating a sustainably effective organization is no easy task, and for some, it can be a hard pill to swallow. An overall management reset is needed -- companies completely redefining their strategy and approach to management; a total transformation of how they are structured and operate. A new approach to management that takes organization agility and integrates it with triple bottom line effectiveness.
So as we press on full speed into the New Year, how will your company position itself to achieve sustainable effectiveness?
Edward E. Lawler III is co-author of Management Reset: Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness. A distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business, he is also the founder and director of the University's Center for Effective Organizations (CEO), one of the country's leading management research organizations.