Jeffrey Magee

Sustaining Relevance SurviveVersus Thrive

O rganizations across the globe are facing a major threat to their survival and a direct impediment to their ability to accelerate and thrive: the equation of sustainability. Sustainability has for decades been owned by the linear thinking positions: analytics, finance, accounting, engineering, operations, administration, etc. Sustainability is a 360-degree conversation and application:each business unit, including the entire C-suite, has an ownership stake in understanding and implementing sustainability strategies and behaviors. Sustainability is a universal issue and is far more reaching and impactful on organizations and human capital than most realize. Survival mentality in our marketplace serves as a cancer to sustainability. Business annals are littered with organizations and individuals that embraced survival mentality and no longer exist. Conversely, the annals also boast many great organizations in the private sector and nonprofit space that are achievers and winners. In 1971, the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce ( Jaycees) had more than one million members, as a thriving sustainable organization. Today, the US Jaycees boast fewer than 30,000 members and are knocking on death’s doorstep of defeatism. Their mission statement from nearly 100 years ago is still 100% viable, but decades

of flawed execution have derailed them. In the past decade, the United Methodist Church has lost more than one million members from their local-level leadership positions because of survival mentality and not addressing a progressive forward-focused thrive sustainability mindset. The concept of sustainability has been bastardized in business conversation of late as applied only when discussing topics such as conservation, ecology, alternative energy, or global warming; this is a gross misrepresentation of the concept. In that context, sustainability may be a marketing gambit to attract people to emotionally- charged narratives and business endeavors that would otherwise not be profitable or relevant. It makes people feel good to say they are engaged in sustainable projects. Organizational sustainability is a universal and should be considered, benchmarked and applied in many ways. Here are a few, albeit not conclusive, non-traditional lenses to look through when considering the matter of sustainability. Sustainability through Values-Vision- Mission Statements. These statements are the GPS from which all other factors are born for thriving organizations. It starts with a deep reflection on the organization’s core stakeholders’ personal values and how those evolve into

the organization’s value system. Values drive the vision of the individual and organization and are typically transferred into the public mission statement. Every endeavor, deliverable, decision, and all human capital moves should be aligned into this for survival, meeting minimum business standards to stay viable and determining performance standards that excel beyond to attain a thriving state. Sustainability through Viable Evolving Real-Time Deliverables. Keep people focused on a short-term world perspective with continuing relevance when the long-term matters are paramount for sustainability.To be sustainable,organizations must embrace a culture and attitude of agility to ensure that what they engage in with business practices, deliverables, etc., serve a real market need. Mindsets must be respectfully challenged at all times and with every incident. Conversely, an organization that is executing action plans and deliverables doesn’t need to change, if change would not move it to a thriving state. Survival sustainability is predicated upon the analytics of your present deliverables as an organization or nonprofit, measured against the demographics you serve, what really is profitable, and what your organization should remain connected to and what should be spun-off to remain viable. Once this is done and monitoring systems and processes

32 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine

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