Friday, July 3, 2009

Beyond The Triple Bottom Line (Integral Business II)

There is a lot of talk in the business world, especially the post-modern new business world of value and vision, about the Triple Bottom Line: profit, people, and planet. I like this approach. I think it's a great start towards building businesses that are sustainable in the long-term and impacting, meaningful in the short term. However, an integral business needs to go beyond this.

I know some of us are just getting our feet wet to the idea and practice of the Triple Bottom Line. For some of us, it's not even yet on the radar. An integral business of profit and impact needs a Penta Bottom Line. I was going to add just one more to the mix (quadruple bottom line), but we, as a business community, need to take a huge leap. Now.

The Penta Bottom Line: Profit, People, Planet, Principles, and Progress.

Most when talking about the Triple Bottom Line put profit last, as in: planet, people, profit. I think this is wonderfully visionary, and yet it fails to acknowledge that a business exists, in my perspective, to primarily create capital. Certainly, not at the harm of the other points on the bottom line, but it's primary reason for being a business, is again, making money. Otherwise, it would be a non-profit or something different.

I assume most of you understand profit, people, and planet, so I will explain principles and progress.

Principles: Rules are out. Principles are in. Principles act as guides and measures in vision, strategy, process, operations, and out-reach. Principles are interactive, directive voices in the process of decision making. Rules are rigid, limit creativity, and exist to create measured and tested results. Principles, on the other hand, acknowledge that our world is complex, changing, and unstable. No longer will rigid rules work to guide organizations that need dynamic and responsive action in a rapidly changing market and business landscape - we need interactive principles. What are the known and unknown principles that guide the decisions in your organization? Do you like them? Are they effectively guiding the outcomes you desire? Do you need a guiding principles tune-up?

Progress: I forced myself to stick with P's, but by progress I really mean development. Integral businesses consider the development of their people, culture, organizations, and the systems they interact with as important as profit. A direct investment in the development of each employee in your organization is a direct investment in your organization. Development programs are generally geared towards management (which is great and certainly needed) and those that are really screwing up, but what would your organization look like if it valued the development of each person, group, and the world around you? How can you create systems where each person is given the chance to build capacities and self?

By operating with a Penta Bottom Line, your organization opens up the sphere and valuation of success to areas that directly relate to your organization's success in the short-term and long-term.

As always, more on this soon.

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