quinta-feira, 3 de novembro de 2011

How Great Companies Think Differently - Parte IV

In companies that think of themselves as social institutions, work is emotionally compelling and meaning resides in the organization as a whole rather than in a less sustainable cult of personality. Top leaders exemplify and communicate the company’s purpose and values, but everyone owns them, and the values become embedded in tasks, goals, and performance standards. Rather than depending on charismatic figures, great companies “routinize” charisma so that it spreads throughout the organization.

Partnering with the Public

The need to cross borders and sectors to tap new business opportunities must be accompanied by concern for public issues beyond the boundaries of the firm, requiring the formation of public-private partnerships in which executives consider societal interests along with their business interests.

One paradox of globalization is that it can increase the need for local connections. To thrive in diverse geographies and political jurisdictions, companies must build a base of relationships in each country with government officials and public intermediaries as well as suppliers and customers. Only by doing so can companies ensure that agendas are aligned even as circumstances—and public officials—keep changing. Those external stakeholders are interested as much in the corporations’ contributions to the local community as they are in their transactional capabilities. At the same time, great companies want both an extended family of enduring relationships and a seat at the table on policy matters affecting their business.

Public-private partnerships to address societal needs are growing in number and importance, and are especially prevalent among enterprises that think institutionally. Partnerships can take many forms: International activities, conducted in collaboration with the United Nations and other global organizations (such as Procter & Gamble’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water program with UNICEF and several NGOs); large domestic projects, undertaken in collaboration with government ministries and development agencies (PepsiCo’s agricultural projects in Mexico with the Inter-American Development Bank, for example); product or service development to address unmet societal needs (for instance, P&G’s linkages with public hospitals in West Africa); or short-term volunteer efforts (IBM’s work following the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and earthquakes in China and Japan to provide software to track relief supplies and reunite families).

The Benefits of Institutional Logic

In companies that adhere to an institutional logic, executives cultivate relationships with public officials neither as a quid pro quo nor to push through particular deals. Rather, they seek to understand and contribute to the public agenda even as they influence it. For example, PepsiCo’s chief global health officer, who came from the World Health Organization, is planning a cross-sector project to reduce childhood obesity. IBM’s CEO, Samuel Palmisano, circumnavigates the globe six or seven times a year to meet with national and regional officials, discussing how IBM can help their countries achieve their goals. This is not sales or marketing; it’s a high-level conversation to demonstrate the company’s commitment to furthering the development of the countries it operates in. Such engagement at the top helps other IBM leaders get a seat at the table when discussions about the country’s future take place.

Institution building requires the efforts of many people. The more interested that top leaders are in external relations, the more likely they are to involve others and to reward them for building relationships with the nation and community. Although relatively few people might hold formal responsibility for these external interfaces, a great many might perform institutional work by volunteering, attending public meetings, and participating in community service. Such activity projects a sense of authentic motivation. Community building is not a hard sell for people native to an area or for long-term residents; there is an emotional pull of place that makes such work desirable. For others whose careers take them across geographies, this work is a way to connect their organizational roles with the places they now live, making them feel more rooted.

When leaders come to see themselves as having societal purpose, they can choose to get involved at local, national, and even global levels. A few years ago, the head of IBM Greater China organized a personal diplomatic mission to Washington, meeting with White House officials and U.S. politicians to discuss the impact of China’s emergence as an economic superpower. He had a desire to see both nations thrive and believed that his role in a global company afforded him a unique perspective. After retiring in 2009, he remained an IBM “super alum,” in company parlance, and was supported by IBM in attending a major U.S. university for a year, with the company’s support, to learn about health care. At the end of 2010, he returned to China and launched an initiative with a Chinese government institute to develop an IT-enabled evidence base for traditional Chinese medicine that will build on IBM ties.


Articulating a purpose broader than making money can guide strategies and actions, open new sources for innovation, and help people express corporate and personal values in their everyday work.

Companies’ claims that they serve society become credible when leaders allocate time, talent, and resources to national or community projects without seeking immediate returns and when they encourage people from one country to serve another. IBM’s Corporate Service Corp, for instance, develops future leaders by sending diverse teams of the company’s best talent on monthlong projects around the world. The attention placed on social needs often generates ideas that lead to innovations. For Cemex, operating by institutional logic and considering unmet societal needs produced innovations such as antibacterial concrete, which is particularly important for hospitals and farms; water-resistant concrete, useful in flood-prone areas; and road surface material derived from old tires, desirable in countries that are building roads rapidly. An idea from Egypt for saltwater-resistant concrete, helpful for harbor and marine applications, became a product launched in the Philippines.

Institution building helps connect partners across an ecosystem, producing business model innovation. Cemex started Construrama, a distribution program for small hardware stores, in 2001 as a response to competition from Home Depot and Lowe’s, which were then entering Latin America. Construrama offers the small stores training, support, a strong brand, and easy access to products. In accordance with its values, Cemex sought dealers who were trusted in their communities, rejecting candidates whose business tactics didn’t meet the company’s ethics standards. Cemex owns the Construrama brand and handles promotions but doesn’t charge distributors, operate stores, or have decision-making authority. It requires, however, that stores meet its service standards. Among those is participation in community-building philanthropic endeavors—expanding an orphanage or improving a school, for instance. By the mid-2000s, Construrama had opened enough stores to qualify as a large retail chain in Latin America and was expanding into other developing countries.

(Continua amanhã)

Fonte: HBR by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

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