Posts in Vision
Y is for Yes

                Copyright © 2018 by Barney Rosenberg President, Ethics Line, LLC™ The easiest word to say in business is also one of the shortest in the English language: NO Did anyone ever get into trouble for saying “No, let’s not do that deal.”  Or “No, legal says it’s illegal.” Or “No, those are not our kind of people.  I don’t have a good feeling about this.” Or “No, this is not an investment we are prepared to make at this time.” The challenge we face is finding ways to get to YES without a jail sentence hanging over our heads and respecting the organization’s constituents: our customers, our suppliers, our regulators, the prosecutors, and our co-workers.  It’s about conducting our business ethically while competing intensely. It’s about:

  1. Yes, we can
  2. Yes, we are
  3. Yes, we will
  4. Yes, of course

I have some ideas about how to get to YES.  They involve doing things the right way by following what we know is the right path.  We know it because there is an alternative definition of ethics that doesn’t come from the Greeks or the Romans.  That definition is: “this is how we do things around here.”  And it has served us well to do things this way, while remaining open to new approaches as business and the regulatory climate change. An early mentor in my career was fond of saying that the journey from A to Z may not be possible in a straight line.  It may be necessary to tack from A to D to P to arrive safely at Z.  There are often boulders in the path of progress.  We need to be able to anticipate and navigate around them.  We need to be able to look a little farther down the road to plan for our destination – how we will get there and what we will do when we arrive. I have never been one who believes it’s about the journey, not the destination.  I don’t love 10-hour flights.  I take them because I want to see Paris, or Athens or Rio de Janeiro.  The back of the seat in front of me doesn’t hold a great deal of interest, even if that’s what I stare at to see a movie. In business, we take many steps to get to a profitable result.  We have an idea; we sketch out what the finished product might look like; our engineers develop specifications and transition them to manufacturing; we have quality assurance involved at every step along the way; if we are good at what we do, we have customers who are willing and able to pay us for all the effort; we deliver the goods and stand behind them with warranties and customer service.  Does that look like what you do?  The process involves a lot of YESs along the way.  But the destination is a happy customer. To get to YES involves a lot of the ABCs of Ethics.  You know them.  You have come this far with me on our journey and we are almost at the destination.  Just one more letter to go: Z Stay tuned.

X is for X Factor

                Copyright © 2018 by Barney Rosenberg President, Ethics Line, LLC™ All right, true confessions.  I have been dreading X in this series.  But, with your support, let’s give X a try.  We all remember solving for X from high school algebra.  The unknown factor in an equation. So what is the unknown factor that makes an organization successful?  What’s the mystery behind organizations that withstand the test of time, money and demanding stakeholders? Let’s try X as in setting an Xample or Xecute on commitments.  Those are pretty good elements of a sound, effective ethics program.  Maybe add in X as in X-ray for transparency.  Also a good trait of successful leaders and entities. Maybe X is the sum total of all of our alphabet soup so far.  It would contain elements of compliancedue diligence, integrity, kindness, openness, respect, and trust.  That’s 7 letters of the alphabet.  Maybe that would be X².  Too much to ask?  What do you think? Is X a person?  The unity of many people?  The vision of a few? We all know the –X element (minus X), when things are not going well.  We audit, we search for metrics.  Can’t catch a break!  At a company I know, an engineer was hired away from a competitor.  He brought with him an external hard drive containing every important project he worked on at the competitor.  Everyone knew that was wrong but they did nothing about it until a customer noticed the competitor’s drawings in the company’s bid documents!  Heads rolled.  A lot of them!  That’s what happens when all else fails. When we live up to commitments we develop a reputation for doing that.  It’s called honesty and integrity.  Reputation may actually be the X factor.  There are web sites where people seem to feel empowered to tell you what it’s really like to work at a company…unvarnished and raw.  We all know which side of that balancing act we want to be on. I have described an ethics program I helped implement from the ground up as being built on 3 guiding principles:  honesty, integrity and respect for others.  I still like that formulation and for me, they combine to give us the X factor we all need.  It unifies all the policies, procedures and lofty statements of purpose. Let’s go with that.  What do you think?  Now’s the time to weigh in.  We are getting to the end of the alphabet but not the end of the journey.  

V is for Vision

                V is for Vision Copyright © 2018 by Barney Rosenberg President, Ethics Line, LLC™ Are you getting tired of the ABCs?  We’re almost done!  Patience.  This one is hard. The kind of vision checkup when we get our eyes examined is not what I am talking about here.  This is about how leaders see into the future and the decisions they make about the direction their organizations should pursue.  It’s the “visionary” quality of leadership that makes all the difference. Here are a couple of examples of leaders whose vision failed them at critical junctures. One story goes like this: Thomas J. Watson was the Chairman and CEO of IBM from 1914 to 1956.  A brilliant salesman, he once opined that “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”  The story may not be true (that he actually said that) but in 1943 the world looked quite different to him.  Some others saw the future more clearly.  Or were they just dreamers? Never one to be outdone, Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (later acquired by Compaq and in 2002 merged into Hewlett-Packard) said in 1977 “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Of course they wouldn’t when they could have more computing power in their mobile device than NASA had in its computers that landed humans on the moon and brought them home to Earth! Enough said! Try this sometime.  Ask a business person what business they’re in.  In my experience there will be a lot of sputtering and stammering.  Not a lot of vision – near or far-sighted.  They need coaching on their elevator speech! One of the best leaders I ever worked with used to start meetings by asking “What can I do better?”  Over time, people trusted the sincerity of the question and told him.  And to his credit, he followed through. I always thought that was exemplary, even if not visionary.  He was visionary too in the way he crafted the future through that level of trust.  He knew he alone would not succeed. If you can handle one more anecdote, try this:  “The light bulb was not the result of the continuous improvement of the candle.”  Visionaries like Thomas Edison were able to see further down the road and around a few more turns than mere mortals like me.  A few other names to illustrate the point:  Bill Gates.  Steve Jobs.  Not necessarily the easiest people to work for but visionaries for sure. I wish I had a formula for finding such people and developing their vision.  Maybe that’s what investment bankers do.  But I do know that they cannot execute on their vision by themselves.  They need to enlist others in the cause and turn Vision into Values.  They need to be able to communicate the vision and enlist the vigor of others.  They have to be able to translate the vision across cultures and around the globe.  Top-down works for a while.  So does bullying.  As I have written in other articles in this series, it’s the difference between “Do it right now!” and “Do it right, now!”  That pesky comma makes all the difference.  Shared vision and values are better over the long haul. Think about the visionary leaders in your organization.  What stands out when you think about their skill sets?  What do they do to enlist others in the cause?  How do they succeed and how then does your organization succeed? Please share your experience with the rest of us.  That’s what all of these articles are about.