A recent article "Why Microsoft Gave Sustainability a Promotion" by Joel Makower and a recent interview with best-selling author Daniel Pink, in which we talked about authority, made me think again about the importance of having the C-suite involved in operational excellence initiatives like the Baldrige Excellence Framework, which provides considerations for leaders to follow to attain success now and in the future. Such initiatives, to me—with evidence provided by the success of the Baldrige Award recipients themselves—are intrinsically linked to sustainability and shouldn't be simply delegated to a single department that is not tied as closely as possible to leadership.
According to Makower, in 2015, Microsoft’s chief sustainability strategist began reporting to the corporate vice president, who reports to the company’s president and chief legal officer, who in turn reports to the CEO. Previously, the chief sustainability strategist reported to the company’s public-sector division, a couple rungs lower on the organizational ladder and further removed from the C-suite.
The chief sustainability strategist is nist-quoted as saying, "It’s an acceleration, amplification and prioritization of sustainability within the company. It’s now a cross-company initiative that has a center of gravity in the president’s office."
The importance of sustainability as having a "center of gravity" with senior leaders--who have the authority for an organization's mission, vision, and values--has always been part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework; the framework's Leadership category specifically asks questions to guide senior leaders on how to build an organization that is successful now and in the future. Considerations for senior leaders include the creation of an environment for achievement of the mission, a workforce culture that fosters customer engagement, and an environment for innovation; organizational learning; and succession planning. According to the framework, factors in an organization’s sustainability might include workforce capability and capacity, resource availability, technology, knowledge, core competencies, work systems, facilities, and equipment—all elements that are considered in the framework.
An Industry Week article “The Politics of Improvement: The Challenge of Getting Company Leaders’ Buy-In” also noted the importance of leadership's role in sustainability and improvement initiatives, something I wrote about in "Tips to Bring Execs on Board."
How closely are your sustainability and improvement initiatives tied to your senior leaders?