I’ve been involved for something like half a century with all kinds of entities, from some of the largest publicly quoted companies in the world, through privately-controlled small companies, to cooperatives, nonprofits, and charities.
Your experience will be different from mine in terms of details. But I’m sure it will have included “privately-owned companies” that are mind-bogglingly philanthropic (and therefore very concerned about inclusive prosperity), as well as “charities” that are run mainly in the interests of the current trustees and/ or managers – and therefore not primarily concerned about inclusive prosperity at all!
There are even “co-operatives” that have no sense of responsibility beyond enriching their own members; being a “co-operative” sounds good – but, in principle, every clique and mafia is a “co-operative”.
Every organisation is caught in a struggle between prospering itself and what it does for others. Generally, there is a bias towards the gain of those who are in power. In any case, we all struggle with profound and fundamental questions regarding how an organisation is to run itself.
What bothers me is *not* when an organisation arrives at an answer that I consider wrong (we are all free to choose whatever course of action we like – although we cannot escape the consequences of the choices).
What bothers me is when organisations do not even consider the crucial questions. There are various reasons why organisations don’t do so: the decision may be quite consciously taken for good reasons or bad; but often it may be because the organisation is “too busy” (which means that the matter may never become a conscious decision).
So, what are the sorts of things that might be considered consciously if an organisation is to model inclusive prosperity?:
- Inclusive of whom?
Some organisations focus on questions of inclusivity in terms or race, gender, or sexual orientation. Here, the question is whether our prosperity reaches those who are least prosperous.
So, the first thing to clarify is the level at which we are defining inclusivity of the poorest. In other words: do we include those who are the least prosperous in the world, or those who are the least prosperous in the communities immediately around the locations where our organisation is active, or those who are least prosperous in our country or geographical region? And do we include them only in our deliberations, or also among our deliberators?
- Vision or Whitewash?
What is the gap between what we claim to be our vision, and the way we are going about accomplishing it? Since the two cannot be divorced – since the means determine the ends – we need to consider how we arrived at our vision (inclusively or by diktat?). We also need to consider how we continue to refresh our vision – in other words, whether the poorest are represented in our Board and in our governance committees, and whether our governance processes and values focus explicitly on the poorest.
- Mission – versus mere Mirage
Are the processes for determining our organisation’s mission inclusive? What about the processes for determining the success/ failure? For arriving at new goals? Who does the organisation include in the decision process as against the consultation process?
- Culture and Values
Since “values determine everything” and since “culture eats strategy”, what values and what cultural characteristics are exhibited by each major policy as well as by “how things are done around here”?
Since “strategy” means “the way we are going to accomplish our mission”, does the strategy explicitly address those who are economically disadvantaged?
An organisation can be pyramidal, cellular, or anything in between: what values are reflected by our degree of centralisation/decentralisation, and by whether our organisational structures are entrepreneurial or more command-oriented?
If we were to explain any of the following to outsiders, what would be their perception of our inclusiveness?:
– recruitment processes and decisions; as well as how clearly we articulate, and whether (from Board level to entry level) our selection criteria prioritise, inclusiveness of the poor among the ethics and values of the individuals we recruit;
– the process for decisions about which employees or others get training, and about the content of the training; indeed, the values displayed by our training processes themselves;
– the processes for decisions about salary levels, and about increases/ decreases in them, as well as the brutal fact regarding how large or small is the gap in total compensation between the poorest-paid and best-paid in our organisation;
– the processes for determining who is assigned what responsibilities, or promoted to what level;
– the processes for organisational renewal;
– the processes for determining product portfolios, geographic range, and so on (for example, what proportion of our product range is for the “bottom of the pyramid”?
What is the right amount of profit to make?
How much do we reinvest in our company, and how much do we distribute to shareholders as against how much we pay workers?
- Evaluation and Reporting
How do our criteria for evaluating our performance measure up on inclusivity?
Do our reporting practices focus only on financials, or do we have more holistic reporting practices – for example, those that are being pioneered by the International Integrated Reporting Council?
What is the right amount of money to devote to lobbying, and what are the objectives for which we lobby?
How much do we give away, as an organisation, to the poorest, and for what purposes?
About the author:
Prabhu is an independent Board Member, Keynote Speaker & Conference Chair; he is Executive Director, Relational Analytics Ltd., Cambridge, UK; Honorary Chairman, Career Innovation Company, Oxford, UK; Distinguished Professor of Global Business, Management & Public Policy, William Carey University, India; and Member of the Board, Institute of Management, University of St Gallen, Switzerland.