Tying Sustainability and Operational Excellence to Leadership

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

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 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?

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This entry was posted in Award Recipients, Baldrige Excellence Framework (Criteria), Community, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tying Sustainability and Operational Excellence to Leadership

  1. Barry Johnson says:

    Are these non-Baldrige-user companies and the BNQP criteria using the same definitions of “sustainability?”

    • Dawn Bailey says:

      That’s a very good question. Baldrige actually removed the term “sustainability” from the Glossary and Criteria requirements in 2015: “The many uses of the term sustainability in the literature,
      from holistic organizational sustainability (the Baldrige usage) to environmental sustainability (a common usage), have been an ongoing source of confusion. Baldrige has opted for the simpler terminology of success now and in the future, an organizational imperative” (p. 44). I hope this blog doesn’t add to the confusion, but I read the meaning of sustainability here as organizational sustainability. Thanks for the comment.

      • Cathy Moeger says:

        Take a look at Baldrige category 1.2. Social Responsibility, which includes reduction in environmental impacts, resource conserving activities, or improvements in social impacts such as the global use of enlightened labor practices. Microsoft, Wal-Mart and others are leading in social responsibility, a term which is often substituted for “sustainability”.

  2. Anna Weber says:

    Leadership provides with the opportunity to lead. Especially it is important for college students to enroll themselves in leadership programs, as it helps them to learn and lead during their college years. Students go thorough complete transformation by attending such programs. It develop many attributes to their personality like it helps them to gain confidence, development of communication skills, expansion of their network, getting management skills, development of problem solving skill, getting recognized, enhance resume and many more. Mr Chris Salamone https://goo.gl/PHkx5q formerly served as a faculty member at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and served as a leadership curriculum adviser at The University of Central Oklahoma. Chris Salamone works to improve the lives of young people around the world through his many philanthropic endeavors. To this end, he functions as chairman of the Lead America Foundation and extends a considerable amount of financial support to fund the education of 300 children in Haiti.

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