Future-Proofing Your Business: How Sustainable is your Sustainability?
These days, sustainability can be short lived! Many businesses think they have a sustainable strategy, sustainable execution, and sustainable leadership…until they don’t! Just look at Apple. Last year Apple’s share price was on a steady upwards trend as the #1 most valuable corporation on the planet. We could easily have made the case that Apple had cracked the code of sustainability, with an innovation engine which kept delivering traction on an upwards trajectory. This year, its share price is 35% down from its peak.
Is your sustainability so last year too?
While visiting Vistage groups as a Resource Speaker, I have been conducting a research survey, with more than 300 respondents so far. One of the questions asks what our members expect the
reconfiguration life-cycle to be for their businesses. As you can see from the chart, a total of 81.5% of respondents answered less than 5 years! We might not be terribly surprised to see a peak of responses in the “3 to 5 Years” bracket, as that’s a common planning horizon for many businesses. But keep in mind, that isn’t what I asked. These respondents are projecting that their industry will be largely unrecognizable only 3 to 5 years from now. Indeed, more than 1/3 of respondents (36.4%) answered less than 2 years. Also notice that less than 1/5 (18.5%) of respondents answered more than 5 years, and for only 2.2% of respondents answered more than 10 years. Our members better be asking, “How sustainable is our sustainability?”
Sustainability requires adaptability.
In other words, if you don’t re-configure, re-invent and self-disrupt your business, the world will do it for you. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”. The challenge is that adaptability requires an and-proposition of Continuous Improvement and Discontinuous Improvement. That requires a great deal of agility.
Agility is king!
We used to say that “cash is king”. Not anymore. Agility is king and cash is just a way of keeping score. Agility is the ability to deal with rapidly changing circumstances while out-executing our competition and shareholder expectations. Apple hasn’t been sustaining that very well recently. Agility is the core differentiator of businesses these days.
Developing an Agility Advantage
Agility is the only sustainable competitive advantage with any permanence. Everything else is temporary, and it’s increasing quickly. Future-proofing your business requires developing an agility advantage. A lack of sustainable strategy, sustainable execution, and sustainable leadership is a symptom of a deeper root cause—the lack of a sustainable system of business agility. How sustainable is yours?