It’s about the People people!
Of the three bottom lines of People, Planet, Profit, I think People is listed first because it is, by far, the most important. Have you ever stopped to think about the number of “mouths” your business feeds? It is an incredibly humbling exercise to go through. Start with the employees, then their spouses, add in their children, but don’t stop there. Count the vendors whose products go into yours, their employees, their spouses, their children. Look at your customers or clients. Hopefully, they are buying your product to enhance their life or business in some way. Soon, you have a very big number (and probably you counted Kevin Bacon somewhere in there). Look to the wider community and the impacts your business has on them. Whether you are a business owner, executive, middle manager or front-line worker, each and every one of them is depending on each and every one one of your decisions and/or actions. Its an awesome responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly.
While I don’t think it is feasible to consider each and every stakeholder in every day-to-day decision, I am continually amazed how little thought is given to the impact of a decision or of an action has on one or more of them. Just in the last few weeks I’ve talked someone who has been waiting a week for an employment offer that was said to be forthcoming immediately. No communication, yes, no, or still in progress. Another employee has an annual review that is three months late. Again, no communciation, yes, no, or otherwise. I’ve talked with a small business owner who has been waiting months for an invoice to be paid with no indication as to why it hasn’t been or even better as to when it might be paid. I could go on, but you get the point.
Part of the triple bottom line approach to management is to identify these stakeholders, understand what strategies, policies and procedures impact them (both positively and negatively), and determine ways in which to measure those impacts. Next put in place strategies to reduce or eliminate the negative impacts and report the progress.
It is not an easy process and quite frankly can be painful. However, I think two words go along way in making this process easier: communication and respect. If we show respect to our stakeholders, even those with whom we disagree, and communicate openly and honestly with them, I believe we can identify strategies to resolve most impacts and issues.