Elements of Strategy: Measuring Success

When you measure your business’s success, do you look beyond the bottom line? With 88% of consumers seeking brands that respect people and planet, social impact and sustainability are real imperatives in any measure of success.

This is the final post in a four-part series about the elements of strategy. In the first, we talked about a clear, compelling, actionable and aspirational vision. In the second, we talked about the importance of a clear mission—work that only you can do to bring about ‘the change you seek.’ In the third, we talked about agility, and the essential value of leaving space in your planning approach for iteration.

If your vision is your definition of success, how will you measure your progress?

All this thinking and planning only adds enduring value if you can track your progress toward your vision. But measuring success in a complete and comprehensive way isn’t easy. Sure, your bottom line is either printed in black or red ink, and the numbers are big or they’re small. Simple. But what of your organization’s impact on the environment?

While CO2 emissions have become a proxy for environmental impact, they don’t tell the whole story: How renewable are the products and services you provide? Are toxins used in your supply chain? How much water do you consume? And these are just the environmental factors. Consider, too, the complexities of social impact!

How well do you respect and nurture the communities where you work—and where your employees live? How much of your profit stays local to your operations, developing the local economy and supporting local families? Do your suppliers meet the same standards of care for employees, customers and other stakeholders?

Success isn’t simple. So measure what matters.

There’s an old saying in business: ‘What gets measured gets done.’ By extension, if there’s something important you’re not measuring, then it may not get done. But you can’t measure everything!

Learn more about materiality analysis in our CSR Guide, Corporate Social Returns.

Start by using materiality analysis to understand what’s important for your organization to measure. Materiality derives from accounting and financial management: a ‘material’ amount of money is a ‘significant’ amount of money—one that should be accounted for in your reports and statements. The concept has been applied in practices of corporate social responsibility, not with respect to money, but vis-à-vis significant social and environmental issues. These are the issues that materially affect stakeholders’ decisions about your organization.

Consider which issues are likely to have a material impact on your business, your operations your brand, etc. Then consider which of those are likely to be important considerations of your stakeholders—not just your shareholders, but all those that rely on your organization, be they employees, customers, suppliers, etc. Finally, assess which of the important, influential issues you’ve outlined are actually within your own control. Those over which you have a high degree of control are probably ones on which you’ll want to act sooner than later. Those over which you have less control are still worthy of measurement, but you may not be able to do much about them without finding the capacity and resources to engage other, more influential partners.

Another increasingly popular and important starting point is the B Impact Assessment (BIA), the rubric used to qualify and certify B Corporations. There are now well over 2,000 certified B Corps around the world (Junxion is one of them), but over 60,000 businesses have completed the BIA.

Take the B Corp assessment to compare your business to the ‘best for the world’ leading B Corps.

Use the BIA to assess your company’s performance relative to B Corps’ rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. (For support, reach out to one of the B Corp Ambassadors or B Leaders on Junxion’s team.) You’ll see how you stack up against peers in your sector, and against the world’s leading socially responsible businesses.

Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to tell how the work that you’re doing will lead to the influence you want to have on the world. Many of our clients are highly aspirational social ventures. They’re fully committed to making the world better with their products and services. But what can one more product or one more service do to solve the big, ‘intractable,’ and ‘wicked’ problems of our times?

Junxion has for years stood comfortably with one foot in the world of business and one in the social sector. We’ve successfully borrowed lessons from each to support the other: We pioneered values-based branding, applying the ethos of the social sector into corporate leadership. We’re adapting the ‘agile’ methodologies of the tech sector into social sector strategy and planning. And we’re interested in how social sector ‘theory of change’ can be a powerful tool for responsible business.

A Theory of Change is essentially a logic model that connects the dots between an organization’s work, and the ultimate change it hopes to bring about, theorizing (hence the name) about how organizational outputs connect to broader, systemic outcomes. Consider the example of a socially responsible bank that’s keen to see the finance sector transformed to support local, living economies. Their work is deposits and loans—transactional and diligently focused on one client at a time. How do they connect to their bigger, bolder aspirations?

They do their day-to-day work, building a portfolio of clients in their community. In so doing, they support neighbours who in turn enhance the community as a whole, and together they build an exemplary model for other banks, in other communities. Transaction by transaction, they build community-level case studies that will be emulated by other banks in other places…. Slowly, but surely, they’ll transform the face of finance.

No question, measuring what matters is neither simple nor easy. Yet it’s essential if we’re to achieve anything worth doing. And anything worth doing is worth doing well. Can we help you?

 

Mike Rowlands is President & CEO at Junxion. He has guided strategy development with early stage ventures, decades old corporations, not-for-profits and charities, and government agencies.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *