What is Wholeness thinking when it comes to business? Is it a “nice-to-have” or will it be a “need-to-have” in the future of business evolution?
In the world of business, “Wholeness” is not one of the most well-known terms in business strategy as well as in implementation. I understand why as the main objective has been to focus on strategies that maximize the profits. However, during the past decades, “new” business strategies and concepts have emerged, experimenting with new ways of creating businesses that are more holistic and sustainable. New organizational forms such as social enterprises or B-corps have pioneered the way for many current and upcoming businesses.
But is it true that to be “sustainable,” businesses have to “sacrifice” their profit goals and therefore it’s more tempting to choose the “business-as-usual” strategy?
Before I answer the question, let me first tell you a story.
20 years ago in my first full-time job after graduation, I worked for a retail company in Denmark as an HR-assistant in their biggest department store with over 800 employees. It wasn’t a dream job, but it was one that taught me many lessons about business management and human psychology. With a high employee turnover, I had to make 3-5 new employment contracts each week, but the termination contracts were also almost the same amount. I faced a lot of frustrations, and I remembered to have some discussions with my managers. Their answer was always the same: “that’s how it is in the retail industry– we cannot do anything to change it.”
Perhaps I was more of a rebel than I comfortably admitted to myself, but already then, I wasn’t satisfied with the answer. I knew that we could be better. However, what am I to change it? I was “only” an HR-assistant! So I just did what I was “told,” trying to optimize the process a bit but no real change from my side.
Here comes an exciting part of the story. During my time there, we also had to implement a new IT operational system for the stores. Instead of prioritizing the time and money to train all the mid-managers and floor employees how to use the system, the management team “decided” that most of the employees would be able to “figure out” by themselves without the training. Well, they were right! But here is the catch:
Indeed most employees could figure out how to use the system, but it happened WHILE they had to serve the customers, or take care of other things at the same time. What did they feel about the process? They hated it! There were lots of frustrations and problems, and who do you think it affected in the end?
Yes, THE CUSTOMERS! And the customers’ perception of the retail industry got reinforced which is they NEVER received good service, and the employees didn’t care or didn’t know what they were doing!
The vicious circle continued- as these very core customers became even more “difficult” customers who then demotivated the employees to give a better service!
Already back then I could see how one “simple” decision of cutting the training of the IT system could affect the level of dedication and service from the employees to the customers. It continued to affect the business’ reputation and also the industry’s reputation which then made it difficult to attract competent and loyal employees.
You see my points? Everything connects with each other seeing from a Wholeness perspective, but it was something that the leadership team couldn’t see because they were not “trained” to see it. Or maybe they did see it, but it was easier to ignore it to confine themselves within the norms of the company!
I have always believed that Wholeness thinking is critical for a company’s success, and it’s not something “nice to have” when the company is doing good. Rather, it’s essential if the company wants to create larger impact that just the ones in financial terms.
Coming back to my question in the beginning; whether a business has to “sacrifice” its profit goals to become more sustainable?
First off, it depends how you define sustainability. If sustainability is genuinely about operating from a Wholeness level where the business model is sustainable in itself, then the discussion of sacrificing the profit goals do not exist because you will make the goals for your business according to the Wholeness thinking and vision for your company. If you’re a company that still argues whether you “should” incorporate sustainability, then your view of sustainability is very limited
as sustainability is not something that you can choose in good times and diverge from when it’s “bad” time.
Sustainability should be the core principle of any business model, simply because you, as a leader, have understood that seeing from the perspective of Wholeness, you cannot afford NOT to. Click To Tweet. If you’re not “sustainable” in one area, it will affect other areas of the business. Like circles in the water, they spread- bigger and broade and it’s a process that you cannot control.
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