Clarity of Values and Vision:
A community is a group of animals living in the same place or having particular characteristics in common. In the case of human beings, we create communities inside our organizations as well as in our living spaces. When we speak of building community, we generally mean the specific action of purposefully bringing people together around a shared set of values and vision.
Note that a tribe has a very similar definition. It is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties,
with a common culture and dialect.
Both communities and tribes have a recognizable leader—whether formalized or not. I believe that building community is one of the leader’s most important responsibilities. The way I usually express that is to say that the CEO has only one job, and that is to manage the corporate culture actively.
Of course, the leader only gets work done through other people. She, therefore, must have highly-functional teams. And that means building trust (the members have each other’s, the team’s, and the company’s best interest at heart.) And, the team must have clarity of Values and Vision around which to organize strategy and set goals.
Building and maintaining that sense of community is not an easy task. It’s hard work that many of us would like to avoid. However, it is unavoidable if we wish to build a sustainable organization.
The business world is learning that organizations cannot operate in a vacuum. Stakeholders, including the community in which companies exist, are critical to their growth and success. In recognition of this need, the Business Roundtable restated the purpose of a business to be:
- Delivering value to our customers
- Investing in our employees
- Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers
- Supporting the communities in which we work
- Generating long-term value for our shareholders
The closing statement on the document from the Roundtable was, “Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities, and our country.” It sounds like this auspicious group understands how to and why we must build a community.
The Business Roundtable makes it clear that they believe our companies, communities, and our country will be stronger if we purposely build them to include all the stakeholders. They do not view business as a zero-sum game. Healthy markets grow and, therefore, even competition is not a zero-sum game as long as the market continues to expand.
Of course, we’d all like to live only in a “Blue Ocean.” But life and business aren’t like that. Instead, even if we can find a Blue Ocean, it isn’t long before we have competition. We can at least hope that healthy competition will make us better competitors and also enlarge the market so that we all have more room to play.
I think that building community is more fulfilling and provides a more compelling vision than only competing and focusing on winning. By considering all stakeholders and working to keep their best interests at heart, we will inevitably build a healthy and sustainable organization. I applaud the business roundtable for not only recognizing that concept but for putting it in writing as their recommendation for enlightened governance of a business. They prove that Milton Friedman was wrong!