The value of sustainability and the Five Ps

Sustainability is a commitment to ethical behavior in three areas of responsibility: economic, social, and environmental. This effort is an environmental and human focus that is profitable for the organization. Sustainable organizations create value and long-term stability while contributing to society at large. The Five Ps model illustrates how the value of sustainability can be viewed systemically in order to be effectively integrated in an organization.   Core Culture and The Five Ps--is the value of sustainability a part of your culture?

  • First, sustainability must be accepted as a core principle guiding the organization (either part of the organization’s Purpose, Philosophy or Priorities).
    • If sustainability is the organization’s Purpose, then it is why the organization is in business–the reason it was established.
    • If sustainability is the organization’s Philosophy, then it is a distinctive value of the organization that has endured over the years that guides how employees do their work.
    • If sustainability is a strategic Priority of the organization, then it is a goal that the organization wants to focus on and pay attention to in order to be competitive and thrive.
  • Then, the value must be infused in the Internal Practices of the organization–guiding employee interactions and how they do their work.
  • Additionally, sustainability must be infused in the External Practices of the organization–meaning that sustainability guides the products and services provided by the organization as well as serves as a guiding principle for selecting customers, vendors and business partners.
  • And finally, the value of sustainability must be reflected in the Projections–the images that the organization projects to the public–like the image of the organization’s offices or stores and the organization’s marketing, pr and advertising.

Without viewing sustainability through the Five Ps, the value of sustainability may be seen as a fragmented add-on having limited impact–rather than a value that is core to the organization and embedded in all the Practices and Projections of it.

The Five Ps: an organizational change model

Use the Five Ps to understand your organization and manage change

The Five Ps–Purpose, Philosophy, Priorities, Practices and Projections– is a model that depicts a system-wide view of an organization. You can use this model to understand your organizational culture and to use culture to manage change.

At the very center, which is shaded in the image below, is the core culture–the Purpose, Philosophy and Priorities. These are the principles and values guiding all facets of the organization. The Purpose and Philosophy are typically stable. But the Priorities can change as the strategy changes and as new areas are identified for employees to focus on and pay attention to.

The Five Ps
The Five Ps

Once you have defined the Purpose, Philosophy and Priorities–the Core Culture–you can bring change by aligning the Internal and External Practices and the Projections with the Core Culture attributes. The diagram below shows examples of Internal Practices, External Practices, and Projections. Each must be aligned with the Purpose, Philosophy and Priorities.

Alignment of the Five Ps
Alignment of the Five Ps

Use this organizational change model as a simple tool to understand the different facets of your organization and guide change.

Organizational alignment and Southwest Airlines

Organizational alignment means no mixed messages

Yes, organizational alignment is a beautiful thing. When the image that a company projects to consumers is consistent with both the customer experience and the values of the company, you have alignment. No mixed messages.

Think about your company:

  • What are your company values?
  • How do employees behave with each other?
  • How do employees behave with customers, suppliers/vendors, and partners?
  • What is your company’s image?

Are they consistent? Are they aligned?

For example, if you’re a hotel that projects an image of great service, and customers rave about your service, that’s alignment. Or, if you’re a hospital that touts an image of safety, and patients observe and experience superior safety practices while staying at your hospital, you have alignment. Yes, alignment is a good thing.

What should Southwest Airlines do? It has a reputation for delivering great service and having a fun-loving attitude, but Southwest also has a reputation for low fares. Yet, according to a Wall Street Journal article, the average ticket price for a Southwest flight has been climbing and in some markets, a Southwest flight is higher than its competitors. Southwest price increases have been due to fuel prices (no more fuel hedges), longer flights and new ways for pricing tickets.

Southwest currently does not charge fees for checking baggage or for changing tickets. If you compute those benefits, it might explain why a higher ticket is not really higher when you add up all the charges. But for the customer who either does not check baggage or have to pay for checked baggage (due to frequent flyer status or the credit card used) and for the person who rarely changes their flight plans, this explanation does not justify a higher ticket price.

Southwest Airlines must rethink who they are as an airline. Are they like the big airlines? Do they only differentiate themselves by their fun-loving attitude and service? Is that good enough?

Southwest has much to consider as they merge with AirTran, but reflecting on their organizational identity might be something at the top of the list. The organization’s identity must be clear. When you change the essence of who you are as an organization, it has an impact on your customers and your employees.

So, organizational alignment is important. Know who you are and consistently be it. Otherwise, you will have a confused identity that can negatively impact employee engagement, customer satisfaction and your reputation.