Identity is Destiny Leadership and the Roots of Value Creation AUTHOR: Laurence D. Ackerman PUBLISHER: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc. DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2000 NUMBER OF PAGES: 220 pages
Is your company suffering from an identity crisis?
Corporate identity goes deeper than simply having a logo design updated, or hiring an agency to create a snappy tagline and ad campaign. Organizations can achieve their full potential by living according to their true identity. The core values create a corporate identity that every individual in the organization should believe in and stand up for.
Who are we? What do we stand for?
Organizations that are rudderless, or going in every direction the wind blows, need to seriously rethink their core identity. This means you are in business because of something deeper than profit. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
THE BIG IDEA
The Eight Laws of the Identity Credo
The Law of Being: I am alive
The Law of Individuality: I am unique
The Law of Constancy: I am immutable, even as I grow and evolve.
The Law of Will: To truly live, I must express myself fully
The Law of Possibility: And in this regard have much to give
The Law of Relationship: To do so I need others, and am most productive with those who need me in return.
The Law of Comprehension: To establish these relationships, I must first be recognized for who I am.
The Law of the Cycle: And it follows then that I will receive in accordance with what I give.
The Law of Being
Case in point: ALCOA
Mission: To be the best aluminum company in the world.
Background: In the midst of diversification, the company simultaneously sought a return to its core identity - that of an outstanding aluminum company - a leader in its industry.
Lesson: No company that aspires to lead its market or industry can hope to do so without a mission that ties it’s own welfare to that of the society’s.
Communicating this mission fires up employees, giving them the passion for their work, the meaning that transcends mere profit.
A view to leadership
The characteristics of Alcoa that set it apart were its synchronization, core competencies, and longevity or maturity as a company.
The synchronization or “grand efficiency” lies in all the different parts of the organization working in synch.
Its integrity lies in the social value it offers while making a profit. (Aluminum is a durable and practical material used in all types of products)
Endurance refers to its 100-year history through the ups and downs of markets.
The Law of Individuality
Live according to who you are. Think of this as a test of self-knowledge.
Case in point: Fidelity Investments
Two rooms. One is Ned Johnson’s elegant executive suite full of antique furniture and oriental carpets, the other is the functional chart room where walls are papered with printouts of Dow Jones averages, s & p’s and statistics that are the business world’s equivalent to Morse code.
These two rooms were a representation of Fidelity’s identity:
Identity action plan:
All employees must reinforce the one-fidelity approach, emphasizing individualism
Recruiting people who understand individualism and apply them to all aspects of customer relationships
Instituting customer relations awards for outstanding service representatives
Conducting research to find out how many customers had personal computers and modems then developing an on-line database that would provide daily fund net asset values and other fund information to strengthen the bond between the investor and the institution.
Case in point: Korn/Ferry International
Here the author faced an executive search firm that was searching for it’s own identity. He discovered that the dominant identity was that of its leadership in the form of Richard Ferry.
The Seven Enduring Qualities of Korn/Ferry were the ff:
Business problem-solving approach
New knowledge/ a teaching organization
Multi-level and multi-functional searches
The Law of Constancy
The Law of Constancy
The Law of Constancy tells us much about the corporate brand:
That its definition resides within the identity of the enterprise and cannot simply be fabricated
That as a result, the brand is not transitory, not simply a statement of today’s corporate features. Rather it is timeless in terms of the benefits it yields to those it touches
The brand requires constant reinterpretation
The brand is or should be current in how it is interpreted
It is vital to establish your own brand ‘turf’ and defend it vigorously, resisting fads, fashions, and others’ standards and views, particularly those of competitors
The strengths of the brand develop over time and, to be fully known, must be viewed through the lens of history as well as current events and future aspirations
Case in point: The Upjohn Company
This was a drug company that had its whole identity based on heritage and history, on the invention of the founding physician’s friable pill. The whole essence of the story is that the pill made life easier for patients because it dissolved inside the body. This was a new invention during a time when pills passed undissolved through patient’s bodies.
Three things factored into The Upjohn Company’s identity:
Quality of products
Quality of life
Quality of people decision.
Listen at least 50 percent of the time.
The elements of The Upjohn Company:
Discovery and problem definition
The Law of Will
The Law of Possibility
Case in point: Westinghouse
The main challenges were to expand beyond traditional areas
To build a leadership reputation
To foster a more unified culture within AIS
The shared aspects of all the different units within the Westinghouse AIS were:
A holistic view of customer’s needs
An obsessive concern for customer welfare
A deep regard for technology and engineering in particular
Westinghouse AIS was also characteristically known for its SWAT team-like action, or ability to take on jobs at short notice. AIS was into customization and integrated technical services
Under the Law of Possibility, the whole of any organization is greater than the sum of its parts. Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, AIS itself needed to reach the level of self-actualization or its full potential as a living being.
The Law of Relationship
” Before you can be comfortable with others, you must first be comfortable with yourself.”
Case in point: New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG)
From value creation to value circle:
Value begins with employees, then to customers, and finally investors who move it back to employees and so forth…
“ We most need those who need us in return.”
Identity: NYSEG was distinguished by a need to help people shape their energy environments.
In NYSEG’s case, the natural relationship or connection among all the different business units was brought to the fore through the lens of identity.
Organizations are inherently relational. (Recall how Nike had to reattach itself to the society it employed to meet the demands of that society)
For NYSEG deregulation was the name of the game.
The Law of Comprehension
Case in point: Interbrew
Identity crisis: A merger of a century-old French beer with another brand that would leave workers in the dark about their own identity.
Ergo: Interbrew would celebrate people’s thirst for life.
Values most appropriate for Interbrew and aligned naturally with the organization’s identity:
Putting the customer first. Customers are our best friends.
A craftsman-like dedication to quality.
The constant pursuit of professionalism.
A passion for communication
An unshakable reliance on teamwork
A hunger for innovation
The Law of Comprehension speaks to one’s need to see something in its entirety, to “get it” and experience it. If employees were going to live what it meant to be Interbrew, to celebrate people’s thirst for life, they needed to work and live accordingly.
The Law of the Cycle
Case in point: Maytag Corporation
Identity crisis: What would happen to generations-old families of workers when the Magic Chef name changes to Maytag?
All the different operations of Maytag had its respective capacities:
From Admiral’s specialized engineering skills in refrigerators, to Dixie-Narco’s environmentally friendly refrigeration systems, Hoover’s product design and automation technologies, Jenn-Air’s innovation in cook tops and ovens, Magic Chef’s lower-end stoves and ovens, Maycor’s service know-how, and Maytag’s passion for training.
Maytag was good at five things that helped consumers live their lives: cooking, dishwashing, floor care, laundry, and refrigeration.
Maytag was a home management enterprise driven by a need to improve the quality of home life.
The Law of the Cycle
As much as identity-based management is about giving, it is also about receiving. This is a central message of the Law of the Cycle. Living according to identity is not an altruistic act. It demands wealth in return for value. One must be paid.
Unit sales, revenues, profits are one thing. Reinvestment into Maytag is another. To truly live, Maytag must express itself fully.
The cycle is from Identity to wealth to value back to identity and so forth…
Observance of The Law of the Cycle can bring great achievement and wealth if employed as a framework for organizing one’s life or the life of a business. Ignoring it can spell corporate failure.
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