You should have seen this scene and I wish I’d remembered the title of the movie. Picture this; the scene is set in an Asian country where two young and beautiful American women are visiting a local market. They pass the many stalls with fish, vegetables and crafts when they stop and look at a stall with cute little puppies, squeaking for attention. They’re so adorable and one of the ladies, you guessed it, is going soft in the knees. She buys the cutest of them all and when she reaches for her wallet in her handbag, the sales lady hands her the dog in a nice kind of Nordstrom’s bag. Then, horror strikes as she peeks inside the bag … the little puppy is dead!
What happened? West meets East; two cultures collide. The American woman was buying a pet and the Asian woman was selling food! Confusion all around; the American woman is speechless and outraged and rightly so. The Asian woman is equally confused about the American woman’s reaction; didn’t she get what she wanted?
This is such a great example of a dilemma; a di-lemma or two lemmas. A lemma is a statement that affirms or denies something and is either true or false. See, true or false is thinking in terms of logically correct reasoning. On the other hand, right or wrong is judging; putting your opinion on a situation based on the models you created in your own mind according to your conditioning during your education.
Everything depends on your mind’s conditioning; the values, beliefs and cultural background of your upbringing. Both women had their own line of reasoning that was true to their own cultural heritage but the outcomes were very different. Not only are they not the same, they cannot be reconciled because each argument stems from a different starting point; puppies are pets and puppies are food. Therefore, let’s suspend our need for judgment, labeling someone or something as right or wrong and accept the differences as they are; different from your expectations.
What does that have to do with Organizational Governance! Everything, because success and failure depend on the expectations of your principal or buyer. Don’t assume anything but ask explicitly: “How will you know that we are successful?”
I belief that we are in so much trouble because we are confused about our purpose or what we expect as a sustainable outcome of a commercial enterprise. If you believe the purpose is making money, and you do whatever it takes, you might have a run-in with the law or local ethics and beliefs. For examples, may I refer you to the Economic news of the past year? How rich is it to spend your golden days in a minimum-security facility?
On the other hand, if you believe the purpose is to provide buyers with utility, a real product or service that is of practical use, and you do whatever it takes to satisfy your clients before, during and after the transaction, people will come back because they value doing business with you and they’d rather spend their money with you than with anyone else. They are even willing to pay you a premium, wouldn’t you agree? The premium is an additional profit margin, over and above the industry-average. You are making money as a result of pursuing the realization of your purpose!
The lesson learned is that at the end of the day you want to experience peace of mind; knowing that you did the right thing in the form of leaving behind a thriving company as your legacy. That’s what Organizational Governance is all about. Just like the centrifugal governors installed since the 17th century in the windmills, for which my home country is so well known, they prevent the system from destroying itself. Isn’t that what you really want and expect, continuity? Are you willing to do whatever it takes, even changing your own mind?