A lack of ideology hampers a company’s future

I oppose the widely-held view (compounded by the effects of the crisis and some social disasters) that companies should be 'ideology-free' and be managed purely with technical criteria in mind. Merging entrepreneurial ideology with conformist thinking in order to create a universal, group-think business approach is sheer nonsense. There is no such thing as an organisation, or a community of people for that matter, without an ideology or foundational idea upon which the model of future development is defined.

From where I stand, it is impossible for companies not to have an ideology, either explicitly or implicitly, that oversees the process of defining the future of their business. Their individual ideology is at the heart of decision-making mechanisms and day-to-day operations, both in terms of internal management, as well as in dealings with other relevant internal and external players. Although some may consider this a problem to be resolved, for me, it’s what makes a company come alive, be more human and become agents for change.

I have always been wary of people and organisations who boldly declare their ‘apolitical’ stance, for I feel that it can conceal a lack of social solidarity, or worse, opaque and questionable behaviours. While considering Nelson Mandela’s words of "Calling for a lack of ideology is the first step towards oppression", I believe we ought to distrust executives who hide behind the strictly technical aspects of business in an attempt to justify their actions. In fact, every organisation has a distinct identity with its own 'DNA' which bestows specificity to its business project.

Essentially, that DNA provides companies with a sense of cooperation, a common project, intrinsic values, a sense of Community and all that makes it stand apart from others. Moreover, an organisation’s genetic code and identity comprise the ideological framework around which the management structure is built. This identity is constructed upon a number of specific elements such as its unique history, an interpretation of the present situation with shareholders in mind, employees, clients, products and philosophy. Other vital elements making up that identity are the place in society where it conducts its business, the guiding principles of its strategy, its values, the role people play in the organisation and the model of CSR it abides by. But above all, the importance of identity lies in the fine-tuning of the future focus of the business plan.

Like wildfire, our current economic crisis is spreading uncontrollably throughout the business community. Despite the calls being made across the board to apply strictly financial criteria and formulae as a solution to the crisis, I would like to make an appeal to companies and governments to recover the essence of their ideology as a key element in the process of steering organisations.

Today, more than ever, business plans need to have a holistic vision of what they do and of the company performance; they must incorporate mechanisms conducive to profitable development within an ecosystem which is nonetheless committed to society and people. In that spirit, may we generate benchmarks for future generations, and may we commit our company to the Community, to creating well-being, employment and sustainability in business projects.

In remembering the words of the Spanish poet León Felipe: "A man without a unique vision of life is a puppet of the elements", we need to remind companies of the need to do some serious soul-searching deep within their identity and within the essence of their community. In the course of their soul-searching, they will surely come up with a shared framework within which to develop their business project into the future as well as a code of conduct that will set them apart from the competition. For every company there should be one sole path: the one that its men and women want to share freely.

* Published in El Economista, 18/02/2013 (Spanish)

Sabin Azua

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