The Values Chain

Before the pandemic, what seems like a long time ago, we spent a long time obsessing about value chains.

We looked at how to make them efficient and wring every last drop of margin from them. We even did risk assessments to determine their vulnerability because we knew what happened to them when we have earthquakes and tsunamis and the like. I guess that not many factored in a global pandemic. Something like that fell into the inconvenient “unknown knowns” category and got in the way of growth projections. Most probably didn’t factor in the potential collateral damage of supply chain nationalism or the effect of systemic change on their business model and debt servicing.

It’s easy to see this after the event, and as we go cautiously to whatever work is going to look like, I wonder how many, under pressure to “recover”, are taking the time to reflect.

Something as simple as adding an “s” to value and consider the “values chain”. Just as a convoy moves at the pace of the slowest vehicle, so a company’s values are determined by those of the weakest part.

Actual values are a product of those practised by shareholders, employees, banks, insurers, suppliers, and customers. When the pressure is on, the comforting, carefully crafted words of the vision, mission and values statements required by best practice crumble into embarrassment and “lessons learned”. For every Patagonia, there are many, many, Cambridge Analytica.

All of us are walking into new working environments. The old normal has gone absent without leave, and no replacement has yet shown up.

Whether as individuals or companies, our security walking into this new future will be determined by our values chain, by the company we keep.

New pressures and crises will arrive.

If we learn one lesson from the last year, we should understand the price we pay for easy efficiency and cheap convenience.

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