A Journey to Self-Sufficiency

4 min read

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It is time to reconsider how we think about sustainability and incorporate it into all aspects of our consumption, manufacturing, innovation, and design.

The concern for “future generations” is at the heart of many cultures that have historically practiced environmental conservation and resource preservation.

Hans Carl von Carlowitz (1645–1714) was the first to discuss sustainability in 1713. He coined this term in his book Silvicultura oeconomica to denote the long-term, responsible exploitation of a natural resource.

In a contemporary sense, the word sustainability includes environmental, economic, and social development aspects, defined by the 1983 United Nations Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) as “fulfilling the needs of the present without compromising future generations.”

What does that mean exactly?

When applied to the realm of modern life, sustainability denotes the cooperative efforts of multiple organizations toward the survival of the (real or virtual) ecosystem they live in. Sustainable development should encompass more than just using natural resources and energy in environmentally friendly ways.

A broader definition beyond the current “green wave” emphasizes the ability to continue or be continued for a long time.

In the last two decades, our world has altered dramatically. The environment, the whole economy, and our social life have been transformed into a hybrid of virtual and physical elements. We purchase and sell worldwide, and we deal with global challenges daily.

It is time to reconsider how we think about sustainability and incorporate it into all aspects of our consumption, manufacturing, innovation, and design.

Designing the change

Managing the change might not even be enough to become self-sufficient.

Organizations should strengthen their ability to design the change and capitalize on efforts.

This requires the participation of every individual. Everyone should have routines to find and exploit the benefits of change and contribute to their group’s self-sufficiency.

The only way to keep up is to continue learning.

An ecosystem that prospers has incentives that encourage the demand for development and it values the time spent learning new skills to achieve present and future goals.

Physical and virtual pollution create inertia and reduce flexibility

With this in mind, modern society should on any energy loss or waste as a potential source of value. Reusing, recycling, repurposing, and reducing this loss with the help of all participants will add value and flexibility at the ecosystem level.

Each business should work with others to cut down on “data waste” and sell it as “raw materials” to partner companies that can extract value from it.

This method pushes functions to be able to run themselves to a certain degree, improving the health and stability of the ecosystem as a whole.

This requires organizations to rethink their control model by making every function a node in a network that creates internal and external value at each iteration.

Value creation vs. cost reduction

Large corporations today reduce costs by heavily outsourcing and implementing price tactics.

This results in a loss of control and comprehension, making it difficult to respond to change and necessitating additional cuts during negative cycles.

These strategies create a few large dominating corporations, making it difficult for newcomers to engage and innovate.

In truth, this method resists change with rigidity, which becomes a weakness when disruptive forces intervene.

New value generation strategies are replacing size-based ones, which are becoming less and less effective in keeping up with current changes.

Life sciences, insurance, and cars, to mention a few, are feeling the effects, with new agile, focused firms ascending to the top.

For large organizations, digital is not an opportunity but a means of survival!

With minor changes and more controls, digital initiatives can build the organization around a new maturity model that puts the value at the center of the strategy.

An effective digital plan focuses on long-term goals.

A company reaching the sustainability stage may expand and consolidate based on how the economic cycle goes while constantly creating value.

So what is the path to reach this maturity?

“The wheel of self-sufficiency” — Image My Own 

Building Capabilities

This is the first step. It takes time, trust, and commitment.

Many people, at this point, will give up because they realize it requires more effort than they thought.

This period of dissatisfaction must be approached with caution.

The anxiety can be eased by storytelling, making comparisons, and predicting the real benefits this activity will bring in the future.

Users who leave the service now will probably not come back.

Dosing pressure is very important because everyone reacts to change differently. It does more harm than good to stress productivity because it makes people less motivated and doesn’t add anything of real value.

Leaders should remember that enhancing one’s level of awareness and comprehension is the fundamental objective of capability development.

Enforcing Continuing Competency

The focus switches in this phase to establishing training approaches that modify behaviors (skills and processes), increasing efficiency, efficacy, and overall performance. It will be possible to define a baseline, assign objectives, and frequently monitor outcomes by examining the real-time data.

Developing a competency would result in increased internal efficiency and external synergy.

Both are value multipliers because they produce continual benefits while freeing time and money to invest in new capabilities.

Creating Capacity

Building capacity is a sizing endeavor that will determine the rate of change.

Because sustainability must account for unfavorable change, the minimum throughput during adverse periods should guide the plan discussion.

Long-term success comes from being able to grow in three ways.

  • First and foremost, it must organically integrate into the company’s infrastructure and rely on the ecosystem to absorb rapid changes in demand (positive-sum strategies).
  • It also requires mature governance that seeks value during negative cycles without penalizing suppliers.
  • Lastly, it monitors and records assets used to optimize value generation throughout the medium to long term, rather than just the short term.

Many leaders struggle to keep the line at this stage.

Reaching Sustainability

Given the preceding stage, sustainability may now become ingrained in the culture.

Under the direction of mature leadership, the ongoing search for more value will enable the definition of actionable targets with attainable deadlines.

At this stage, innovators can prioritize opportunities based on their strategic contribution to enhancing control, deepening cooperation, and pushing new concepts.

The additional comparison in terms of quicker outcomes (efficiency), greater precision (efficacy), and strategic value (enablement) will aid in the development of a roadmap for implementation that will unlock value.

This step will help the innovation process move away from vagueness and fuzziness by narrowing the scope of new ideas around their value.

Sustainable practices need to be woven into every part of an organization creating and maintaining an environment where players constantly improve their abilities, competence, and capacity to create value.

The sustainability loop is now closed, and a self-sufficient function may thrive.

“A journey to self-sufficiency” — Image My Own


Sustainable development is more than using natural resources responsibly. Every business should work with each other to reduce “digital waste” (data, time, money) and sell it to partner businesses as “raw materials.” This means that organizations need to rethink their control model by making each function a node in a network. With digital projects, the organization can be built around a new maturity framework that puts the value at the center of the strategy. This new paradigm is starting to take over the agenda in many areas, such as the life sciences, insurance, and cars.

Reaching the needed level of sustainability takes time, trust, and dedication. Long-term success depends on the ability to grow in three ways: building capabilities, ensuring continuing competency, and creating capacity. At this point, a mature leader can set actionable goals with deadlines that can be met.

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Flavio Aliberti Flavio Aliberti brings with him a 22-year track record in consulting around business intelligence, change management, strategy, M&A transformation, IT and SOX auditing for high regulated domains, like Insurance, Airlines, Trade Associations, Automotive, and Pharma. He holds an MSc in Space Aeronautic Engineering from the University of Naples and an MSc in Advanced Information Technology and Business Management from the University of Wales.

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