No Organization is an Island

Added to Mindset

No organization is an islandBeing connected to society is an essential ingredient to long-term profitability. If a company is not giving back to society, it is likely to be viewed as untrustworthy and distrust will undermine all aspects of the business (including finding talent).

For example, some years ago a large European insurance company announced that it would make a huge Agile transformation. Last year, it had a very profitable year, it was swimming in money – perhaps related to its decision to use Agile. However, the company has announced that it will sell its company sports facility, end the current employee subsidy, and rent it to a company that runs luxury fitness clubs. The company will make more profit from the property, but now many of the employees will not be able to have sports access. Society understood this news as “if the company is really Agile, why are they treating their employees like that?” and “that company is really greedy – watch out if they want to do business with you,” and “I wonder what other damage they are doing?”

No man is an islandIs your company doing a good job of participating in society? One typical metric is economical, but what about environmental, societal, or social? Note, that these metrics influence each other. It is not just a marketing question, “How do people perceive our company.” There are deeper aspects such as the impact on morale when employees are genuinely contributing to society, a perspective that the company is actually doing good for the society it is part of. Even customers may feel inspired if they know that the money they are paying the company is not just going for profit but for societal betterment.

But, how can your company become a warmly welcomed member of society? One way is to participate in networks. Following we list a number of networks that may possibly interest you – or at least inspire you to look for networks relevant to the type of work you do.

  • Global Compact: A United Nations call for companies to align strategies and operations with human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption principles.
  • Climate Group: A powerful network of companies and governments to ensure prosperity by keeping global warming under 2°Celsius.
  • Institute for Multi Stakeholder Initiative Integrity: A nonprofit that promotes collaborations between businesses, civil society and other stakeholders that seek to address issues of mutual concern, including human rights and sustainability.

For a more complete list of suggested networks see Part IV of our book Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy.

Involvement can start anywhere. You can take the initiative to recommend company involvement in large networks such as these. However, beyond that what about your department? Can your department or unit get involved in your local area. We are thinking of the story of a group of programmers who decided to adopt a foster child by contributing to a nonprofit organization. They contributed money, letters to the child, and built a relationship with the community in which the child lived. Needless to say, on the job, they were a very productive group of programmers!

Jutta Eckstein & John Buck co-authored “Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy. Survive and Thrive on Disruption”. Learn more about it here.



Agile Alliance is a nonprofit organization with global membership, supporting and serving the Agile software community since 2001. We support people who explore and apply Agile values, principles, and practices to make building software solutions more effective, humane, and sustainable. We share our passion to deliver software better every day.

Jutta Eckstein works as an independent coach, consultant, and trainer. She has helped many teams and organizations worldwide to make an Agile transition. She has unique experience in applying Agile processes within medium-sized to large-distributed mission-critical projects. Jutta has recently co-created an assessment for (agile) teams to gauge the environmental, social, and economic impact of their products and services. Besides that, she has published her experience in her books Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy (dubbed BOSSA nova and pair-written with John Buck), Agile Software Development in the Large, Agile Software Development with Distributed Teams, Retrospectives for Organizational Change, and together with Johanna Rothman Diving for Hidden Treasures: Uncovering the Cost of Delay in your Project Portfolio.
Jutta is a member of the Agile Alliance (having served the board of directors from 2003-2007) and a member of the program committee of many different American, Asian, and European conferences, where she has also presented her work. She holds an M.A. in Business Coaching & Change Management, a Dipl.Eng. (MSc.) in Product-Engineering, a B.A. in Education, and is trained as a pollution control commissioner on ecological environmentalism.

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This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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