Maps/Gear | Palette of Possibilities | Stakeholder Lens
Stakeholder Lens

Finite players play within boundaries;
Infinite players play with boundaries.

The Stakeholder Lens, more than any of the other Wholeness Lenses, gives us a way of visualizing organizations (especially business organizations) as infinite games. It does this by expanding 1) our concept of stakeholders and 2) our definition of success. The Stakeholder Lens can provide a leadership team with a framework that supports re-visualizing the purpose of their organization and expanding their role as leaders.

This lens provides a framework for correcting a serious (and potentially fatal) flaw in the design of today's corporations, i.e., a narrow and myopic definition of success. See our Generative Capacity-Building section for discussion of Fatal Flaw #1.

Organization stakeholders can be grouped into three broad categories of players —

The Core Group, as defined by Art Kleiner in Who Really Matters, are the people "who really matter." Often, the most senior people in the hierarchy are members—but not always. Sometimes, the people who "matter" can extend far down the corporate ladder, or even reach outside the company to include key customers labor union leaders, and stockholders. Although the Core Group members are distributed among various "Immediate Stakeholder Family" groupings, it is useful to consider them separately because of the power and influence they have over the nature, the effectiveness, and the future of the organization.

The Immediate Stakeholder Family includes all those who are directly involved with or impacted by the organization. For corporations these groups include customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, nature, partners, community, regulatory bodies and even competitors.

The Extended Stakeholder Family includes the larger whole, all of life that is affected by the organization's choices — now, or at time in the future.

Economies of Wholeness Versus The Poverty of Partial Purpose

In Corporate Culture & Performance, John Kotter and James Haskett of Harvard Business School reported on their research results from 205 US corporations over an 11-year period (1980-91) and came up with some dramatic results. These are summarized below.

The Bottom Line — Kotter and Haskett have proven that it's been very good business to develop corporate cultures that promote and support the highest quality agreements and relationships within and among its three primary stakeholder groups. They've shown that both/and trumps either/or when it comes to quality of agreements and relationships. As parents, most of us have learned that thinking of integrity, caring, clarity, openness and equity as scarce commodities to be rationed out only to our favorites, is a recipe for disaster. So it is for organizations. All stakeholders are important to an organization's sustainability, by definition. It's way more efficient and fun to maintain a culture that looks after the welfare of all its members, than to manage a culture that only cares for some.

In recent years we've become increasingly connected and sophisticated in measuring both the true benefits from the true costs of corporate products, services and policies. That trend is irreversible. It follows that the most successful corporations of the future will be those that are leaders in generating true wealth for all their stakeholders—both their immediate and extended stakeholder families. Redefining success in terms of an organization's capacity to generate true wealth of all stakeholders will be a major step in accelerating our metamorphosis from finite to infinite games.

Using the Stakeholder Lens

For Exploring those REALLY BIG Questions, e.g.,
  • What is our true purpose? Is it to become the best in the world, or the best for the world?
  • How do we choose to define success? Is it to maximize the near term accumulation of financial wealth for favored stakeholders, or to maximize the generation of true wealth for all stakeholders affected by our actions?
  • What is the role of the "Core Group?" Is it to use the organization to support the personal accumulation of power, prestige, and financial wealth, or is it to serve as stewards for the now and future well being of all stakeholders affected by the organization?
Whether and how the leadership groups of our world's organizations (all sectors) address these questions will determine whether we are able to shift our planet's current adversity trends. The future of our children's children is dependent on the willingness and capacity of all leaders to engage with these questions out of a deep commitment to serve all their stakeholders. If not us, who? If not now, when?

For Diagnosing/Planning/Improving the Health/Resilience of the Organization

Organizations can be thought of as purposeful networks of agreements and relationships. The Stakeholders Lens, when used in conjunction with the Quality of Agreement and Quality of Relationship Charts, can be used to generate assessment profiles reflecting how key players from all stakeholder groups rate the health of their organization. These kinds of feedback loops can provide on-going support for —
  • Re-examining the organization's approach to leadership development.
  • Distributing accountability for improving the quality of agreements and relationships throughout all stakeholder groups.
  • Developmental strategies that are increasingly organic, a natural part of the way we are in this organization.