“El que se siente muy seguro
no está a salvo”.

Thomas Fuller

Strategy, Human Rights and Obligations

New England is famous for its beautiful fall. Some 6 years ago I took a course on Strategic Management at Harvard University that took place at Byerly Hall in Radcliffe Yard, the center of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. It was indeed a beautiful fall but it was also full of new ideas and perspectives on strategic issues.

April, at the beginning of the spring is not, yet, the best moment to contemplate nature in New England but, of course, as always, Boston is full of opportunities to learn and stretch your mind. I came back this year to Radcliffe Yard for a conference on Human Rights at Fay House. Based on its content I found a few parallelisms and crucial questions between Strategy and Human Rights and I would like to share them with you.

  • Our speaker stated that Wittgenstein the philosopher once said that “It is difficult to “begin at the beginning…” when it comes to human rights. Same thing with strategy. Where is the beginning? How do we know we are at the beginning? Is it good to go back to the beginning? Is it possible?
  • We need to systematize ethics but it is very difficult to systematize the ethical truth. In business it is always crucial to have a “clear and systematized” strategy although not many companies really have it this way. One thing is to “have a strategy formally” and totally a different one to “really have and put in practice a thorough, deep and systematic strategy”. Strategy, a real one always leads us to the truth, the real truth of our organization, what to do and, even more important, what to avoid. But it is not easy…and it is very demanding…
  • What is the nature of Human Rights? What are they? What do we mean by Human Rights? The answer was this: ”Moral rights possessed by all human beings just for being so”. It made me think about the definition in Roman Law of Ius Naturale (Natural Law) which was defined as: “quod natura omnia animalia docuit” (what nature teaches to all animals). These two illustrations take me to the pervasive necessity of a thorough strategy for any organization and, particularly, any corporation. All, absolutely all companies need a strategy and need to pay attention to it. They need to nurture it, update it refresh it continually “just for being so, an organization”. Those that don’t take this seriously pay dearly the mistake.
  • Human Rights impose duties on us and obligations on others. This is, we need to respect them and we are not allowed to do anything against them. Strategy also is very demanding. It imposes a series of duties on all members of the organization, especially Top Management. For the same token “violations of human rights impose duties” and exactly the same thing happens with strategy. Those that “violate” it, this is, those that do not “walk the talk” and ignore the strategy should be clearly punished because they are putting the whole organization at risk.
  • One of the problems regarding Human Rights is the lack of rigor when tackling them. It is necessary to be knowledgeable, pragmatic and bold regarding these key issues. It is unfortunately common the lack of strategic knowledge of top managers and, what is even worse, their lack of strategic wisdom. Short termism, absence of lateral thinking, business as usual and the like should be eradicated. Huge task!

By Enrique Cortés PhD. Strategic Thinker-Advisor.



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