The SEER Model is a proprietary values-inclusive framework that serves as a lens to strategy formation with an eye to long-term value creation. An excerpt from “Leadership in a Complex World: How to Manage the Tragedy of Choice” by Crooke, Csikszentmihalyi and Bikel1 explains the model’s design and intended function:
[The SEER Model] posits four ‘‘macro-values:’’ environmental stewardship, corporate citizenship, product/service quality, and financial strength. These ‘‘macro-values’’ are essentially broad categories that encircle numerous related values. For example, the macro-value of environmental stewardship refers to the need for organizations to recognize and mitigate or minimize their impact on the natural environment; it also represents the ultimate goal of integrating environmental concerns into product (and service)
1 Crooke, M., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Bikel, R. (2015). Leadership in a complex world. Organizational Dynamics, 2(44), 146-155. Note: the article refers to the SEER model generically as the “Mandala Model.”
design in order to progress toward closed-loop manufacturing processes that eliminate waste. Corporate citizenship represents the social realm and the organization’s relationships with stakeholders, ranging from employees to suppliers to neighbors in the local community to government entities. Product/service quality refers to the need to excel at the organization’s core competency. In his writings on social responsibility, Drucker states that, ‘‘Performance of its function is the institution’s first social responsibility. Unless it discharges its performance responsibly, it cannot discharge anything else. A bankrupt business is not a desirable employer and is unlikely to be a good neighbor in a community. Nor will it create capital for tomorrow’s jobs and the opportunities for tomorrow’s workers.’’ Thus, Drucker proposes that producing a product or service of the highest possible quality is a critical social responsibility of organizations. Another component of product/service quality is product innovation and an under- standing that change and market disruption from innovation is a constant. Again, Drucker’s writings provide perspective:
…the modern organization is a destabilizer. It must be organized for innovation, and innovation, as the great Austrian-American economist Joseph
Schumpeter said, is ‘creative destruction.’ And it must be organized for the systematic abandonment of whatever is established, customary, familiar, and comfortable, whether that is a product, a service, or a process; a set of skills; human and social relationships; or the organization itself. In short, it must be
organized for constant change.
Finally, financial strength refers to the need for organizations to be financially sound; without this, as Drucker explains, the other values become irrelevant.
Built upon experience at Patagonia and expanding upon the traditional ‘‘Triple Bottom Line’’ (People, Planet and Profit) trend in CSR, the [SEER Model] represents the values as circles, reinforcing the inclusive nature of the macro- values or elements. The overlapping circles (Venn diagram) design signifies the interrelated nature of the macro-values and illustrates that collectively, they function as a system. In this system, the macro-values do not operate in isolation; rather, they feature many areas of overlap and inter- action. The process of strategic decision-making is rarely, if ever, guided by one of the four macro-values individually. For example, product/service quality at Patagonia is defined as striving to achieve the best possible product with the least possible social and environmental harm. As described above in the quotation from Drucker, financial strength is integrally related to the other three values, which cannot function without an economically viable organization. Furthermore, the four values are mutually reinforcing: each of the elements is important individually, but when lever- aged as a collective group, the relationships become synchronous. The power of environmental stewardship is amplified when financial strength is realized, and vice versa; and the same can be said of any of the values. For example, when an organization is financially successful, it can invest in environmental innovations, such as solar panels on its buildings, which ultimately reduce long-term expenses and enhance financial performance.