The VW – case is finally shedding light on a big lie and that is: we can balance ecological values and (existing) economical values without compromising.
Fact is that ALL clean technologies are costlier than the ones we have in place since decades and which are relatively cheap not only because they are amortized but because their costs are paid by the weakest party in that equation: nature. In the fight of lobbies it has the worst position.
And no industry is excluded: from agriculture to fashion to steel production – all sectors incur heavy costs if they thrive to reduce their ecological footprint.
But that is not the main problem. The main problem is that the customer was knowingly excluded from the process of “going green” and the consequence of paying much higher prices only to not lose the sales volumes: products which should cost much more because of new technologies in fact did not. On the one side because of heavy government support, on the other side because of tricks like the one VW was using.
So more than the crisis of a single Brand we see a striking example for the value-crisis in which the whole economy – including also politics and customers – is in. The question is “What values do we really want to put in first place?”
Leadership is Crucial
For VW, there is also an extraordinary chance in this extraordinary crisis: having to decide on its values and needing to communicate them firmly, VW could use the opportunity to revolutionize its Brand and start from here a thorough process of Leadership Branding with the goal to align its Brand values with leadership behavior and thus the relationship with its customers.
Companies of that size usually have a very hard time to change fundamentally without crashing completely. Structures are so incrusted that it needs a firm leadership decision to start and push the process of renewal.
But a deep crisis as the one the Volkswagen Group is currently going through , in which many leading heads are changed, is the best moment to rebuild the Brand from the inside.
Because the biggest assest of the Brand is still the solid manufacturing of its cars, testified by millions users of multiple Generations. To most of them it is, in fact, “DAS AUTO” – simply, “The Car” – because it satisfies the most differentiated needs of the most diversified Group of customers.
So there still is something to build upon. But in my opinion there is no other moment it can start than NOW.
Aligning Corporate and Personal Values in a set of behaviors
To me, the best process to do that is the process of Leadership Branding because it goes deep into the soul of the company and of its people, its leaders in the first place.
It starts with the development of a clear Leadership Brand Statement defining not only the mission and Brand values but most of all specific attitudes and behaviors that are to be embraced by the whole staff worldwide in order to be able to bring that statement to life. Second, worldwide assessments and trainings have to be conducted to reach and ensure that specific standard of attitude and behaviors. Third, a specific development plan for all positions from entry to exit level needs to be put in place in order to develop leaders and people further in the light of the companies’ Leadership Brand.
Such a process repairs the company from within. It’s not cosmetic surgery, it’s like fasting and then rebooting the system.
It will not change the current crisis but it will prepare the Brand for a better future.
This post is also available in: German