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March 16, 2010
John Mackey Sees a Sour Scene

Think the public communication climate has soured? John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, decidedly agrees and, via The Huffington Post, has some suggestions for reversing the trend.

Mackey's opening perspective sounds pretty dire: "American society appears to be undergoing a crisis in trust. ... Indeed, I do not believe it is an exaggeration to claim that our society is actually undergoing a disintegration process whereby the fundamental premises and values supporting our institutions are all being called into question."

But in "disintegration," says Mackey, "is also a tremendous opportunity for genuine transformation."

U.S. society is going to pot, but there's an up side. Basically, says Mackey, organizations have to start acting as though they want to be trusted again.

"Our governments all too frequently serve the politicians and the public service unions rather than their citizens," he says. "Our schools too often serve their educational bureaucracy and teachers' unions instead of their students and their parents. Our health care system too often seeks to maximize the profits of pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies rather than the health and wellness of patients."

"Many of our corporations primarily exist to maximize the compensation of their executives, and secondarily shareholder value, rather than value creation for customers, employees, and other major stakeholders."

Most of us can probably recognize truth in this. It's changing the underlying dynamics that's challenging. Mackey urges organizations to start by discovering or rediscovering their higher purposes, including "such timeless ideals" as:

  • The Good: Service to others (Southwest Airlines, Nordstroms, The Container Store, Amazon.com, and Joie de Vivre Hospitality).
  • The True: Discovery and furthering human knowledge (Google, Intel, Genentech, and Wikipedia).
  • The Beautiful: Excellence and the creation of beauty (Apple and Berkshire Hathaway).
  • The Heroic: Courage to do what is right to change and improve the world (Grameen Bank and the Gates Foundation).

Before you dismiss much of this as pap, read all of what  Mackey has to say and consider that the overall communication climate really has gotten pretty pejorative and self-centered. It's not a healthy juncture. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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