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The Means Justify the Ends

by Aaron Deng

I remember when Kenway Consulting first came to my university to host a recruiting information session. I was among the many in the crowd, listening intently to find the answer to the question on everyone’s minds: “How is this firm different from the hundreds of other consulting firms out there today?”

The presenter (today both a great coworker and friend) spoke of Kenway’s growth and the massive progress that had been made in recent years to increase revenue, total clients and number of employees. But, he explained, Kenway did not focus on these outcomes; neither in set numbers as goals, nor long-term metrics to surpass.

In that moment, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who was thoroughly confused. Could a company thrive on a structure that didn’t emphasize quarterly earnings, quotas, and tangible endpoints? How would it measure success and improve? What would motivate employees to work hard and do right?

Excited to find out how Kenway was able to thrive in this unique structure, I joined Kenway to explore the possibilities myself. The answers became clear quickly after I began working here a year ago. As a company, we build and cultivate a culture that focuses on executing the right “means.” This doesn’t imply that Kenway doesn’t consider the outcomes – we do, but it’s just not our focus. Decisions are made, because they are the right decision, independent of what the outcome may be. Each choice is an opportunity to do the right thing, for our client, for our employees… for Kenway. If we do those right things for the right reasons, then our compass is always pointed in the right direction.

The idea itself isn’t novel – there are plenty of success stories in the business world of the accomplishments institutions can achieve when the journey is treated much more importantly than the destination. Studies done at MIT concluded that companies that foster methods for innovation create much more impact on productivity as opposed to their standard profit-maximizing counterparts. A culture of collaboration, trust, and genuine motivation is the natural next step when employees share values. Companies that strive to be more than profit-creators tend to stand out amongst their peers and enjoy long-term rewards. In 2007, when Spain’s Grupo Santander acquired Brazil’s Banco Real, there was immense pressure to increase profitability. But, under the leadership of then-CEO Fabio Barbosa, the company focused on its social and environmental commitments, and fused these values with its operations. Banco Real was known for being willing to walk away from engagements that did not meet its standards of ethical adherence, it paid off, as it established itself as a company that would sacrifice the ends for the means to ensure that what it did was respectable and good.

Kenway takes that to the next level. We carefully self-check our actions and solutions against our Guiding Principles to ensure that we can be proud of the means. We often discuss and debate amongst multiple parties to make sure the choice makes sense from different perspectives. We actively check ourselves and our coworkers when there is a possible plan of action that hones in on the outcome instead of the means. Not only do our decisions never serve as means to an end, but our emphasis on doing the right thing makes sure that each step along the way is the best for both Kenway and our clients.

Looking back on the Kenway presentation about the company’s approach on the ends and the means, I’m glad I was intrigued as opposed to unconvinced. For me, this dedication to doing good was absolutely the answer to the question of “what makes Kenway different”, and today, it’s the answer to the question of why I am proud to work for a company that puts values first as an investment in our success. We focus on the “means” as opposed to the “ends”, because it only makes sense. Our take is, when the navigational tools are calibrated correctly, you will always know that you’re going the right way.

If you would like to learn more about Kenway and our culture, visit our website at www.kenwayconsulting.com. If you would like to chat with us about our culture and how we can help your company, reach out at info@kenwayconsulting.com.

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