Books / Films
Leading Change Toward Sustainability: A Change-Management Guide for Business, Government and Civil Society
Although an increasing number of organisations have embraced the idea of sustainability in the last decade, why do so many initiatives fail, leading to wasted resources, frustration and cynicism? Why have so few organisations successfully adopted more sustainable policies or practices? And when they do get launched, why do so many efforts plateau after a short time and fail to ascend to the next level of excellence? What process is required to create change within organisations to move them towards sustainability?
Because so few resources are available to answer these questions, Bob Doppelt spent three years researching how the leaders of both private and public organisations that have initiated and sustained significant sustainability programmes designed and approached them. His findings, presented in this hugely readable book, will demystify the sustainability-change process by providing a theoretical framework and a methodology that managers can use to successfully transform their organisations to embrace sustainable development.
According to Doppelt, discussions about what to do – which new technologies and policy instruments to apply – have dominated the public dialogue on sustainability. Practitioners place comparatively little emphasis on how organisations can change their internal thought processes, assumptions and ingrained behaviours to embrace new tools and techniques. Organisational and cultural change is the key missing ingredient in the operationalisation of sustainable development. Without such change, sustainability efforts usually stall soon after they begin or fail outright.
Changing organisational culture requires interventions in two key areas:
First, the governance system of the organisation must be altered. A majority of organisations today hold a mechanistic, autocratic view of governance. In contrast, organisations that have made the most progress toward sustainability view all of their internal members, as well as external stakeholders, as vital parts of an interdependent system. In the leading sustainability organisations, these beliefs engender a skilful distribution of information, power and wealth among employees and stakeholders because managers realise that all of the parts of the organisational system must feel valued and be meaningfully involved for these higher purposes to be achieved. Transforming systems of governance to achieve these results requires seven core interventions. Each intervention builds on and reinforces the others. Part II of the book describes these interventions and how the leading organisations employ them to establish an enduring systems approach to change.
The second intervention is leadership. Organisations that develop effective governance systems typically have good leadership. Effective sustainability leaders have the ability to keep their organisation focused on achieving its higher mission while simultaneously managing numerous, sometimes contradictory, streams of activity. Savvy leaders can inspire and mobilise employees and stakeholders to embrace change as an exciting opportunity to learn. In the exemplary organisations, this style of leadership pervades not only top management, but also most levels of the enterprise.
Doppelt found that, when an organisation has an effective governance system and effective, forward-looking leadership, it is much more likely to be able to marshal the tremendous forces required to transform its culture and successfully adopt sustainability-based thinking, values and behaviours. When an organisation lacks an effective governance system or sufficient leadership, its culture will remain static and the adoption of a more sustainable path will be stymied, no matter what type of new technologies are adopted, quality-control tools are used, or consultants are hired.
Crammed with case examples, interviews and checklists on how to move corporate and governmental cultures toward sustainability, the book argues that the key factors that facilitate change consistently appear in the ongoing and successful (but incomplete) efforts Doppelt examined at companies such as Nike, Starbucks, IKEA, Chiquita, Interface, Swisscom and Norm Thompson and in governmental efforts such as those in the Netherlands and Santa Monica in California. For these and other cutting-edge organisations, leading change is a philosophy for success. In fact, in many ways Leading Change Toward Sustainability is just a restatement of what their leaders already know and do.
Posted by The Living Principles Team on Wednesday, June 2, 2010