Cutting through the noise on Sustainability
I don’t mind admitting I’m suffering from a bit of overwhelm just at the moment. I’m still getting back into the way of having two jobs again (this one and Councillor), the start of the new school term throws up the usual disruption and we’re trying to get our house extension habitable (if one of my kids wants a four-colour paint scheme again, they’re doing it themselves). Due to the latter, my office is currently the kitchen table or a tiny desk in my bedroom which doesn’t help with routine or concentration. The one thing I have to keep reminding myself is that the extension will soon be complete, I will have my own office again, and all the other short term noise is just that, noise – it will always be there one way or another, so I’ll just have to deal with it.
One of the big challenges in Sustainability is to get people to think long(-ish) term when the short term noise is drowning everything out. One of my current clients is literally on the frontline of Brexit preparations and in a few days I will be running a Sustainability Strategy session for them at the same management event as a review of Brexit contingencies. How will I get the attendees to think beyond the next couple of years when that cataclysmic change is looming in their minds?
The answer, I hope, is backcasting. Backcasting means developing visions of the organisation when it has met its Sustainability targets, then stepping backwards to plot a trajectory of change. I usually do a single intermediary step and I think this is the most important: deciding what will need to have started and what will have to have stopped at that halfway point. Then when you step back to the present day to develop an action plan, the short term noise gets muted for a while at least.