For Sustainability, start at the end
One of the things that really makes me grind my teeth in planning for Sustainability is when somebody says “Why don’t we try [random thing X]?” and then somebody else chimes in with “What about Y?” To which the sensible, if somewhat rude, reply is “If achieving Sustainability is as easy as picking random actions off the top of our heads and giving them a go, why haven’t we managed it yet?”
Lets get a few things straight:
- Sustainability is a goal, not a process.
- Sustainability requires transformational, systematic change, not an accumulation of incremental improvements.
- We don’t have a lot of time to mess about – and systematic change takes time.
When I’m working with my clients, I use a series of clever tricks to get people out of incremental thinking and on to the right mindset. The first is stretch targets, which, by definition, stretch people’s minds and give time for change. The second is ‘backcasting’ which starts with a vision of the organisation if those stretch targets are met. In combination, you can get people to really address Sustainability head on, rather than tinkering around the edges.
Incremental improvements have their place – mainly around employee engagement as people like to see immediate results from their efforts. But incrementalism shouldn’t be allowed to distract from the bigger picture.