The Genesis of Green Jujitsu
All of my books have emerged from my own practical experiences helping companies go green and Green Jujitsu had an interesting evolution as the techniques developed out of my need to develop effective consultancy techniques.
When I first set up Terra Infirma, I had a contract with Envirowise, a Government funded scheme to provide waste minimisation visits to businesses. Each time I was assigned to a company the encounter would unfold as follows. I would turn up, ask for a description of the business process, and do a walkover audit of that process, tracking waste arisings back to source, asking awkward questions and making notes on my clipboard. At some point the environmental manager who had called me in would say “I can’t answer that – we’ll have to go and ask the operations manager.” The subsequent meeting would be painfully frosty with the operations manager on the defensive and I would be quickly shuffled along my way. After the visit I would write them a short report with some quick-win style recommendations. From the response and informal feedback from bumping into people later, the vast majority of these were glanced over and filed in the “someday” file.
Now while I was being paid to do this, I hate wasting my time on pointless tasks. I realised that my problem was that I was effectively telling people that they were running their businesses or operations badly and that criticism made them very uncomfortable. And no matter how much I developed my diplomacy, that fundamental fact was undermining my effectiveness as a consultant – which is to help the client.
The Envirowise scheme allowed no flexibility in how support was delivered (one of my gripes against such schemes) so in other contracts I started introducing more participation into my approach – encouraging the client to collaborate in the solution generation process. This had all sorts of benefits, most notably the solutions were better as they used the latent intellectual capital of the company and they got automatic buy-in from those involved as they already owned the solution. But as a side effect, the people I was working with got really into sustainability – they found it a challenge, interesting and fun.
So when I started getting asked to help engage employees in sustainability, I developed the collaboration technique and saw it become more and more effective. Simultaneously I developed an irrational hatred for eco-clichés such as hands cradling a sapling and it dawned on me that most engagement techniques were formulated from that pious tree-hugging point of view. And they didn’t work – or I wouldn’t be getting so many clients! A third big influence was the generalist culture change book ‘Switch’ whose three part elephant model I adopted as a framework as it dovetailed neatly with the jujitsu thinking.
So, the Green Jujitsu techniques were forged in the heat of battle, first gaining the buy-in of clients and then the buy-in of clients’ employees. I know I say this about all my books, but I know these techniques work because I’ve used them in practice – and my clients keep asking me back for more.
By the way – I’m holding a free webinar to share the fundamentals of the book on 12 October 2012 at 3:30pm BST – sign up here.