Since Leading Change toward Sustainability was first published in late 2003, many leaders have made significant progress in transforming their organisations into better social and environmental citizens. But many have not. As the world struggles to cope with the growing threat of a global carbon crisis, Bob Doppelt has revised one of the best books ever written about change management, leadership and sustainability to focus on de-carbonisation. To significantly slash greenhouse gases and prepare for climate change, organisations of all sizes will need to undergo an enormous shift in their thinking, cultures, practices and policies. Making this shift will require the use of proven sustainability-based organisational change strategies.
So what are these strategies and why do they work? Bob Doppelt spent 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, 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.