For many of us - not just school kids and students - September is a time of new beginnings. You could be in a new job, or just feeling ready to shake up your existing role with new enthusiasm and ideas.
Sustainability change-makers had a lot to say about this, when I interviewed them for Change Management for Sustainable Development. Their message is twofold:
invest serious time and effort in learning about the organisation and meeting people;
show some rapid added value with quick wins, to build your credibility.
“I had a plan for my first hundred days. Every Friday afternoon I reviewed progress against the plan. There was a pre-entry phase, when I came up with a personal learning plan to get up to speed on the sector, which was a new one for me. I found some quick wins to establish credibility and add value, including what mattered to my boss. I did research and interviewed people, visiting as many internal stakeholders as I could in the first few weeks. I felt ready to do a SWOT analysis for the company. I made sure I understood the approvals processes. It’s critical to understand the current challenges and opportunities, existing processes and commitments, the details of the priorities that have been identified already, and compare that to what you think they should be.”
Jonathan Garrett, Head of Environment, Health and Safety at Prudential plc.
“In the first six months, I asked as many questions as I could. I asked, ‘Who are the right people to ask?’ I wanted to get across the organisation – find the vertical and horizontal layers. I made sure I understood their objectives, their sustainability maturity. What have they done? What have they said? Have they been caught out? Reflect on which part of the organisation you have been hired into: communications because they need engagement or want better PR, or HR because they want culture change, or the CFO’s team because they see sustainability as about reducing risk and taking out cost. It’s important to understand the organisational sustainability maturity and history, and to understand who can help you get things done.”
Tony Rooke, Technical Director at CDP
For Alan Knight, it’s about understanding the product story.
“If the product could tell a story, what would it say? Does it include tropical forests, child labour…? It’s an obvious place to start. Even if there are systems in place, go back to the basics. What would you be proud to talk about, and what would embarrass you? What don’t you know? Also make sure you understand the most material issues, the hard to measure as well as the measurable. Don’t be distracted by the GRI or the SDGs, the ‘do everything’ menu.”
Alan Knight, Corporate Responsibility General Manager, ArcelorMittal
For Colin Robertson, the interesting unknowns were around processes:
“The questions I had, when I came to this company, were about the processes: how do you get things done, what are the underpinning processes, where is the ambiguity, what new processes and guidance are needed? I like to understand the ambiguity, it’s a place you can step into and bring clarity. I like to break down the problem, decide on the steps to take, check them with people and check I’ve understood it correctly. I jot down and map out what I think I’m seeing and what I think I’m missing. I think about who might point me to something I’m not aware of.”
Colin Robertson, Group Energy and Environment Manager at Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate
These quotes are from Section Eight of my book Change Management for Sustainable Development, published by IEMA in 2017.
Making the Path by Walking
This post was first published in my Making the Path by Walking newsletter, September 2018. Scroll down to the footer to subscribe.