Just begin…

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Do you really need a detailed plan for everything you do?
…then becoming Sustainable is probably the biggest challenge you will ever encounter.

Of course there is a need to make plans, but in today’s increasingly fast-changing global society, the need for adaptivity and “change-readiness” is probably far greater.

I have seen people and organizations so dedicated to extensive planning that it actually suppresses all enthusiasm and energy – even the most actual and brightest ideas are subdued or turned down, unless they are accounted for somewhere in the “master-plan”.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Confucius

This is probably also one of the reasons that “culture-driven” organizations thrive while “structure-driven” tend to wither. There is simply very little room for more than “one” enthusiast in a hierarchical and structure-driven organization.

Do something…

Quite often when I give a speech or a lecture on Sustainability, I get the question;
“- What should we do then…?”

www.sorenandersson.comI always answer “Do Something!” – change needs momentum and every little step means that you are moving.

It doesn’t have to be the most optimal thing and it doesn’t have to be extremely well-planned, the key-issue is to keep moving.

Compare it to driving a car (without power-steering) – is it easier to turn the wheels on a car standing still or when traveling at speed…? Or bicycling – is it easier to keep your balance when standing still or at speed…?

The moral of the story is that it is much easier to adjust your course once you are moving!

Inventing rules…

Sometimes I hear people muttering in response; “that’s frivolous, it’s like inventing the rules of the game while playing…” – Yes it is, but how would you otherwise make a journey that no one have yet travelled…

www.sorenandersson.comThis is of course a challenge by itself – but if we are to have any chance managing the climate changes that have already started and the rampant inequality in our Society, we have to initiate real change within a very short time-frame.

When doing so we have to realize that we will not do all things right from the beginning, and we probably will need to rethink and re-evaluate already made choices, changing course along the way – but…

Inaction is not an option!

…sometimes I get a little “depressed” when I think of organizations and people who only want to make the journey to a Sustainable world if it can be adapted to their “master-plan”, their pre-defined structures or business-plan, but I suppose that in any kind of change there will always be laggards and those who fail to see the opportunities…  

But look out for organizations that believe Sustainability only needs to be added to business-as-usual like an adhesive sticker or a layer of varnish… believing that if they only can be perceived as Sustainable, its “Good Enough”…
Read more in this previous article; “A Sustainability Cheat-sheet
…and remember “We need CHANGE, not fine-tuning” – more about this here and here.

Writing History…

When you hear about successful people or organizations, often you also hear about all the mistakes, all the “change of plans” they have gone through to become what they are.

In fact many great leaders highlights the mistakes and ordeals they have gone through, not only to “increase” the value of what they actually have achieved, but because the road to success is tricky, full of obstacles and there are very few “freebies”.

Winston Churchill once said;

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

Many of the most successful leaders and the most successful organizations can be found among the “innovators” or the “early adopters” – they often look beyond incremental improvement of business-as-usual and instead see Transformation – they have a “dream” (not a “plan”) … they are the one’s “writing the history”.

Just think about some of today’s wide-spread and commonly used expressions;
We “Google” things on the internet, We “Shazam” music when we want to know more about the artist, We “Swish” money to others, We use “Über” when we need a taxi, We use “Airbnb” when we need a place to stay… these are some of the most recent history-writers.

…and talk about transformation – Über, the worlds largest “transport-service” doesn’t own any cars and Airbnb doesn’t own any hotels or apartments… 

Travel alone or “by coach”…

Let’s face it, not all are pioneers or pathfinders, there is always a “rule of diffusion” and an approximate 84% of people and organizations “tucked away” behind, what Geoffrey Moore refer to as “the Chasm” – the “critical” percentage of “followers” you need to overcome if you really want Change, Innovation or Ideas to reach “the many people”.

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The rule of diffusion applies regardless of whether you look at our Society in general, at a specific industry or your own organization, and it can of course be “cascaded” so that i.e the “learning curve” of an organization managed by “sceptics” actually doesn’t start until at least 84% of the competitors have already “got it”, while the “learning curve” at an organization managed by “visionaries” can happen almost parallel… and so on…

…is this perhaps why some organizations seem to be “in phase” while others struggle with outdated business-models and offerings – You can’t do business intelligence sitting in a window-less room in the basement…!

This is just another thing that makes it so important to “Do Something” – Change takes time! It is like maneuvering  a “supertanker” – you need to turn the bow of the ship early to have the slightest chance to get the stern “around the bend”.

In the same way you need to get more than approx. 16% of your organization committed to the “right path” if you want the rest to follow…!

The right Mindset…

This is the most critical key factor for success, on your strive to become Sustainable.
The transformation to a Sustainable society is so profound that unless we cultivate people’s mindset it will not happen.

Unlike the “old days” when leaders where supposed to have the answers to everything and thanks to Internet, Social media etc. many people today are quite aware that our society is up for a huge challenge. This makes for a different leadership, with a much more inclusive approach.

Old-school methods with a “strong leader” making all decisions are… well… just Old!

www.sorenandersson.com…but still there are managers and organizations arguing that they should first develop, often rigid and detailed job descriptions, detailed organizations charts, systematic work-flows etc. which then employees should mold perfectly into as some kind of matched “machine-parts”…

Read more about Leadership in this previous article: “We are not ”Human resources” – We are Human beings…”

…and here one ambitious company’s (IKEA) approach when it comes to mindset, explained by Greg Priest (clip from 2013)

… to aim for 100% Sustainable sends a very clear signal – there is no room for “laggards”, no alternative paths, it is also a fantastic driver of innovation in the whole organization… 

The moral of it all…

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…Just begin!

  • svenab

    Great article, Søren, Thanks a lot. We absolutely do not need to be perfect to start somewhere. And it is so much better to do something than nothing. If you want to do something on the climate issue, why don’t you join us for a trip to Paris in November? Just being there is better than staying at home. And Paris is always nice. http://ufbutv.com/2015/01/06/make-2015-a-climate-year/

  • soren_andersson

    Thanks Sven-Åke.

    Paris in November… I’ll look into it.