VIEWS: How to Get People to Change (for the Greener): Part 7

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

In the February edition of Inc, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath (of Made to Stick fame) discuss their new book on change management in an article How to Get People to Change.  It’s a fascinating look at what it takes people to shift their thinking and their actions, and I wanted to look at some of their thoughts in a “green angle”.  What follows are excerpts from the article, with my reflections as a sustainability consultant.

There's a technique we talk about in the book: looking for the bright spots. When you face a change situation, you're often demoralized and depressed. Instead of focusing on what isn't working, you need to shift people over to thinking, What have we done in the past that has been successful for us?

When we work with clients, we often use this technique—especially when employees want to “go green” but are skeptical or hesitant about whether or not it can actually be accomplished.  We ask them about a past work initiative that were successful, and try to figure out what characteristics of the project made it a winner. 

  • Was it delegated throughout every department?  Or led by a specific team?
  • Was it well funded?  Or did a shoestring budget push people to be innovative?
  • Were the CEO and executive management were actively involved?  Or did the CEO stay out of the way?
  • Were there clear deadlines and a detailed timeline for implementation?   Or was it a grassroots initiative that organically spread throughout the organization?
  • Were there lots of meetings to keep everybody informed?  Or was it successful because everyone wasn’t bogged down by unnecessary bureaucracy?

Once employees are able to articulate characteristics that make a workplace initiative a success, we are better able to help them plan effective guidelines for a sustainability program.  We can spot potential red flags early and guide our client around pitfalls.  And by engaging employees in a process where they recall past successes, they are often able to grab hold of that enthusiasm and apply it to this new sustainability venture.

This process is integrated into the SSC Green Audit – one of our most popular services.  To learn more about the SSC Green Audit, click here.

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