The Geometry of Organizational Environmentalism
It's been an interesting education recently. In anticipation of my next project, I've been ramping up on "green" corporate issues and "sustainability." For a systems thinker, seeing how social, environmental and economic facets interact is fascinating stuff to say the least. Whether or not one believes in global warming or climate change, this simply points to being a good planetary steward of the resources we have to ensure they will be around for multiple generations.
What also intrigues me about many organizations' approach to being green is the philosophy of executives and managers. In organizations, executives create strategies which they expect their underlings to execute. Strategies generally create a mix of projects and operational process tactics. Instead of INTEGRATING green sustainable philosophies INTO these projects and processes, most executives keep them separate, running in parallel. OK, for those of you who endured high school geometry, what is the number one rule of parallel lines?
Yup: PARALLEL LINES NEVER CROSS.
We've seen this "parallel lines" principle played out organizationally numerous times. When IT was first created in the early computer days, they were "those computer people" with whom nobody could communicate. When project management was all the rage, executives created project offices to keep the project managers out of everybody's way. When Six Sigma and Lean were the flavor du jour, these same executives kept "business running as usual" while those process improvement people earned their blackbelts.
So now we have environmentalism and sustainability facing our organizations. And executives are keeping these initiatives at arm's length of the other strategic activities.
Unless organizations (and the executives who run them) learn that these kinds of critical iniatives must be A PART OF of the rest of the organization instead of separate from it, they will continue to suffer. And when these executives don't see the kind of ROI results they expect, they'll blame the initiative. It becomes a vicious cycle of failure... all because our corporate leaders need remedial geometry.