Why You Should NOT Act Immediately on Sustainability

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http://sustainabilityconsulting.com/blog/2012/11/6/why-you-should-not-act-immediately-on-sustainability.html Sustainability is a huge, complex, and daunting challenge. And a growing number of companies feel a sense of urgency to do something – anything – to show their stakeholders that they are paying attention. But in the rush to appear responsive, you may be missing the boat.

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Why You Should NOT Act Immediately on Sustainability

  1. 1. WHY YOU SHOULD NOT ACTIMMEDIATELY ON SUSTAINABILITYSSC Blog
  2. 2. Why You Should Not ActImmediately on Sustainability Sustainability is a huge, complex, and daunting challenge. And a growing number of companies feel a sense of urgency to do something – anything – to show their stakeholders that they are paying attention. But in the rush to appear responsive, you may be missing the boat. We recently came across the Harvard Business Journal article, ―Act Fast, but Not Necessarily First.‖ www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Why You Should Not ActImmediately on SustainabilityAuthor Frank Partnoy makes a compelling case for more deliberatedecision-making, saying: ―Speed is killing our decisions. The crush of technology forces us tosnap react. We blink, when we should think. E-mail, social media, and24-hour news are relentless. Our time cycle gets faster every day. Yetas our decision-making accelerates, long-term strategy becomes even more crucial. Those of us who find time to step back and think about the big picture, even for a few minutes, have a major advantage. If every one else moves too quickly, we can win by going slow.‖ www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Why You Should Not ActImmediately on Sustainability Partnoy goes on to discuss the OODA decision-making While you can argue that framework developed by renowned there is no "opponent" in American fighter pilot John Boyd. sustainability (were all part of the problem *and* the OODA – which stands for observe, solution), there are someorient, decide, and act – is a process really important lessons in that out-thinks and outmaneuvers the OODA framework that opponents and competitors not by can benefit companies acting first, but by waiting for pursuing a sustainability opponents to act first. agenda. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Why You Should Not ActImmediately on SustainabilityBefore we jump in, however, lets review the general application ofOODA to business decision-making from Frank Partnoy: In general, we make better decisions when we minimize the time ittakes to decide and act — so that we can spend more time observing and orienting. The same applies in business. The faster we canexecute a decision, the more time we free up to understand the task, gather information, and analyze the issues. If we require too muchtime to decide or act, we are forced to finish observing and orienting earlier. And if we act too quickly, we might respond to a problem that changes or even goes away before the deadline. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. ObserveFrom Partnoy:The first step of any good decision isto take in information. What areopponents doing? How are theysuperior or weaker? Are thererelative drawbacks to your productor service? This first step is theeasiest one to ignore under timepressure. But it is the anchor to gooddecision-making. Great leadersassess how the winds are changingbefore they set sail. So the first stepis simple: what do you see? www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. ObserveFor Sustainability: What are the big issues driving our sustainability impacts? What are the global, regional, and industry trends that impact our operations and our supply chains? What are customers asking for and how are those requests changing? Where do we stand now with regard to carbon emissions, water use, stakeholder engagement, transparency, human rights, and product responsibility? Do we know where we have good data, and where we are making assumptions? www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. OrientFrom Partnoy:Once you have gathered therelevant information, the next How important arestep is to process it and position particular strengths andyourself for a decision. weaknesses? Where is the open water? The secondOrientation means becoming step also gets lost whenaware of the implications of what time is tight. Yet without ayou are seeing. proper orientation, a business will head off in the wrong direction. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. OrientFor Sustainability: Who are our most important stakeholders, and what sustainability issues do they care about? How do they think about sustainability?  As an environmental issue?  A quality issue?  A competitiveness issue?  A cost-savings issue? Where are the biggest hot-spots of opportunity for us? What trade-offs are we willing to make? What are we absolutely NOT willing to compromise? www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. Decide From Partnoy: Finally, once a manager has gathered information and understands the key questions (who, what, when, and where), it is time to make a choice. Notice that this step is distinct from action. It is purely mental, the moment before implementation. For the third step, it is important to make a confident, firm move. This decision is not the first — nor will it be the last. There will be time to adjust later. Remember, the enemy is watching. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. DecideFor Sustainability:Choose a focus area and get started.Remember, sustainability is too bigto tackle at once, and trying to do itall means you wont make big Just remember to use theprogress on anything. It makes more insight youve gathered insense to dive into a specific area step one: observe and step(like establishing good data two: orient to choose amanagement systems, or revamping meaningful focus area.a production process, or going all-out on paper reduction in the office)and do it well, then build on thatmomentum to tackle the next thing. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. ActFrom Partnoy:Finally, every business person understands the importance ofexecution. Once a decision has been made, it should be implementedin the most efficient, straightforward manner. Dont look back. Thefourth step is not the final one.Once it is complete, go back to step one: observe. Dont second-guess. Instead, assess. How quickly do you need to change yourproduct cycle? Are your customers changing? What information doyou need? Ask these questions, and then look. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. ActFor Sustainability:Make sure you have appropriateresources allocated for executionand implementation. Dont skimp.Then do it -- right away. Donthesitate. And then, once youveacted, look back and assess yourprogress. What worked? Whatdidnt? What lessons can be learnedfor the next round of OODA? www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. Read this blog and more by visiting the SSC websitetoday:Strategic Sustainability Consulting BlogWhat are your thoughts? Join theconversation on twitter @jenniferwoofter!

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