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Wheel of Change Sustainability Tool Essay

Bob Doppelt’s Wheel of Change is a great tool for companies that seriously want to change their operations towards sustainability. According to Bob Doppelt, organizations can have the best intentions for improving and moving in a more sustainable direction, yet they fall prey to sustainability blunders. These blunders are:

1- Patriarchal thinking that leads to a false sense of security. This is the most serious of blunders. Employees who are not empowered and only take directives from superiors will lack in personal responsibility to drive change.

2- Silo approach to environmental and socio-economic Issues. Organizations where functions work independent of each other, like islands, have difficulty grasping a 360 view of the companies procedures and opportunity areas. This silo ed approach is an impediment to change.

3- No clear vision on sustainability. Without a clear vision change is not possible.

4- Confusion over cause and effect. When an organization focuses on the symptoms of a problem rather than the root cause of the problem, then the impact on sustainability will not be optimal.

5- Lack of information. Today, more than ever, transparency and the sharing of data are critical aspects in driving employee engagement, customer loyalty and stakeholder support. Transparency is key in driving change.

6- Insufficient mechanism for learning. Organizations that lack an openness to innovation and who do not promote a safe environment for testing and learning will find it very difficult to change their ways.

7- Failure to institutionalize sustainability. For change to happen within and organization, sustainability has to be baked into all aspects of a business.

What the wheel of change provides a framework that helps organizations overcome the seven sustainability blunders. The wheel counteracts each blunder with a sort of antidote that, if followed accordingly, guarantees successful implementation for sustainable change.

The seven interventions are:

Intervention One – Change the dominant mindset through the imperative of achieving sustainability. Organizations need to disrupt the controlling mental models in place. Status Quo needs to be shattered. How can you bring it to life? Relentless and compelling messages from senior executives that make the case for sustainability. Intervention Two – Rearrange the parts by organizing transition teams. Cross functional team involvement and representation from all levels is required.

Each team should be as diverse as possible to minimize the risk for status quo perpetuation. Teams will develop new goals and strategies as well as implement plans. Best Practice Example: The Herman Miller company maintains an Environmental Quality Action Team, composed of nine sustainability driven subcommittees. Intervention Three – Change goals by crafting an ideal vision and guiding sustainability principles. Leading organizations use end planning to craft the vision of the new sustainable enterprise.

A compelling vision will be felt by the heart and understood by the mind. Best Practice Example: Scandic Hotels adopted a vision towards “resource caring”. A simple yet compelling way of communicating its objective for waste reduction. Intervention Four – Restructure the rules of engagement by adopting new strategies. Alter the rules that determine how work gets done. Align the rules to the vision. How to bring this to life: Change internal procedures, strategies, tactics and implementation processes in alignment with the new vision. Intervention 5 – Shift information flow by tirelessly Communicating the need, the vision and the strategies.

Communication must be consistent, persistent, engaging and transparent. Best Practice Example: At Interface environmental issues are discussed at every staff meeting, every retreat and through internal communication. At one point in time, Ray Anderson said: “Sustainability has become the language of the company”. Intervention 6 – Correct feedback loops by encouraging and rewarding learning and innovation.

Leading organizations have systems set up that allow for accurate feedback to flow as it relates to progress and setbacks. These organizations also reward those willing to take risks, experiment and learn. Best Practice Example: Henkel incorporated the “Henkel Innovation Awards” awarded to employees who develop sustainable products. Intervention 7 – Adjust the parameters by aligning systems and structures with sustainability. Change towards sustainability is an iterative process. To some extent, Change  Sustainability.

In conclusion, The Wheel of Change demonstrates how the seven interventions interact with one another to form continuous transformation and improvements in line with a sustainability imperative.


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