I thought it would be a good time to offer a brief update on the sustainability strategy setting process that I’ve been working on with Aveng Group recently. It has been about three months since my last post on the subject (how time flies!) and we’re now nearing the end of this initial phase, so time for a breather, a stop and reflection on the process to date.
Attendance and engaged contribution from the group you’re working with is a must
This might sound like an obvious one to lead with, but it really is important for a couple of reasons. Understanding of course in our busy work lives, particularly at Executive level, that not everyone is going to be able to make every single meeting – that’s fine – but ensuring that most of the group attend most of the time is really very important to keep the momentum rolling and the energy level of the strategy group up and focussed on the task.
Secondly, this is important in ensuring that the fullest spectrum of viewpoints and parts of the business are covered and catered for in your resulting strategy. And ensuring engaged contribution occurs brings me onto my second point…..
Let people provide their inputs in the way that suits their style
You, as sustainability professional leading the meetings and workshops, will undoubtedly have your own preferred style. You may also have an idea or ideas on the direction that you’d like or that you think the strategy should go in. Well, for the most engaged participants in your work group and thereby the most full input I recommend just tempering your own styles and preferences a little. For a number of participants, whilst working on strategy will not be new to them particularly if you’re working with people at Executive level, the concept of sustainability and sustainability strategy might well be a relatively new beast.
As such, provide some guidance and then let people input and contribute in the way that best suits their style. It’s the ideas that are important here rather than format, you can you deal with that later on. Which brings to my next couple of points….
Be prepared to adapt and translate inputs
Well, the next obvious step then is to take the information as it has been provided by contributors and form it into whatever format it is that has been agreed in the group. And…..
Visual descriptors, like diagrams and info graphics, work incredibly well to convey complex or multi-faceted concepts very quickly and easily. More so than just words.
It’s true that a picture tells a thousand words. The power a diagram has is incredible and I’ve seen direct evidence of that in the last few months – drawing together the group’s thoughts and ideas and formulating into a succinct, one page diagram has provided invaluable at conveying the group’s collective definition of sustainability and key elements and drivers in the strategy. I’ve had more than one person in the group I’m working with tell me directly that they were struggling to make sense of all the information being discussed in the group, but drawing it all together in one neat diagram made it all very clear and easy for them to understand and see the connections. Such a great method of communication.
Recognise when movement isn’t occurring in an area, which is then when you need to synthesise thoughts and discussions from the group along with your own ideas and formulate into something solid that people can clearly see, feel and understand
So what along with I said with point 2 in letting people make their contributions that suits their style, in balance to that you also need to be very mindful of when you, as the sustainability practitioner, need to step in. Keep an eye on discussions and contributions and watch out for signs that things aren’t moving forwards.
Now things don’t have to be constantly pushing forwards all the time – it’s important that things get a little messy and circle a while, getting all the thoughts out on the table, inspecting them from different angles, having discussion – but there comes a time when things need to be drawn together, tidied up and locked down. And that will need to be up to your own judgment based on timeframes you have and getting a feel for when you feel nothing new or different is coming out and that perhaps the same thoughts are being rehashed.
Then it’s time for you as the sustainability lead to synthesise the discussions and wrap into something solid – be it a definition, objective, KPI or whatever it is that you’re working on. Doing this then allows people to consider something more concrete (especially if it’s a new concept or area for them). You then may get consensus on the item or it may spark some fine tuning to arrive at an outcome that all are in agreement with.
So, folks, those are some of my key thoughts from process I’ve been going through in recent months. We’re wrapping up things in the working group shortly and will be working on the process of going out to the broader business and implementation. I’ll check back in a later date (perhaps October to keep the quarterly thing going) and let you know my reflections on the next phase.