Driving organisational transformation

Practices, technologies and culture

Practices

It is critical to design and implement operational practices that align with organisational purpose and strategy. Operational practices can include “product design and eco-design, adoption of environmental and social standards, process improvement and lean operations, purchasing, supply chain management (SCM), logistics including recycling and closed-loop systems, performance measurement and risk management” (Walker et al., 2014:554).

To decarbonise business activities, organisations should identify what needs to be done to reach net zero targets. This includes developing management systems to achieve desired decarbonisation outcomes and implementing monitoring and reporting on those outcomes. A long-term perspective is fundamental to decarbonising business models; however, it introduces risks and uncertainties. To mitigate risks and identify opportunities, systems thinking and service design can be implemented:

  • Systems thinking: Systems thinking and integrative design “views ‘problems’ as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific parts, outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences” (Ripp & Rodwell, 2016). The University of Cambridge Foreseer Project is an example of a systems thinking approach.
  • Service design: This can enable organisations to shift towards circular business models by focusing on the transition from product-based value generation to systemic concepts that rely on pure services, or on product- and service-based components (Morelli, 2003).

Technologies

Technology and innovation play a key role in driving organisational transformation to reach net zero targets. In Module 6, we defined innovation as the process of creating value by applying novel solutions to existing problems or future opportunities. Technology and innovation can influence an organisation’s capabilities in efficiency, communication, accessing new customers and connecting employees effectively. Technology can also be an external factor that influences organisational culture.

Culture

Redefining the cultural values of an organisation is vital in order to transform it. Different types of organisational structures (ie bureaucratic, hierarchical or monolithic) influence an organisation’s culture. Conventional businesses have tended to develop hierarchical structures designed to maximise efficiency and profit. Sustainable, purpose-driven organisations enable devolved leadership around organisational purpose, allowing more agile decision-making that optimises value creation by balancing the interests of stakeholders.

It is important to recognise that organisations, their cultures and employees do not operate in isolation from the rest of the world. External forces both affect and are affected by an organisation’s operations and can be categorised as strategic and cultural. The strategy of an organisation, for example, regulation, technical innovation and recession and boom periods, can be impacted by political, legal, regulatory, socio‐economic, environmental, technical and industry-specific and market forces. Cultural forces influence the motivation and behaviour of employees and set expectations for how organisations and people act. This includes geographical cultures, religions, socio‐economic backgrounds and social norms (CISL, 2019).

Pause and reflect:

Reflect on a project where your organisation has reviewed sustainable supply chain models, products or services to decarbonise business activities. Consider how your organisation could ensure that operational activities align with the following criteria:

  • Robustness: Can the system withstand, resist, endure or tolerate changes without adapting or taking further necessary actions?
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Can the system accommodate, adapt or react to changes by easily modifying the current direction or configuration?
  • Resilience: If the system is disrupted temporarily, can it survive and return to where it was?

(Blockley et al., 2012; Kubisch et al., 2006)