Sustainability of change, of cultural initiatives, of well intentioned corporate improvements is the key challenge. We are all quite energetic at initiating, creating a good push, setting great bonfires, and then quietly resigning to a prolonged fading. It’s the tyranny of the one-off, of the big push, of the country house/convention centre jamboree, the ritual of the entire tribe praying for rain.
All those are the easy part. The hard part is to develop, scale and sustain. As obvious as night follows day, we don’t pay a lot of attention to that.
In the absence of a good track record of ‘sustaining’ in the world of organizational change and transformation, it may sound silly to promote the ‘not too much sustainable’ idea. When we have zero, it seems stupid to promote a ‘please do not overdo it’.
However, it needs to be said. Sustainability per se, a great breakthrough compared with what we have now, is not a desired state either. Too sustainable cultures are rigid cultures, where written rules dominate and flexibility is poor. The ‘sustainability but not too much’ implies that a sustainable-like change has built in reboot mechanisms, reality checks, self-calibrating measures, and healthy deviations.
‘Healthy sustainable’ today is a beta state where stuff happens, things move, achievements take place, it’s not a rehearsal, but not everything is finished, done, accounted for, mapped and run like a piece of machinery.
The unfinished, beta, evolving, journey-like, state of the organization is a healthier one. The state of ‘sustainable but not too much’ needs to cater for slack, ambiguity, rapid reaction, experimentation, imperfection and emergent.
Plus a good supply of valium for the old guard.