Challenging Situations

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Making change happen means facing up to challenges then overcoming the obstacles.   Skilled people can help, often using proven change models

Bold headings below describe typical challenging situations that need to be faced to make progress towards sustainable development. If you recognise any of these in your situation click on an underlined item or name to find a source of help. Alternatively look at the skilled people or practical examples to find relevant help. See also overcoming obstacles.

Attitudes and beliefs: the attitudes, assumptions and beliefs that prevailed in the past and helped to create the problems the world now faces need to be re-examined and modified as a pre-requisite to lasting solutions. Several skilled people can help, including: Ballard, Friend, Lowe, Lustig, Martin, McGeeney, Nixon, Palese, Sadler and Shovelton,

Behaviour change: there are many ways in which people at all levels need to adjust their behaviour in order to work effectively with sustainable development (SD). Contact Paul Maiteny

Boundary management: managing across organisational and departmental boundaries becomes more relevant as the search for sustainable development becomes more widespread, many situations can only be tackled effectively when several organisations work together. Several skilled people specialise in this area, including Ballard, Friend, Hickling, Martin, Nixon, Sadler and Shovelton using a variety of methods

Change management: organisations have been undergoing continuous change for many years; now there is a new impetus coming from the challenge of sustainable development and this is adding new demands for people at every level. Several skilled people specialise in this area including, Heeks, Llewellyn, Palmer, Smith

Coaching of managers: senior managers, especially, need to be effective when dealing with the new challenges that arise from the pursuit of sustainable development. Individual coaching helps them to deal with new, complex situations with greater confidence and more effectively. Contact Paul Hunting.

Communication skills: many senior managers need to communicate effectively when talking to their people or the media about sensitive issues related to sustainable development. Many of the skilled people can help.

Competency analysis: as the subject of sustainable development evolves it reveals the need for new areas in which competent people are required and these sustainable development competencies need to be defined

Conflict resolution: many situations relating to sustainable development reveal deep seated conflicts and divergent opinions that need to be resolved to make progress. Contact Allen Hickling

Consensus building: when people contribute to solutions their commitment to implementation is stronger. This has been demonstrated in the Middle East, South Africa and Northern Ireland - despite the difficulties these communities still face from extremists. The creation of sustainable communities can be helped by consensus building and the vision of a sustainable future. Contact Hickling or Leith.

Course design: managers who have taken on new responsibilities, such as environment or social responsibility, often run courses they have designed themselves. Sometimes professional help with course design can enrich the learning opportunities leading to better results when they return to work. Contact Andy McGeeney

Creativity and innovation: business opportunities for new products and services leads naturally to the need for creative and innovative design of buildings, goods and services that match the demands of sustainable development. Contact Martin Charter.

Culture change: as organisations devise their sustainable development strategy the need to re-align the culture of the organisation usually follows. Contact Philip Sadler

Deep Ecology: Motivation and commitment to environmental change is enhanced when people tap into their deeper connections to the Natural world. Deep ecology is an holistic approach using participative processes.Contact Andy McGeeney

Designing new products: the design requirements of sustainable development is an area of work that is gaining momentum as the realisation of its importance grows and opportunities are identified. Contact Martin Charter.

EcoManagement: In order to effectively introduce SD into an organisation there needs to be a culture shift from environmental management which deals with specific issues from a technical perspective to a deeper understanding of how the business fits into the ecology of the world and future trends, this is EcoManagement. With this new paradigm comes a set of values which are holistic, systemic, and global in outlook. Lowe, McGeeney and Palese have a particular interest in this area

Empowering people: delegation of responsibility often means that people at many levels need to learn how to cope with being empowered to take decisions in new areas and need help to come to terms with new challenges arising from sustainable development

EMAS: Eco-management and Audit Scheme (European Union) is three years old, is being broadened to cover all sectors and made more user friendly. During implementation organisations are being encouraged to undertake stakeholder consultation. There is an EMAS help desk on the web.

Frontiers and futures: work at the frontiers of knowledge is now occurring in many organisations as they re-position themselves for a future that will be different. Contact Eddie Palmer

Influencing skills training: many people take on new roles as organisations move towards sustainable development. This often requires young people, often with limited formal authority, to exert influence on those who are both more senior and have considerable business experience. Contact Andy McGeeney.

Information technology: IT has its own momentum for rapid change. There are many ways in which it is relevant for sustainable development, such as video conferencing, email, web site design, new databases, networking and improved information technology systems in general. Contact Martin White

Large group work: large numbers of people often have to be briefed and/or involved in changes stimulated by sustainable development. The design of effective large group meetings is in great demand and a range of options for how these meetings can be run effectively is available. Contact Martin Leith or Rosemary Shovelton.

Leadership skills: sustainable development leadership is urgently needed although the situations being faced are hard to define and even harder to solve. This requires leaders who are comfortable with not knowing all the answers and capable of developing ideas for action working participatively with others. Several skilled people specialise in this area including Ballard, Molden, Nixon and Sadler

Mediation: an effective mediator leads people in dispute towards solutions they create for themselves and avoids recourse to arbitration which imposes decisions. Sustainable development challenges sometimes require people to solve their own problems and mediation can help do so

Mentoring is a good way to help key people gain confidence when they take up new responsibilities especially if they are establishing a job that has never been done before. Contact Mike Turner.

Negotiating skills: complex issues relating to sustainable development that involve two or more parties require people with well-developed negotiating skills to achieve lasting solutions. Win-win, rather than win-lose, can be achieved by skilful people and these skills can be learned. Those specialising in this type of training include Andy McGeeney and Sheppard Moscow Development Services.

Organisational transformation: many business leaders recognise that organisational transformation, with skilful professional help, is required to meet the challenge of sustainable development. Contact Hunting, Sadler.

Outdoor learning: this takes on new meaning as people everywhere strive to understand better how ecology works, what it can and cannot tolerate and how to work more co-operatively with local communities

Scenario planning: companies such as Shell International make much use of future scenarios when developing their business strategy and this is now recognised as a useful way to build commitment to changing business priorities. See also Which World? by Allen Hammond.

Social auditing: acceptance of the wider responsibilities of business leads to questions about how to measure results and social auditing has emerged to fill this need

Stakeholders: as organisations acknowledge their responsibility to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, they seek to work effectively with them - this is seldom easy but is being done in order to develop the agenda for sustainable development with other interested parties. Richard Harris has a particular interest in stakeholder dialogue.

Strategy formulation: re-defining organisation strategy is in demand not just for companies but for departments as re-alignment to face new challenges takes place. This is also happening in the public sector. Several skilled people specialise in this area including: Friend, Knight, Leith, Martin, Pollock, Sadler and Shovelton

Teamwork development: new teams are being formed to work out how to move towards sustainable development. Some organisations establish 'permanent' teams others prefer project teams, cross-functional groups or a task force. They all have a common need to 'get up to speed' quickly and many of the skilled could help if required. Most of the skilled people can help.

Tomorrow's company: the Centre for Tomorrow's Company provides an effective approach to meet the challenge of  the 21st Century by increasing competitiveness, adopting an inclusive approach and changing from a focus on 'transactions' to 'relationships'.

Uncertainty: decisions are deferred when uncertainty prevails; dealing with uncertainty is an area for learning that is becoming increasingly important as the quantity and range of dilemmas grows. Contact Allen Hickling.

Vision and Values: the attention given by the media to ethical matters has led some organisations to re-think their vision and values, using this route for fundamental change that is consistent with sustainable development. Contact Allen Heeks

Whole systems change: many organisations now know that a piecemeal approach to change is unsatisfactory. The best way to achieve integration of new strategies, policies, processes and procedures is to adopt a whole systems approach. Several skilled people specialise in this approach: Friend, Lowe, Nixon, and Sadler

More information about how to contact people and organisations who offer relevant skills is available from the Association for Management Education and Development (AMED) web site or by email, ask for a copy of their Consultancy Listing.

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Last modified 26 August 1999