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The Five Key Components of Sustainability?

The Five Key Components of Sustainability?

At the 2016 PEX & Performance Management Europe conference in Amsterdam, we ran an ‘interactive discussion group’ on the key enablers of sustainability. Participants were given 24 cards, each containing a potential sustainability enabler, that they had to rank in order importance. Sustainability was defined as when new ways of working and improved outcomes become the norm.


Example Sustainability Enabler Cards

In the feedback session they then had to group them into categories and decide on the key components of sustainability that should guide them and inform their approach when implementing lean oriented change.

Their conclusions were compared to the list on a card that had been prepared beforehand (illustrated above) on which we had listed our five key components of sustainability – distilled from a variety of studies and research on the topic.

Not surprisingly (and just as well), the group’s deliberations did align very closely to the card, with the main conclusion being the critical importance on the people and leadership – or soft – factors.

lean-icebergWe referenced the Lean Iceberg Model during the feedback session and discussed the importance of focusing on the enabling factors at the same time as using the tools and techniques to improve processes if sustainable change was to be achieved..

The credit card sized list was given as a workshop take-away, hopefully to serve as a colourful, visual reminder and prompt.

Reducing the list to only five words is attractive in terms of memorability and simplicity, though whether these particular five words are the best ones is arguable and while there is no right or wrong answer, it would be interesting to get other’s thoughts on the five words they would choose.

A learning from the session is that these days lean managers and practitioners are very much aware that you have to get the enabling – ‘beneath the waterline’ factors right if you want to succeed with and sustain change. Having the right words that clarify and direct is, of course, just the first step – and being able turn those words into deeds is the real challenge!


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