The Theme of Sustainability
NOTE: This is the ninth in a series of Weekly Briefings on nine major themes for implementing organizational change found in academic journals. We are looking for clues to answer the question, “Why do some men’s discipleship programs succeed while others languish or fail?” For now, I leave it to you to apply these general summaries to your men’s discipleship program. You can also apply the themes more broadly to change your business, your church, or even your family.
Course One at Man in the Mirror’s Leadership Training Center is, “Building a Sustainable Men’s Ministry.” One of the top issues for men’s discipleship programs is, “How do we sustain what we have begun?” The final theme of implementation is to sustain the change by “routinizing” new habits (Ayas & Zeniuk, 2001; Linton, 2002).
What is sustainability? Sustainability is the process by which a new idea or innovation becomes adopted, implemented, adapted, and normalized in an organization. Synonyms for sustainability abound. Johnson, Hays, Center, and Daley (2004) found eleven terms used to describe the continued use of an innovation or program. Sustainability and institutionalization were used most often. Other synonyms include confirmation, continuation, durability, routinization, stabilization, critical mass, integration, adoption, and sustained use.
Sustainability should be part of the initial planning process (Johnson et al., 2004). The ability to routinize new practices was a factor for implementing a continuous improvement program (Beer, 2003). Changes can be institutionalized by helping people see how the organization has benefited, and by insuring leadership successors are true believers who will perpetuate the transformation (Kotter, 1995).
Pluye et al. (2004) completed a meta-analysis of literature on sustainability that identified six factors to sustain a program that has been implemented:
- efficacy — the program works,
- perception of efficacy,
- concomitancy — planning for how the program will be sustained as part of the original planning process,
- gaining support from key personnel,
- enfold the new program into organizational routines,
- make needed adjustments along the way.
The authors noted that some programs deserve to fail, but others fail that deserve to succeed. All six factors were found important, but first among equals was the routinization factor (#5).
Sustainability is not so much a stage as it is a point in time when the implementation of an organizational change initiative can be declared “routine” or “abandoned.”
In summary, having a plan to routinize the planned change initiative is a major theme in the literature. Related implementation factors include making sustainability part of the planning process, helping people see how the organization has benefited from the change, and enfolding the change into the routines of the organization.
In the next Weekly Briefing I’ll do a summary of these nine themes and make a few suggestions for how you can make this work for you.
For the glory of Christ and no other reason,
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