A Lesson in Change Management from David Attenborough and the BBC?

By Mark Vincent

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Sea Of Plastic

Many good change causes continue to struggle to make progress quickly enough, from homelessness to action on climate change. In business you may have also seen many critical and seemingly obvious initiatives either stop altogether or happen way too slowly, sometimes leading to profit warnings or ultimate failure of the company. An all too familiar headline recently.

It’s all too easy to fall into the thinking that change is just too hard because people in general resist change. It’s just the way things are. Often the approach is to put more command and control structures and “change management” processes in place to push the change through.

Sometimes, we just need to stop for a moment and look at what does work.

I remember seeing the social media short video from the BBC’s excellent Blue Planet documentary. It showed what looked like an endless sea of plastic floating in our oceans. I remember exactly where I was when I saw it, in a hotel room where I was staying on business. I nearly dropped my phone in horror and looked at the plastic bottle I had in my hand with disgust. I couldn’t believe we were doing this to ourselves.

What’s happened since has been very interesting. Single use plastic has become a thing and one by one, large organisations are feeling moved to do something. There has been a steady stream of companies announcing their plans on plastic, starting of course with the usual names we would expect. But others are also starting to feel that if they don’t do something it isn’t going to be good business. I’ll bet the topic appears on the strategic agenda for most businesses that produce or use plastic. Initiatives to clean up the mess have also kicked into action with some incredibly innovative projects forging ahead. And then just recently McDonald’s announced that they would ditch plastic straws in the UK and Ireland from September this year, saving our oceans from 1.8 million straws per day.

A change that matters is happening. And the good news is it isn’t a one-off. It can be replicated for any change worth doing.

So next time you are facing high resistance, to a change you feel is important, try putting PowerPoint and Excel aside for a minute and consider what you may be able to learn from the Blue Planet video.

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