Green Business Change Management

James Carlopio

Does this sound familiar? Each year you and your team dedicate valuable time and energy to formulating a business plan or strategy paper for your business. You spend significant time researching your markets, gathering data, examining existing strategies and brainstorming new ones. It all seems fine on paper and for the first couple of months progress is checked and reported. Then the realities of business life hit home.

The focus on implementing the new strategies soon diminishes and pretty soon you are back to doing business as usual. And then comes next year's strategy planning day!

Many organisations are stuck in this cycle of planning and writing strategy without gaining much ground in successfully transitioning to new ways of doing business. In fact, Fortune Magazine has estimated that less than 10% of strategies formulated are effectively executed.

Professor James Carlopio, author of the texts Implementation, Changing Gears, Developing Managerial Skills, and Strategy by Design (forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan New York in early 2010) has researched and consulted in this field for over 25 years. He understands the success factors involved in implementing new strategies. He advocates that at the core of successful change and strategy implementation is human behaviour managing people and personalities as well as carefully structuring and managing the environment in which people operate. He can help you make the changes you want to see happen.

For more information or to contact James Carlopio please email him at [email protected]

Initial Implementation Planning #1

We know from decades of research on the topic, that there are several factors that have been shown to be particularly important when implementing workplace innovation and organisational change. The first thing that we know is that the higher the organisational level at which managers define a problem or a need, the greater the probability of successful implementation. At the same time, however, we also know that the closer the definition and solution of problems are to end-users, the greater the probability of successful implementation. This paradox requires consideration and continual management especially in the case of implementing changes to make workplaces more sustainable because without senior management commitment and grass-roots efforts and passion, it will not happen.

For more than twenty years, research related to this paradox has highlighted three major elements that are consistently linked to successful implementation (Bikson & Gutek, 1983; Carlopio, 1998, 2003, Carlopio & Frenkle, 2001; Roman, 1986):

  1. top management must support the effort, but not define the procedures to be used,
  2. the "technicians" involved should provide expertise and resources, but not be in charge of the implementation, and
  3. the "users" should manage the implementation, but must ensure coordination with both top management and technical personnel.

The 'lesson' for us is that if we want the changes we have committed to making related to reductions in energy usage and waste, for example, to actually happen, we must focus on the following three things at the start:

  1. Gaining top management support while ensuring they do not 'micro-manage' and not define how change are to be made.
  2. Ensuring appropriate expertise and resources are available, while insisting technical experts are not in charge of the changes.
  3. Finding, educate, train and support some local (i.e., grass-roots, shop-floor, users) who will act as change "champions" who actually manage the decision-making process, drive the change implementation process, and ensure coordination with both top management and technical experts.


Bikson, T. K. & Gutek, B. A. (1983). Advanced office information technology. Santa Monica, CA., the RAND Corporation.

Carlopio, J. (2003). Changing gears: The strategic implementation of new technology. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Carlopio, J. (1998). Implementation: Making workplace innovation and technical change happen. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.

Carlopio, J. & Frenkle, S. (2001). Managing organizational change. ACT/EMP31, Geneva: International Labour Office.

Roman, D. D. (1986). Managing projects. New York: Elsevier

Initial Implementation Planning #2

After ensuring we have senior managers' support, appropriate technical support and resources, and "shop-floor" involvement and control over the implementation efforts, there are several additional related factors that we must consider at the start of our change projects:

  • Align your change style to the scale of change.
  • Senior management sponsorship and a project champion.
  • Late formalisation of the project.
  • Prototyping and/or pilot projects.

Align your change style to the scale of the changes

The style of change you choose should be consistent with the scope of the changes you are planning. For example, relatively minor, superficial changes take less time and can be done relatively quickly. More radical, profound change, on the other hand, will be much more time consuming and difficult. Transformational change will require a distinctly different change strategy in order to be successful compared to incremental adjustments.

We know that successful organisation-level changes frequently have a good fit between the style of change and the depth of change. Dunphy & Stace (1990) and Stace & Dunphy (1994) found that organisations trying to make profound, transformative corporate-level organisational change (i.e., a very deep change) were more successful if they used a more directive style of change than if they used a more consultative or collaborative style. Although this may at first seem to fly in the face of what is frequently discussed in terms of empowerment, delegation and teams, it is not incompatible. If an organisation requires profound organisation change, it must be hugely out of alignment with its environment. This requires decisive action and must be driven from the top.

Once these major changes have been carried out, however, their research suggests that the more incremental changes that must be carried out at divisional and local levels of the organisation, will be more successful if they are carried out in a more collaborative, participative and consultative manner. Again, this makes sense as the 'emergency' requiring quick and decisive action has been addressed. The significant issue then shifts to gaining commitment to and involvement with local changes. This is more effectively and efficiently carried out via wide participation, collaboration and consultation. Using a more directive style for these types of small or shallow organisational changes could result in massive resistance, dissatisfaction, dysfunction and failure.

Senior management sponsorship and a project champion

As mentioned in Initial Implementation Planning #1, it is necessary to have senior management sponsorship, commitment and involvement. It is also essential that there be, in a relatively senior position, an officially designated project sponsor, along with an appropriate number of more grass-roots, shop-floor project champions. The sponsors and champions do several things. Among the most important things they do are that they: (1) influence the direction of the change project to ensure the changes meet the needs of both the 'shop-floor' personnel and the organisation, and (2) they provide the impetus for implementation of the project (e.g., energy, effort, resources and motivation). The lack of change sponsors and champions is frequently associated with change project failure.

Late formalisation of the project

At this point in the process, we are conducting only our initial implementation planning. Later in the process, we will turn to more detailed implementation planning. At this early stage, it is not beneficial to try to firm-up or formalise too many decisions regarding implementation. Of course we need to make commitments and set goals, but we must keep our minds open and our plans flexible as often this early in a change process, we do not even know what we do not know, so it is not possible to predict what is going to happen and how.

Research suggests that you need to have things happen more fluidly, more creatively and spontaneously, during these early stages of the project's development, if you are going to be successful. You want to be able to change approaches early on based on input and new information from those involved and affected. During the later stages of the process it does become important to formalise your approach and to make some firm decisions.

Prototyping and/or pilot projects

One of the most consistent and important factors leading to change project success is appropriate pilot-testing and prototyping (Carlopio, 2010). Wherever possible, prototyping/pilot projects should be used. Pilot projects that are limited in time, scope and resources, can be used as training grounds, as a show-case, as a proving-ground, and as a test bed in which to experiment. When dealing with complex implementation projects, it is not reasonable to expect that people can get it done perfectly the first time. This can help to reduce risks, and, once successful, can be used as a model and illustration to others.


Carlopio, J. (2010, forthcoming). Strategy by design: A process for strategy innovation. Palgrave Macmillan: New York.

Dunphy, D. & Stace, D. (1990). Under new management. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.

Stace, D. & Dunphy, D. (1994). Beyond the boundaries. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.

Close Map