D1 – Using Organizational Theory to Overcome Challenges of Implementing Sustainability

Cumberland 1/2

Organizations successful in achieving sustainability goals create an organizational context that produces innovative ideas (considered a strength of organic or learning organizations), along with an organizational context that effectively manages and implements continuous change (considered a strength of bureaucratic organizations). There is no clear formula for how much of each is needed, bureaucratic over organic, only that both are. In a bureaucracy, when tasks are mandated from on high, they get done. In an organic/learning organization, individuals feel empowered to change the course of not just their functional specialization, but the overall mission and how the pieces inter-relate. Both are needed for sustainability.

What do we mean by “bureaucratic?” Bureaucratic characteristics include hierarchical reporting chains, formalized roles and responsibilities, and functional separation. All of which are necessary to deal with large size and complex missions. Even though your organization is bureaucratic, in order for sustainability efforts to take hold and be successful, you will have to find ways of working within and around these attributes to get the job done. In particular, you will have to motivate staff to go beyond what is “required.” This session will provide insights from Organization Theory that are often overlooked when launching sustainability efforts. In particular, we will review what bureaucratic structures and cultures do (and don’t do) in support of sustainability. We will challenge participants to identify what is bureaucratic about their workplace and how this impacts what they do. We will then explore how one of the United States Army Medical Command’s hospitals tackles these challenges.