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Achieving Sustainability Through Culture Change. Dr. Christopher Payne Research Scientist June 15, 2011. What is Culture?. Shared system of values Values encoded in technologies and practices Organizational culture shapes employee decision-making

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Achieving sustainability through culture change

Achieving SustainabilityThrough Culture Change

Dr. Christopher Payne

Research Scientist

June 15, 2011

What is culture
What is Culture?

  • Shared system of values

  • Values encoded in technologies and practices

  • Organizational culture shapes employee decision-making

  • Organizations also embed values in policies and business systems

How does culture change
How Does Culture Change?

  • With difficulty….

  • Strong leadership necessary to challenge existing culture

  • Integration with existing values easier, but sometimes not possible

  • Policies, processes, and technologies must change to support desired shift in values

Leadership must pursue change
Leadership Must Pursue Change

  • It must be seen as allowable, even encouraged, to have the values and standards of practice challenged and altered.

  • Three areas of focus:

    • Rules

    • Roles

    • Tools


  • Organizational policies must support desired culture change. These policies are operative at multiple levels:

    • Executive Orders

    • DOE Orders and Notices

    • Leadership attention and data collection

    • Individual employee training, standards of practice, etc.


  • Every employee contributes to shared values

  • Not every employee contributes to specific outcomes

  • Explicit roles need to be defined at both the strategic and tactical levels to align DOE mission objectives with integration of sustainability

  • Give appropriate focus to players who have greatest impact


  • Organizational culture is embedded in the way we work:

    • training (both explicit and received wisdom)

    • review systems,

    • business software,

    • even content of forms

Culture change requires coherence
Culture Change Requires Coherence

All of the previous issues:

  • Leadership

  • Rules

  • Roles

  • Tools

    must work in harmony to achieve lasting change

Existing values
Existing Values

  • DOE’s existing organizational culture has at least three elements that can support the incorporation of sustainability:

  • “Science and technology lie at the heart of our mission”

  • “We will treat our people as our greatest asset”

  • “We will succeed only through teamwork and continuous improvement”

Existing value science technology
Existing Value: Science & Technology

  • What is the shared value of science?

  • The Scientific Method

    • Observation

    • Hypothesis

    • Experimentation

    • Analysis

    • Refinement of Theory

      Circular pattern of continuous improvement

Existing value people
Existing Value: People

  • Safety Culture Improvement

    • Assess current state

    • Envision future state

    • Plan transition

    • Implement changes

    • Sustain & improve

      Circular pattern of continuous improvement

Existing value teamwork
Existing Value: Teamwork

  • Integration of individual action into shared outcome

  • “…continuous improvement.”

    Circular pattern of continuous improvement

New value sustainability
New Value: Sustainability

  • Sustainability shares this concept of a circular pattern of continuous improvement

  • ISO 14001: Plan – Do – Check - Act

How to operationalize
How to Operationalize

  • Set quantifiable targets with meaningful metrics

  • Engage staff in how to meet or exceed targets

  • Make public commitments to specific actions

  • Provide feedback on progress at meaningful levels

  • Consequences for performance

  • Continuously review “SOP” with eye to removing barriers

Common pitfalls
Common Pitfalls

  • Siloed approach

  • No clear vision

  • Lack of information/feedback

  • Insufficient mechanisms for learning


  • Culture is a powerful force. It helps define who we are.

  • Changing culture can be difficult.

  • Culture change is possible (and necessary)

  • The impact of creating new cultural norms can have a profound and lasting impact

Hypothetical exercise 1
Hypothetical Exercise #1

  • Think about your work group – the people with whom you interact on a daily basis. What one thing could you convince your group to try that would enhance DOE Sustainability?

Hypothetical exercise 2
Hypothetical Exercise #2

  • Think about the group of people in this room. You share common rules, roles, and tools within DOE. What one thing could this group do to change a rule, a role, or a tool to “bake in” sustainability?

Hypothetical exercise 3
Hypothetical Exercise #3

  • Exchange business cards with a person near you. On the card, commit to one action you will take to enhance sustainability. Share the results of that action with your colleague in one month.

Questions perhaps answers
Questions & (perhaps) Answers

Christopher Payne, Ph.D.

Research Scientist / Leader, Washington DC Office

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

901 D Street, SW #950

Washington, DC 20024

(202) 488-2252