Change Management' The Answer for Waste and Recycling Strategies in the Former U.S.S.R.?

The transitional economies of the countries of the Former Soviet Union are undergoing, or are at least attempting to undergo, a paradigm change as they evolve to the free market economics which prevails throughout the developed world. However, many lack a strategic platform for waste management and recycling. Developing such a strategy within a wider change management context could hold the key to success. By Simon Pow and Adam Read The environmental policy frameworks in the countries of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) have not been immune to the move towards a free market system, with many new policy frameworks introduced in order to set the medium to long term environmental agenda. Delivering the associated policy objectives has, however, been a much more difficult task with many of the policy targets being simply declaratory. This is particularly so in the waste management sector where there has been a lack of effective strategic planning, and a resulting lack of consistency, with investments often seemingly made on an "ad hoc" basis rather than through following a coherent integrated approach. In Astana, Kazakhstan for example, and in the absence of a waste management strategy for the city, a sorting plant for waste recycling was half constructed in the mid 2000's only for work to be subsequently halted in favour of a system involving the segregation and sorting of wastes by the population at source. But there has not been an absolute lack of strategy per se. Some of the FSU countries have national waste management strategies, some have regional, and some have local strategies in place. In each case, the strategies are often impressive documents that contain a wealth of detail, action planning, and should in theory have been successfully implemented. However, the reality is that they're not. This begs the question 'why'? The answer lies in the old maxim "It's not what you do, but the way that you do it". Strategy development needs to be seen within an overall change management context, i.e. the technical development of the strategy itself needs to be augmented with a number of classical change management techniques and tools in order to assure impact and sustainability. What Do We Mean By Change Management? Whenever an organisation wishes to change, it clearly needs a business strategy in place which sets out how this will be achieved in practice. However, no matter how good the strategy, it is just one in a number of actions needed to ensure that such change successfully occurs. These additional elements comprise creating a vision, creating the conditions for successful change, and creating the right culture. Without them, numerous case studies from industry have shown that any change initiative is likely to fail over time. An example is the privatisation of the UK electricity sector in the early 1990s, which necessitated major change on behalf of the employees to cope with the impact of privatisation, with initial strategies due to the strategy being not clearly communicated to stakeholders, and a lack of support by key leaders in the successor organisations. By analogy, it is argued that the development of waste management strategies also requires similar 'change drivers' to be put in place to assure sustainability. The strategy may well provide the framework for structuring the desired change to the existing waste management system, but it is the enaction of these 'supporting' change activities (e.g. a common vision, the right culture etc.) which will make it implementable and appropriate to given conditions. Creating the Vision The first step in this new paradigm is to create the necessary vision which sets out the long-term direction for the waste management system – something which must come before the strategy. The creation of a vision is an iterative process whereby an initial long-term vision for the waste and recycling system needs to be created, and the gap between this desired state and the current waste management practice identified. Strategic options to bridge the gap are then considered and, in doing so, the vision itself is refined. Part of this refining process is to discuss the vision widely across/amongst the strategy's target audience, and to gain stakeholder commitment to the objectives, thereby using the vision as a guiding force for strategy development and implementation. In many ways, the vision can be best described as a beacon shining from a faraway hillside at night that guides travellers to their destination. Travellers can usually only see a few feet ahead but are prevented from getting lost by the beacon. Occasionally the traveller will have to make a detour or sometimes even reverse course, but this is done in the certain knowledge that they still know their ultimate direction. The vision, like the beacon, should therefore shine clearly for all key stakeholders involved in the strategy's development. There are four aspects to constructing such a vision: Mission: This states the strategy's major strategic purpose or reason for existing Valued outcomes: Visions about desired futures often include specific performance and waste management outcomes the strategy would like to achieve. These valued outcomes can serve as goals for the change process and standards for assessing progress Valued conditions: This element involves specifying the activities the strategy should contain to achieve the valued outcomes. These valued conditions help to define a desired future state towards which change activity should move Mid-point goals: mission and vision statements are often quite general and may need to be supplemented with mid-point goals. These represent desirable strategic conditions but lie between the current state and the desired future state. Mid-point goals are clearer and more detailed than desired future states, and thus they provide more concrete and manageable steps and benchmarks for change. One way of viewing the waste management strategy is to see it as a series of links in a chain stretching from the present to the indeterminate future where the strategic vision lies. Each link in the chain represents particular strategies or groups of strategies that the stakeholders adopt to move themselves forward in the light of both their eventual target and the prevailing circumstances of the time. Therefore the links (strategies) are continually forged and re-forged over time. Recycling bins in Astana, Kazakhstan, which has made large strides to overhaul its waste management in recent years Creating the Conditions for Successful Change Implementing strategy often requires change, often quite radical change, in the way that wastes are managed. This usually means that people are required to do new things in new ways, often within new institutional structures to support the new waste and recycling system. For some, hopefully most, this will bring benefits, but for others the reverse may be the case. Thus the change brought about by the strategy involves moving from the known to the unknown with the possibility of loss as well as gain. A readiness for change needs to be created amongst the stakeholders, and an approach adopted which is aware of the possibility/causes of resistance, and deals with these at an early stage. In order to create a readiness for change, there are three steps: Make stakeholders aware of the pressures for change Give regular feedback on the performance of individual functions and areas of activities within the various institutional structures Publicise successful change. If the above steps help to promote a readiness for change, it must also be accepted that other steps need to be taken to deal with any causes of resistance at an early stage, namely to: Understand stakeholder's fears and concerns Encourage communication Involve those affected. Creating the Right Culture Stakeholder involvement plays a crucial role in the success or otherwise in the development /implementation of a new waste management strategy. Achieving successful change towards the desired waste management system can be, and usually is, a long and complex task. There will always be difficult obstacles to overcome, most of which have been anticipated but others which are unexpected. To overcome these, and to develop and maintain the momentum necessary to ensure the strategy is successful, the commitment and support of all stakeholders concerned, especially those who are most closely affected, is paramount. In effect, it requires them to take ownership of the process so that it is their waste strategy and their success. This will not be achieved unless they can be involved in its planning and execution. Involvement in this respect has three facets: Inication – establishing a two way dialogue. This involves not only providing information, but listening to the response and taking it seriously. This has a number of benefits. The strategy development team will very quickly pick up significant worries and concerns, and will be able to respond to these; they will also be made aware of aspects that need to be taken into consideration which have been overlooked; and assumptions which have been made will be tested and sometimes challenged Actual involvement: not everyone can be involved in all aspects of planning and execution, but it may be possible to ensure that those most closely affected are involved in some if not all aspects. Putting Theory Into Practice The central hypothesis is that no matter how technically sound a waste strategy is, the prospects for its implementation will be heavily compromised unless the appropriate supporting conditions are put in place to facilitate the 'change' demanded from all key stakeholders to assure its successful implementation. Facilitating the change requires: Creating the necessary vision Creating the conditions for change Creating the right culture. Successfully achieving these change conditions requires full involvement of all key stakeholders – from beginning to the end – in the strategy development process. Waste at market outside Amrenian genocide memorial Credit: Micha Eli The theory was put to the test under a major four year EuropeAid initiative (Waste Governance – ENPI East) for the countries of the Former Soviet Union – not including Central Asia. One of the central requirements of this four-year technical assistance programme was to develop integrated waste strategies for so called pilot regions within each country. The first step was to establish a cross-stakeholder working group comprising all relevant stakeholders with an interest in the strategy (preceded by a stakeholder analysis to identify the key stakeholders) – the working group contained individuals of high standing within their respective institutions – thereby providing high political backing to the strategy development team. A number of regular meetings were held during the strategy development process between the strategy development team and the consultative group such that, at all stages of the strategy development, the stakeholders were consulted on, and participated in, the various technical, economic, and institutional options contained therein. This forum thereby facilitated the creation of the necessary vision for each region's strategy, the culture required amongst stakeholders for facilitating this change, and by taking on board stakeholders' concerns and aspirations for the new waste management system, ingraining the conditions for successful change itself. Thus, over the 12 month period for the strategy's development, each of these stakeholders "championed" the strategy amongst their own constituents and helped to create the necessary buy-in and ownership to support the necessary changes demanded by the strategy in order to achieve the desired waste management system. At key points/milestones in the development process, "outreach" workshops were held whereby the interim strategy was presented to a wider mix of stakeholder representatives than could be consulted upon within the working group. This was augmented by press conferences and exposure in the local mass media – again with the intention of supporting the vision and creating/encouraging the necessary communication to facilitate and promote the readiness, and need, for change amongst the wider population. This was important because it is the latter whom, through the increased tariffs, will be the ultimate customer of the new waste management system and, if they're to buy into it, then the strategy will need to be appropriate, affordable, and applicable to the local context. Results The approach resulted in the strategies being approved by various governmental decisions in the target countries, thereby opening the door for their financing by both budget funds from within the countries and by International Financial Institutions such as EBRD, World Bank, and the German Development Bank (KfW) . The results were have indeed been impressive in terms of sustainability – in Armenia a €10 million loan from KfW to facilitate the strategy's implementation is in the pipeline subject to the results of a feasibility study currently being undertaken in the Lori region. In Georgia a feasibility study is underway to support an EBRD loan for implementing the strategy for the Kvemo-Kartli region of the country, and in Belarus a feasibility study to support a €6 million loan to the Puhovichy Region for the strategy has been completed and the loan decision now rest with the EBRD board. In Moldova, the strategy has stimulated a major feasibility study funded by GIZ and the Czech Development agency for EIB loan finance. These projects demonstrate that with the right approach to change management, could indeed hold the key for FSU countries as they seek to move towards more modern waste management and recycling strategies. Simon Pow is principal consultant and Adam Read practice director at environmental consultancy Ricardo-AEA More Waste Management World Articles Waste Management World Issue Archives