Identify Institutional Change Rules for Sustainability
It is important to analyze formal and informal workplace rules governing the behavior of individuals and organizations to meet a Federal agency's institutional change goals for sustainability. It is also important to determine how these rules actually affect people filling different roles in the organization, and how they mesh with the technologies, systems, and processes that constitute tools. To change behavior affected by rules or to develop or modify rules intended to achieve particular behavioral outcomes, you should:
- Identify formal and informal rules
- Map new or modified formal and informal rules
- Ask employees how change will affect them
- Change the institutional context to support desired actions
- Check adjustment of informal rules to formal rule changes.
Identify Formal and Informal Rules
First, identify the formal and informal rules that shape current or desired behaviors. This includes checking the extent to which they align with one another in support of your agency's sustainability objectives. You may want to conduct this rule identification in conjunction with discerning how the rules map onto particular roles. Agencies' formal written rules pertain to facilities, technologies, and policies. They include executive orders, regulations, and agency policies, as well as internal directives pertaining to things like purchasing supplies, formatting reports, and leaving food in the refrigerator. These written rules tend to be easily referenced and used to shape behavior in job roles.
However, formal rules don't always translate into desired or consistent patterns of behavior. That's because there is sometimes conflict between or among rules, such as powering down computers overnight to save energy versus leaving them on so software can be "pushed" to them overnight. Other reasons for to the gap between formal rules and actual behavior include cumbersome or time-consuming efforts needed to comply or lack of enforcement. How people and organizations respond to these circumstances create the informal rules that govern workplace behavior.
Informal, unwritten rules are tacit knowledge about "how things are done" in an organization. They exert powerful influences on behavior and dictate which formal rules have precedence in practice and what behaviors are expected or acceptable. Examples of tacit knowledge are particular managers' preferences and priorities, such as what constitutes "appropriate" arrival or departure times, arrangements for parking, eating, or any patterned behavior in which energy use is embedded. It may be helpful to think about connections between rules and roles in terms of staff who have the authority to make or change rules, who manage rule implementation, and who are expected to follow the rules.
In identifying formal and informal rules, it is important to look at the organization as an interconnected system to diagnose the alignment and disconnects between and among formal and informal rules to assess whose behavior needs to change (such as facility managers and building occupants or computer users and information technology staff) and what combination of strategies is best suited to achieve the desired ends.
Map New or Modified Formal and Informal Rules
Next, map a new set of formal and informal rules that can support a desired set of behaviors that will achieve specified energy- or resource-saving outcomes. New or modified formal and informal rules may vary in terms of where within or outside the organization the authority to make or change rules lies. Thus, some changes may be implemented in the near term within the agency or department, with more and perhaps larger changes targeted for the timeframe in which external rules can be changed.
For example, the Navy's Regional Southwest Metro San Diego Area energy management team needed to report energy use at all of its facilities per Federal requirements. The agency also wanted to provide dashboards in building lobbies and had set a schedule for installing electricity submeters in its buildings. One building has a large computer server load that dwarfed several of the other loads in the building. The agency created rules that separated the server load from the total electricity consumption so the building managers and occupants could—in theory—see their energy use and any associated changes due to their actions.
Ask Employees How Change Will Affect Them
Talking to employees whose behavior will influence the ability to establish, maintain, or implement a targeted change in the planning stages—before determining what actions to take—can resolve potential problems and generate ideas for better pathways to change. Instead of an "announce and defend" tactic, engage in participatory ways to meet goals.
Further, simply because a rule exists does not mean it will be followed consistently or in the intended ways. So, for instance, in addition to office workers, it is important to engage other relevant categories of staff such as building and energy managers, custodians, information technology and cyber security managers, procurement officers, and others who have an impact on the energy, water, and waste of the facility.
Change the Institutional Context to Support Desired Actions
Consider how to change the institutional context so it is easier for employees to conform to the new or targeted rules than continue with old patterns of behavior. Changing the context is partially about rules (such as reducing paper use by printing on both sides of paper), partially about tools (such as easily accessible, well-maintained duplex printers), and partially about roles such as managers and supervisors who lead and visibly show the importance they place on the rule through their example. Further, individual rules may be part of a portfolio of energy-saving strategies that improve the workplace. Changing the institutional context—or culture—takes time and is a multistage process.
Check Adjustment of Informal Rules to Formal Rule Changes
One way to gauge the extent to which new or modified rules are governing behavior is to ask staff directly or to talk with staff in roles connected to the behaviors of interest, such as maintenance staff. Because what people say they do may differ from their actual behaviors, observing behavior is another important way to determine the extent to which new practices are taking place. An evening walk through an office space can show whether monitors and other equipment are powered down. Metering or other forms of monitoring also can be used to compare before-and-after impacts of formal or informal rule changes regarding energy or resource use.
- Step 1
- Step 2
Identify Rules, Roles, and Tools
- Step 3
Develop an Action Plan
- Step 4
Implement an Action Plan
- Step 5
Measure and Evaluate
Refine or Set New Goals