Martin Gibson - Head of Operations
This article was originally posted on 2degrees - https://www.2degreesnetwork.com/ on 07.03.14
I once led a project that helped businesses to come to terms with environmental issues. This was back in the 1990’s when most businesses didn't deal with environmental issues in their day-to-day operations. However, things were changing and the Welsh Office had set up a project to help lead the way.
One of the things we helped with was the, then new, idea of environmental management. A do-it-yourself guide to environmental management systems had been released and we asked some of the businesses we were helping if they wanted to have a go at using it.
The guide was easy to read and well set out. It told companies what they needed to do to put in an environmental management system. As part of our project, we gave a number of companies the guide, asked them to get started and arranged a visit for a few weeks later. All of the project leaders in the companies were keen to get started.
When we went back a few weeks later, we were disappointed to find that none of the companies had made much progress. We went through the first steps with them, explained how to do things and arranged to meet them again a few weeks later.
You may not be surprised to know that on the second visit, the companies had made progress on the issues that we’d covered with them but hadn't gone any further. We soon came to realise that the do-it-yourself guide told them what to do but now how to do it.
Since then, I have taken to heart the message of having to help people with the ‘how-to-do-it’. However, not everyone needs to know how to do something. Some people already know how to do the things that they are being asked to do. It may seem obvious to you but it took me a while to recognise this as competence. Nowadays, we are often asked to demonstrate that someone has the skills to be competent in a particular task or approach. This was rarely asked 20 years ago (or at least, it was rarely asked in such direct terms).
If someone doesn't have competence, it is imperative to provide how-to-do-it information to help them with what they need to do. This can be through formal training but is often communicated through written guides or informal coaching. Putting this type of guidance into written information is not always easy. However, when I was in charge of the now defunct Envirowise programme, I tried to ensure that the guides would be useful for people who weren’t competent but were capable. On the whole, I think we did a pretty good job. If you would like an electronic copy of one of the Envirowise guides on Environmental Management Systems to judge for yourself, please email me. The guides are available for free but harder to find than they used to be.