Change and Sustainability: A Manager’s Perspective

By David Harary, Executive Director

Over any given period of time, change can be extremely stressful for humans and animals alike. Whether it be abrupt, or over the long-term, making adaptations can be upsetting in any capacity. However, failure to adapt to changes can result in catastrophic consequences for people and organizations. From Blockbuster to Blackberry, there are countless examples of businesses that fail to adapt in a way conducive towards their future success.


“Organizations may then potentially miss out on opportunities that allow them to enhance their credibility, stature, awareness, and even market share.”




Researchers have shown that social paradigm shifts occur at an exponential rate. Today, adaptations will become ever more needed, apparent, and personal in our lives. This will be extremely important for millennials as they become accustomed to new situations and technologies. Regarding the long-term sustainability of communities and organizations, people will have to make sacrifices even if they want to continue along their desired paths. Resiliency will therefore become increasingly important as the occurrence of natural disasters rises and resource supplies shift over the coming years.


A key question for managers assessing the long-term viability of their organizations is exactly when to change. Because changes bring along both personal stress and organizational uncertainty, managers are often resistant to new adjustments unless the situation is dire and urgent. Accordingly, leaders of organizations tend to favor the status quo and have a bias against creativity, innovation, and modifications. Organizations may then potentially miss out on opportunities that allow them to enhance their credibility, stature, awareness, and even market share.


For example, the majority of car manufacturers in the United States are currently undergoing adjustments in their development, production, and operations systems. That’s because of electric vehicle manufactures, like Tesla, have completely disrupted their market. By failing to adopt next generation technologies and innovating their products from the ground up, these car manufacturers will likely lose total market share and total asset value over the next 5-10 years.


Lastly, managers who seek to implement change in their organizations must first break down several barriers towards advancement. This includes breaking down current cultures, ideologies, systematic structures, and reward mechanisms that are toxic towards the long-term success of the organization. Managers must also sustain a lasting vision for their organization in order to maintain leadership and integrity. Remaining focused on such desired outcomes can help managers achieve their goals to make their organizations more sustainable and thriving.

David is the Executive Director of the Center for Development and Strategy. He is currently a graduate student in Sustainability Management at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Management and Innovation and is a Strategic Partnerships Intern with NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program in Washington, D.C.