Enabling sustainability through an action research process of organisational development
CITATION: Hind, P., Smit, A. & Page, N. 2013. Enabling sustainability through an action research process of organisational development. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 2013(49):137-161, doi:10.9774/GLEAF.4700.2013.ma.00010
The original publication is available at http://gse.publisher.ingentaconnect.com
The purpose of this paper is to report the results of a study exploring a unique learning process leading to leader led organisational change with a sample of South African SMEs from different sectors. The paper investigates a specific developmental methodology designed to enable leaders to explore the structures and processes within their organisations that are most conducive or resistant to the evolution of responsible leadership within a framework of unique emergent sustainability strategies. An action research approach using a structured workbook was adopted to support leaders of SMEs in the discovery, planning and execution of sustainability projects within their organisation. An exploratory cycle of inquiry was undertaken using experimentation and reflection and allowed companies to embed specific practices within their business operations and learn collectively from their own and other SMEs experiences. The findings indicate that action research is an appropriate process for initiating and supporting new sustainability management practices in organisations. The collective inquiry, which supported organisations to implement changes and network with each other, identified a broadly applicable model of sustainable business underpinned by values-based leadership, open communication and stakeholder engagement. Specifically, the unique priorities and context of each business were important for developing each organisation's concept of sustainability and fostering engagement with sustainability projects. The development of responsible leadership and sustainability in SMEs is an under-investigated area in the literature and the results offer practical development advice to smaller companies seeking to embed sustainable strategies through responsible leadership. Through a number of action research iterations tangible progress was made in both awareness and implementation of sustainability management in the organisation. The process involved a learning journey for the managers involved leading towards organisational change.
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