During the course of my environmental management consulting work, I have come across a number of situations where it was quite clear that the client had no idea how environmental management featured in his business. That was a hindrance to his deluge of instructions and requirements to me, his environmental consultant. I was not given a chance to say anything, but told exactly what I was supposed to do….which, of course, had nothing to do with environmental management in the company.
People’s perceptions of what needs to be done often bear no relationship to what ACTUALLY needs to be done. We are all familiar with the story of the King’s New Clothes where two scoundrels convince the King that they have made him a splendid new set of clothes which can only be seen by clever people. The king, rather than admit that he can’t see them (and therefore is not clever) raves about how good they are. The whole situation snowballs until all the king’s courtiers, rather than admit stupidity, acknowledge that their naked king is wearing wonderful clothes. The deception is finally broken when a small boy, who has not been told of the characteristics of the clothes, cries out in the middle of a grand parade through the streets with hundreds watching, “Look! The king is not wearing any clothes!”
How many times do we follow “blind alleys” and wrong policy directions because the leader or manager “has got it wrong” but no one is willing to present him with the facts to get him back on track again?
It takes responses from both sides. The leader must be willing to accept constructive criticism and the followers must have the appropriate facts or consultants available. This is a common management problem but it is compounded in an environmental context because “everyone knows what environment is and how to do environmental management” so everyone feels they know what needs to be done.
The environmental consultant is not always right but if he is experienced, he can provide valuable perspectives, inputs, new ideas and plans…..if he’s given the chance…..