In the first of two features on change management within energy management, James Brittain, Director of the Discovery Mill, offers insights and practical guidance to help organisations translate energy strategy and theory into successful action points.

Why change?

According to The Carbon Trust, businesses in the UK still waste on average 30% of the energy they buy; and this costs UK business billions of extra pounds every year. The UK’s Clean Growth Strategy (Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, 2017) asks UK businesses and industry to achieve at least 20% improvements in energy efficiency by 2030 to help stimulate economic growth while reducing UK carbon emissions.

Many organisations are trying to “do the right thing” by developing policies and investing in energy saving technology, but this is not the total solution and many companies are struggling to realise the savings expected. An ISO 50001 energy management system approach is welcomed to help support organisations take a systematic approach to continual improvement and to assure against compliance requirements — it provides the top-down structures. However, this is also often just the beginning of the process.

Organisations that have got it right have discovered you need to think about the people side of delivering change. By taking a people-led change programme approach to energy management, organisations can effectively deliver bigger energy savings at minimal investment cost, lock in savings year-on-year and become leaders in their industries. This is an incremental process. Savings of at least 3% year-on-year are easily possible, even within complex estates and without much investment, with some projects delivering much larger reductions in specific targeted areas of use.

The vision: energy management through people

According to change management guru Kotter, 7 out of 10 organisational change initiatives fail or fall short of their objectives. This holds true for energy management: better energy efficiency is often not seen as being interesting and is not well understood. Organisations typically rely too much on “one-way” awareness-raising campaigns and “top-down” standards and assurance processes. The odds can greatly improve if you invest in the formula for success.

The most effective way to deliver big change is to promote an energy leadership approach, taken on by people throughout an organisation, ie not just the CEO and directors. To work, people and staff need to be empowered to lead and be able to learn from their experiences and mistakes, making the most of their local expertise and creativity. It is these everyday champions who are the real success-makers.

There are many different models that organisations can draw upon to help them manage change and grow leadership capabilities. For example, at the Discovery Mill, we have developed a proven approach to support organisations deliver big change. “Energy management through people” was born out of success and, while it is grounded in many of the usual principles of effective change management, it has been developed from hands-on experience, working closely with local champions and making things happen. The key is to blend the operational, technical and behavioural aspects of change, while complementing, and not conflicting with, overall organisational strategies and objectives.

Senior managers and energy and environmental specialists become the change-makers putting in place the structures and processes needed to lead, co-ordinate and support change. The challenge is to inspire their colleagues and teams to become committed everyday champions and then help them turn into smart savers and leaders by supporting them to explore and discover the opportunities and ultimately succeed in delivering organisational goals for energy and climate change.

Inspire — making connections

To generate the “green spark”, the change-makers need to help their colleagues understand and buy into the reasons for change. This means doing more than just presenting the company perspective. Yes, it is about cutting costs and delivering carbon reduction targets, but the vision must also tie into customer service and what is in it for the staff themselves. It needs to mean something locally.

Within both commercial and non-commercial organisations, we still find that many cultures tend to leave equipment “on” for maximum service or for perceived better reliability. This is much more widespread than many people think. In some cultures, staff are more active in saving energy but this can often be just low-risk action; they are “toeing the line”, as energy efficiency is still seen as going against other local operational objectives. In other cultures, this is changing.

One concept we have discovered that chimes well with local champions is on-demand energy management. This approach is focused on overall “best value” and involves reviewing what the customer needs and when they need it, and delivering it in a more and more efficient way. This taps into the pride of making sure you only use what you need and gives staff an opportunity to lead, to try things out and to develop their own performance and skill sets.

The best people to involve are the staff who are closest to, and so best understand, the (changing) needs of the customer; the best champions are those who can naturally see the opportunities and who are good at communicating with the other teams around them, drawing in everyone’s perspectives and experiences.

But greater awareness and involvement does not save energy by itself — this needs action.

Explore — energy saving actions

We are all generally more committed if we are allowed to explore and come up with our own ideas and action plans.

Local “Big Green” events are a great way of bringing together different teams within the heart of the operation, helping them draw out the best of ideas and challenging everyday champions to commit to actions (while also injecting some fun into the process). You need to somehow generate a buzz in the local vicinity. In the lead up to Big Green events, one way we use to do this is by using a giant Big Green ball which appears in different places, presenting the Big Green challenge and literally putting the ball into their court.

Of course, people’s efforts need to be focused using strategic messaging that promotes the key priorities. Given direction and challenge, local teams can look at their areas through different eyes and explore for opportunities — it is the collection of their ideas that makes an action plan local, unique and effective.

Heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically the largest energy consumers in most buildings and these systems often run for longer than they need. Using workshops involving local staff, one hospital reviewed the operating times of their HVAC systems. For areas continuously used, it was discovered that some systems could be switched off for two to three hours a day without affecting comfort, saving 10% in fan running costs; other systems could be switched off completely. These quick wins meant that the hospital immediately saved £83,000 a year in reduced energy consumption (for little investment) and set up an approach for making more improvements in the future.

Discover — establishing momentum

The best way to build and sustain momentum is to make it about discovery — giving the process a positive dimension and approach and a balance to top-down organisational governance using standards and assurance.

Regular forum meetings are a good way to co-ordinate effort (with a sense of team work and purpose), share experiences and successes (tapping into people’s competitive natures) and to draw in the sceptics. Such forums should prioritise actions that deliver multiple benefits and that encourage a process of continual improvement, providing the experience to help turn everyday champions into smarter savers.

Lighting in many buildings can still account for approximately 20% of total energy costs. Staff working in a shopping centre facility, for example, targeted poor lighting that was receiving customer complaints. Upgrading the light fittings not only reduced energy consumption by 60%, saving £15,000 a year with a two-and-a-half year payback, but also significantly improved the lighting ambience in that area; a classic “win–win” for those involved.

To develop momentum and crucially keep savings locked in year-on-year, the trick is to keep everyday champions hungry, always wanting to do more.

Many escalators run 24/7 even though they are only used during the day. The simple thing someone could do is to turn them off overnight and maximise this “off” time — this generates interest and quick easy savings. Only then is it worth investing in run-on-demand controls to slow escalators down during lull periods. An everyday champion now owns its performance — we call it “user accountability” — and is more likely to optimise the controls; typically making easy savings of £1000–£2000 a year per escalator. Further savings can be made by making the stairs more attractive to use than the escalator.

Succeed — releasing your potential

On-demand energy management is about seeing the bigger picture and developing a culture of active and continual learning, innovation and leadership. Challenging current perceptions and pushing boundaries can offer significant energy savings, better performance and give people an edge for the future: creating the “win–win–win”.

Small gestures and rewards are often a better way of recognising effort and celebrating success than complicated incentive schemes. One of the most gratifying responses from an everyday champion I have come across was when the MD simply picked up the phone and called him to say “thank you”. It was the simplest thing but it made it all worthwhile.

“Energy management through people” was born out of the success of working with teams at an airport; we surprised ourselves with the results, delivering an average of 15% savings across the airport in less than three years, in half the time and with significantly less budget than we thought possible. Regular “energy leadership” workshops and events helped turn discovery into medium-term success by continually optimising strategy and making sure the right metrics were in place to sustain motivation and success. Directors were able reinforce key priorities, celebrate industry awards and recognition and be confident in letting everyday champions lead it all up locally.

Energising change

To deliver bigger cost savings and environmental improvement, to lock in savings year-on-year and to become leaders in their industries, organisations need to recognise that energy is an operational behavioural issue and invest in the people-side of change.

The most effective way to energise change is to put in place a leadership approach to energy management.

  • Make it local — give them a reason for change.

  • Make it about people — empower managers and staff.

  • Make it focused — give it a sense of urgency.

  • Make it continual — generate momentum.

  • Make it desirable — celebrate success.

We all have a role to play in this and our second feature next month reviews how best everyday champions can respond to this challenge.

Part 2

The second feature on energy management and change management will consider the response from everyday champions and the key practices they must adopt to actively support their organisations in cutting costs, making environmental improvements and delivering better overall performance.

Last reviewed 12 November 2019