Tag: change

Can The Public Sector Leopard Change Its Spots?

Can the public sector changeI went to an event very recently where a number of public sector and not for profit organisations were shouting very loudly about the joined up way in which they were working together and the great benefits that were being delivered to their customers.

On the face of it, this was exciting news but was everything as it seems? I can hear readers now thinking ‘he is going to have a go at the NHS’. Well in a way you would be right and in a way wrong. It is brilliant that service deliverers can improve and extend the range of services and observe genuine results.

So where is the problem? Well, the biggest one comes when someone reminds us that ultimately these organisations are spending our money. One of the people present who commissions services provided compelling evidence that these services were being effective. Commissioners have predictions for future service demand. This helps to ensure the amount and type of services required are actually there. The commissioner stated that demand was increasing much less than predicted which implies that prevention is working.

Well, that’s that then? Not quite. A gentleman asks politely but in a very ‘civil servant’ type of manner, what evidence he can put on the table at a meeting he is going to attend the next day. He wants facts (and lots of them) as do his colleagues (anyone with the word ‘Manager’ in their job title). We have a whole raft of people whose job it is to justify and account for spending.

The organisations are delivering new or altered services (great) but underneath they are fundamentally the same. This is a little like saying that a supermarket chain is changing and supporting the environment whilst all it is doing is stocking some local potatoes and getting rid of some plastic packaging.

We should remove whole swathes of middle management. We could then fund many more services if we could only change the way in which these organisations work. The public only turn their attention to accountability when the services they seek are not there. When GP visits are easy to make, when libraries are still there and functioning well, when refuse collections do not result in piles of waste on the street, we are all happy.

For a small example of how this can work see my article Ban The Boss – see the BBC’s Business Doctor at work. Its an hour long programme but well worth it.

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How visualisation could have helped the Brexit debate

Use visualisation in your change programmesThere are still many conversations going on about the recent referendum. Regardless of who was right or wrong, how could the whole process have been improved. How could we make sure that voters had a better understanding of what they were voting for? How could the politicians have better communicated their ideas to us all?

One possible answer is visualisation. This does not mean we all have to meditate whilst listening to whale noises. It simply means that someone needs to create a descriptive representation of what they are proposing. What would life be like, feel like, smell like. What would day to day living be like, how would things stack up for workers, teenagers, the elderly or unemployed. The aim is to create something that everyone can relate to.

Those campaigning in the recent debate could have created a vivid model of the future that they were proposing. Also, the electorate in general could also have used something similar to work out what sort of future they wanted and then matched this to what they were being sold by the Remain or Leave campaigns.

Such methods are positive, building methods and may have prevented some of the negative campaigning. It is also much easier to see any common ground between your ideas and those espoused by others.

So how can we do this? Story, modelling, music, video, metaphor are all useful and one or two could have been used effectively rather than shouting at each other.

A simple example is house hunting. We can all wander around with house particulars featuring dimensions, details of kitchens and man caves etc but it soon becomes apparent where we can compromise or build so that there is a vision that everyone is happy with.

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Why We Hate Creativity

Why we hate creativityImagine for a minute that I have been asked by the top management in your company to radically change the way you work because they have bought into my philosophy about using Creativity as a serious business tool.You and your colleagues receive the following text in an email on Friday afternoon.

Dear Colleague,

Our company is going to adopt a radical business model that will help us to be more efficient, get products to market faster but above all remain ahead of the competition. As a result there will be some changes to the structure of the organisation as well as the introduction of new management and business tools and for many there will be changes to the IT services provided by our IT department.

All affected staff will receive comprehensive training commencing on Monday morning. Please read the attached notes for your personalised training programme. 

We are all excited by the forthcoming changes and we hope that you will be too

Yours,

Your Senior Management Team
(more…)

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Creativity, Gardening And Cookery – Envisioning The Future

creativity gardening cookeryProfessor Rosabeth Moss Kanter said “a clear destination is necessary to guide the journey of change. Many change efforts falter because of confusion over exactly where everyone is expected to arrive.”

Of course, we don’t always know what our final destination is. However, answering a series of questions can help us decide where we want to go and provide easy steps for getting there.

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What’s the current situation?
  • What are our ultimate objectives?
  • What needs to change to meet your objectives?
  • What process should we employ?

Stop right there!

Can you see something wrong with this course of action? It is a traditional change process that has been taught on many a management course over the last 2 decades or so. The above was actually billed as ‘envisioning the future’ but in reality it is simply ‘bending the organisation to fit’

So what about the future, how do we envision it, create it and share it? There is a longer article in the pipeline but here is a summary.

The traditional methods imply a big change, going from here to there, a long or tough journey that not everybody feels is worth it. Also the journey is often forced upon us. In the embryonic creative organisation there is no journey, except through time. Instead of steps we are building an environment (think of a children’s den as a metaphor). We think of capability and opportunity and have a feeling about our new environment, but we have no concrete objectives. Because we value capability we visualise what can be done, not what engineering can be done on our organisation to make it fit our ideas for the future.

We are living in a world full of ambiguity here. What are our values, do we have a structure, have our roles changed? The only constant is change – but not as we know it.

And finally what process do we employ? A mixture of cookery and gardening!

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The Cynefin Framework

 

cynefin frmeworkThe Cynefin Framework is a useful model for describing complex systems and is particularly helpful when grappling with the complexity and ambiguity that often surrounds innovation. To do it justice requires many thousands of words but I have tried to provide a flavour so that readers can investigate further for themselves.

First of all it is a sense-making not a categorisation model i.e. our data already exists and our model is applied to make sense of the patterns that occur within it.

The model describes 3 types of systems – ordered (subdivided into simple and complicated), complex and chaotic. For simple systems the relationship between cause and effect exists and is predictable. The decision making model is thus Sense, Categorize, Respond and we tend to apply best practice.

In complicated systems the relationship between cause and effect exists but is not self evident. Our decision making model is thus Sense, Analyze, Respond and we apply Good Practice. This is because we might need to employ expert advice and there may be several possibilities open to us not a single correct course of action. The big danger is to blindly employ Best Practice here.

In complex systems the relationship between cause and effect is only obvious with hindsight. The way forward is to conduct a series of experiments, to probe our system. Depending on their success or failure we will probe further and we will then develop emergent practice. We are effectively learning!

Chaotic systems are usually where we wish to be when we are innovating. There is no relationship between cause and effect. We are normally in control of these systems but such a system can be entered accidentally and we need to know how to tackle such an issue. Because we must act quickly in this unstable state our decision making model is Act, Sense, Respond.

So how do we use this? Well depending on which type of system we are in we should think and make decisions in different ways. One size does not fit all and it should be obvious that such an approach is disastrous. Often we start off in the central ‘disorder’ region i.e. not actually knowing which state we are in. This often means we do not conduct any form of analysis and will act according to personal experience and preference.

The framework also suggests that we can move around between states.  This is true as boundaries are mostly smooth transitions except for the Simple/Chaos boundary. People working in simple (often bureaucratic) systems can become complacent and when their world becomes chaotic they suffer a rough ride as they change states. This transition has been likened to falling off a cliff!

Further reading is suggested for those serious about complexity and change, however it is a very useful tool for working out how you should be behaving as an organisation, and when it is safe to adopt best practice.

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