Plus ca change …


I was challenged to work in a reference to Blade Runner in this post – and I came damned close too, but then I found this which fits the bill much more neatly;

“The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Parmenides taught that the only things that are real are things which never change… and the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus taught that everything changes. If you superimpose their two views, you get this result: Nothing is real.” 

“How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later,” – Philip K. Dick

Following on from the previous post about appetite for change, some feedback suggests that the most commonly demonised sections of an organisation when it comes to making change happen are the corporate functions. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s payroll, ICT, finance and admin who cop for the blame.

Ok, leaving aside for a moment the question of whether or not that’s fair, or accurate, consider this; the systems that have been designed to support what we do are now being cited as the reason we can’t get anything done. We’re wading through custard, circling through a never ending ordeal of forms in triplicate, work requests and business case justifications.

Aw, poor little old us. But … if it is true, if it is accurate, how on earth did it happen? Who would be foolish enough to set up something so obstructive? The answer is of course, we would. We did this to ourselves. “The purpose of a system is what it does.”, yes? So we have, over the years, patiently constructed control mechanisms to ensure we can’t commandeer admin support, claim expenses, upgrade a computer or start a new project. Or rather, we can – but we have to want it really really badly, to persevere beyond the point when most normal people would have chewed off their own right foot out of sheer frustrated rage.

Why would we do that? Who does that serve?

In a funny sort of way, it serves everyone. Imagine a scenario where all of these things happened the moment you wished for them. Not just once, in response to a genuine and well defined need, but every time you idly decided that what you wanted right now was more RAM or a fact finding mission to Japan or someone to write your notes in Swahili.

We’d be bankrupt. Worse than that – we’d be bankrupt, lazy and no nearer to having services that work well for customers. If we had unlimited resources and no barriers, we still wouldn’t achieve Utopia. For now, what we have is the system we’ve created to remind us that it’s not our money we’re spending.

So these particular bottlenecks, as annoying as they can be, serve a useful function. They prevent us from wasting time and money on things we aren’t really passionately committed to. You’re right, there should be a better system – and maybe, one day, when we’re all responsible grown ups, we’ll have it. We have some evolving to do, though, before we can say what it should look like.

Hyper-responsive, omnipotent, self-aware technological advances. What could possibly go wrong?

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About jargonaut

Unashamed geek lost in policy land. Frequently required to believe three impossible things before breakfast, and implement them by tea time.
This entry was posted in Engagement, Organisational Development, Work and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Plus ca change …

  1. Roger Jarman says:

    Heralcitus also said that you cannot step into the same river twice. Would that be because, after the first time, you’ve drowned?Or maybe I’m just thinking of our organisation’s procedures….

    • jargonaut says:

      I think the theory is that neither you nor the river are the same … presumably the river flows on, and you are too smart to keep getting soaked.

      A lovely idea, but the #local gov analogy would be that our river has been dammed so it’s now a slowly circulating lake, and we keep pushing people in to see if anything different happens this time.

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