Monday, 29 March 2010

Whole systems? No time!

Occasionally when I raise the idea of using whole systems to broker strategic action plans or ways forward (especially in local government), I get a 'teeth sucking' the response "well, not sure if the chief executive / directors / council members could commit the time to be there - certainly not for all the 2 hours / half day / whole day". The implication being that their time is better spent elsewhere - probably in meetings with other chief executives / directors / council members. Underlying this is also the idea (although it may not be expressed quite so openly) that important decisions have to be taken behind closed doors where politics (both party and organisational) must be allowed to rule.

Allow me to challenge these views of the world with a few ideas & questions: 
  • What better place is there to show political or organisational leadership than in the company of a wide range of diverse stakeholders?
  • Whole system processes are not in conflict with usual ways of making decisions - such events inform and complement such decision making.
  • If simply having a paper strategy is all that is required - then a whole system process is a waste of time. However, if what is required is a strategy that achieves lasting change and results (see stractegies below) - what could more important than being engaged such a process?
  • How important is it for chief executives / directors / council members to be seen by local citizens, partner agencies and frontline staff to be actively engaging in debates & discussions about the future? 
  • Machiavelli (one of the first public service advisers on leadership) says that excellent leaders must actively seek out and listen to the truth (see below here and here) - whole system processes are driven by the power of truth.
What other reasons or questions would you suggest?

Other posts on whole systems working:

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