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Complexity in Government

Periods of change present a duality that conspires to derail even the best organizations:

  • Change draws many people to points of security – a move to conservatism, to what has worked during stable periods
  • Responding well to change requires a reformulation of practices, as previous actions have partly contributed to the need for change

In essence, what we turn to in tumultuous times may well have contributed to creating those environments in the first place. Dave Snowden ( slides and audio from a keynote (why .pdf? Why not slideshare?)) offers the following insights: “During a period of change you can’t work from past practice, organisations that do go under or undergo some form of catastrophic failure from which they may or may not recover…You can’t put new wine into old wineskins, new methods and tools have to be adopted in full, attempting to dress them up in the familiar clothes of the previous paradigm helps no one.”

One Comment

  1. Jacques wrote:

    Ed De Bono once said: “Managers manage within paradigms, leaders lead between them.” In orgs where “cultivated ambiguity” seems to be the dominant trait (not ‘Hurry up and wait’, but rather ‘Wait, then hurry up’), it’s hard to believe profound and durable change to occur within short periods of time. Just like climate change? Need to look over looooong periods of time to validate effective change? In education, not fast enough!

    Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink