Home > The Monday Musings Column > on other ways of making things happen

on other ways of making things happen

I mentioned recently the EFQM model, another tool that, when used well, can serve a useful purpose. For me the great benefit that I got from it was understanding the linkages between ideas and results, the enablers. I have been reading a succession of political biographies and commentaries of late and there are many instances where promises made at the hustings have not been delivered. There are many reasons for this and, in general, it is not because the politician is telling lies. Certainly sometimes they do relying on the fact that we are too gullible to see the truth, but there are three other key barriers.

The first is that what they promise is beyond the country’s pocket; we just cannot afford it. The second is bureaucracy and is mostly due to the Cicil Service machine not wanting to do what is asked, watering it down through myriad committees or just running the clock down until the issue goes away (or someone else gets elected). The Thatcher and Major years saw a genuine interest in doing something about this, but paradoxically they didn’t trust anyone to do it and so increased the layers of red tape along the way. The following Labour governments poured steroids into the machine and made it even worse. It is a huge impediment too getting things done.

But the third problem is that politicians don’t know which levers to pull, or by how much, to get the results that they want and nor do many other organisations both public and private. The start is always strategic, or it should be. There will be a plan from which the tactics will be developed to deliver whatever results the strategy is aiming for, but the tactics need to be planned by people who do understand what makes the organisation work and there should be an iterative process that might see the strategy changed in order to make it achievable. Once that is complete the tactical plan needs implementing and, as anyone who has been through this will tell you, the tactical plan will change from day one.

One of the key tactics is to get buy in from the people whose jobs and processes will change. Without them on board you are really in trouble because they can, and probably will, thwart your aims. But if you can bring them into the fold you have a decent chance of getting the desired result. It is rarely easy and getting 90%+ of the result is often a good outcome. For big projects in large organisations change can take so long that the goalposts haven’t so much moved as the venue has changed before you get halfway.

At the top, whether that be a government department or a boardroom, all too often there seems to be a view that all they need to do is agree that something should be done and it will magically happen. It doesn’t. I have seen too many board meeting minutes where it is not clear that a decision was actually reached let alone made and someone made accountable for delivering it.

Too many people in power have no idea about how to make something happen. That is one reason why more things fail than succeed.

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