Pressure for Change


The common denominator in all improvement programs

I think quite a bit about improvement. I think about why some projects work and some fail, and I like to think I have no particular drum to beat. What I mean by that is that many people who think they have “the solution” merely promote a strategy with which they have a strong self-interest. Take the CIPD for instance who, at the time of writing, are suggesting that public sector reform relies on a step change in the way they equip front line staff to lead and empower. Well, they would say that wouldn’t they? My own personal observation as a public sector veteran from the 1990s was that millions was spent in that decade on guess what? Leadership and Empowerment training – with what measurable result?  What do you think …

If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems will look like nails

Similarly you find that “quality” people see every problem as having a “quality” solution, same with IT people, same with purchasing people. So we have to be objective about what the problem actually is, what are its ACTUAL causes and what sort of change would lead to realistic improvement. We also need to be realistic about what has failed on numerous occasions in the past. This should be a pretty important input

A hefty kick may be the key ingredient

Anyway, in a previous post on efficiency I made the point that efficiency is never delivered without pressure. A system will gravitate to its easiest possible state of equilibrium and if you want that to change, it requires a hefty nudge. You can’t get a plane off the ground by persuading it to overcome the forces of gravity, it needs some assistance of substantial (and greater) forces. No system I have ever encountered has ever been more efficient than it absolutely had to be. It needs a reason to work hard. Like me

My experience of “improvement” in the public sector has always been that the system (whatever that is) would resist the forces of change until the very point that a gun was put to its head. The inertia is significant, so the pressure for change needs a much bigger Dad. My experience has also been that on the rare occasions when pressure was great enough, change happened. It was never a happy experience, mind you, but it happened all the same. This was demonstrated to me mainly between the years 1992-1996 when the various guises of compulsory competitive tendering were flexing their muscles. At that time the threat was real and immediate. Maggie wasn’t playing

The one thing that I find that “quality professionals” over-estimate is the degree of ignorance in the public sector regarding the “tools of quality”. That is, if only they knew the tools, we’d be OK. That just isn’t true. There are lots of pretty well schooled people in the public sector, and an education in the “tools of quality” is not difficult to acquire. If that were the problem we’d have solved it decades ago

The problem is the behaviour of the system under the action of internal and external forces. These forces need to be identified in a clear and transparent way, understood (easier said than done), and ONLY THEN can ANYONE be in any position to know what the medicine might be

So in short, don’t look at me, I don’t have the answers, but based on past experience I have a pretty shrewd idea what won’t work (again)

This entry was posted in Quality Improvement and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pressure for Change

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.