It is interesting that Ray Ison* uses the introduction of a IT ‘solution’ as his example of a sticky situation. So far, my fellow students have also used IT examples. Is it really that IT introductions fail more than other changes or that these situations are easier to remember than sticky situations only involving humans. These are the everyday sticky situations, I can think of:
- printer ‘rationalisation’ which means we all have to walk up and down corridors and cannot get the printing we need when we need it.
- when our ‘admin services’ underwent an efficiency review, they drew up an ‘admin menu’ of tasks admin staff will do. Oddly the tasks they stopped doing are now being done by higher paid staff – who often do them in a hurry and don’t do them as well. Is that ‘efficient’? There is also less of a career structure for admin staff which I think is sad.
- when separate groups of staff have been brought together in one room, without any thought to a process for them to get to know each other and appreciate the value of co-locations. The group dynamics creates a tension in the room that makes it unwelcoming to newcomers and visitors.
What makes a situation sticky?
- you get the feeling that the problems being experienced could have been avoided, if only someone somewhere had done their job properly – by that I suppose I mean ‘managed systemic change’.
- there seems to be a lot of frustration and emotion involved
- it is disappointing and creates disillusionment (is that a word?). Ultimately people get de-motivated.
- there is finger pointing and blame – such as in my anecdotes above!
- time is wasted
- failure of good communication – especially in understanding ‘need’.
- feeling that it has gone so far in the ‘wrong direction’, that there is no way out
As a ‘strategist’, I normally focus my attention on situations that are big messy, policy issues at a societal, institutional or organisational level. I tend to overlook the everyday situations around me and sticky situations I could be part of resolving/avoiding. Maybe one of my new mantras should be “systems practice is for everyday”, not just when I am doing the ‘big’ stuff.
* Open University (2010), TU812 Managing Systemic Change: Inquiry, Action and Inter-action Study Guide, Open University, Milton Keynes, pp 52-54