Musing on pendulums

October 11, 2013

A long drive last night from Cardiff to Shipley to spend the morning with Yorkshire Water in support of Jon Kendall of  Castleton Consulting one of our long standing network partners.  I've come to know the people there over the years as well over various projects and events so it was a meeting up of old friends as well as finding some new ones. The meeting showed the value of building long term relationships as some ideas (and too many of mine) take time to gestate and gain acceptance.  

One of the issues that came up is the dangers of measurement.  The old adage of We get what we measure should really had added to it and then we realise what we have lost.   It's a problem with targeting faced by individuals and organisations alike,  If you measure someone on one thing then they will change their behaviour, but it if is a proxy measure for a real problem then the real problem itself may get worse.   We have seen that in the health service with A&W waiting time targets damaging triage procedures and the like.  In the regulated utilities it has resulted in a focus on what is measured, rather than what the measurement was meant to be about.  As I remember from my accountancy days, passing the audit is not so hard, running the business is another matter altogether.

Either we ended up with scoping some really interesting potential uses of SenseMaker® that might get closer to the subject rather than the proxy.  I also started to realise a bigger issue with the growth of apps, to wit we are getting lots of specific functionality but little joined up thinking.  I hesitate to say this but the pendulum may have swung too far from the centralised control of all IT development to an anarchy of applications without an architecture.   That's a theme I will be developing both in SenseMaker® development and the method work I am doing around the Agile community.

The danger then is swinging too far away from measurement and too far away from structure.  Assuming things will join up after the event is dubious and the negative reaction will just swing that olde pendulum back again.

So a meeting concluded, multiple thoughts and notes then a nightmare drive home, cancelling meetings by phone as I drive slower and slower in near grid lock on the M1.  I made it home 5 hours late in consequence, but with the good news that my weekend trip to Tampa was postponed thats the the US impasse on the budget.  Well bad news for the organisers, but it gives me the weekend and Monday free to get ready for ten days in South Africa,

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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