The Plan (Planning v Execution)

‘The plan is only good for the first step’

‘The second step in a plan should be to look at what happened after the first step and plan a new step’ (???)

I was watching TV today, and noticed the new strategic plan of the Liberals – Our Plan. I was asked to ‘download the plan now from … ‘

Interesting, given that I cant download the plan, because I can get neither mobile nor hardwired internet service where I live. The only provider is Telstra, and they wont lease the infrastructure to a reseller in my area for a competitive price, nor does any mobile service provider reach into the nooks and crannies of the valleys and dales of where I live. Its been 7 weeks and ongoing since Telstra assured me (and continues to) that if I sign here, I could expect that my services would be now more than 14 days away. Well, at least they sought to start charging me within 14 days at least.

Anyhoo… putting aside the beating up the partially sold off public asset (helloooo liberal government of the past), or rather, simply sharing my experience, and you can make up your own assumptions about service provision; AND the fact that I CANT actually download ‘Our Plan’ to actually look at how, having sold off my ability to connect with the world (in the interests of balance, the Labour government’s NBN is no good either – my location is not in any future delivery location mentioned by the plan, during the life of the implementation – but I still gotta pay taxes to make sure that everyone else around me will get it – thats the nice kinda guy I am – while taking up their offer of moving into the country and keeping the farming industry alive, in a manner of speaking – at least keeping the ‘equine belt’ around Melbourne alive), I was wondering about the ‘plan’.

Regardless of what the plan actually says, and the policy changes that it proposes (interesting, that we finally see a policy, rather than a statement that ‘your policy wont work’), I do have a concern about the change management effort that will go into delivery of what I assume are multiple, interconnected strategic and tactical legislation, regulation, policy and operational changes across a 5-pillar society – or at least thats what the television add promises, anyway. Or at least, promises to ‘give it a crack’ if I* vote them back in. ‘Our Plan’, being the Liberal’s plan, certainly not MY plan (Am I the only one who is sick of the tendency of agencies at the moment, to make every online service ‘my’ account, or some variation of?).

Now, I don’t really consider myself part of a 5-pillar anything, let alone a 5 pillar society. Certainly not part of a society that affords me the same basic rights at law, including marriage, adoption or general rights of inheritance (but I digress into the same-sex marriage issue, so I will turn back to stay the course). The fun part here is ‘how’? How are these policies going to be implemented? They are fully connected up. They are wholly and totally interdependent. They promise to dig into the top 5 ‘wicked problems’ of Australian society, spanning beyond our own borders, and addressing issues over which our government has NO control and no ability to address the cause (so I presume, they will be addressing symptoms – not a good start for any policy upon which one wants to wager the life and death of ones’ constituents and ones’ relationship with near and far global neighbours).

So, in summary, no Australian government (of any persuasion) has been able to address these issues; they are complex, ‘wicked’, interconnected, critically dependant, and the government has (at best) the ability to control 15-20% of the causes, so ostensibly, has to address the symptoms. That is what I get from the television add, but have yet to be empowered to get to the detail – which i presume is written – hopefully, it has more multimedia than that!

I hope I will be pleasantly surprised (and a little excited for a potential job prospect) to hear that there has been proposed a new ministry for the ‘management of change to our society’ – or something like that. How comforting would it be to know that there was someone (other than ourselves, since we don’t control the resources to do it ourselves) accountable to ensure that the dependencies were managed, the risks were being addressed, the resistance (from internal or external ‘forces’) to change were being addressed, and people were being ‘taken along with the change’. That those of us who arent 24×7 digital citizens (I must do something about that – or rather, poke the person who is accountable – AGAIN, the Right Hon Minister for Digital Identities and Engagement, you know who you are) – the itinerant, the homeless, the illiterate (nearly 50% of us), the newbies (nearly 50% of our population growth and more than XXX% of our workforce over the last 10 years has come from migrant workers, either temporarily or permanently) with ESL (LINK) issues – these (lets call them, ‘stakeholders’ or ‘end users’, to really ram home the point) differently impacted people, inheritants of the ‘5-pillar policy positioning which psephologist will ponderously pour over in times to come’: how will they be helped, coached, encouraged, even simply ‘made aware’ of the detail of how they will experience and contribute to (if at all) a future world that they will become the custodians of (them, and their illiterate and innumerate children) AND have the confidence that ‘this bit’ they get get on one side, doesnt mean they have to give up ‘this essential bit’ that they have to give up on the other hand, in the comfort that ‘things will be better if they do’?

How will they get this assurance, given the experience is that this has NEVER been able to be delivered in the past, by any government, so there is no experience on which to base any hope?

Project managers, program managers, change managers, organisational psychologists and C-suite executives of large organisations know that this hasnt happened without HUGE cost – usually significantly more than proposed at the time of ‘the plan’.

Consider the Education Ministry in China as an example of a ‘large organisation’ with very little diversity (a generalisation I know, but I am making a point): School Superintendents of a district, covering a number of headmasters and their schools often span more than the entire population of Australia in the number of their students, with a budget of more than the federal Education Ministry in Australia – and they aren’t even at the Provincial Government (essentially, our state government) level in terms of policy and implementation, and they arent even considering this sort of sweeping, societal change – but you can bet, they have an overarching view on what is going on, and how they plan to do it.

Consider also, the red herring: Australia is a proud multicultural society.

We value diversity. We value individuals (unless they want to marry someone who is the same gender as themselves – stop me now!). We value the fact that we have all types and all shapes. We are a nation of red herrings, with limited commonality in our membership. However, ‘the plan’ seeks to address that – or at least cater for that.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to apply for the role of CEO of the Ministry of the Changing Society – oh yeah, that position is currently held, under another title – Prime Minister. The question that is going to ‘bake your noodle’ is whether I would be able to do a better or worse job than the current and previous incumbents. However, the issue remains – there is diversified accountability for the operational delivery of each of the policies so they remain undelivered in a connected, dependant, risk-managed way, when looked at, as part of a grand ‘plan’. Incidentally, NO Prime Minister in the history of Australia (or any other country that I can think of, offhand) in the history of democracy has been able to deliver.

And there is no real understanding, at least by me, of what happens if we set off in another wrong direction, or how we will find out (until its too late) that the direction is NOT the right one. Nothing gives me comfort that we have more than a plan – a way to check on how the plan is going; who needs more or less support; who’s holding up their part, and who isn’t; and, how much of the budget they are spending. Lets hope (against hope) that the plan to fix everything doesnt boils down to ‘oh, we couldn’t afford that, even though it is a critical dependancy of this other thing’ – despite the experience. Just read the Hansard (you could try and get it from your digital society peer citizenry) or simply turn up to Question Time at parliament, and make a tally of how often ‘we don’t have the resources to do that, so we cant be held accountable’ comes up.

However, I hold onto hope, despite the evidence, experience and history that I have to base that hope on, whatever ‘The Plan’ is, that the ‘end users’ have a voice and can actually participate in their own society.


*I, being us, or at least the ‘us’ of democracy. Interesting enough, regardless of whether I am a millionaire or living below the poverty line (which I feel like, but thankfully am not, yet, not being a consistent, 24×7 plugged-in member of the digital society) I only get one vote… maybe, those who need help more should get a more ‘worthy’ vote, and those who need government help less should have a differently-weighted vote. How much fun would THAT be?

Its the door!

My mother emailed this to me, I presume, as something that seemed amusing:


Ever walk into a room with some purpose in mind, only to completely forget what that purpose was?

Turns out, doors themselves are to blame for these strange memory lapses.

Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing through a doorway triggers what’s known as an event boundary in the mind, separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next.

Your brain files away the thoughts you had in the previous room and prepares a blank slate for the new locale.

So it’s not aging, or senility, or old age, it’s the damn door!

Thank goodness for scientific studies like this!


My mother thought this was amusing, but there is actually some truth in it, which nicely fits into the jigsaw puzzle with what we know now about memory, sight/vision and the ‘power’ of narratives (especially ones with have chapters with beginnings and ends).

I have always wondered about ‘chapters’ and books – as an analogy of walking from one room to another, with the ‘expectation’ that there will either be continuity or thematic continuity, if the rooms are in the same house, for example. From a VERY young age, we (at least, where I went to primary school) were taught about paragraphs with beginnings, middles and ends, and the power of writing that had a very strong first paragraph and last, or first sentence and last in a paragraph – to the point where we were told (my memory of just this example has kicked into gear!) that the paragraph should be able to ‘stand on its own merits’ with only the first and the last sentence, as the middle bits are simply clarification of the latter and former.

I am wondering if the fact that memory is ‘chunked up’ into chapter-like portions, similar to below, naturally, or it is some sort of continually self-reinforcing, pan-cultural, meme – a question of nature v nurture.

Do we chunk our memory because that is the best way of using it (the argument *against* gets stronger, particularly by the Homo Evolutis scientists, who argue that our offspring are changing they way they consume and manage ‘data’ – similarly those who are looking at the Autism and Aspergers’ Syndrome spectrum) or are we ‘taught’ to do this, because it is something that we have always done and it worked for us (note, use of past tense)? Is this meme of ‘memory chunking’ breaking down in transmission capability, because of the demands that modern society is placing on the brain to assimilate more and more data and/or information, at the ‘cost’ of the capability to turn that data and information into knowledge that can be used or applied, through the process of wisdom?

Doing what we always did may not get us what we always got – it may get us extinct!

I find it interesting from the change management perspective, because much of how we seek to engage with people is from the comfortable position that there is commonality in the way we construct memory, vision etc (translating into ‘experience’), when it is likely that the opposite is true and becoming more prevalent. Is the intergenerational divide getting wider, simply because of the way that our grandchildren’s brains are evolving faster than we can change our behaviours and underlying assumptions/values to accommodate? How will we bridge the gap, and are we too busy to do it ourselves, and have to pay a change practitioner to tell us how to do it, and hold our hand while we do (at least at work, anyway)?

My head hurts… time for a glass of wine…

Poster with a crossed out picture of a velociraptor, claiming that there has been 25915000000 days since the last dinosaur 'incident'


How to be counterintuitive (or not)

If the universe is counterintuitive (Standard Model of Cosmology and the existence of ‘Dark Matter’ and the phenomenon of ‘dark flow‘) then how can we expect the people we work with, or seek to support through a change to be anything less?

A Picture of ‘our’ universe

Theoretical physics and cosmology today are looking for answers as to why the universe is doing many unexplained things – like expanding at a faster and faster rate, when all we know about physics requires the universe (at least our universe*) to be slowing, as it loses energy to somewhere…

Creationists the world around also purport testimony and documentation that for the last 6000 years or so, things have been pretty well explained, logical and actual.

Apparently, despite the occasional Red Herring, there is a logical, sequential, common-sense [sic] approach to everything – it is the basis on which project management plans, change management plans, organisational strategic planning and even our daily task lists are made.

So why all the mess and failure? Why are things illogical, non-sequential, and not common-sensical? It seems that there is truth in ‘The Inconvenient Truth of Change Management‘!

People, as a product of the [this] universe, no matter how it came into being, ARE the Red Herring!

In government, we value diversity – we crave it, we court it, and we protect it. Yet, all the plans, strategies, transformation programs and whole federal agencies are born, grow and die, as a result of the fact that we no longer have a barrel of fish, with an occasional Red Herring – we have specifically selected a barrel of Red Herrings, which occasionally have some consistency. But we still make plans to help, change, transform, based on the (false) assumption that we are dealing with a homogenous cohort of ‘beneficiaries’ of all our careful deliberations. In fact, we fund the assumption: how often have you, as a change practitioner, been told to slim down your change strategy because there isnt that much different about the stakeholders that we addressed in the (failed) project last time, to this time?


A picture of Diversity!

‘We cant afford to address the problem, so find some consistency, and address that.’

‘The budget is only provided for delivery, so do the best you can to get the most people using the thing as well as can be expected, with anything that is left over.’

‘Just communicate [broadcast] something – do it more often. Thats all we can afford.’

So, paraphrased, is that something like what you have heard, time and time again, so that the actual skill you develop is ‘redefining success’ rather than actually asking the ‘meek who inherit’ whatever it is that you have been asked to give them whether they think that they have successfully been delivered the benefit they were promised, or even less well defined, expected?

Douglas Addams wrote: ‘Space is big. Really big…

Put predictable. Or it was.

William Blake wrote: ‘To see the universe in a grain of sand…

So, the previously predictable universe is a reflection of all of us. Ergo, NOT predictable.

Herein lies the problem; we keep behaving, funding, assuming, planning and expecting that it IS predictable. Which is isnt. Which we arent.

So, we can give a name to the demon – counterintuivity. However, taking advantage of the fact that we now have power over that which we can name how do we gain the skill to know how to apply a counterintuitive approach, which is likely, given the above, to be the most effective in any given situation that applies to people. More importantly, once those skills (whatever they are) are gained, how do we, as practitioners make a buck from it?

Man [person] can not live on altruism alone…


*There are emerging theories around ‘the Multiverse’ – see – ‘Sean Carroll: Distant time and the hint of a multiverse’ and ‘Brian Greene: Is our universe the only universe?’



Theres a place for books, or ‘single use society’.

Outside of a dog, a book is [sic] man’s best friend; inside a dog, it’s too dark to read (Oscar Wilde?)

Close up of two feed climbing piles of books arranged like stairs

The journey of books

I’m the first person to ‘consume’ the written word digitally, even by preference, however, there will always be a place for ‘analogue’ text in my house.

It is my experience that (in general) those who either don’t like or don’t keep books are or have been partially illiterate (nearly 50% of all Australians are considered ‘illiterate’ – and the government gets away with this!) or are participants of a ‘single use society’ – I generally find that these people don’t plant trees, they don’t really understand that beef comes from cow and not ‘Coles’, and are more likely to replace their mobile phone every 2 years because marketing says to, rather than any particular need for higher/better/faster technology – are these are also people who (generally) have a MASSIVE credit bill (this is actually able to be discovered – certainly the census and huge marketing databases like the ‘rewards’ type loyalty cards already know)?

I’m not saying that lack of books caused the Global Financial Crisis, however, there seems to be a bit of a pattern, with some obvious commonalities between those who *value* a book and who value cuddling up on a lounge and sharing a book with a child (rather than turning on the TV and leaving a child with their ‘default digital parent’).

You might not need a licence to have children (even through you do to drive a car) but the next best thing is a shared book, and the social engagement that either the book at the time, or the discussion of the book after can bring.

It is my firm opinion, that while digital word contains information and sometimes knowledge, books (and the social aspect of them) contain *wisdom* – perhaps one of the reasons why common-sense is no longer common.

So what?

Here come the questions:

Does that mean, in a database of corporate records, are we only storing the ‘information’ and knowledge’ (more or less easy to access) and then expecting the wisdom in the employees to be able to synthesize and use the available (or not available) information and knowledge?

Stone engraving of the word 'Wisdom'


Does that mean, there is a vast storage of ‘un-valued-‘ company assets which can’t be used, because we lack the wisdom to use them? Are we valuing ‘unused’ data, information and knowledge at the same value as the ‘used’ knowledge? This is especially important for government, who is required, by law (FMA Act) to ascribe a value to data, information and knowledge (but not wisdom?) and manage that valued asset in similar ways to tangible assets, as this new, intangible asset is the ‘property’ of the public.

So, what is the answer? ¬†How to do we get the valuation of the assets right, and how do ascribe the difference in ‘value’ of an asset that we know ow to appropriately use and and asset that we either lack the knowledge and wisdom to be ABLE to use, as an organisation?

Food for thought…