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.

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*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?

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