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Many of my clients in some of the biggest Public Sector organisations talk to me about being overloaded, feeling frustrated, being anxious and tired. They want out.
They complain about excessive risk adverseness, needing to be on top of every tiny detail, and spending excessive time checking and editing other people's work.
Their frustration comes because, working this way precludes them from working strategically and doing the work they have dedicated their lives to, helping New Zealanders become stronger and more successful. They suffer because their big dreams remain undelivered and you and I suffer because their dreams could make our lives better.
When budgets were squeezed they tried to maintain the same work streams and projects as before. This put people under pressure, errors were made, ministers criticized and reacted by asking even more questions, pushing people into a vicious cycle of tiredness and anxiety.
Many managers fail to realise that their organisations are complex adaptive systems. They think of them as mechanical and try to control and limit risk by screwing things down and checking and double checking. Unfortunately in complex adaptive systems more control leads to less order and higher risks of failure.
Complex adaptive systems are delicately balanced at the edge of chaos. Push them a little too far and they jam up. In this regard they are very much like motorways that flow smoothly up to a critical point then, with hardly any extra cars introduced, almost completely jam up. Public sector organisations are quite similar, they operated fine up to a critical point, then with a relatively small reduction in budget their effectiveness dropped off markedly.
These conditions seem to be more pronounced in the Public Sector, however they are also present in the Private Sector. Last month Virtual Group ran an Executive Master Class for a small group of carefully selected senior managers from both the Private and Public Sectors. I was surprised by their feedback. I had expected they would be excited by the topic and the content, however, what they raved about was the chance to stop and think deeply about something important and share their thoughts openly with peers from other organisations. I think it's really concerning that some of our most senior managers lack the opportunity for these most basic managerial needs.
In an attempt to make sense of the conditions my Public Sector clients find themselves in, Icompleted the attached systems map showing a typical situation. In this map there are four vicious cycles and only one of them is directly related to restrictions on budget, the other three are internal and could be fixed by improved leadership development and becoming clearer about which priorities really matter.
To learn about Systems Thinking for Business ...
Give me a call if I can help. In the meantime: Think BIG!
Virtual Group Business Consultants
free phone: 0800 4 virtual or +644 570 0727 or Skype Bruce.Holland
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Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills