There’s loads of guff in the public sector around “having a plan”.
Contrary to expectations, planning doesn’t produce plans. No, the need for plans gives birth to planning, like:
- leadership strategic retreats to nice country hotels
- managerial away-days in acceptable Travel-Inn conference suites with carpet tiles on the walls
- staff planning afternoons in meeting rooms that “won’t be locked at lunchtime so you’ll have to take your bags with you.“
The latter are the best value as they’re the cheapest.
After this there is the ceremonial garments that festoon plans.
- a godforsaken Policy Officer who’s never had to write a plan in their life has to produce guidance to tell people what to put in their plans. Luckily, not me so far.
- challenge sessions, where some people in a room argue over the content of fictitious plans based on guesswork and ignorance.
- launch events where staff stumble around a corporate church fete of tables and pin-boards staffed by Sub-under Assistant Deputy Managers (temporary), bewildered and bored in equal measure.
- jolly diagrams and triangles are pinned on walls showing a spurious alignment with fictitious corporate priorities, demonstrating the crucial part they play in the organisation.
I can’t stand plans.
If you’ve done something repeatedly, and know how it works, you’ve got yourself something you can write a plan about. Like building a house, after ten of them you’ve probably got a pretty good idea how it all works. You can plan your next one now, safe in the knowledge that it will probably go roughly the same as the others.
But if it’s your first house, well, you’ve seen those programmes on the telly, where someone is building or renovating their dream house? And everything takes twice as long and costs three times as much? Same thing. Not plan worthy. Be organised, yes, but a plan that is not the same, especially in an organisation. There they become millstones around people’s necks, replacements for reality.
That diagram above was written on 1 side of an index card and I’ve put it in a suggestion box that’s been set up for our service plan. I’ve also drawn in felt tip this old thing.
I don’t want to change the plan, I want to change the thinking. So that means I don’t tinker with a Word document, I’m going straight for the jugular, or rather several inches above and behind the jugular, that squishy grey blob where the only thing worthy of the word “strategic” resides.
Lobbing improvised home-made cube grenades into suggestion boxes may not be the way to change an organisation, but then plans aren’t either, and at least mine are only on 1 side of paper.