Wag the dog


Who wags the tail?
Spot wags the tail.

Who wags the tail where you work?

I have learnt that everything starts with the customer. Resident, patient or pupil, whoever

When they contact the doctor/council/police/whatever that’s where things start.
-start to understand the nature of their demand
-start to understand what matters to them
-start to understand what they need from you

It all starts with the customer. That’s where it ends, so it would be really stupid if it didn’t start there too.

Except some places start with something else. They start from what they’d quite like to do.

Here’s the sort of thing:
-put a big database in
-implement a strategy
-really get stuck into leaning the shit out of everything
-do this years latest big thing
-finish off last year’s big thing
-have a restructure
-review and refresh the latest Information Management standards

Places that do this sort of thing claim to be customer focused. They are not. This is the tail wagging the dog.

In customer focused organisations the customer is the dog that wags the tail. It is the thing that sets everything off and around which everything is centered.

In management focused organisations it is the other way round. They are wagging the dog. Their work and concerns drive everything.
They are the Waggers and customers therefore become the Waggees.

This man here shows how he turned from Wagger to Waggee.
Look at his the About page on Noinstantpudding.com

In my organisation I have been using systems principles to develop and improve some of our internal functions. My focus is on delivery of enterprise application development and change making IT help with the core work.

It’s an elegant way of showing how his purpose has changed, going from delivering a blah de blah thingy to using his expertise help where needed. Moving from Pushing expertise to allowing it to be Pulled by the needs of the core work.

Once I tried explaining this to someone at work, that core work exists to help the customer/resident/whoever and any thing needed to help that should be pulled in as and when needed. Including us.

In essence WE SHOULDN’T BE IN CHARGE. Not of performance, not of policy, not of plans or strategy. We’re too far away to have the faintest clue. We were the work behind the work behind the work. Or job is to help not tell.

They replied:

Hang on, isn’t that a bit tail-wagging-the-dog?

No…we are the tail, we are wagging the dog. This is the wrong way round and we just don’t know it.

This entry was posted in clarity of purpose, command and control, customer, public sector, systems thinking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Wag the dog

  1. Pontesbury says:

    Spot on – ‘This is the wrong way round and we just don’t know it.’ Unfortunately, even when we work with customers and see the impact the system has on them we still don’t get it.


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