There is a golden thread
But it’s not the one you think…
The golden thread, as imagined by Local Government bods everywhere, is the imaginary reason why people do things at work that connects their everyday activity to some supreme overarching piece of paper.
It’s complete bollocks, but it keeps policy officers in a job fussing over the exact wording in plans, as they think it ultimately affects what people do. It is the imaginary and nonexistent link between Sir Gerald Farquahr at the top and Joe Schmo at the bottom.
Why I’ve learnt it exists
The thread that connects Sir Gerald Farquahr at the top and Joe Schmo at the bottom is one of thinking.
When Sir Gerald says about something…
“… And I want it done or else! “
… Then fear and double speak cascades downward all the way to Joe at the bottom, with everyone in between acting like arses.
Sir Gerald doesn’t even have to say those strong words, he could say…
“…this is a key priority and I’m sure we all want to see it delivered “
… And everybody would still know the score.
You won’t find this thread written down, no need for a Policy Unit to massage purpose into your Performance Objectives, the beauty of it is you can spot it all by yourself, you can’t NOT spot it. Look for who pays attention to what.
People learn the norms and values of an organisation by watching how the people around them behave. They don’t pick up a plan that explains what they are there to do and why, they watch what people pay attention to, consider important, how they interact, then they copy it.
The golden thread usually isn’t written down, but if it was, it would look something like this. (Chris Argyris, Model 1 behaviour)
Nobody plans for miscommunication, mistrust and escalating error. But they are the inevitable results when people aim to maximise winning and the appearance of rationality.
This is the golden thread of thinking in most organisations.