Westminstenders & fast feedback

This week the political situation in the UK got so surreal, at one point it seemed all I needed for entertainment was the Financial Times and Newsnight, giving up watching the rest of TV for entertainment (let alone Eastenders). It has all been quite exhausting, with the speed and level of change huge.

We are now seemingly on our fourth chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) in four months and one who has just reversed all the policies set by the last one only a couple of weeks ago.

Much of the change (today) seems to be in a bid to stabilize financial markets. It would all be much more entertaining if it was not so serious of course… impacting us all with the cost of borrowing and interest rates.

This is big politics, and it can behave strangely, but it does, as of now, feel as if the adults are back in charge. Hopefully, things will settle down to have a sensible debate on policies at an election (rather have to focus on how to recover a completely wrecked economy, collapsed tax base, and financial markets (think pension), in what is already a cost of living, inflationary crisis).

The impact of getting things done – politically

Now, all this political talk also got me thinking about the dynamics of office politics too.

Office politics is something I dread, nor something I consider myself particularly I am good at either, but I do recognize that in some sense it is necessary.

It does, after all, drive pragmatic compromise in an organization, and helps to get things done… humans are after-all are sometimes complex organisms and there always needs to be a bit of negotiation it seems 🙂 !

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However, at the extreme, it can also drive tribal behaviour, a blame culture, and short-term focus on personal goals, sometimes at the expense of others… employees, customers (and voters) all get caught up in these dynamics, both quick to judge and impacting everyone.

The speed of change – a problem

Change is of course needed and sometimes even necessary, but, as we have seen this week, if you make a dramatic change, and get feedback that it does not work, your best option is to fix or reverse as soon as possible.

However, there is a problem. In our accelerating, consolidating, digital world our ability to make significant changes, with greater speed, is increasing dramatically. We can, so often we do.

Unfortunately, the speed we receive feedback on these changes – whether this has worked has not – often has not kept pace… this is especially the case where human interaction is involved.

Unless the feedback is dramatically bad, it is delayed and easily gets lost in the noise. This seriously limits our ability to quickly adjust course, often until really too late when more damage has been done.

We see this dynamic often with process design, but also with organisational dynamics too.

A change is made, one we thought was going to be great, only to realise, too late, it was not… (eg customer complaints or employees leave)… compromises, workarounds and recovery plans are all standard fare.

We all make mistakes – design the feedback

The reality is, as humans we all make mistakes and the solution is not solely to work on perfection, but rather also a focus on fast feedback. Feedback loops are all too often not given the attention they need.

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Change, itself, is often the dazzling star, getting all the focus. Feedback is, by design, post implementation, and frankly often seen as the boring bit. We can easily forget, even though it is critical.

In particular, what is crucial is that the speed and scale of the change being implemented is matched with the speed and scale of the feedback being received.

We need to ensure we stay focused on good outcomes before and after any implementation. Not doing so, allows for white space, a gap, which is then filled by spin or provides an opportunity for potentially suboptimal politics to start creeping in.

My argument is for creating good, regular feedback loops and making this a priority.

From process to politics

In politics, it is often said we have the ultimate feedback loop, the next election.

In our current world whether this is fast enough, and with enough data is really up for debate. Based off what has happened the last couple of years, maybe we need a re-think here too… something to mull on this week.

Have a good rest of the week everyone


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