“How [can we] manage the simple, purposefulness of ‘command structures’ giving way to complexity of networks?”
It’s an interesting and relevant question for the discussion we’re about to start here on the skills required for open policymaking. Here are five quick thoughts:
- Maybe we don’t need to manage it, just try to encourage it. I think this shift may be something inherently slippery and behavioural, and that we aren’t able to get hold of it, certainly not through the command and control mechanisms we’re trying to get away from. If it’s got a Change Management Board, it means it isn’t changing.
- Some people are already working very well in networks, but those networks are being maintained as a personal side-project alongside the hierarchical and bureaucratic nonsense. One part of the shift is understanding how we liberate them from the day job, or rather make the day job understand that process is subordinate to network management.
- What is the right balance between hierarchy and network? We can’t make the same sell of network working to everyone, because we’ll still need accountants, and meetings serviced, and decisions recorded. Not everyone on the team can be the libero (to use a football analogy, sorry Catherine), so how can we make the hierarchy-network shift not seem like the shaft for those who don’t get to do cool network stuff?
- I’m increasingly beginning to think that the real challenge is at the strategy/action interface, where middle management lives. Top managers often get it in a big hand-wavy way, frontline staff are often already doing it in a “scratching my itch” way, but there is no connective drive at the interface where lots of little itches being scratched meet lots of waving hands.
- This isn’t just our problem. Every industry and organisation is being challenged by it, but I’m not sure that we in the public sector are looking widely enough for our learning and examples.