Organisational Improvement as Detective Work

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Why did French Intelligence, CIA, NSA and all and sundry who are eavesdropping on all of us, not pick up the crazy killers from Paris? These guys had no encrypted phones or emails (about 500 phone conversations between them…), AND they were on the watch-lists and the no-fly list. How come? According to former CIA operative Rick McCormack, it is because this strategic solution is largely ineffective, relying mostly on complex technology that allows Big Brother to snoop on all of us, listen and read everything from everyone around the world. There is little chance for them to find all the needles because they have chosen to sift through way too many haystacks. The good spy and detective work of the cold war has been pushed out by the big corporations, who are selling this extremely expensive eaves-dropping technology to governments. And governments started to believe the same lie that big corporations believe and peddle: that for every problem there is a technological solution. Well, not in my experience and, obviously, opinion. Technology should be the last port of call. Not the first. There is no replacing good detective work.

 

This is exactly what we are trying to teach our Black and Green Belt Improvement specialists whom we train and mentor, as well as organisational leaders we consult with. When faced with complex problems they need to solve, the knee-jerk reaction is to quickly find, or develop, a technological solution, mostly IT based these days. With a lot of money and effort, this is quickly brought to bear. Most of the time this approach simply compounds the problem and makes mistakes happen even faster. At best, it has no effect… Why? Because the underlying problems, which have to do, most of the time, with strategy, process design and people – these underlying problems are ignored or minimised. There is no substitute for good detective work or as W. Edwards Deming used to put it: “there is no substitute for knowledge” – Neither for the hard work of talking to people, witnessing what they are doing, seeking first to understand the complex dynamics of the interdependent work processes. This is hard work. Therefore jumping to the seemingly simple solution based on technology is so often misguided. As the old saying goes: to every complex problem there is a simple solution, and this solution is almost always wrong.

 

 

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