Rambling thoughts on models

I went down to Surrey on Friday for long walk and pub lunch with Neil Perkin. We’d originally planned to run a workshop about agile managenent that day. But as there were no takers we thought we’d have an agile ramble. It was great, and a reminder that meetings don’t have to be linear, or round a boardroom table, to be productive. Rather the opposite, I’d say.

I found out more about his plans to organise a team as part of The Great Football Giveaway. Apart from anything else, it’s a good example of an idea taking off, taking its orginator on an adventure he wasn’t necessarily expecting.

We talked a lot about the kinds of cultural blocks that stop organisations from being agile (and Neil’s blog has lots of good stuff on that topic). I think organisations easily slide into language and conventions that are meant to increase collaboration but end up constipating it. Sometimes, even the championing of things like “design thinking” might be getting in the way, making being creative something special that you must learn, instead of seeing it as innate.

@RapidBI tweeted this today:

Leadership theories in PowerPoint format

It would be hard to come up with five words more more likely to start me on a rant. It links to a massive page of management models and jargon. Although the authors have sensible caveats about the limits of models, they can’t resist emblazoning this mantra as a kind of headline:


It sort of encapsulates the desperately rational notion that underlines so much of this kind of thing.

I was reminiscing about student days on the ramble. I thought of all the extraordinary things we got up at at university, all the things we organised fuelled mostly or wholly by enthusaism, from parties to dinners to debates to protests to opera productions. It was pretty much an orgy of ceativity and action. And hardly ever did anyone refer to any of these complicated/simplistic models. There was little time spent on management theory, things just got done.

I truly wonder if this stuff has much at all to do with the real work that gets done in the world… and I fear being expert in it has quite a lot to do with how you might rise to the top of hierarchies.

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