The Search for the Single Right Answer

We currently live in a world which can be defined by two things its complexity and the need for wide scale change. The world is complex – the accelerating pace of change, globalisation, new technology and the blurring of traditional boundaries all contribute.


The need for change is also apparent.  Even before we faced this economic crisis issues such as climate change and over-population were pressing governments (and us as individuals) to try make radical changes to how we think and act.


These issues however major and however theoretically important often seem a long way from the tough challenges of day-to-day life.  The hardest of these are those that involve other people and as soon as people are involved problems become really difficult to solve.


In my experience regardless of the scale of the issue faced, there is also a common blockage – the search for single right answer.


The hunt for the mythical one right answer seems to dominate so many conversations and more worryingly get in the way of things being done.  Complex problems will never have a single right answer so we need to stop wasting time and resources trying to find it.


Instead we need to find solutions that will help the situation and that we ourselves can implement.  Then we need to just give it a try – it might not work but it will always be work effective than searching for the single right answer that does exist.


Where is the hunt for the Single Right Answer getting in the way of you actually doing something?



Public sector reform – the answer starts with…?

I hate posing a question when I don’t feel I have something to contribute to the answer. So when asked what needs to happen to make the step changes required in our public service organisations, I felt challenged by the complexity. The truth is, the smallest local authority in this country (and I’ve worked with some) is way more complex than the largest global private sector company (and I’ve worked with some). So how do we make real change happen.

There’s a number of facets to this but let’s look at the starting point.

Energy and focus. People need to know what they are working towards and feel inspired and accountable for that. Most people in, for example, the caring professions got into that because they wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. They didn’t take it up to manage, or even improve, the efficiency of service delivery.

I recently worked with some senior people from Health and Social Care. It was quite striking that when these very clever people discussed impact measures, they kept reverting to process improvements (integration of Health and Care). When forced to look at patient outcomes (people self-sustained in their own homes) the lights went on. They really got the necessity of working collaboratively – “We can’t do this on our own,” and they wanted to make it happen – “You know, I’ve just remembered why I got into this profession.”

Of course we then get the barriers – “But you can’t do these things in the public sector.” How do we tackle that? For my next rant!