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Month: April 2020

On transformation

We have well established plants in the garden, with deep and mature roots which give strength, breadth, diversity, and a historical perspective on challenges we’ve faced over time. But they are sometimes slow to bloom.

We bring in highly specialised bees with specific expert skills, in the hope of pollinating these plants and ‘making the most’ of the combination of generalised subject knowledge and technical specialisms.

But the bees just buzz around, waiting for the flowers, and the plants just watch, flowerless, having seen this happen before. What’s missing is sunlight – the element that brings the two groups together and energises them into a symbiotic relationship (synergy, if you like).

The trouble is, everyone knows what sunlight is when they see it, but nobody knows how to make it. It just hopefully happens one day. A successful programme needs to focus on creating as many opportunities for sunlight to appear, proactively, rather than flying in the bees and expecting them to sort it out. They’re just bees, one part of the system.

I don’t think this is a governance problem necessarily – it doesn’t matter if you have a tightly governed country cottage garden or a ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ approach, you still need plants, bees, and sunlight. But tight governance can sometimes inhibit the bees from getting close to the plants, and vice-versa loose management can mean the bees start trying to pollinate the weeds. There needs to be central, vertical direction which, crucially, understands just enough how plants, bees, and sunlight each work in order to get the most from them. People who have the understanding and energy to operate all three areas, and then have the confidence and clout to bridge the gaps are rare.