Talking with colleagues this morning I found myself reflecting on old bad and new bad. A variation on new wine in old bottles. The conversation was about our efforts at the council to be mobile and agile in our work styles. The point being made was that our current workplace culture and the trappings that go with it – hierarchy, furnishings, systems and procedures – are maybe bad, i.e. worn out or “no longer fit for purpose” (as we are all obliged to say these days). So we introduce new ones, mobile and agile, IT based, work “a place we go” being replaced by work “a thing we do” as our creed.
The issue for colleagues was that some aspects of the new, the mobile and agile, are not fit for purpose from the get go for some. For example, the systems (IT and otherwise) aren’t up to scratch and so the mobile/agile thing can’t happen as intended. And for many for whom it does work from the start line well, things may become unsuitable as time goes by as new systems and capabilities come along rendering the new old and no longer fit for purpose – there I go again.
This resonated with me on the back of a radio interview I heard this morning about Tesco’s losses which were attributed by the interviewee to their failure to carry on innovating. In the 1990s into 2000s they were market leaders, the first with so many things – Clubcard, home delivery, class leading customer care, new product items and so on. In the last few years they have stagnated while others have caught up and passed them in the innovation game, and on price perhaps – better for less, what’s not to like?
In the public service we have to be continuous innovators too. Keep things under review, be “endlessly restless” as a colleague’s blog proclaims. The last reorganisation or big idea is not and cannot be the last reorganisation or big idea. The solution to today’s problems will not be the solution to the problems of tomorrow. They will all become no longer fit for purpose eventually. And bad is always bad – new or old.