We. Will. Fail….maybe.
One of the things I (the author, not LIDN) have come to realise is how un-agile our sector is. It is particularly disappointing because for a sector that has spawned countless Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning departments, I find there is imperceptible evidence of learning. We sell an over-ambitious and unrealistic time-bound project, plan in great detail, commit to one strategy unquestioningly, execute dubiously fast, collect a lot of quantitative data, write a report, make debatable claims to the projects success, move on…and fast, hoping no-one will look too closely. If we learn it is because a lone warrior has a) managed to get through sleep-inducing evaluation reports (that could give commercial sleeping tablets a run for their money); b) they’ve managed to extract the key messages from the miasma of detail and c) they have been given the chance to influence new project proposals as it is being written.
OK, so I generalise (not about the soporific evaluation reports though). The point is, our sector, the one in which we strive for social change by galvanising movements of people (the most irrational of creatures); in which we lobby to change complex systems made up of hundreds of relationships and hidden power dynamics; is very….staid. How can we aim to achieve any form of ongoing change if we as actors do not react in sync and at speed with our environment?
So it is refreshing to read about how there is a way in which we can still pursue our missions, without following the traditional paths. Lean Impact by Ann Mei Chang, describes her perspective from across sectors, from her years as a tech executive in Silicon Valley to her most recent experience as the Chief Innovation Officer at USAID. Her ideas of “customer insight”, rapid experimentation and iteration, and how to relentlessly pursue impact offer tangible solutions for how we can still achieve everything we want to achieve….but just do it a little smarter and faster. They may not all be applicable, you may disagree with some or all of them. But at the very least they should sow the seeds of “What if….” in your mind.
In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world catalysing change requires organisations that can; respond quickly to opportunities, continuously adapt to an ever-changing environment and ruthlessly ditch what doesn’t work in favour of what does. If we don’t, we. will. fail.