Rarely a Clean Slate

by | Nov 6, 2022 | Change |

a clean slate

Here in the UK, each piece of land with livestock on it is given a number. So is the farmer. Then you are given a different code for each species of livestock you have. And each animal their own number. Some animals require electronic tags, others do not. And most numbers are obtained from different agencies, not one central place. And yes, there are always exceptions – I’m looking at you horses, llamas, alpacas…

It all seems a bit overcomplicated and confusing. As a new learner of these things, it is easy to respond with ‘this is dumb, why don’t they just do it this way….’ And then you learn some of the history of how (and why) these processes developed over decades and you have some insight. It may still feel ‘dumb’ in the present, but you have insight into why it is how it is.

If you spent time talking to people in the various agencies involved in the numbering, tracking, coding processes, it is likely that most of them would agree the process isn’t ideal. Most of them would likely agree that if we could start with a clean slate, the system would be designed differently than how it has eveolved.

Most change makers are not starting with clean slates. We’re working with evolving systems containing complex work arounds and lots of exceptions to the rule. Rarely do we get to scrap the entire system and start over. In each complex system of systems, there are people who know how their part of the system works. They can navigate with ease avoiding dead ends and roundabouts. And they know when and to whom to hand off the process when they reach the boundary of their knowledge. Almost never do these people have ‘director’ or ‘senior leader’ in their title. But they often are key power brokers.

Often the role of change makers is to find these power brokers and work with them to change an aspect of their domain. If we can work with more than one at the same time, we can achieve significant change.

System change is rarely about clean slates, it is mostly about evolution over time.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema


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