February 24, 2018

Total control—total paralysis?

Female hand signing a formWe’re addicted to control—control of our businesses, our public services, and our non-profits and charities. It seems so logical: The tighter we can nail down what happens in our organisations, the more efficient and reliable and predictable they will be.

That could be true, assuming people can actually work in such a regime. (In fact, they can’t, but that’s another story.)

The other trouble is…

Control everything and it becomes impossible for anybody to innovate. Nobody can take any kind of speculative risk. They can’t act on a hunch. It’s just too difficult.

A remarkable number of people I know holding really quite senior positions have no discretion to spend even a few hundred pounds, in some cases, not even a few pounds (or dollars or euros).

So their bosses must think they have a monopoly on innovative ideas. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s just not credible.


Total control means, if not total, at least partial paralysis.

In a fast-changing world, that’s really not smart.

Paralysis means stagnation, and stagnation means getting out of date.


We need control, yes. We need a little chaos too.