Tony Karrer, in his recent post Adoption Ideas, brought our attention to the post, Why Doing Things Half Right Gives You the Best Results.
In it, Peter Bregman posits the idea that organisations should aim for imperfection. “I'm not suggesting you settle for imperfect. I'm telling you to shoot for it”, was how he put his advice. Bergman heads a change management firm.
In reading Bregman’s post, I was reminded of a conversation I had with colleagues about postmodernism. Few were really aware of what it was. I’d only been made aware fairly recently of the existence of the term when, in 2001, Derek Wenmoth advised me and my teaching colleagues to become more familiar with postmodernism, its existence in society, in homes, in schools and what it meant to our relationship with our students. At that time, I looked on it as a way of thinking that was quite foreign to me. In many ways I still do.
Bregman’s position has strong elements of postmodernism as claimed by Jean-François Lyotard in that the sequential detail and reasons for such detail within the structure of an established process is eschewed. The so-called ‘Grand Narrative’ is cast aside. By its function as a story, it tends to cloud anomalies and unevenness that are naturally present in any community or practice, and so stands in the way of progress.
In doing this, postmodernism instead favours the situational event, dealing with each temporarily as it occurs. There is no need or call for reasoning, or what could possibly be universally acceptable or believed and neither is stability a required criterion.
But the recent conversation brought to mind analogies that helped me when I had to get my head round ways of thinking, strategies and developments that transcended the logic I was more familiar with from the twentieth century. I’ve often used these analogies, almost by way of self protection, in order to avoid the anxt of constantly trying to understand why things were happening the way they were.
The contexts for these analogies are many and varied, and it may well be inappropriate for me to tie them to one specific example; sufficient to refer to Peter Bergman’s contexts.
The analogies are to do with achieving a working success, whether it is of a small project or a larger one, such as a restructuring within an organisation, or any part of these that develops sufficient for there to be a potentially measurable outcome. Having been involved in many different projects that fit this description since the beginning of this century, I feel that, if nothing else, I have some expertise in observing the initiation, development and eventual outcomes of these.
Here is a description of the analogies, comparing the traditional approach (modernism) with postmodernism.
To launch a projectile in order to reach a goal called the target.
The target is defined - its position and range established. The launching device is chosen and a suitable projectile with means for propelling is selected according to the target range and conditions.
Past experience with the same or similar equipment is called upon. Some allowance for wind conditions is made. Adjustments to sites are made for the range if necessary and the projectile is launched at the target.
Following successfully meeting the target, or otherwise, there may be some decision made as to how the trajectory may be improved in order to hit the target more accurately in future. What evolves from this is what may be termed a ‘sure fire’ process or strategy.
The target is defined, though its position and range may not be too definite. The launching device is selected and a projectile launched without a great deal of time spent considering such parameters as direction of aim, range or conditions.
All these minor matters are decided upon and adjusted during the trajectory of the projectile, in much the same way as the Apollo 11 Command Module was navigated in 1969.
The target is then brought more into focus. Provided there is sufficient time for trajectory adjustment before the projectile travels out of range, the target is decided upon. With any luck, the target is met.
There are no repercussions. If the target is met the project is successful. If the target is not met, a new project and strategy to hit a new target is discussed at some later date.