Friday, September 05, 2008

Bones and 'Switchcraft' 

Switchcraft. A word that alas didn’t get taken up when coined back in the 1950’s. It calls up a concept that might be useful as we attempt to absorb and move on from the Bones report.

Switchcraft is the art of understanding how circumstances change and how to accept and refine necessary adaptations in familiar ways of doing things. It was proposed as a winning entry in a competition (in the old ‘News Chronicle’ newspaper) to find an alternative term for the process of ‘automation’.

‘Automation’ as a frame for change in industry strongly implies some kind of juggernaut of technological inevitability and consequent social disruption that cannot be argued against. ‘Switchcraft’ contains the notion that there are choices to be made and values to be upheld, be the ongoing changes as radical as they may be. It gives a value and dignity to the attempts by individuals to find their own path through the turmoils – and that must be a Liberal approach, surely?

Having been in the ‘Consultancy Game’ for a short time I know that one function of Consultants Reports is (all to often) to act as a frame-setter for decisions the client had already decided were necessary, with the report serving to put discussion onto ‘automation’ tramlines so they appear settled and necessary and easier to push through. Shaping debate so the clients decision makers can act while deflecting criticisms onto the consultants.

But it is possible to have reports that act as stimulants to evolving ‘switchcraft’ in the clients decision community. That can lead to ultimate fruitful decisions that surprise both the clients and the consultants.

Now finally I’ll get over and read the Bones report , thinking about the Switchcraft-stimulation elements if any.

Oh and also ‘Nemawashi’, the other word and concept I have been consistently unsuccessful in promoting in LibDem circles. Clearly my switchcraft is wanting.

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