Proposal: Unconference to fight against digital gov inertia Zombies

How might we support those getting hit hard by the change?

There are days when it’s full steam ahead. No time to wait. We’re improving government and getting better and more value out the door.

If you’re not on the bus, it’s moving along without you. Though, if you’re able to run, the door is open and you’re welcome to hop on when there is space. Be ready to contribute.

At the BCDevExchange’s Lab, the bus analogy is actually one that we use from time to time when we talk about our approach to change. It has been fairly accurate because we only have one bus, and we don’t know how much gas we have… so losing momentum is not an option.

Not only that, but inertia zombies tend to pop out from the side streets, threatening to eat our brains (I’ll let you read into that part of the analogy how you will. Those who have experienced the inertia blocking change in gov will get what I mean.)

Feeling trapped by the zombies of inertia?

So really: no stopping allowed.

An Antidote to Zombies

While it seems like the entire world is mostly full of zombies, there’s more to it.

As the bus hobbles down the street, it drives by houses where stranded people have locked themselves up to stay safe. They are desperate to get out, but it’s not clear how to get past the zombies. No one has said there’s a chance of survival if you do…

Until the leader comes along and hands their people the sword-of-permission and the ax-of-digital-principles.

I’m not sure if you’re like me, but if you’ve never handled a sword or ax before… it’s a little bit of stretch to think that you can just start lopping off zombie heads…

I think this is what we are starting to experience now.

With BC’s new draft digital principles and very new draft policies, people are starting to feel some empowerment. Zombies such as information protectionism, infrastructure limitations, large scale plans have a visible weakness.

However, depending on the stature of the zombie, there’s a certain way to swing. And while you’re swinging at one zombie, another is surely coming up behind you. What to do?

Safety in Numbers

The secret of the bus is that we drive around the zombies. We’ve created safe physical and psychological space to avoid slowing down for the constant need to decapitate. (Though trust me, we run up against the odd mob and have broken a window or two.)

While we only have one bus, the people who have been riding with us have learned how to wield the sword. Some of them are equipped with armor, and they go as a team. Some of these teams have hopped off the bus and established safe houses (what we often call “hubs”) where they continue to deliver value beyond the inertia.

They are stationary and typically closer to the zombies, but they have more of a fighting chance.

But how might we rescue the people who haven’t been on the bus, who are stranded in houses surrounded by zombies?

I don’t know for sure, but I feel like it’s about time to gather some brave folks, with their swords, and build their confidence.

Training is one way to do this that is certainly needed, but only part of it.

I haven’t watched a lot of zombie movies. But from what I’ve seen, it’s not too often that people get the time to train each other on how to kill those things. More often, folks assess the situation, see what tools they have, hand the big guy the ax, and plan an escape based on the context they are in.

I wonder if hosting an un-conference for some stranded people could help while they pile into training wait lists or wait for funding.

This might look like:

  • Start with people who have been handed swords — perhaps the Information Tech shops, where the CIO has handed people a directive to “be Agile;”
  • Provide them the Digital Principles and some other orientation materials, then let them set the agenda based on their curiosity.
  • Embed facilitators /bus riders who can offer tips or clarity around tactics and what has already been done.

I’ve been reflecting on lessons from Simon Wardley who has developed some excellent open resources on how to build adaptable organizations. These organizations become capable of being strategic because they have situational awareness. He points to inertia patterns as one element to have awareness of.

I’ve circled some of the inertia-zombie-decapitating tactics I’d like to explore with an unconference:

This is a subset of the inertia patterns Simon Wardley presents for us to consider as we map our way to a better future.

Based on the results, I might follow this up with a peer mentorship model, or some other way for people to dig into their specific challenges (i.e. apply broad principles to their situation and context.)

I’m looking for partners and champions who would be willing to pitch in on something like this. I do consider this a hypothesis to test, and am happy to refine that as well. Do reach out!

PS: Zombies are Imaginary

This was fun to write. And I think the analogy works pretty well. However, I wasn’t sure how to include a concept I’m playing with:

I don’t believe in zombies. They aren’t real.

I believe we’ve made all this stuff up: rules around how to behave, what governance should look like, the tools we are and aren’t allowed to use, etc. We assume we’ve created these rules and associated structures for good reasons that are still relevant. And some may be. But many are not.

The need to question reality and myths is strong. We all have to opportunity to create new approaches that will better get us to the destination. We get to decide.

Perhaps the trick is not to fear the zombies.

— H

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Heather-Lynn Remacle

Heather-Lynn Remacle

Slow to judge, quick to suppose: truth and alternatives I’m keen to expose. Open by default. How can I help? https://bit.ly/32Fmz2l