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Top-down, bottom-up, meet in the middle—there is a lot of discussion about how to modernise and achieve change, particularly in public services. We have been inching our way from feudal organisational forms through the free market and paternalistic organisations. The current received wisdom is about the need to empower frontline staff and to shift the balance of power away from the centre towards the periphery. Decentralisation and participation are the key words. There is often talk, rather like sheep and goats, of people who are either “strategic” (visionaries, leaders, high paid people) or “operational” (the people who do the work and are usually much lower paid with much less job security, and who are often sacrificed when things go wrong).
The reality is that, as usual in life, we need a whole systems approach, where we acknowledge and respect our interdependence. This means that not only should the high flying leaders keep their feet on the ground, while maintaining their eyes above the horizon, but that the doers should understand how their contributions, so often considered modest, contribute to major strategic achievements. The need for strategic underview.
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