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What stops people being Pragmatic?


Management must empower people to be Pragmatic.

Effectiveness, Efficiency. Quality Time, Fundamentals and Sustainability, are all completely reasonable aims that no one could disagree with, so why do so many Enterprises and so many people in those Enterprises either ignore them or not pay them as much attention as they perhaps should?

The ability to do these things doesn’t come from the people doing the work. You cannot work on non-urgent things if you are forced to only work on urgent things. You cannot consider things further down the line if you are only allowed to consider what is right in front of your face, etc.

¨      It comes from the Context that people work within.

¨      It comes from the People who create this Context.

¨      It comes from the Management.

¨      It comes from the Culture.

¨      It comes from the Top.

Any environment can be constraining or empowering.

Being Pragmatic is to constrain where constraint is needed and to empower where empowerment is needed - To limit the number of gears to five, but to allow the person riding the bike to decide when to change gear.

Being Pragmatic does NOT mean Quick Wins or picking Low Hanging Fruit.

Of course, if any quick wins or low hanging fruit present themselves, they will be exploited, but quick wins and low hanging fruit are absolutely NOT the emphasis. 99% if not 100% of the people in an Enterprise are already constantly looking for quick wins and low hanging fruit.

Being Pragmatic is planting the seeds that quick wins and low hanging fruit grow from.

Being Pragmatic is also the acceptance that “shit happens!” The best laid plans, architectures, designs and decisions are always subject to change due to the constant state of flux the Enterprise operates within. Such changes may require us to rethink our plans, architectures, designs and decisions. This can cause serious problems when the implications of doing so are understood - rework, increased timescales, throwing things away, etc. This can cause us to leave things as they are and in effect ignore reality. Being Pragmatic is therefore the acceptance of reality (even if that is not nice and will cause us some serious problems) but more importantly the decision to deal with it rather than ignore it.

Part of being a manager is of course to effectively constrain people. To limit what they can do, but managers are also constrained. In fact, we are all constrained by the context (Methods, Artefacts, Culture and Environment) that we operate in and those things are either limiting because they define the Why or because they define the How.

Constraint is not a bad thing per se, but people need to be aware of the balance between constraint and enablement, control and empowerment.


How are people in your Enterprise Constrained?

Who constrains who and in what way?

Are the constraints contributing to the overall good or to the overall bad?

How do you or your Enterprise address the issue of balancing constraints with empowerment?

How does your Culture enable or disable people being Pragmatic?


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