The disadvantage of presenting yourself as the solution to a crisis is the danger of scope creep. If you pull one thread, a hundred things begin to unravel. The interconnected nature of problems in large organisations makes it all too easy for people to put forward objections or delays. ‘Of course, you’re absolutely right that this state of affairs is completely unacceptable,’ they say, ‘but once this project is finished in six months we’ll be in a much stronger position to get started.’ The variant on this tactic is for those people to say, ‘Well, if you’re going to fix x, then of course you’ll need to fix y and z at the same time for it to be really worth doing.’ This is not a new problem. ‘Pushpin politics’ was a phrase used to describe this phenomenon as far back as the 17th century. In the more recent words of one very senior former UK official, this tactic is described as ‘collecting rocks’. It can be done forever. There is only one response to these kinds of objection, and it is an uncomfortable one. You have to ignore it. If you want to deliver change, it is imperative you set a single, clear goal of something you will deliver, preferably by a specific date.
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