Knowing when you’re at the tea party

How mad should you be to work here?

Ben Holliday is leaving the mad hatter’s tea party of government, worrying in his valedictory post about the risk that he was starting to go native, to see the madness as normality. That’s a good concern to have (and retaining a sense of alienness is a much underrated skill), but there is a reverse danger too: not being aware enough of the constraints and opportunities given by organisations (and their cultures and contexts) brings a real risk that even the best intended change fails to deliver its potential.

There is a sweet spot to be found – having enough experience and understanding to be effective in a particular environment, but not so much as to fall into the trap of thinking that everything is as it can only be. Alice may have left the tea party to save her own sanity – but the tea party went on unchanged without her. Perhaps if Alice joined up with Bob and stayed a little longer, the cycle might be broken.

Ben Holliday

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