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May 11 2015

Everyone is awesome, no one is to blame

The Liberal Democrats have members from all walks of life. I, for example, am a scientist and sometime software developer. To be honest I’m more of a manager than a developer. There are many tools for software management, one of them is the Agile framework. This is a relatively new innovation and the details are unimportant here but I think there are a couple of things we can learn from Agile. The first is the title of this blog post:

Everyone is awesome, no one is to blame

This mantra is something we bear in mind when we look back over a period or a particular event. The benefit of this approach is most apparent when you are faced with a situation where the mantra is left behind: “You messed up, you are to blame”. Under these circumstances the protagonists in the retrospective become entrenched in their positions and unwilling to open up as to why something happened. It becomes more important to defend your side and make sure someone else is to blame. This approach is unhelpful, and ultimately you have to go forward and continue working with those found to be to blame in a poisoned atmosphere.

We as Liberal Democrats face this risk. I’ve been a member of the party since 1988, it was only after the 2010 general election that I realised that the Liberal Democrats had factions! In a former life I worked with a student from Yugoslavia, she had fled the country with her family at the time of the war. We talked about Yugoslavia and I asked her once whether she knew in her class at school who was a Serb and who a Croat. She said: “Of course not, we were all the same”. In Yugoslavia demagogues dredged up division where none previously existed.

I joined the Liberal Democrats because I wanted to be with people like me, not with some people like me and that other bunch who I couldn’t abide. Schism is for socialists ;-) We mustn’t let any dissection of what is coming to be known as “Cockroach Thursday” become an excuse for factionalism and finger pointing, other parties have tried that approach and it doesn’t work.

The second tool for analysis you might enjoy is “5 whys”. Parents of toddlers will know be somewhat familiar with this technique, used for establishing root causes. It’s very easy to jump to a cause for an event in one bound but it isn’t necessarily right. The “5 whys” method invites you to question the first cause you come up with repeatedly with further “whys”.

  1. Why did we lose? We broke our promise on tuition fees
  2. Why did we make our promise on tuition fees? Because the NUS presented us with a pledge to sign
  3. Why did we sign the pledge on tuition fees? We wanted the votes of students
  4. Why did we want the votes of students? Because we wanted to win parliamentary seats
  5. Why did we want to win parliamentary seats? So we could implement our policies which we feel are best for Britain.

The important point here is not my particular responses to the questions rather that I haven’t stopped at the first one, and each answer leads to further questions which we may return to later.

For my next post I will highlight the use of the Gedankenexperiment in the analysis of political problems.