Viewing the Scottish Devolution Debate through the Cynefin Framework

A few nights ago I watched the debate on Scottish Devolution with my two boys. They are interested in this historic decision and were keen to discuss the debate.

I used the debate to help them understand a little of what I do at work, namely the Cynefin framework.

Scottish Devolution is a complex situation. No one knows whether it will be good for Scotland (and Great Britain) or otherwise. When considering whether its a good thing, we won’t find out for a generation or two…. Its that big a deal. Think back to Ireland joining the Euro. For years, Ireland was one of Europe’s fast growing Tiger economies. Then the credit crunch happened, and Ireland struggled within the Euro. I do not know whether Scottish Devolution with work or not, and I do not think anyone else does either. That’s the thing about complex situations.

That said, there are aspects of Scottish Devolution that are simple, and those that are complicated.

A simple aspect is whether Scottish people want more independence from Westminster. Its simple that Scotland can use the British Pound or any other currency including the US Dollar and the Euro.

There are complicated things that can be analysed or resolved with help of experts by looking at how similar problems .

Will Scotland need to create a physical border between itself and England? Will joining the EU require Scotland to join the Chingen agreement that allows Europeans to move between countries without passports.
If Scotland creates a more beneficial and successful health service, how will they ensure that hoards of English don’t cross the border to make use of the service?

There are complex problems such as what currency and mechanism will Scotland use?
Use the Pound or another Currency.
A Scottish Pound Pegged to the Pound, Euro or US Dollar.
Co-manage the pound with the Bank of England. This is not only Scotland’s decision as the Bank of England’s responsibility is to manage the Pound for the benefit of Great Britain, and Scotland would not be part of Great Britain.
Blah, blah, some other thing.

The interesting thing about the debate is that Alex Salmond was making simple arguments, and Alistair Darling was making complicated and complex points. Since the time of Lenin’s success with “Peace, Land, Bread!”, politicians have known that electoral messages need to be simple, simple, simple. This is why the Sun newspaper is so powerful and hire some of the best journalists, it keeps things simple.

So from looking at the debate using Cynefin, the big question I had was, why isn’t a seasoned politician making things simple? Why isn’t he pointing out that Westminster was run by Scottish Lawyers? Unless he’s hedging Labour’s bets. If the “No to independence” win, then OK. But if the “Yes” vote win, when the inevitable problems occur (There are bound to be at least teething problems rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall) he can say “I told you so” and Labour will see a resurgence in Scotland.

Of course, if Scotland devolve and we build a wall, the Cornish might want to go next. If so, we will need to rename the conference to “Agile across the Breach”.

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About theitriskmanager

A IT programme manager specialising in delivering trading and risk management systems in Investment Banks. I achieve this by focusing on risk rather than cost. A focus on costs can lead to increased costs. View all posts by theitriskmanager

One response to “Viewing the Scottish Devolution Debate through the Cynefin Framework

  • Chris McDermott (@chrisvmcd)

    Great post Chris!

    Since learning about Cynefin I’ve been on a similar journey… finding it’s applicability in helping to understand many different situations.

    There’s one thing I’d like to point out though. The referendum is not for devolution, we won that referendum in 1997, it’s a referendum for independence. That doesn’t change the points you make though.

    What might be interesting is thinking about how can some of these complex issues be better understood. E.g can we run a safe to fail experiment? Back to the devolution… has the intervening years with a devolved government in Scotland been just that? Or is this just something where we’ll never know unless we make the leap and vote Yes. I certainly don’t think many of these questions are answerable, at least not in the public domain, till after the 18th of Sept.

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