What’s eating the Trojan Mice?

Cute, but potential mice killers.
Cute, but potential mice killers.

Last week I posted about setting free Trojan Mice and argued that when faced with complex situations we need to carry out multiple ‘safe to fail’ pilots (rather than large single option solutions) .  All very fine, but once you’ve set the Trojan Mice free, how do you give them the best chance of success? Learning from failure is all well and good, but a box full of deceased Trojan Mice isn’t going to help anyone. They need an environment where they can at least ‘run free’, and if they fail it’s due to them alone and not the ‘environmental factors’ (organisational culture and behaviours) that get in the way.

To get the best out of safe to fail pilots you need to implement a number of them. The
more pilots you have running, the more likely you are to come up with many right answers – a bit like buying lots of raffle tickets.  In a complex adaptive system diversity and a range of options can only help you. Like Euan Semple says “Unleash Trojan Mice. Don’t do big things or spend loads of money. Set small, nimble things running and see where they head.”

I’d suggest that helping the Trojan Mice is all about creating this right environment. Working out the technology, corporate policy and procedures should be dealt with by the people running the safe to fail pilots. If they need to comply with rules or fill in some forms (or not), leave it up to them. It might be better that they beg forgiveness later rather than wait around for permission.

These are my views on the 7 most important things that will let the mice run free, and avoid them getting eaten:

  1. Accept Uncertainty. You cannot predict the future in complex situations.
  2. Believe.  Solutions will emerge from safe to fail pilots.
  3. Trust People. They have knowledge and will do their best.
  4. Give Protection. Give cover from organisation or factors that will cause harm.
  5. Tolerate Failure. Accept that not everything will work.
  6. Be Patient.  Just because things are pilots, they aren’t instant.
  7. Evaluate, Learn & Move On (All at once). Learn and scale up where successful and stop where not.

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. Trojan Mice / safe to fail pilots are vulnerable. They need some protection.
  2. Try to initiate as many pilots as reasonably possible.
  3. Leadership that creates the right environment is probably the most important factor in determining the success of the Trojan Mice. It stops them getting eaten by the metaphorical (organisational) cat.
Greebo (as cat) from Discworld. Avoid this bad boy!
Greebo (as cat) from Discworld. Avoid this bad boy!

Beware of this bad boy Greebo the Cat, he will eat Trojan Mice without a second thought (a bit like some organisational cultures). He needs a Nanny Ogg  to keep him under control.

Picture source: http://www.terrypratchett.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1372&sid=07edba36b93fff88ad830547924d7052

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

9 Responses

  1. […] Trojan Mice are essentially small projects that are safe to fail. One of the main principles of the Good Practice Exchange is that we don’t reinvent the wheel, so there’s no sense in me outlining the whole theory again when Chris’ blogs do a great job here and here. […]

  2. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker
    who had been doing a little homework on this. And
    he actually bought me lunch due to the fact that I found it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this topic here on your blog.

  3. […] Prosiectau bach sy’n ddiogel i fethu yw Llygod Trojan. Un o brif egwyddorion y Gyfnewidfa Arfer Dda yw dydyn ni ddim yn ailddyfeisio’r olwyn, felly does dim synnwyr i mi amlinellu’r theori i gyd eto pan mae blogiau Chris yn gwneud hyn yn wych yma ac yma. […]

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