Dan Heath and Chip Heath have drawn inspiration from some interesting sources in their article “Business advice from Van Halen” published in Fast Company . The story talks about early warning signs and eventually explains that Val Halen had a no brown M&Ms clause in their contract. In addition to requiring a bowl of M&Ms backstage, the contract contained Article 126 which read:
“There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”
This simple requirement buried deep in the contract, a contract spelling out detailed technical requirements, allowed Van Halen to quickly determine if the production crew had read the contract and whether or not a technical error was likely.
So what are the brown M&Ms for the public service? Here are some ideas:
- No thought of the citizen / the public in service delivery, policy development and implementation
- Little or no focus on the future just dealing with immediate problems
- Absence of alternative view points being presented in discussions
- Lack of a bias for action, just lots of planning
- No mistakes
- People who use the sentence – ‘we can’t raise expectations’
- Units with an over-representation of 50+ year old men
- Strong hierarchies
- People uncomfortable with even a little brainstorming, who divert conversations to frameworks, processes and resources
- Units that never describe the ‘outcomes’ from their work.
But how do we get the same immediacy as Van Halen’s brown M&Ms?