The Goat Rodeo is a specific aspect of the Wicked Problem space. The Goat Rodeo refers to the complex political structures we build to address Wicked Problems. I’m really just suggesting that these structures are inherently flawed, and when you see one failure is assured. All the evidence I have seems to point to this.
The approach then becomes to revert to command-and-control for any system which has to work, because complex systems behave unpredictably, and focus on getting that part right.
This is hideously unpopular, but I want to create a culture in which the following dialogue is possible:
Scene: a meeting re. state failure impacts in some horrible place
Chairman > Right, let’s call this session to order. We have 3 NGO reps, 5 different national militaries, two people from the State Department and USAID, a local government rep and two local civil society representatives.
Chariman > On the agenda, [difficult task on which nobody really agrees the course of action]
Voice of Reason > “Sir, I believe this meeting meets all of the technical criteria of a Goat Rodeo! I move to adjourn and reorganize in a soluble format to actually address the problem.”
Voice of Reason > “Specifically, we have seven different kinds of entities represented at the table, so we cannot use a standard dispute resolution method if there is competition or conflict. We clearly do not agree on the following two aspects of [difficult task] and so are not in a truly cooperative environment. Therefore we can neither compete nor collaborate effectively, and furthermore nobody is actually in charge or responsible, and the meeting will go round and round in circles without creating an accountable party. Therefore it meets the technical definition of a Goat Rodeo, and we must adjourn and pass the problem to a more suitable group to resolve.”
Chairman, groaning > “Dammit, you’re not invited the next time we try this.”
Only we can prevent the Goat Rodeo. It’s a cultural change, a willingness to admit that we cannot reliably deliver solutions in the Wicked Problem / VUCA space with complex governance solutions, and need to start avoiding those quagmires at a structural, strategic, political level. When you see somebody attempting to solve a problem by creating and deploying a Goat Rodeo, you can assume failure, and instruct them to do something else instead. “Those never work, son, they never have.” Hence “governance antipattern.”
The Goat Rodeo is the governance antipattern of our times.
Compare, if you will, Godwin’s Law, which can roughly be stated as “In any internet debate about politics, eventually somebody will compare their opponents to the Nazis. This person has automatically lost the argument.”
“Godwinization,” as calling a Godwin’s Law event is called, rapidly improves the quality of debate by closing doors to stupid conversations which lead down endless blind alleys. We need to catalyze cultural change inside the Wicked Problem space. As Amory Lovins says about toxic waste: “Identify, Label, Track and Stigmatize.”
I want people to be laughing at the idea that Wicked Problems were ever soluble in 10 years. I want people to brand each-other’s political structures as Goat Rodeos and to feel empowered to refuse to participate in time-wasting talking shops.
I want us to stop pretending we have this under control, and return to basics: command-and-control solutions to hard problems with vital, life-and-death outcomes, and an admission of failure where failure has occurred.