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"Thursday Thinking"

©2019 by Weaving Futures. 

  • Carolyn Stuart

The Replacement Theory

In last week’s blog Is this a good idea or not? I talked about using a Value Map as a way to assess whether a new idea is worth pursuing. I had some great feedback including this comment from a second year teacher:

"I think your map could be my salvation! I have spent my first 5 terms hopping from idea to idea as

I have felt some weird panic to keep trying every new idea that lands in an in-box or that others

are doing."

As I said in last week’s blog ‘Education has never been short of good ideas’ and from my experience working in the business/government sector good ideas are in plentiful supply there as well!!! This week I’d like to talk about something else that also seems to be in plentiful supply and that is new initiatives, which of course makes sense if you are constantly scanning the environment for new ideas. There is nothing wrong with new initiatives, in fact they are really important in keeping any organisation fresh and energized. New initiatives only become a problem when they come on top of the old in a never ending cascade of increasing expectations.

So what can you do about it? One idea might be to apply “The Replacement Theory” to your organisation or team. “The Replacement Theory” simply states that ‘any new initiative replaces an existing one.`` Of course being a theory there will be times when necessity or circumstances overrule it, but in general it should be applied to all new initiatives

So how do you go about implementing “The Replacement Theory

1. Identify what “The Replacement Theory” (as a new initiative) is replacing.

This is easy if not a little ironic! It is replacing continually adding to people’s work loads.


2. Appoint a ‘Replacement Officer’ for your team or organisation.The role of the “Replacement Officer” is to leap to their feet, either literally or metaphorically and ask “what is this replacing?” whenever a new initiative is announced. If they can do it with a bit of melodrama it becomes a light-hearted way to remind people that whenever you add something new you should also be thinking about what you can now take away.

If you are the leader of an organisation consider publicly committing to following “The Replacement Theory”. Bite the bullet and appoint a “Replacement Officer” - choosing someone who will take the role seriously but deliver it in a light-hearted manner. In the last organisation I led I did this and the times when I would publicly commit to something without having thought ‘replacement not additive’ the Replacement Officer leaping to their feet gave me the space I needed to think the decision through more thoroughly. It also gave the team a good laugh and kept me honest as their leader, which in turn built my credibility; so wins all around. If you are someone who is overworked appoint yourself as your own “Replacement Officer”. Think carefully before taking on any new tasks and at the same time identify the things you no longer need to do. If you are in a situation where someone more senior than you is adding to your workload, train yourself to respectfully ask “so what is it you would like me to stop doing in order to do this new thing”. Practice saying it out loud before using it for the first time so you don’t come across as passive aggressive.

Finally, as a bit of an aside I run “The Replacement Theory” whenever I buy new clothes. I deliberately take something out of my wardrobe and replace it, using the same coat hanger, with my new purchase. This keeps my wardrobe fresh and prevents me making unnecessary purchases - well that is the theory anyway!

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