Applying the 10% rule to Systems Change

Last week, I wrote about how the 10% rule helps to overcome obstacles, specifically related to physical training, and in my case, running.  As promised, this week’s post discusses how to apply that rule when seeking systems change.

Of course, this rule is easier to apply to physical challenges.  In the running example I used last week, I simply increased my distance 10% at a time until in 8 steps, I had doubled my distance. Systems change, however, is not always as easy to measure.

In reality, applying the 10% rule to systems change is a recognition, that in all but the most unusual cases, it takes a step by step, gradual approach, in order to accomplish genuine systems change.  Indeed, those who expect systems change to happen in one fell swoop, are as unlikely to accomplish their goals as those who think they can run 10k without gradually building up the strength and stamina to do so.

Perhaps the best way to describe how this approach works is to set forth the steps taken over many years to pass Act 125, Wisconsin’s law eliminating the use of inappropriate seclusion  and restraint of children in public schools.  Of course, given the complexity of the issue, some of these steps overlapped each other and occurred simultaneously and repeatedly.

  1. Represent school children in numerous cases around the state to bring legal actions against school districts and abusive educators who used inappropriate seclusion and restraint on children.
  2. Expose stories of abusive seclusion and restraint use on school children in the media.
  3. At a time when only 6 states had laws prohibiting the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint on school children, analyze those laws and develop a model law for Wisconsin.
  4. Find a legislative sponsor for the model law.
  5. After years of being unable to get a legislative hearing on the bill, collect dozens of stories, team with other groups, and publicize them in the widely released Out of Darkness….Into the Light: New Approaches to Reducing the Use of Seclusion and Restraint with Children.
  6. Organize witnesses to tell their stories of seclusion and restraint at Senate hearing.
  7. After Senate Education Committee refuses to vote on bill, create Wisconsinites Concerned About Seclusion and Restraint Facebook page as an organizing tool.
  8. Work to develop a consensus bill with key stakeholders.
  9. Obtain unanimous legislative passage of seclusion and restraint bill.
  10. Get Governor to sign bill S-R bill signing1
  11. Monitor the bill’s implementation, including media exposure of problems.

These steps took place over a period of nearly 15 years, and of course, the problem as indicated in the last step, is not completely solved.  But the 10% rule clearly demonstrates how using this gradual approach, Wisconsin advocates were able to achieve fundamental systems change.

For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems contact him through his web site: Systems Change Consulting.


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