Drivers of Change

I had the pleasure of participating in a brainstorming session hosted by Vermont Public Television ( this week, in which a number of us were asked to identify urgent issues on the Vermont landscape and, with the aid of a knowledge-based tool out of the quality management system, determine what were the drivers of those issues; where were the strong causal relationships? Our results were quite interesting.


The initial list of issues and sub-issues was familiar: the economy; aging population; cost of living; health care; energy; federal/state dynamics; environment; education; leadership; housing; substance abuse; childcare; community/identity; the “Two Vermonts”; Vermont farms; youth; public safety; and communications. The systems analysis exercise sought to identify the direction of the relationship between issues, so that eventually we ended up with a relatively short list of issues that – if resolved – could conceivably remedy all our other problems. Or, so the exercise led us to believe.


The messy diagram eventually showed that the strongest systems drivers were: #1 – leadership; #2 – aging population; #3 – federal/state relations; #4 – education; and #5 – transportation. Hmmm, not health care? Not energy? Not the economy, stupid?! Not according to our analysis.


This was but one of numerous visioning exercises underway on the Vermont landscape. Over the past couple years Vermonters have been mobilized around energy, health care, economic development, community development, transportation, and the future of Vermont. All are important topics and valuable information has flowed from those efforts, however, without that most important driver ~ strong leadership ~  to actually set priorities, communicate the vision, allocate resources, implement plans and monitor progress, meaningful change will continue to be handicapped or delayed.