Book tour finale

A recording of the book-tour event is now available on line; the offer of a half-price book remains open. Please encourage those who need to think differently to watch it.

A positive outcome from the pandemic

The book tour was about to travel to the South West when the pandemic struck.  The host, Dominic Ellison, chief executive of WECIL, a care service in Bristol and practitioner of the Vanguard Method, wrote to me recently:

Since then [he refers to the cancellation of the tour] of course the world has turned upside in many ways and while I don’t in any way wish to appear glib over the virus which has had a greater impact on the disabled community than any other social identifier; there has been many, many benefits to WECIL – mainly that Local Authority commissioners needed us more than ever and had to entrust us to deliver without wasteful scrutiny and reporting over every bean counted. This forced freedom from command and control has enabled WECIL to meet the over 65% increase in demand with rather negligible uplift in income – and the big surprise is that the commissioners have truly embraced the difference and are explicit that in our case, there will be no rush backward. What a surprising gift to receive amid the misery of the year!

It is indeed a gift. Commissioners learn that helping people by giving them what they need, rather than what is specified in contracts, is not only cheaper but also, critically, more effective. It leads commissioners to focus on demand and capacity, enabling flexibility with provision rather than sub-optimising provision through specifications. Tell that to those who think we need a market in care services. Cooperation beats competition.

I’ve always thought urgency should come from leaders, not events. To create urgency amongst commissioners our people-centred services team have been helping commissioners study the real consequences of their commissioning strategy (conforming with Whitehall directives).

My email to Matt Hancock

Having been told of Matt Hancock’s ambitions for the care sector, I wrote to him, enclosing a copy of Beyond Command and Control:

Dear Matt,

I am reading reports that you want health and social care to work as a system, where the needs of patients matter more than silos and you say this change ought to be achieved at speed. Please read chapter 5 of the enclosed book. All of your aims delivered.

It is important to point out that the achievements were in spite of the regulatory regime; I would like to give you advice on how to improve regulation to encourage innovation rather than compliance.

One more thing of note: owing to the pandemic we moved all the training associated with this change online. So the means are easy to spread.



In the interest of full disclosure: I did not go to school or university with Matt. He hasn’t replied.

What’s cooking?

In Matt’s in-tray is a Blueprint for care services, cooked up by Frontline and a Big Consultancy. Frontline has been receiving buckets of cash from central government for training social workers. Politicians believe social-worker turnover is a training problem. It isn’t. Frontline’s chair is Camilla Cavendish, friend of Dave, who is embroiled in his own lobby-for-pals-to-get-yer-dabs-on-public-money scandal.

I read the Blueprint. I was not impressed; it’s the wrong answer, it won’t solve the problem and it will waste millions. So I wrote to the people listed as interviewees; one assumes the interviewees are listed because they concur with the contents; I found that they don’t! Read more here.

It winds me up. For many years I have been presenting evidence on what’s wrong with regulation of care services, how that drives sub-optimal organisation designs, the scope for improving services and how such improvements have already been achieved… and it cuts no ice. The current political narrative is demand (for care) is rising, so who is going to pay? My fear is this will open the door to more private-sector provision and higher cost, more dabs on public money.

Hats off to the Stronger Together team

This is what ethical lobbying looks like. In a devolved part of our kingdom, where a substantial proportion of care service leaders have employed the Vanguard Method, they have formed an alliance to tackle the things that need to change for this better way of working to be the norm. They are taking on policy-making, commissioning, budgeting and access to services. They have a good chance their administrators will listen, the First Minister, when in a former role with responsibility for care services, changed the policy from form-filling to understanding what matters. You may think that trivial, it was profound.

Ethical lobbying; based on knowledge, supported by evidence. No shady mates.

To those of you who are keen to find out who these people are: please leave them alone, they have enough to do. If you want to know more about the issues, ask me 🙂

Webinar: Employee surveillance

Next week I’m chairing a webinar with Ibrar Hussain on employee surveillance. As I said in the last newsletter this new IT-based suite of controls on workers is dystopian. But more than that, any manager who thinks managing activity and, for that purpose, spying on workers will improve productivity needs his head examined.

We teach our clients how surveillance of the work, not the worker, delivers dramatic improvement in service, cost, revenue, morale, transparency, culture and control; real control.

More information about the event is here.

Thanks to the readers who sent this link to a shocking example.

What you can be sure about is any company using this tech will have excess costs, poor service, low morale… you get the picture.

Webinar: Making change based on knowledge

Our Scandinavian colleagues Kristian and Jonas will take you through a complete Vanguard Method intervention. You’ll see how knowledge is generated, how it leads to confidence that improvements could be vast, how the experience changes the way leaders think, how further confidence is built through being hands-on in the redesign and, of course the impact it has on performance.

What else would you need to know?

More information about the event is here.

Misunderstanding failure demand

A reader sent me this, a definition of failure demand he described as being nestled in a course on ‘LinkedIn learning’ called ‘Lean Software Development’:

Failure demand is ‘work you have to do now because something wasn’t done correctly before’.

Wrong. I learned recently that this is actually defined as technical debt, a slightly bonkers term for stuff you didn’t do that needs to get done if software is going to get delivered. So it’s actually a dysfunctional feature of flow, not demand.

And here’s the thing: The big issue in large-scale Agile/Scrum IT change is actually delivering things, anything. A long-time friend is a top leader in such an organisation, he’s always saying ‘if we were making cars leaders would ask how many we made today, no one asks that of the IT factory and when you look-see you find a sad lack of delivery’. And all of the stuff going on to try to improve delivery is entirely the wrong focus. The question they never ask is how do we know these are the right things to make? That’s where we start, and the consequences are much less expenditure on IT, everything that’s coded is used and the IT people have much more job satisfaction. In our recent book we describe this as ‘IT last’.

Perhaps my reader could point this ill-informed techie to my webinar on failure demand:

Failure demand from the horse’s mouth with John Seddon

Other events

For information about other up-coming events please go to: Events.

Thanks for reading!