Chickens come home to roost: Troubled families

In the last newsletter I wrote about the leaked report on the complete failure of Cameron’s ‘Troubled Families’ initiative. Hundreds of millions spent and wasted. The plan is to carry on, to spend over a billion. Subsequently it made the news:

The Whitehall response was: families had seen “significant improvements”; in other words, denial.

The author of the report wrote a blog in which he describes the initiative as a “perfect case study of how the manipulation and misrepresentation of statistics by politicians and civil servants – from the Prime Minister downwards – led directly to bad policy and, frankly, to the wasting of hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.” Read it here:

And, as I have pointed out repeatedly, most recently documented in our last Periodical, it doesn’t cost more to help people whose lives have fallen off the rails; it costs a lot less. Whitehall’s method: dream up a vote-catching idea and throw money at it in the form of incentives. Our method: study, to learn what is flawed about the current system, and redesign it to make it effective.

Chickens come home to roost: Choice-based lettings

The good news: Housing organisations are abandoning choice-based lettings. The bad news: The regulator (Chartered Institute of Housing), in the form of a policy officer, is in the media lamenting the fact, saying it is a ‘backwards step’. How can saving loads of money and designing a lettings service that’s more effective and more person-centred be a step backwards?

Regular readers will know I wrote extensively about the madness of choice-based lettings when it all kicked off in Blair’s era (it had the word ‘choice’ so fitted the narrative). I have also published examples of better designs. I wrote to the regulator’s policy officer offering evidence explaining why CBL is both ineffective and costly and offered her the opportunity to be taken to learn how to study CBL in order to discover the flaws.

The response: deafening silence. What’s the role of a policy officer? It is a classic example of the wrong-headed way we regulate; specify plausible but non-evidenced ideas, inspect for compliance and castigate those who step out of line, especially if they know better.

If you’ve had enough…

If you’re in the public sector and had enough of slavishly complying with dumb and costly ideas and want to make a huge difference, you might want to take advantage of our very special offer. The e-learning site has plenty of examples of how to study and redesign public services, with step-by-step guidance. The usual cost of subscribing is £6,000. We are offering up to 30 subscriptions for only £3,000. That’s not £3,000 each, its £3,000 for all 30 if you take 30.

It’s a stonking offer. Public services are using these methods to save millions and you can follow them in a do-it-yourself fashion as cheap as chips. Why is it important to have thirty people rather than one doing it? Because when you ‘get it’ you don’t want to be alone, it’s better to be amongst a crowd that has crossed the Rubicon. To take advantage of the offer please contact Maria: office@vanguardconsult.co.uk

Same old same old in health

I regularly shout at the radio when I listen to commentators talk about health and care systems. They trot out the Whitehall narrative: People are getting older, demand for services is growing, the status quo is not sustainable; we have to decide what to stop doing and who will pay.

The NHS Sustainability Transformation Plans (should be called doing-the-wrong-thing-righter plans) being cooked up around the country – which ministers want kept secret – are based on the notion that efficiency is as tight as a drum. It is not. The NHS is grossly ineffective and, consequently, grossly inefficient. Demand isn’t rising, it is stable. Unlike Whitehall, we’ve studied it.

What is rising, inexorably, is failure demand; caused, as ever, by industrialisation: standardisation (‘protocols’), specialisation, activity management, targets and an absence of continuity in the relationship between patients and the service.

This way of managing amounts to tampering with the system, making performance worse, and the worse it becomes, the more the leaders bully their staff. Forget protection of whistle-blowers; anyone who raises concerns about the system will be vilified.

Keeping another secret

I read Margaret Hodge’s book. Fascinating to get her perspective on many of the Whitehall blunders I have written about for years. But most disturbing was her account of the ‘Work Programme’ where she tells us that minsters, in the face of bad news about the failure of the initiative to make any difference, have insisted in contracts that suppliers must not disclose any information about their performance. Shocking; is it any wonder people take a dim view of politicians?

Two diseases join forces

You’d think it was a joke. There is now a ‘Quality Standard’ for ‘Lean Six Sigma’. The specifications and inspection industry (which, by definition, can’t be a quality industry) has been applied to the wrong-headed tools industry. Jobs for the disease-mongers.

It comes at a time when tool-head interventions (throw tools as the problems managers think they have) are on the wane. Lean is all but dead in many of the private-sector clients we work with because leaders have come to notice that the claimed savings don’t fall through to the bottom line. Last week I was talking with a housing organisation where leaders have noticed the same. I asked them if they still used personal data assistants (hand-held devices that give tradesmen their jobs) and the schedule of rates (specifications for jobs) or whether the Lean initiative had exposed the folly of these things. The answers were yes and no. In which case we can predict the repairs service will be high cost and poor quality.

Lean has nothing to do with the innovation in Toyota back in the 1950s.

A good and useful read

Richard Davis, one of our founding consultants, has written a brilliant little book on how to design services for people whose lives have fallen off the rails. The consequences are far better services at much lower costs; happier people, families and communities. He shows how we have to shift public services from a ‘supply’ perspective to helping people take responsibility for their own lives. It puts the helping professions back to helping mode instead of the current dysfunctional bureaucratic, form-filling, budget-protecting, supply-focussed, protect-your-backside, comply-with-Whitehall mode. It’s another example of how effectiveness leads to efficiency while Whitehall’s obsession with efficiency only drives costs up.

I recommend it:

The next People-Centred Services course

Practical application of Richard Davis’ book forms the basis of our People-Centred Services course, a one-year action-learning programme, offered at low cost to the helping professions.

The next course begins in Spring 2017. Find out more and register your interest here.

Simon Caulkin speaks

Simon Caulkin is speaking in Newcastle on Thursday 8th December at 5.30pm. The event is free. His title: ‘Everything we know about management is wrong’.

To find out more: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/kite/news/events/item/seminar-series-16-little-heresies-in-public-policy

I wish I’d found out earlier

We joined forces with the Beyond Budgeting Round Table just over a year ago. It was serendipitous; we had become fed up with people from the management factory arriving upset because our redesigns (which had fantastic performance) looked ‘red’ on their RAG status. It was a pain to have to keep explaining why ‘red’ was really ‘green’ and why the old ‘green’ was really ‘red’ and we began getting to grips with budgeting and planning processes much earlier in our interventions.

Over the last year I have learned something I wish I’d learned thirty years ago. The planning and budgeting processes are not based on knowledge of the ways operations make or use money. OMG

Well done Mr James McKinsey – he of the eponymous consulting firm – that’s what you gave the world.

So getting knowledge – which leaders have aplenty when they use our Method – in to the planning and budgeting processes is our mission. On Tuesday we will be sharing the progress to date.