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******* Notes on transformation *******

To take a break from the ISO 9000 attention we have been receiving, this
issue returns to the knitting. Some thoughts and observations on the nature
of a transformation:

John Seddon

PS bits of news on ISO 9000 at the end 😉

Transformation: the story of a leader

A Japanese correspondent tells me the story a Japanese manager who took over the top job at an electronics factory in the UK in the ’70s:

‘At that time the firm had many defective units in the factory. The new manager went straight to the shop floor and began reworking defective units; he had an engineering background. Very soon an English manager came to him and told him not do such a thing on the shop floor. This was the English way (separating management from work), he said.’

‘The Japanese newcomer continued his way of doing management. After several months the volume of defective units fell and in time his way of management became the factory’s way of doing management.’

‘Several years later, the products made in this factory had won excellent quality reputation in European market and contributed strongly to UK exports. For his efforts the Japanese manager he was awarded a decoration by the queen.’

Two thoughts:

Management learns by example. How many managers do you know who would be terrified at the prospect of
working ‘where the work works’?


Transformation: a personal account

Mark Perkins learned systems thinking (as we all did) by doing it. These notes were published in-house in ICL to facilitate discussions about the nature of the transformation. With ICL’s permission I reproduce them here.

Q: What kind of exposure have you had to Systems Thinking?

A: I was part of the original Assessment Team on the AXA desk in July 1999 that acted as the pioneer for bringing Systems Thinking into the help desks. Following on from that work I continued to be involved in the Service Transformation of the AXA contract from ‘Red Alert’ (internal speak for ‘in trouble’ – ed) to ‘Team of The Year 2000’. Recently I have moved into the Interactive Management Programme in order to help develop similar skills in others so that all helpdesks can achieve similar transformations.

Q: How has it affected the way you work?

A: Although I never knew how to describe it, I always knew there was something ‘wrong’ with the way we worked. However, by understanding and applying the core elements of Systems Thinking into the work, I have learnt to identify what really needs to be done and, more importantly, why people act in the way that they do. Changing the focus to ‘outside-in’ has made me more effective and enabled me to achieve results than I would have otherwise not thought possible.

Q: How has your role changed since being exposed to Systems Thinking?

A: Before, I thought I was a mushroom. Now, I know I am a torch

Q: What would you say to someone hearing about this for the first time?

A: I believe that this way of working is the ultimate win-win. By extending these methods to ‘everybody involved in ‘doing’ the work’, and designing a transformation and communication programme that places these messages at the heart of the organisation, the true potential of a Customer-orientated Service Organisation can be unlocked. Everybody benefits:

· End Users enjoy the novelty of dealing with an organisation that makes realistic promises and keeps them
· Client Companies benefit from dealing with an organisation that understands their needs · Staff benefit from a better understanding of their customers and management team · Management enjoy the benefits of reduced costs and lower attrition, along with greater opportunity to extend and enhance services as well as developing their staff

In fact, the only people that don’t benefit are our competition – but that’s not our problem!

[Mark spoke at the recent Lean Service Conference in Buckingham. An audio-tape of the highlights of this event is being prepared.]


Transformation: of what paradigm?

When people think of leadership development, they often think of Covey’s ‘7 habits’. Covey sets out to help people change two paradigms – how they think about themselves and how they relate to others. However, the essential paradigm that needs to change if we are to improve our organisations is ‘how the work works’. The paradox is that this change results in more powerful leaders and ’empowered’ people.

For more of this read ‘The Paradigm Paradox

Some ISO 9000 news

Over 500 people from around the world have downloaded The Vanguard Standards. I have had very positive feedback from early adopters.

Negotiations are underway for translation of The Vanguard Standards into Japanese.

At a presentation to The National Forum for Conformance Assessment and Quality Policy in the UK, I was surprised and pleased to find I had many allies amongst those who populate the ISO 9000 ‘institutions’. It seems this is a difficult system to change from within.