In this issue:

Book-tour kicked off

The first event on the book tour was at the Institute for Government. My brief was to speak for seven minutes – it takes a lot of prep to get what I want to say into such a short time, but I’m happy to say I think I did a good job of it. Judge for yourself, you can watch the event here.

Tour schedule

Tour dates:

14th January, Cardiff, 1.30pm – 3pm
15th January, Swansea, 2pm – 3.30pm
16th January, Llandrindod Wells, 1pm – 3pm
22nd January, Sheffield, 2pm -3.30pm
23rd January, Leeds, 5.30pm – 7pm
30th January, Aldgate, London, 6.30pm – 7.45pm
3rd February, Telford, 2pm – 3.30pm
4th February, Wrexham, 10am – 11.30am
18th March, Newcastle, 6pm – 7.30pm
23rd March, Portsmouth, 7pm

Reserve a FREE seat by emailing your name, job title and organisation to

Bring a leader

It is axiomatic that there’s no change without leadership. And this change explicitly requires leaders to change the way they think about management. Those of you who’ve read the book will know its arguments are that we, humankind, invented management, current (“command-and-control”) management doesn’t work well, when we re-think management to run our organisations as systems we get profound results, and those who have crossed that Rubicon never go back.

So if you know any leader who needs to be introduced to this better way please encourage them to come along. This change starts with curiosity; there’ll be plenty to stimulate that on the tour.

A book review

Spend Matters posted a book review – another tool for encouraging curiosity:

We need to tell Boris

Boris promises bold initiatives in the public sector. Will they deliver? Will this government believe, as all governments have done since Thatcher, that it’s a matter of improving specifications (policy) and conformance (regulation and inspection)? While little has been announced in that regard we have had announcements for more spending, particularly on social care. But as I show in the book the scope for improving social care is enormous – better, more effective, services provided to more people at much lower costs, resulting in a fall in demand. Ironically, the causes of the current ineffectiveness of care services are to be found in the system conditions rained down as policy from Whitehall.

I discussed regulation in The Whitehall Effect. We need to change the locus of control from Whitehall to those who have the responsibility to lead services – that’s what they’re paid for. Policy should be limited to statements of purpose (e.g. for care services: help people get their lives back on the rails) and policy-makers should refrain from specifying measures and methods. It would increase transparency and encourage innovation.

We need to tell Boris. He needs to be strong and different.

The madness continues

An example of Whitehall’s dysfunctional influence from a reader:

NHS Improvement and Lord Carter have come up with procurement league tables. Each Trust submits the price paid each quarter for a range of goods, and they are ranked in terms of their weighted price over NHS minimum.

Sounds OK so far?

Sounds plausible; will pass muster with the Daily Mail, but not a good idea.

Procurement directors get praised / punished by their Trust finance directors according to their movement in the league table.

What about when a hospital Trust, which has taken over multiple community settings, wants to buy routine consumables – exam gloves, drapes for couches etc. One way to buy would be a contract whereby the supplier receives orders from and delivers to each site (and location within a hospital). The supplier charges a little more, but this is less than the cost of goods being delivered centrally to stores, and then sent out by porters and or the Trust delivery vans. Everyone thought this was a good idea except the finance director and procurement director, who didn’t want to slip down the league table.

That’s what centrally-dictated arbitrary measures do – focus management’s attention on making the numbers. Taking them further away from the truth that the key to reducing the cost of materials is to focus on buying at the rate of use – you can afford higher unit costs as the total cost in inventory falls. Focussing on unit costs by, for example, buying in bulk is a folly; costs go up. Something Whitehall ought to know.

A reader writes

Having read the book:

What you say near the end about service standardization as pushed by big consultancies reminded me of the first time I heard of McKinsey. My father was then curator of public libraries for the city of Paris, and the new mayor, Jacques Chirac, had hired McKinsey to study the public library system. Their recommendation was to simplify operations by having the exact same books in all libraries. To them, the libraries were like a chain of grocery stores. They hadn’t noticed that each library had accumulated collections over decades or centuries…

Events and knowledge-transfer

To see up-coming events go to:
Vanguard Events

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Season’s Greetings!