It is official: the new tech is not delivering

In the current Technology Quarterly, The Economist declares that after years of hype the new tech – AI, Big Data, Machine Learning and all that – isn’t living up to the hype. No surprise to me. On our subscription site I posted a Podcast describing the two big errors with digital services, happening everywhere we go, costing money and dissatisfying customers, and how to guarantee that any digital service created actually creates value for customers.

That Podcast is now available to all, no subscription required. You can listen to it here.

Chatting with the techies

For some time I have been discussing the problems with Agile, Scrum, digital services and all that with tech people. They know things aren’t good; I’ve never met a tech who doesn’t want to develop great software. One of them, John Coleman, invited me to join him in a discussion on YouTube. You can watch it here.

Lions, liars, donkeys and penguins: the killing of Alison

Is the title of a book I’d recommend to anyone who cares about public services. While the tragic story of Alison’s death is disturbing to say the least, the narrative describing public-service leaders’ responses – ignoring, burying and destroying evidence – in short, covering it up – is shocking. The scenes are worthy of a Ken Loach film.

It echoes the failure to deal with whistle-blowing. Ministers can say what they like about it and promulgate policies for greater transparency but whistle-blowers still get vilified, their careers are damaged and they suffer for incredible amounts of time, so little surprise that for some it damages their mental health. As Tom Bell, author of the book says: “It’s not harming patients that gets you hounded out of the NHS, it’s telling the truth”.

So the question to ponder as you read this book, which manages to be entertaining and highly readable for such a dark theme, is: What motivates leaders to behave this way?

Failures of attempts to deal with whistle-blowing are examples of single-loop behaviour; we have a problem, let’s do this. What we need is double-loop thinking, which starts with re-thinking our assumptions about the utility of organisation controls, the locus of control and assumptions about human nature. I’d like to know what you think. You can find the book on Amazon.

Why Buurtzorg fails in the UK

My most recent Podcast accounts for why Buurtzorg – a fantastic care service developed in The Netherlands – fails miserably when applied in the UK. It is a classic example of copying without knowledge. Guess what gets in the way: management’s failure to appreciate that they have to change their thinking about organisational controls; the UK experiments hit this wall, frustrating care staff and ensuring that benefits cannot be realised.

I’ve shared the script of this Podcast with Jos de Blok, the man who developed Buurtzorg. We see the same problem in other countries trying to copy it. He is keen to explore what we’ve been doing. Our starting-place is helping leaders change the way they think and yes, they achieve results comparable to Buurtzorg. Jos de Blok had the freedom (and government encouragement) to design a better system; our leaders need to know how to change the system.

Commissioning – a system condition

Just one of the hurdles to effective people-centred services is the way Whitehall has driven commissioning. But the good news is we are changing that on the ground, making commissioning work by ensuring what’s provided is actually what helps. An on-line Masterclass on effective commissioning is running next week.

More information about the Masterclass can be found here.

Starting in the right place

As you may be aware we have many local authorities using the Vanguard Method for people-centred services. As well as working directly with local authorities we are running a programme with Kingston University, teaching the Method. The next cohort is scheduled for 6th, 7th and 8th October. Here’s what one graduate has to say:

 Doing this course can make you feel quite angry, but for all of the right reasons, as you start to see exactly how much waste we build into your system. I would recommend this course and I fully enjoyed it. I got a lot out of it. I feel that I have made some new friends for life and that as a group we will be able to support each other in the different locations in the UK.

This post-graduate course is worth 30 academic credits at Level 3. It is based on action-learning, combining online university teaching with work-based learning. Students learn how to develop the intervention and leadership skills needed to engage others in the process of system change, studying and redesigning their services. The course is suitable for managers in people-centred services such as social care, housing, health, and third sector organisations. More information about the course is here.

Beyond Command and Control audiobook

My latest book is now available as an audiobook, narrated by yours truly (I couldn’t be confident anyone else would have the right attitude 🙂 ). It’s available from Amazon

Beyond lockdown

When the lockdown began all our consulting work stopped. I’m pleased to say clients, keen to get cracking, have engaged us to work out ways to apply the Vanguard Method within the current constraints and although there are constraints we are able to work with leaders and teams applying the Method. We quite like this ‘new normal’ – a life not dominated by travel and hotels 🙂

Thanks for reading!