Cabinet Office civil servants were attracted, like any conventional thinker, to the idea of failure demand. Clearly failure demand represents enormous costs to any organisation and removing it would reduce costs. The idea was promulgated to local authorities. Cabinet Office civil servants thought that if they made local authorities report their failure demand they would be motivated to do something about it.

Many local authority people who were users of the Vanguard Method complained that the Cabinet Office didn’t understand the concept. They also referred the Cabinet Office to Vanguard and John Seddon (the originator of the concept), but the civil servants changed the name from ‘failure demand’ to ‘avoidable contact’ only to be criticised by the media for trying to ‘avoid’ contact with citizens.

If they had asked John Seddon he would have suggested that ‘preventable’ contact might have been a better label, for not all failure demand is avoidable.

See Vanguard’s advice on NI 14, ‘avoidable contact’, published in 2009 to help councils avoid the pitfalls created by government guidance.