System conditions drive performance, either positively or negatively.

Take, for example, measures. Many conventional measures in service organisations drive performance ‘upwards’, they are controls imposed by the hierarchy. Budgets are an obvious example, imposing limits on time service agents spend with customers is another.

Some are less obvious. Service level agreements are thought by management to have a positive effect on service, but when you study services you learn they have the opposite effect.

The Vanguard Method creates service designs that use measures of achievement of purpose in customer terms. These measures bind the organisation to a common purpose. Improving achievement of purpose drives sub-optimisation or waste out of systems.

It teaches us that sub-optimisation is man-made. When you see this, you start to realise that injunctions to ‘make your numbers’, ‘follow procedures’, to cite just two examples, are really exhortations to sub-optimise the system.