Does change take time

Defenders of the EFQM Excellence Model claim that performance improvement takes time. They argue that the Model needs to be worked with long-term if an organisation wants to achieve excellence. But this line of argument raises the question ‘how long does it take to change?’

We helped a mobile phone service provider from a £51m loss to profit in six months. We helped stem the flood of £1m a month losses to break-even in a computer services operation in a year. We helped another computer services operation get the time to fix faults down from an average of six days to less than nine hours – and this was achieved in six weeks. We helped an insurance claims operation double its productivity in four months. The same kinds of results are being achieved in the public sector. In police administration we have cut costs in weeks.

In any service organisation that has been managed on traditional ‘mass production’ principles, you can achieve rapid change by applying systems principles to the design and management of work. Why does change take time with the Excellence Model? Because the model encourages a traditional mass production perspective, it re-enforces the problems rather than pointing to a solution.

For more on the problems with the Excellence Model.


Best Value – there is a better way

In the UK we have seen Government attempt to cajole public sector organisations into improving their performance through the promulgation of a programme of change labelled ‘Best Value’. Best Value, however, represents nothing more nor less than ‘bad’ measures and no method.

Public sector managers need help with method. To that end I have published ‘The Better Way to Best Value’ – a systems thinkers guide to improving performance, which can be downloaded free from the Vanguard web site:


Can IT be made to compute?

This was the title of an article by Faisal Islam in The Observer (Feb 18th). In it he described the strangle-hold IT companies have on many of the UK’s public services. He also described some of the horror stories – high costs and limited or no delivery. In the article he quoted Mark Hudson, managing director of Kable, a ‘leading analyst’ as saying ‘You only read and hear about the things that go wrong. The vast majority – 90 per cent – you’ll never hear of, because they run fine.’ He would say that
wouldn’t he?

I have not kept the date but a report by the Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield showed the following results from investment in IT:

80%-90% do not meet their performance goals; 80% are late and over budget; 40% of developments fail or are abandoned; less then 25% integrate business and technology objectives; just 10-20% meet all their success criteria. (‘Failing to deliver: the IT performance gap’).

Why doesn’t Mark Hudson trumpet these findings? I think we should be told.

In the next issue I shall describe the way Vanguard works with IT – it results in less spend on IT and more value from it, so we shouldn’t expect the IT companies to get excited about it!


More Call Centre articles

Croner Publications asked me to write a series on call centre design and management. These are published in CONNECT – a call centre newsletter. After publication they are available in the call centre section.


Steve Parry goes west

Steve Parry – the man who transformed ICL’s help desk environment using the Vanguard methodology, winning prizes to boot (see earlier newsletters) – is moving to the USA. Here is a hot property for anyone looking for improved service and lower costs in the customer contact environment. His e-mail is


ISO 9000: 2000 debates

In the last month I have presented my views on ISO 9000: 2000 at two debates, organised by the IQA. In each case the motion before the house was ‘This house believes ISO 9000 has been bad for business’. Needless to say I spoke for the motion! What saddens me is that the ‘pro- ISO’ lobby has not changed its arguments in the last twenty years. They argue that ISO 9000 is no more than a tool – they blame the user, consultants and assessors. In fact anyone other than themselves.

But this ‘tool’ is not value-free. It is a tool that implies or dictates method – things you should do. The pro-lobby thinks these things are just ‘sensible’ management. When they listen to what I describe when I talk about what management should be doing they just put these ideas in to their own framework; they do not see these things to be radical or new. When I point out that ISO 9000 encouraged other behaviour that was counter-productive, they go back to blaming anyone other than themselves.

These people who debated in support of ISO 9000 were key contributors to the Standards. What else should I expect?