What do cops need?

The policeman who created the ‘David Copperfield blog’ left the UK to police in Canada. He continues to blog, and in his recent missive he reflects on police reform in the UK:

‘The bad news for police reformers in the UK is that it’s not the computer in the car or the networked intelligence system or the crime mapping, or the ability to determine what I’m doing every minute of the day that makes me two or three times as efficient as I was in the UK. It’s the fact that I’m allowed to make my own decisions and that’s probably the one aspect of police work that will prove most difficult to change.’

Cops need a system that supports then being cops, using their discretion, serving their communities. But instead our cops are subjected to a regime that can only stand in the way of their achievement of purpose. As a reader pointed out, the cops may have just announced that they are no longer going to measure police activity in 15-minute slots, but do the children promulgating these facile ideas know what to do instead?

The cop’s blog can be found at: http://coppersblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-do-they-do-it.html

Presentation over reality

Alan Milburn has been brought back into UK government to lead on improving social mobility. When you talk to teachers, you learn the education system is bleeding young people out of the bottom. Children who are not thought to be capable of achieving test results (thus damaging prospects for achievement of targets) are labelled as ‘learning disabled’ and moved out to ‘special needs’ provision. While government talks of moving children ‘up’, the system is pushing children ‘down’.

Never mind the evidence

A Cambridge University review of schools has concluded that school testing is blighting children’s lives. It is not the first such report and won’t be the last. Early responses from the Department for Children Schools and Families can be summarised as denial. They just don’t get it. In a bid to make schools and teachers more accountable, they stripped the value out of learning. The purpose of education ought to be to learn how to learn and thus to value learning. It has become to pass tests, taking the value out of the task; hence the blight.

Snow puts targets at risk

The recent fall of snow created extraordinary behaviour amongst school leaders. If your school was ‘open’ and children didn’t get there, they counted as ‘absent’ and thus were a negative count against the attendance targets. The solution, of course, was to close the school. My thanks to the reader who read this at:


Probation Officers get mugged

The National Probation Service has been mugged by command-and-control freaks posing as ‘lean’ experts. Top-down targets are manifest where the real work is done with daily ‘team’ reviews (hardly likely to inculcate a sense of teamwork). Naturally the targets are activity-related. All we can be sure of is that probation officers will become more demoralised – at these meetings some are told they cannot sit down(!)

It is a common feature of ‘lean’ tool-head interventions. The assumption that workers’ activity should be targeted and controlled is to ignore the fact that 95% or more of the variation in workers’ performance is due to the system. Moles tell me morale is at rock-bottom, no surprise there.

While all this nonsense is going on, who will be worrying about the probation service’s achievement of purpose? Will the public be protected or should we anticipate some ‘Baby P moments’?

Council sued for ‘unlawful’ move

A County Council is to be sued by their private-sector ‘partner’ for wanting to get out of the contract. They got into the contract because the regime has bullied people into believing these ‘partnerships’ are the way to go. I have seen the inside of many such arrangements and in every case you can see how: (a) the arrangements will lead to higher-cost services, and (b) the ‘partner’ is focussed on taking more revenue as time goes on. And they are devilishly clever at writing contracts which impose penalties should you discover you have been robbed and want out. This particular story, which should be a warning to others, is at: http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=8493&topic=e-government

Councils revert to ‘in-sourcing’

An article in the Guardian reported that many councils are bringing previously out-sourced services back in-house. The main reason? Poor performance (told you so, ad infinitum). In particular the article mentions Benefits, something that should not even have a back-office, let alone be out-sourced (told you so about that too). The article can be found at:

The reader who alerted me to this story also wrote:

‘Isn’t it amazing that after allowing the private sector to rip the heart out of public services the next ‘Big Idea’ is to bring those same services back in house?
What a waste of resources over the years. I have just worked with a Highways service; the service is split over 3 separate organisations: An out-sourcer at the front end, doing inspection (inspecting a hole 5 times!), the Council doing a bit in the middle and then another out-sourcer filling in the holes; time and time again, the same ones!

Worse still, the ICT systems are owned by the out-sourcers, so when they go, which they will eventually, the Council will have to start again! It’s mad, no it’s shocking!’

Indeed. And those who take a systems approach to Highways get massive improvements in productivity.
See https://www.01handshake01.com/v1_lib.php?current=891

Lights go on in housing

A contractor supplying repair services to one of our housing clients wrote to me:

‘Thought I would write a few lines to you regarding the systems thinking intervention my company completed late last year. Well, where do I start? Firstly I guess that I should share with you what an absolute life changing experience it has been for me. Especially when you consider I would have argued ’till I was blue in the face that you could not have improved our service to our customers – well I can tell you I wouldn’t have believed how wrong I could have been. I have had what you could call a massive wake up call, a light has been switched on in my brain, and at last, instead of learning on the hoof, for the first time in my life I have a direction and structure to my business, which as you will imagine reduces stress levels immeasurably.

My first question to [my Vanguard helper] was ‘is system thinking just about business or for the greater good of people’? And I was delighted to go on to understand that both are fully catered for, and systems thinking goes hand in hand with both.

Mr Seddon, I assume that you have received many testimonials such as this, but my main reason for writing is to bring to your attention the excellent teaching
technique of [my Vanguard helper], his approach is outstanding and things were made clearly understood in his own, I am sure, unique approach – one in which if I was writing a story of my life, I am sure [he] would have a chapter. When you consider [he] was dealing with a bunch of what some would say were fairly successful hairy-arsed builders it makes his achievement even more impressive.’

It illustrates how you turn peoples’ lights on – by helping people study their work from a different (systems) point of view. Just as Taiichi Ohno did. And just as the tool heads do not.

Housing Association looking for systems thinking leader

Many housing organisations are adopting Systems Thinking as their preferred methodology for the design and management of work. Thus it is not a surprise that knowledge of Systems Thinking or a keen desire to learn is a preferred requirement for leaders. This job, for a chief executive, is being handled by Tribal. Go to: http://www.tribalgroup.co.uk/index.php?ob=1&id=101 and click on SOMER.

Systems Thinkers looking for new challenges

Two senior leaders with first-hand experience of applying Systems Thinking (and with the usual astonishingly good results) in the private sector are in the market for new challenges. Contact Systems Thinking People: http://www.systemsthinkingpeople.com

Vanguard public events

Process Mapping and Analysis for Performance Improvement
Thursday 26th March, Buckingham
Thursday 16th April, Buckingham
Tuesday 17th March, Flintshire
Tuesday 31st March, Bridgend

Vanguard Network Day (network members only)
Thursday 30th April, Buckingham

John Seddon presents: Systems Thinking – an introduction
Thursday 19th March 2009, 9.30am – 12.30pm, Buckingham

To reserve your place at any event: info@vanguardconsult.co.uk