Extending our reach

We will be opening our new web site to a wider group of collaborators soon. To recap the purpose: in every country where we start work we grow – simply because the results are profound. The constraint on our growth is the development of Vanguard experts. To become an expert you not only have to know how to study and redesign many service systems, but then you have to know how to help others do that; it’s a big learning curve.

So we have been building the content of this site to make this expertise available to anyone. Over the last eight months we have been testing the site with ‘beta-test’ users in the public sector. We are now making changes and additions to the site based on the feedback from these users (and thanks very much to them).

The feedback has taught us we have a viable product; in simple terms it works. But being perfectionists we know there is still much to do, hence we will be opening the site to collaborators from all sectors.

Be patient, we have work to do to get the site ready. If you want to register your interest in using the site we will be looking for people who want to use it to study and redesign services – no bystanders! – please contact Emma Ashton: emma@vanguardconsult.co.uk

Getting ready

The most common problem we have at the start of any engagement, whether through the site or through our consulting work, is the lack of appreciation that this change is a change in management thinking. Would that it was different – if you could, as many people wish, simply graft these ideas on to current thinking, this work would grow so much faster.

As corporal Jones of Dad’s Army fame would say: they don’t like it up ’em! It is hard if you have been schooled in conventional management thinking to accept that much of what you have learned to do serves only to sub-optimise performance. But you learn when you study service organisations as systems that, for example, ‘green’ on the RAG status is, in truth, very ‘red’. This is why the studying has to be done by the people who run these organisations, not their ‘improvement’ brigade.

The public area of the site is designed with this in mind. It’s like a warm up to the main event, a potpourri of challenges to convention, designed as a heuristic learning system, where you can follow your own line of interest. So my advice to anyone who is thinking about getting involved in the next stage of development is to encourage your colleagues to go play with the public area.

If you want to pass it around, here is the link: http://www.01handshake01.com

Kittens are evil

I so enjoyed joining our last ‘Kittens are evil’ event in Fareham that I’m coming to the next, the last in the series, in London. In case you’ve been on another planet, saying ‘payment by results’ or ‘outcomes-based-accountability’ won’t work is like saying kittens are evil.

The London event will feature astonishingly profound improvements in health and social care, supporting people with learning disabilities, planning (development control) and logistics – driving out costs by managing time not cost. The event is run in conjunction with academics from Newcastle University Business School who set the scene with a summary of the evidence on kittens being truly evil. And I shall be comparing attention to output (which fails) with attention to means (which succeeds).

It’s on October 28th in Smith Square (maybe you should send your MP!). To register: https://www.01handshake01.com/events/?story=32

Improving planning services

On a recent trip to Scotland the minister for planning told me his planning officers were complaining that they couldn’t improve their capacity without first getting more resources. It is an understandable objection but plain wrong. When you study planning (‘development control’) you learn that adherence to targets, the use of IT ‘portals’ and the notion that the more planners have on their desks the more will get done are all causes of sub-optimisation. And when you learn to design planning using measures related to purpose you get a massive increase in capacity as well as making many citizens and developers very happy.

You can meet some of the pioneers of the Vanguard Method in planning at a special event in Birmingham on October 15th. For more information and to register:

A trip down-under

I shall be visiting Australia and New Zealand next February, to support our work with clients and to meet people. If you’d like a get-together please let me know.

Avoiding the mad house

In case you think I’ve gone soft on the many ways in which Whitehall wastes our money fear not. I watch as Universal Credit goes the way I predicted, I reflect on the fact that ‘community budgets’ and ‘troubled families’ represent throwing money at problems when in truth there is loads of money being wasted in those domains and I chuckle at the gullibility of politicians to believe the promises of IT companies – for example ‘tele-health’, where it was the IT suppliers who produced the reports claiming it would save millions – and now, of course, these money-consuming unhelpful initiatives are being abandoned.

I haven’t gone soft. But I’ve realised that it’s Whitehall that gets me depressed. So I’d rather put my energy into spreading what works.

This made me happy

Vanguard experts sometimes move in-house. One did so two years ago to join a new bank. I just got a mail from her to tell me they have reduced operating costs by 15% each year, while increasing the volumes of business and improving services to customers which, in turn, results in less failure demand into service centres. And they have an engaged, happy workforce. Happy days.

These are the people who deserve our attention, not the ideological twerps in Whitehall.