I’m back

Thanks to all who have sent their kind wishes, I am pleased to say I am back on seat, winged rather than fallen. I shall resist boring you with my insider’s view of the NHS, suffice to say that the scope for improvement is evident and massive but the DoH stands in the way.

While I have been absent Vanguard has gone from strength to strength. Inevitably the growth has been in private-sector work (I say inevitably because the private sector has the rudder of profit) where we are undoing much of the damage caused by the big consultancies. The public-sector work is a progression from the work we published with Locality. Here if you missed it: http://locality.org.uk/blog/saving-money/.

But I have to say the public sector remains strangled by wrong-headed ideas promulgated by Whitehall. At the beginning of my enforced incarceration I watched and listened to a lot of news and political programmes and found myself wanting to throw shoes at the radio/TV; ministers and dunderheads in ‘think tanks’ continue their mantras about the unaffordability of public services while evidence of excessive cost and failure abounds.

A new book

It occurred to me to write about it. But first I did some research. What amazed me is that public-sector reform as we know it began with Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and the ideas she promulgated remained unchanged through successive administrations. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, all politicians believe in the same wrong-headed things, things that actually drive costs up and worsen service. Spending on public services has trebled since 1991 and doubled since 2001, but no one seems to notice.

That’s what we need to talk about: how money has been spent wastefully, pursuing ideological and plausible but wrong ideas; so that’s what I’ve been writing about. As the book is aimed at politicians I have made it simple, breaking things down into small chunks to make them understandable. E.g. why do call centres and back offices drive costs up? How does outsourcing guarantee higher costs? Is ‘Nudge’ a sound idea? (No in case you had any doubt). How do regulation and inspection drive up costs and worsen services? How does legislation on procurement ensure you don’t get what you want? What works, with overwhelming evidence, delivering extraordinary improvement, and why is doing this hard in the current regime? And, to realise the opportunity of far better public services at much lower costs, how Whitehall needs to recognise that it is the problem, and how it needs to change, and much more besides.

The book is also aimed at the man in the street. We are coming up to an election. My hope is that people will read the book and take on their political candidates, for the one thing we know about politicians is that votes matter to them. If enough people raise the issues, confront politicians with the evidence and point to the clear evidence of a better way we might – just might – stop them wasting our money with abandon.

Advance information about the book and the opportunity to be notified of its publication here: http://www.triarchypress.net/the-whitehall-effect.html

Doing something about it

We are planning to use social media to talk about people’s experiences of taking the book’s arguments to politicians. If we share the experiences we might get better at anticipating their reactions and encourage others to do likewise. You may feel moved (if you have bought a copy) to give your book to a politician, if you do I’ll send you another for free! We have a chance to do something useful, I encourage you to get involved.

Perfect Flow in housing repairs

Regular readers will know of my enthusiasm for an outfit called Perfect Flow; they emerged from our work in housing repairs, developing the means to manage materials at the rate of demand, driving costs down as well as emptying warehouses! It’s one of the secrets behind delivering repairs on the day and time tenants’ want and dramatically reducing costs.

They are taking their work to the next level. People in housing will be aware of the ways in which new rules on procurement have blighted the sector with a burdensome bureaucracy, but they may not be aware of how the new rules actually promote higher costs, immoral and even illegal behaviour – it is a rip-off merchants’ charter.

Perfect Flow are running an event to explain the problems and talk about their solution, organising material flow on a regional basis. It is a strategic threat to the thieves that have made hay under the new rules. If you are in housing services it’s a not-to-be-missed event. It’s in Coventry on September 30th. Read more and book a place:https://www.01handshake01.com/events/?story=40

Professional procurement – how to ensure you don’t get what you need or want

As I indicated above, I devote one of the chapters in the new book to the professionalisation of procurement, in order to show how it ensures you don’t get what you need or want. My colleague John Little will be speaking on this topic at Newcastle University Business School next week (September 10th at 5-30pm). The event is free. Registration is here: http://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=6556

Hull Business School action-learning

There is an action-learning programme (three days of tuition interspersed by taking action back home) kicking off in October. It’s a fast way to get your head around the Vanguard Method. Contact the office for details: 01280-822255

Future newsletters

Vanguard News will now be an occasional publication rather than a monthly rant. I also hope to devote my energies to dialogues on experiences of taking the book’s arguments to politicians. As I have experienced the same for many years I think I could usefully join in.