Delivering Public Services That Work Volume 2 - Reviews
Yet again in this new book Professor John Seddon cuts through much of the nonsense and mystery surrounding the mess created by confused programmes, which actually hamper public services reform. He firmly concentrates on tangible outcomes … and proves that the systems thinking method continues to deliver real change which fundamentally benefits service users. The fact that it saves money and empowers frontline staff is a huge additional bonus. These case studies contain real knowledge and experience. The approach taken has a proven record of productivity improvement and in these straightened times you would be foolish not to have a John Seddon book in your change library.
Steve Thomas CBE, Chief Executive / Prif Weithredwr, Welsh Local Government Association / Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
... We are spending more and more time behaving more like a retail sector business, writing reports and chasing targets – failing in our duty by doing our job. Some managers have realised that, as illustrated by the case studies in this book, trusting in the team and its supervisors to do their job, as well as removing prescriptive target-driven working and the associated unnecessary bureaucracy, can actually reap significant rewards for the organisation and public alike. Much could be gained from allowing the responsible adults that make up the Police Forces of England and Wales to be treated with the degree of trust and freedom they deserve.
Fellow officer, Inspector Guilfoyle from West Midlands Police, sums up the Vanguard Method perfectly by suggesting that we simply need to ‘do what works, to achieve what matters’... nothing more, nothing less.
@minimumcover, Author of Minimum Cover - The Police Officer Blog
If you work in public services and especially if you make policy about them, read this book. In his foreword, John Seddon, once again and with characteristic rhetorical flourish, thumbs his nose at the sclerotic paradigm still suffocating public services. The book gives a series of detailed case studies showing … changes that have been made in spite of the 'targets and terror' regime which is showing few signs of abating. The case studies show that change has to come from local services. The sclerosis is at its most morbid in Whitehall. It might in time cure itself, but we can't wait.
‘When I look back on it, the solutions were blindingly obvious: Reverse everything that doesn’t work. Take out the non-value activity. Replace it with what works, to achieve what matters. That is all I did’ says Inspector Simon Guilfoyle. Well said. Stop complying, start designing!
Sue White, Professor of Social Work, University of Birmingham
In the delivery of public services there is the ‘system’, with its call centres and mass production approach, and there is common sense. This book is about common sense. Eight case studies show the benefits that flow when local management is able to put customers first rather than efficiency targets set by remote bosses. Various ways in which this can be done are described. Common sense strikes back against the ‘system’! Let the battle commence.
Andreas Whittam Smith, Co-founder of the Independent
This approach to organisational change fits with my vision of a child protection system where the design of services is shaped by the needs of children and their families, not by the need to comply with government prescription and targets.
Eileen Munro, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics
This is a breathtaking glimpse of a new kind of ‘efficiency’ in public services. It is also a celebration of a new way of doing things that challenges prevailing orthodoxy so fundamentally that orthodoxy may not survive it.
David Boyle, New Economics Foundation
I heartily commend the Vanguard Method to leaders at all levels across public service. Be prepared for a challenging but rewarding and highly motivating journey and the understanding that improvement is the way things should be done, not a project.
Michael J Greenwood CBE, Chairman, NHS Stockport
Even hardened sceptics will be impressed by these examples of the Vanguard Method in action. There is a beautiful simplicity at the heart of this approach. Businesses and organisations are systems. They operate – or should – to meet the demands of customers or citizens. Grasp that, as they say, and you grasp everything.
Stefan Stern, Management writer and Visiting Professor in management practice, Cass Business School, London
I think this book will appeal to a wide ranging audience – those who are advocates, those who are still sitting on the fence and those who are still complete cynics. For me the key to this, as all the case studies show, is leadership – leadership from the top of the organisation to remove barriers, address system conditions and prove to staff that this isn’t the latest management fad! If you have leadership then you can start to change the culture of the organisation and achieve some of the fantastic results highlighted in the case studies. The book is not just about case studies though: the sections from John Seddon, Richard Davis and Charlotte Pell provide some interesting and sometimes challenging thoughts that I know have started to further shape my thinking.
Kevin Dicks, Chief Executive of Bromsgrove District and Redditch Borough Councils
Why should something that is now recognised as being so straightforward have been missed by so many for so long? My conclusion is that years of conditioning of the ‘public sector way’ have resulted in a calcification of thinking that has protected ‘the system’ and stifled the innovative and creative instincts of a generation of public sector employees. The examples of what can be achieved by thinking in a different way should provide inspiration to the current and future cohorts of public sector leaders – which, if they demonstrate the courage to think differently, will result in unparalleled performance and quality of services for those who need them.
Peter A Dartford, Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Delivering Public Services that Work adds weight and clarity to the overwhelming body of evidence and experience that calls for a paradigm shift in our expectations of public services. And it provides a very practical manual for public sector managers who wish to emulate the achievements of those who have fought the system and won.
Bob Rhodes, Co-Director of LivesthroughFriends
John Seddon's previous books on systems thinking outlined 'why' we should look at management differently, with examples. This book is deeply into the detail of 'how', explained by practitioners across a range of professions, and it is absorbing.
Inspector Michael Brown (@MentalHealthCop), West Midlands Police
If only all public services used systems thinking! For those of us that do, the case studies highlight yet again the benefits. For those of you that don't, read how to save time and money, deliver better services and make people happier (public and staff). Bin the management mantras about front/back offices, shared services and economies of scale. Watch people grow in confidence and be more productive.
David Hagg, Chief Executive, Stroud District Council
... Over the three or four years we have been using systems thinking [and the Vanguard Method] to review our services, I have seen a change in the response of others to what we are doing. Initially, when I told people that we had improved radically the outcomes for our customers at the same time as reducing our costs substantially, I was greeted with scepticism and disbelief. Now, as more and more public bodies use a systems approach to improve their services, the response acknowledges that it can work but there are really good reasons why it is not applicable to their services. The reasons cited include their customers, size, budget, available time, service complexity and the regulation or inspection regime within which their service sits. What these case studies demonstrate is that these arguments just don’t hold up. Here are examples from local authorities, health, the police and fire and rescue. They cover a huge range, from a relatively small part of a single council to a whole police force. The common theme though is one of front line workers changing the way their work works and, as a consequence, improving services whilst at the same time reducing waste and driving down costs.
When we started our work with systems thinking we were in happier economic times. The work we did then has not spared us the pain of the current economic downturn but it has left us in a much more resilient position and one where we can go forward with increasing confidence. Now faced with continuing reductions in public sector funding, these studies leave only one question – why not do this tomorrow?
Andrew Gabbitas, Executive Director, Rugby Borough Council
A friend of mine played for a famous Welsh Rugby Club. In his first game he gazed in awe at the captain, a schoolboy hero, who was ‘nearly’ capped for Wales, a common condition of course. The captain summoned the team around him and my friend approached the demi-god in awe waiting for words of inspiration and wisdom. The captain’s advice was certainly pithy, it was ‘push your bloody guts out lads’ and his philosophy could have inspired much of modern public sector management.
John Seddon is one of the most important thinkers about management, particularly managing the public sector and he writes forcefully on the false illusion that more effort leads to better results.
Over the last 30 years many systems have been designed to encourage public sector workers to ‘push their bloody guts out’, targets have been set, arbitrarily, often unnecessarily and the expectation has been supplemented with performance related pay. Not only has this been to no avail but we have sometimes had negative consequences encouraging game playing of the worst kind.
Other writers have also analysed this trend, for example Alfie Kohn and of course Edwards Deming but no one has analysed British Public Services with such dispassionate rigour and trenchant prose as John Seddon. Vanguard Consulting deserves to make a big impact, whether they will or not probably [depends on] a culture change in the public services and in the minds of many politicians, but we can learn the culture and methods and how to adopt them by reading this stimulating book.
Professor Sir Muir Gray, Chief Knowledge Officer of the NHS
Any ‘fool’ can take a knife, make cuts to services or processes and convince themselves and others that they have increased efficiency;
In contrast, a ‘Leader’ finds the right tools, shows the team how to apply them, works to improve their customers experience and in doing so, achieves efficiency;
These Case Studies are about ‘Leaders’ using the right ‘tool’ i.e. the Vanguard Method to improve the experiences of their customers and the efficiency of their organisations, a model that I am delighted to say, has been followed by my organisation since we found ‘Freedom from Command & Control in 2003.
Anthony E. Goodwin, Chief Executive, Tamworth Borough Council