Imprint: Triarchy Press
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Tags: Systems Thinking, Vanguard Method, Public Sector, John Seddon
Systems Thinking in the Public Sector:
the failure of the reform regime... and a manifesto for a better way
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Systems Thinking in the Public Sector - Reviews
"Many public sector managers appreciate that considerable efficiencies could be made by streamlining the many disparate IT systems that remain, sometimes within single government departments and agencies, and it's not surprising that IT suppliers are keen on this agenda. Gary Bettis, director of IT advisory services at Serco Consulting, argues on the Public website that, in theory at least, if 90% of government back-room services could be standardised, it should cut costs by up to 40%. However, he acknowledges that there can be a "huge amount of risk" to service delivery if change on this scale is attempted.
Others are cynical about streamlining claims. John Seddon, managing director of Vanguard Consulting and author of Systems Thinking in the Public Sector, is an outspoken critic of the government's attempt to make the public sector share services such as IT and HR."
Jane Dudman, The Guardian
"Systems Thinking in the Public Sector ... is an extraordinary insight into why, at the end of each month, millions of us are left wondering where on earth all the money taken from us in tax has gone."
"The argument compellingly made in this book by John Seddon is that the Government has designed failure into almost everything it does on our behalf. It has not done so deliberately; but it is culpable because it has failed to listen to people who know better how to run services on behalf of the customer rather than the producer."
Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
"It's time to face up to the unpalatable truth - Labour's public-service reforms have failed. Determined to liberate public services from producer interests, the government itself has turned into the oppressor. It is now locked into a nightmare cycle in which each round of reforms makes things worse, justifying further reforms which founder in their turn because (you've heard this before) in attempting to do the wrong things righter, they actually become wronger.
Do quotas and targets enforced by a regulatory bureaucracy remind you of anything? Yes: they're called central planning and don't work any better in UK local government offices and police stations than in Soviet tractor factories.
One of the strengths of Seddon's diagnosis is that, as a consultant, he has seen almost every public service from the inside. From trading standards to planning and housing repairs, all exhibit the same dysfunction, being forced to conform to a work design that starts from the wrong end - the requirements of government rather than those of the citizen. The design fills the system with error and waste, driving quality and effective capacity down and cost up."
Simon Caulkin, The Observer
"...service industries, and especially government bureaucracies, have been given the treatment by John Seddon, ... most recently in 'Systems Thinking in the Public Sector'. I highly recommend the latter. Seddon would probably refer to me as a 'tool head', but I have been encouraged by the degree to which (I believe) Riva can be used to support the approach Seddon advocates and have been bringing a greater TQM bias into the method. In particular, he stresses the distinction between value demand and failure demand: a value demand is when you call to place an order; a failure demand is when you call to chase your order. You get more efficient not by improving the efficiency with which you handle people chasing orders but by reducing the level of or (better)removing that sort of failure demand altogether."
"Why we pay so much in taxes and its got nothing to do with fat cats....
This book is a follow up to Freedom From Command and Control which was about how a management style called "Systems Thinking" could make the service sector much better. That book itself was excellent but I feel that John has eclipsed it with the latest book, particularly if you have an interest in the way the public sector operates (and lets face it, we all should have as that's where our taxes go).
The book paints a clear picture of just why the current government (regime) has failed to make a significant improvement in public sector services (health, education, police, local govt etc)despite drastically increasing spending (our taxes).
John is claiming (and I recognise much of what he is saying as true from experience) that the way government actually run the public sector through standards, targets and measuring the sector to death is the reason why it is failing, and NOT, as the media often wrongly claim, is it down to poor employees or managers. Sadly this is a point that is only rarely picked up by the media (possibly because its easier to blame people than a system) but is the fundamental truth behind why we pay so much in taxes and seem to get little in return. For anybody who has used any area of the public sector and received less than good service, this book has the answer.
Readers will in future recognise why they are receiving poor service and ask "what is the target behind this poor service".
John eloquently describes several case studies and scenarios which illustrate his claims and thinking. The style is easy to read and understand and in addition to the content there is also a host of useful information that any manager can pick up and use as an added benefit.
You should buy this book if you are a manager in the public sector and want to make a difference, or a tax payer and you want to know where your money is being wasted. If you are a committed Command and Control management style thinker, then you will find your current beliefs challenged and undermined by this book. "
Craig Murphy Book Recommendations
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Delivering Public Services That Work -
Case Studies - Volume 1
Case Studies - Volume 2