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The secretary of state replied

A matter of hours after sending out the March newsletter, I received a reply from Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. A big, but welcome, surprise, given that I’d already had a reply from the ‘correspondence team’; but maybe that’s the way it is with the DWP, why send out one letter when two would confuse? 😉

The Secretary of State said his aim was to deliver the Universal Credit with high-quality customer service and he remained open about how. He explained that a bunch of IT suppliers had attended a ‘concept viability day’ where they said that with appropriate governance the IT could be delivered. Well, they always say that don’t they?

But of greatest importance was his offer for me to meet with Terry Moran, the Director General for Universal Credit. We meet this week, I shall be explaining how we often have to dismantle large-scale IT ‘solutions’ because they just can’t deal with variety; I shall also tell him that I’m confident that systems thinkers currently delivering benefits could develop the new Universal Credit more simply, more cheaply and much faster. So watch this space!

Oh, and the people in Whitehall think the IT will work this time because they will be doing ‘agile’. I tell IT developer audiences ‘agile’ is doing the wrong thing faster, and I get no dissent, in fact they laugh. If you want to see for yourself, watch my presentation to 1000 techies in Malmo last year: https://vimeo.com/19122939

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I got dumped!

The organisers of the Scottish Lean Government event called to say that ‘other speakers were not happy’ that I had been given the closing key-note address. Apparently, ‘if Seddon is speaking they didn’t want to play’, so I got dumped!

The opening key-note is Zoe Radnor, an academic with whom I have crossed swords in the past. She wrote a report for HMRC giving general approval to their lean programme. HMRC managers use the report as justification for the wrong-headed things they are doing. Unfortunately Ms Radnor buys into targets, activity-management, culture-change as a separate issue and, of course, tools, indicating little critical thought and no understanding. Ms Radnor also wrote a report for the Scottish Government encouraging lean initiatives – a sort of lots-of-people-are-doing-it-it-must-be-good-thing report – to which I reacted, in the spirit of offering more informed choice to the Scots, by putting on an event called ‘Why Kaizen Blitz gets on my t**s’.

Now, you might have thought, that being an academic, Ms Radnor would value the cut and thrust of debate (you know, thesis, antithesis). So what motivated her to get me dumped? I emailed her to ask. She replied: ‘I simply do not enjoy speaking on the same platform as you’. Amazing, as we have never shared a platform!

If you bought a ticket thinking I’d be there, you should take it up with the organisers. If you are a systems thinker and you are going to be there, I appeal to you to help the audience see the flaws and weaknesses in the lean tools approaches, less they think that’s all there is. Ms Radnor should go to the naughty step.

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HMRC: never out of the news

This month, HMRC, the very same applauded by Ms Radnor, makes the news (yet again) for more failure. This time pensioners are getting letters telling them they owe money (which they don’t) and HMRC bosses are saying the chaos will continue for another two years! I wonder what Ms Radnor makes of that? See one of the stories here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1367049/Tax-chaos-2013-admits-HMRC-boss-tells-MPs-service-acceptable.html

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The Audit Commission – not dead yet

In the hope of speeding the demise of the Audit Commission, I gave evidence to a Select Committee. If you have nothing better to do you can watch the session here (start watching at 17:34:46):

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=8004

It was a bit of a bear pit, but I got some points across.

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Whitehall is still at it

The new government promised to stop controlling public services from the centre. It did dump the targets, it is dumping inspection (we hope, but the beast is proving hard to slay) but it is still, unfortunately, in the business of central control.

We saw this with the now out-going administration in Scotland. They promised to stop micro-managing the public sector but didn’t get rid of the micro-managers, the policy wonks and ideas-promulgators in the centre. So what do you suppose happened?

So I am sad to report that evidence is building: central initiatives, directives, and the like and, as we might expect, based on not a shred of evidence but infused with ideological dogma. More in future newsletters, but further to last month’s story about incapacity benefits, a reader sent in a story indicating much the same problem with disability assessments:

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Disability benefit tests disable

My piece about incapacity benefits was focused on the failure of computers to absorb variety, so it doesn’t help claimants. The reader sent this press report illustrating the same issue with mental illness. As you read it, you can’t help but feel ashamed:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/10/tests-deceive-benefits-mental-illness

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Vanguard Method in the press

Some good news: Last month there were two articles in the press about our work: Philip Johnston wrote about Steve Allder’s work at Plymouth Hospital in the Daily Telegraph. A cracking piece. Read it here.

Andreas Whittam Smith wrote about the better way to deliver Universal Credit using systems thinking in the Independent – read it here.

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Teachers see through ‘deliverology’

Regular readers will know that I devoted a whole chapter of my public-sector book to the Mickey-Mouse nonsense called ‘deliverology’. A teacher is blogging along the same lines:

http://teachingoutloud.org/2011/03/25/good-to-great-who-knew/

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Some up-coming events

I shall be speaking at CIPD Olympia, April 7th 1.45pm. Can’t wait to do this one; I think the HR folk will be shocked to hear the truth about what governs performance (it’s the system stupid, not the people), and I have a peach of a video where a leader of a sales organisation describes how she learned the truth. Riveting stuff.

On May 10th we have our Care Services event, where people using the Vanguard Method will talk about what they have learned from studying care services, how the knowledge leads to much more effective designs and the issues those raise for regulation.

On June 7th, Owen Buckwell and I go to New York to receive the MIX (Management Innovation Exchange) prize from Gary Hamel at The World Innovation Forum. Don’t ya love it? Portsmouth City Housing boss is world trailblazer!

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Derby action-learning programme

The Derby action-learning programme has places available on the next: Wednesday 18 May, Wednesday 15 June and Wednesday 13 July. To book: http://www.derby.ac.uk/dbs/systemsthinking?csId=&courseQuery=systems+thinking

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Come to the Deming Forum

26th May, the second (main) day of the Deming Forum, will feature two profound examples of the Vanguard Method in action: the amazing story of materials supply from Portsmouth and giving up targets and all that stuff in financial services. I’ll be there, will you?