A quick summary of the seminal moments that led to the development of the Vanguard Method.

Nick Georgiades prompted a focus on the system, not people in it. He taught intervention theory and method, how to enter a system, help it and leave it more capable than it was; the requirement for sustainable change.

Other interventions, like TQM and team building, were not successful because there was no change to the system. Much of what we teach management is convention; that is not the same as effective.

Deming reminds us that we, mankind, invented management, we can change it.

The British Airways experience taught us the importance of focus on the customer. We started developing practical ways to do that in Honeywell Bull, where knowledge of customer demand and what mattered to customers drove effective and sustainable change, with extraordinary results.

These and subsequent experiences in Digital Equipment taught us how better service drove costs out of service organisations, a counterintuitive truth.  We learned the critical importance of studying demand in transactional services – the greatest lever.

All of those early successes had been achieved by first of all studying what was going on.

When we learned about Taichi Ohno’s innovations in the Toyota Production System, we found he did the same; change through studying, not through tools and projects.

We had learned that managing value in service organisations was to solve a different set of problems from those encountered in manufacturing. And the problems managers thought they had were not their real problems.

The focus therefore has to be how to study service organisations. Studying leads to knowledge, understanding the real problems, which leads to being able to predict improvement; although results are never predictable, yet always far more than would have been put in a plan.

Studying is the means for changing thinking. The Vanguard Method achieves two objectives: the ‘system’ objective – knowledge leads to improved operations – and the intervention objective – the improvement is developed through different thinking.