Dan agrees to acknowledge my ideas

I was heartened to hear from the many readers who told me they wrote to Dan Jones to tell him he was naughty publishing my ideas and giving me no acknowledgement. Dan has written to me to confirm that in the future he will acknowledge my original work.

I had a number of conversations with Dan some time ago. He does not accept that service organisations are different (to manufacturing). To explain the differences to the Vanguard community we are putting on a Network day (October 7th) on everything you need to know about the lean manufacturing tools and why they don’t work in service organisations. We may write up the day and post it on the site, if we do you’ll hear about it here.

It bothers me that service organisations are hiring anyone with ‘lean’ in their background (often from manufacturers that have laid them off, shouldn’ t that be a sign of concern?) and these manufacturing tool heads are delivering training and projects. That’s not how you change a system.

Dan et al have made the same mistake as Crosby (the man who invented TQM). And it is interesting that both have made this mistake while being involved with General Motors. At the Lean Summit Dan said having found this good stuff (‘lean’) he and his pals were concerned to find ways to get it out to others, hence the lean tools, exercise books and so on. It is to assume this is a problem of education. It is not. It is a problem of re-education; managers need to unlearn then learn. Further by putting ‘lean’ in the ‘tools and projects’ world, managers do not appreciate the key is to change the system. We see plenty of evidence of this failure in so-called ‘lean’ manufacturers.

If ‘lean’ goes out as training and projects it will be reduced to the status of a fad. The opportunity will remain, it will just be harder to realise.

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ISO lapse is an easy decision

A reader writes:

“I enjoy your newsletters very much and I am pleased to read that many of the more mature countries have given up on ISO 9000. I am also please to say that my company finally saw the light a year ago. When we asked ourselves how much value we had gotten from our 1997 adoption of ISO9000 (answer: zero), it was an easy decision to let our registration lapse.”

I also hear that many of the major organisations are ceasing to insist that their suppliers are registered to ISO 9000. This will have a big impact over time, for it has only been market-place coercion that has kept ISO 9000 going. If your organisation is registered, get those who would know to check with their big customers; you may find a change in policy.

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ISO numbers keep going down and up

ISO have published the latest numbers on registration. The story is as before and worse. Growth in ‘mature’ countries – those who know it’s worse than useless – is MINUS 21%. Meanwhile the new economies that are being coerced to adopt ISO registration continue to grow to like mad. Net result: growth of 1% worldwide [10% last year, 50% eight years ago]. It’s on the way out.

We should warn the new economies they are being duped. We should be ashamed of what we (the UK) have done. We should prevent the parasitical organisations making hay while no one is concerned with the question: does ISO 9000 work?

BTW, Steven Breeze, top man at BSI, has not responded to my open letter (you can read it at: https://www.vanguard-method.com/v1_lib.php?current=946)

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Assessors are known as the ‘seven sisters’

Talking to a man at the UN, my researcher found the assessing organisations are known as the ‘seven sisters’. Apparently it is a derivation of the label they give the oil companies (the ‘seven angels’) that have such an influence on the world economy. It is well known that the assessing organisations are ‘creaming it’ with ISO 9000; having got themselves on the policy making committees and set their organisations up around the world to take peoples’ money.

I have to say ‘seven sisters’ is a bit tame. Maybe the malevolent seven? The seven parasites? Suggestions to me please….

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The NHS don’t want improvement

Two people I know have been interviewed for a top job at NHS Direct. One tells me he started talking about the problems with their current measures and how changing the measures would open the door on improvement and he was sent away with feedback to the effect he was odd and likely to ruffle feathers. The other tells me their pre-occupation was to improve the expert decision-making software so they could further ‘dumb down’ the jobs. If only they knew….

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A and E demand grows, but why?

Demand into accident and emergency in Oxford has grown and is putting a strain on resources. NHS managers are saying it is not because of the new out-of-hours general practitioner service. But how do they know? What does account for the rise? Is this really a rise or is it common cause variation? No one knows. Nothing new there then.

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Sad, mad and glad: an intervention designed by dummies

A reader who has taken great strides with systems thinking in local authority housing (despite his senior managers) and who has just left wrote:

“The blokes [I left behind] are gutted. The hierarchy have brought in a consultant to ‘do it’ to them. Have you heard about the new ‘method’ the consultants are promoting? It’s called the SMG method. It works (not) something like this:

Organise a seminar with a cross-section of all the workforce and staff and ask them what makes the Sad; what makes them Mad; and what makes them Glad! We will put all the comments onto post-it notes and use it as basis for our action plan for us all to work on.’ The staff who have ‘opened their minds’ [got knowledge of the systems approach] all want to leave or are on the sick.

The only Sad thing is: This is actually happening in the public services today – 2004!
The only Mad thing is: The Chief Exec who instigated this.
The only Glad thing is: Me. I no longer work there.”

Obviously the top man thinks it’s the people. It’s the system stupid.

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Systems observations of security

A systems thinker writes:

“A BBC reporter, working undercover as part of the security team at Manchester Airport, highlighted how the system of hand luggage inspection is driving behaviours which actually increase the risks they are trying to prevent.

All hand luggage is electronically scanned after passport control. Airport managers also decree that a percentage of scanned bags will additionally be subject to a manual search on a random basis. The number of random manual searches is set in the form of a target – ‘check 1 bag in every 4 on average’ – and the target will change from time to time, depending on various factors. Staff have sheets to record how many bags they search in a given period. Team Leaders collect the sheets, add how many bags have been scanned in total and then calculate the percentage of manual searches. Managers check the sheets – and double-check the calculations – to reassure themselves that sufficient searches are being undertaken and security targets are being met.

Problems arise at busy periods when targets are high. To manually search bags at the required levels will lead to queues and delays. This not only causes customer dissatisfaction but can lead to airports being fined for ‘inefficiency’ (different targets). Downward pressure from management therefore translates to Team Leaders instructing staff to falsify their record of manual bag searches. They might have searched 3 bags but they record they have searched 8. Team Leaders tell them what figure to record on the sheet so that the searches ‘balance’ against the required percentage of bags scanned.

Managers observe that the queues are not too long and see from the sheets that the right percentage of bags are being searched. So they are happy, as they are meeting both their ‘service’ and their ‘safety’ objectives. Team Leaders meet their own objectives by keeping their managers happy – which is achieved with short queues and paper records that balance. Staff are told that it doesn’t matter how many bags they actually search as the important thing is to make sure the sheets balance – ‘..it’s only a paper exercise …’. Anyone who queries this is made to feel uncomfortable – ‘not a team player’ – and branded a trouble-maker.

The system is designed to promote rigorous checking and maximum security. But the way the system actually works – driven by the targets in place and the way activity is measured – actually results in less bags being checked and figures being routinely fiddled. A grave security risk – and all captured on camera.

We know that applying Systems Thinking principles can improve efficiency, reduce costs, improve profits etc – it would seem from this example that it could also save lives ………”

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Fit for the Future in German

A reader has kindly translated the ‘Fit for the Future’ series, something I wrote some time ago, into German. You can get it at: https://www.vanguard-method.com/v1_lib.php?current=947

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The Gershon Report

As I finish this newsletter, I am off to London to a conference on the Gershon Report (for those who don’t know it was a report on how to improve public services in the UK). I shall be presenting on the waste I see in the public sector: the waste associated with writing specifications; inspecting for them; reporting on them, and, worst of all, the waste associated with the fact that the specifications themselves make the work work worse. I shall illustrate the argument with case material you may have read in the book.

To those readers who tell me I should ‘tone it down’ about the problems caused by ministers, please take note: I do get invited to these things!

I’m off to have some fun….