In this issue:

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Job opportunity in Canada

A Canadian client is looking for a senior leader with a strong track record applying the Vanguard Method in utilities / installations / customer services. You would be working directly with the chief executive with a free rein to effect rapid change. In the first instance please contact me with a short note on why you might be suited: john@vanguardconsult.co.uk

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IT last

I have often pointed out that 90% of large-scale IT programmes fail – something the IT industry doesn’t talk about. As I said in the last newsletter, Agile hasn’t changed that (more on Agile later). The Canadian client above demonstrates the power of IT being the last thing you do, not the first. Because software developers are involved in studying and re-designing services to make them more effective, when it comes to what IT would make the services even more effective, every bit of code that’s written is used (compare that to Agile/IT first, where 50 to 80% is not used – but you pay for it). What’s more profound is that the IT developers know the front-line service work so well that they choose to do it from time to time… how else can they be sure that what they code is cool?

Software developers like to do stuff that works. Developers working in an Agile culture get narked when much of what they code gets stuck in the backlog, is not chosen as worthy by their ‘product owner’ (the dude who’s supposed to have insight as to what to prioritise from a backlog of dreamed-up ideas), or is not valued by the customer – no surprise when what they coded was ‘imagineered’ by people who call themselves service designers – distinguishable by their wacky clothes, manicured moustaches and complete ignorance of what actually matters to customers. Yet more on Agile later…

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If only the minister knew

Matt Hancock, the UK’s new minister for health has drunk the digital Kool-Aid. He says “we have learnt a huge amount about how to deliver cutting-edge tech in very complicated settings with big legacy systems”.

Really? Where? What has he learned? Who told him to say that?

He wants to “set our sights on the NHS being the most cutting-edge system in the world for the use of technology to improve our health”.

Expect vast expenditure, little or no return and/or a rise in ineffectiveness and operating costs.

What drove him to speak about this? It was the case of a thirteen-year-old child who died despite having been seen 47 times by different parts of the health system. He says “linking the records of her visits and making them available for the clinicians she saw could have allowed her doctors to better understand her medical history, to treat her differently and perhaps prevent her death”.

The problem is not a lack of IT records; it is the fragmentation of the health system, created by the Big-Consultancy-led industrialisation, with the focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness. What the health and care system needs is continuity in the relationship with patients and people are good at that, not IT systems. I made the same argument with his predecessor, Jeremey Hunt. Hunt’s response was “I agree with your analysis but not your conclusion. IT systems are the means to continuity”. Who persuaded him of that?

Never mind the Whitehall narrative, we are helping lots of people – service providers and commissioners on the ground – to design and deliver effective care services at much lower costs; and continuity of the helping relationship is central. If this appeals to you, join the next cohort.

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Universal Credit buys in services for failure demand

One example of a ‘complicated setting’ with legacy systems that has been anything other than ‘cutting-edge tech’ – and you may wonder why the minister missed it – is Universal Credit (newsletter passim ad infinitum). The problem of failure demand (I told them so) is being ‘solved’ by chucking money at it. In a brazen claim that this is ‘steering a new direction’ and ‘working with partners’ the new minister for work and pensions is giving Citizen’s Advice £39m to deal with it. Opposition politicians ought to be pointing out that this is yet another example of the cost of failure.

Citizen’s Advice leaders are reported as saying they’ll help the minister deal with the root causes. I doubt that. The root cause is trying to use IT (‘digital services’) to deal with high variety. It will never work. See the report here.

Every day this week UC has featured in the news; claimants experiencing hardship; many find working is dis-incentivised (exactly the opposite of the original intention), growth in claimants having to go to food banks to feed their families, hence voices arguing UC imposes the austerity agenda on those most unable to shoulder it. It’s a shocker; an example to us all of how not to design a service that has to deal with high variety of demand.

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Better digital from better method

This was the theme for my introduction to our recent event on digital transformation. You can watch my introduction and some of the speakers’ comments here

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On Agile and agility

I don’t need to tell you I regard ‘Agile’ as an extraordinary form of anarchy. While I agree with the Agile gurus that command and control management has chronically dysfunctional means of control, their solution is to ‘let go of control’; as one guru puts it: “control is enhanced by letting go of control”. It is complete madness, and a mistake I made many moons ago. You shouldn’t remove bad controls before you introduce better ones.

Exercised as I am by the madness that is Agile I’m going to talk about the nonsense promulgated by this new theory of everything and what it actually takes for organisation to be truly agile – yes, you’ve guessed it – able to respond with alacrity to the variety of customer demand – at our upcoming event; details here. The lunacy needs exposing.

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Want to work with Vanguard?

We are hiring. Applicants need to have experience of applying the Vanguard Method – and thus a track-record of outstanding results. Apply with a brief description of your experience to Maria at office@vanguardconsult.co.uk

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Join the network

If you want to know more about studying and redesigning services, removing current controls and establishing better controls, join our Beyond Command and Control Network – it is free to join.

And finally, I am often disappointed to learn of organisations who are trying to apply the Vanguard Method with consultants who claim to be competent. To put it bluntly, you’d be better off (and save a fortune) having a go on your own, using our e-learning system.

Thanks for reading!

John

john@vanguardconsult.co.uk