Should I cease?

I have been thinking I should give up criticising Whitehall initiatives; for a number of reasons. Firstly because it makes no difference; when I look back over past newsletters I see I have been banging on about the same issues for many years. Here’s a Whitehall joke: they call Universal Credit ‘universal cred’ because the IT doesn’t work. I told them why it wouldn’t when they started. But see how the bleeding of public money, not to mention the impact on people, cuts no ice with the jesters.

Secondly, if Whitehall were to ‘get it’ the machine would promulgate our work as a solution to copy and not, as it is, a means of getting knowledge. Further, I said all I wanted to say about the diseases spread by Whitehall in my last book (The Whitehall Effect), arguing it is Whitehall that has to change if we are to innovate; and, finally, we are focusing our efforts directly in helping those who deliver services; once they cross the Rubicon they ignore the dross served up by Whitehall. The Vanguard Method continues to be adopted despite it all.

But this (now) occasional newsletter is written with the reader in mind, so please advise me. Should I continue to shoot fish in a barrel? Do you find it of value?

BTW, here is the most recent book review which I think is balanced and accurate:


Just one tiny gripe: the review says the book doesn’t celebrate things that have ‘gone right’, but I did include a series of examples of effective, delivered, change in public services and referenced many others. But as I gave lots of case studies in the previous book The Whitehall Effect focussed more on politicians’ failure to learn and the systemic nature of Whitehall’s failure.


Knowledge beats copying

A current example contrasting our and Whitehall’s approaches to change concerns health and care services: Whitehall puts out ideas they like, encouraging others to copy them. What’s more these are labelled as ‘Vanguard’ projects. We, the other Vanguard, know that to copy without knowledge runs enormous risks and, generally, will fail. By contrast, we have put our know-how into a programme run by the University of Buckingham’s Business School, where people are given the means to study, get knowledge and build effective designs for health and care services. Follow our work and you’ll have an effective (and much lower-cost) service up and running in months. Follow Whitehall’s guidance and you will either be trapped in a bureaucratic wrangle for months if not years with a high probability of creating something that doesn’t work very well or you will do something people like the sound of that will be trivial compared to the opportunity. Charlotte wrote a blog about the contrast; it’s worth a read.

We are working with Buckingham’s business school because we need to find ways to spread this work widely. A major chunk of expenditure goes on services for people whose lives have fallen off the rails. The cost saving achieved through studying and redesign is astonishing. The lives helped and the fall in demand that follows is what public services ought to be about.


Beyond budgeting

I have recently re-connected with the Beyond Budgeting Round Table (BBRT). I spoke at events for them some ten years ago. It may be no surprise to readers that I say budget-management is a primary system condition sub-optimising the way service organisations work. Of course you can’t imagine a world without budgets but our recent focus is on how to develop a budgeting process that is based in knowledge and which, consequently, dissolves the many dysfunctions of conventional budget management. I shall be speaking about this work at a forthcoming BBRT event:


The event has an interesting line up of speakers – including what in my view is the best bank on the planet. Maybe see you there?


The other banking crisis

Working in financial services, Patrick Hoare, one of our lead consultants, noticed how the focus on cost/income ratio had disappeared from management’s preoccupations – when he was a lad working in financial services – his first job – it was the key measure and a focus for all.

Guess what? When you dig down into annual reports and other sources you discover that the cost/income ratio is in shockingly bad health. From the days of Patrick’s first job, at 40% or below, the ratio currently averages an eye-watering 69%. And the big irony? Financial Services organisations have been primarily focussed on managing cost! It’s the same old lesson: manage costs and your costs go up.


A date for your diary

We have been working in financial services in a number of countries. The Vanguard Method helps leaders understand the folly of cost management and, through focusing on the customer (properly for once) managing value drives costs out of the system – to a level not dreamed about – while driving customer satisfaction skywards. ‘Net Promoter Scores’ jump from ‘we hate you’ to ‘we love you’.

We are planning an event, featuring leaders who have been applying the Vanguard Method in Financial Services on March 10th 2016 – hold the date if you’d like to be there. To ensure you receive information email Janice: pr@vanguardconsult.co.uk


Seddon speaks

I shall be speaking at the All Wales Continuous Improvement Conference on November 24th. I shall be featuring examples of The Vanguard Method in action in Wales where the method has had a stunning impact on health and care systems in particular.

On November 26th I shall be speaking at the first Enterprise Excellence in Service and Manufacturing Conference in Scotland. The organisers are offering a 30% discount to attendees who quote my name at the checkout when they book online.


Vanguard events

A listing of other upcoming public events can be found here.