In this issue:

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Three big fibs:

Then useful stuff:

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Minister fibs about Universal Credit

Fresh into her new job, work and pensions secretary Esther McVey must have been briefed with the usual guff put out by her department (‘UC is making good progress, we’re using Agile, more people on UC are in work’ etc.), with no acknowledgment of the hardship people experience we see reported every week nor recent whistle-blower complaints. Without competence to question what’s going on – how would she know? – McVey told a fib. She told the House of Commons that the National Audit Office said UC roll-out should be speeded up.

The NAO report didn’t say that. The report, as ever, is a shocker – how many organisations would tolerate spending almost £2bn without any evidence that it’s going to work, or generate a return, and plenty of evidence of problems? McVey used a standard ministerial ploy to defend UC, saying the NAO’s conclusions didn’t take account of recent changes (the ‘your view/data/evidence is out of date’ ploy). But, unusually, she got a slap from the NAO – ‘you haven’t shown any evidence of recent changes’ and ‘we didn’t say it should be speeded up’. What happened to her as a result? Nothing!

Maybe she was excused as she is still mastering the brief. She also told the House that the NAO saw no practical alternative. I am bound to say I provided Iain Duncan Smith, her predecessor, with exactly that right back at the start. It would have been delivered by people, not computers, it would have been up and running in months, it wouldn’t have cost a bean in information technology and it would have been a thorough test of the original hypothesis, that people, if provided with the right support, would be incentivised to work. At about 0.01% of the money spent so far it would have been worth a punt wouldn’t it?

But that, clearly, is not in the brief.

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The Agile fib

Has ‘Agile’ landed in your organisation? Enthusiastic people indoctrinated with new language and rituals; ‘personas’, ‘ideation’, ‘scrum’, ‘retrospectives’, ‘start-up’, ‘iterations’, ‘fail fast’ (you will!). The people who promote this new theory of everything, that amounts to little more than getting people to work together but with zilch attention to why the system might impede that, claim that Agile had been so successful in software development that it is now the time to spread the new theory everywhere.

The facts of the matter are that Agile in software development has not halted the excessive failure of large-scale IT systems (UC being a case in point), is on record as actually using as little of 20 to 50% of the code written (but you pay for all of it) and has resulted in ‘innovations’ that have driven high levels of failure demand into organisations. That’s the short version. The rules and rituals amount to organising multi-functional teams to dream up ideas and implement them; Agile has its very own command-and-control system; what it lacks is any idea about how to determine the right thing to do.

I’m writing about this crazy ubiquitous wrong-headed phenomenon in my next book; maybe I’ll do a webinar or podcast too. Let me know if either interests you.

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The outsourcing shared services fib

Northants Council is in the news, having run out of money. What surprises me is that there is no attention given to their massive outsourcing deal which was supposed to save millions. I’m confident it’s gone the way of others; racking up extra charges from the outsource providers, increasing costs from high levels of failure demand and so on. One journalist is sniffing in the right place.

The Big Consultancies who convinced public sector leaders that it saves money fibbed, gullible ministers believed the plausible hype. If you missed my earlier newsletter on why shared services fail – based on my sharing a platform with Whitehall’s top civil servant whose job is to promote this bad idea – you can find it here.

Enough of fibs, let’s get on to the useful stuff:

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Webinar on failure demand

Failure demand is easily understood but all-too-easily misunderstood. If you missed my webinar, you can watch a recording of it here.

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Eradicating failure demand

As I explain in the Webinar, failure demand is systemic; you can only get rid of it by changing the system. In November we are holding an event that will feature leaders who have done just that and, as ever, with outstanding results; information and booking here.

And don’t be concerned that the event title uses the word ‘agile’. Note that it has no capital A. True agility, adaptability and sustainability is achieved by designing services against demand; that’s how you work out the right thing to do; it sure beats dreaming things up…

The presentations will knock your socks off; fantastic results, as a consequence of changing the system and failure demand plummets.

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Designing against demand: Masterclass

There are a few places left on our 6th September Masterclass covering the basics of how to design services against customer demand. Information and booking here.

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Failure demand and policing

I wrote a blog for a magazine on what we know about failure demand in policing systems. You can read it here.

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People-centred services

We are now recruiting for the next people-centred services action-learning course run in conjunction with Kingston University. This is the experience that teaches you the falsehood about rising demand and exposes the costs of the current system failing to help people. From there you learn how to design services that are effective while you watch costs fall. Here’s what one graduate had to say:

“About 6 months after doing the course I got new job. I’d have never have been successful if it wasn’t for everything I learned and the practical experience I gained on the course. I’m delighted – I’m going to have the opportunity to make a real difference for citizens, and it’s also a decent pay rise!” Sam Spencer, Merton Council

For information and registration go here.

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Beyond commissioning

When you’ve designed effective services for people whose lives have fallen off the rails, dismantling all the conventional controls and replacing them with controls that work, you have to turn your attention to the commissioners, for they still think in conventional ways. Not their fault, they’ve been schooled by Whitehall. Once commissioners see the things they need to see they become inspired to change the way they think about commissioning. If this interests you we are running a commissioning masterclass; information and booking here.

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No plan required

As you may know the Vanguard Method is all about change based in knowledge and so rejects the notion that change should start with a plan. Our good friend Simon Caulkin, award-winning journalist, wrote about ‘no plan required’ here.

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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

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