Annual Archive

Blog

It Just Works: Taking Life for Granted

2017-07-19

I am writing this piece on a Eurostar train, travelling at well over 100 miles an hour, heading to Paris for a meeting about railways. The train is drawing electricity, my laptop is running on batteries, charged from a socket in my hotel room, my phone likewise. Had I brought the cables I could be […]

The Paradoxical Black Swan in the Overgrowth

2017-06-16

Taleb argues that we can only recognize ‘black swan’ events retrospectively. Perhaps though we can understand the conditions that create the potential for such events and, by testing those conditions, tempt the black swan to reveal itself in the obscuring overgrowth. Can we perhaps lure the black swan into revealing itself by understanding the drivers […]

Process Performance Management: the Basis of Improvement

2017-06-03

Visiting a secure site recently (State of alert: Heightened) I was subjected to the standard process: produce photographic proof of identity; fill in form (who am I, who am I here to see, why); photograph taken; ‘escorted’ identity pass produced; vehicle pass produced. Collected by my Escort (not previously met), we set off into the […]

The Egg Thief

2017-05-11

Staying in a hotel in France, breakfast was a self-service affair. One morning, I placed two eggs in the boiler and returned to my seat to wait for them to cook. As I watched the eggs from a distance, another guest rose from her seat, approached the egg boiler and took ‘my’ eggs. Being British […]

Don’t ‘Take note of my feedback’ Act on it!

2017-01-20

  A little while ago, James Robbins, now Group CIO at Drax Group, said to me: ’John, I enjoy reading your blogs but does nothing good ever happen in your world?’ Well of course it does but in general those good things are less interesting to write and read about. A headline reading ‘All is […]

Toddler Steps in Change Management

2017-01-02

The increase in the rate of change in the business environment and our organisations means that we must be able to solve problems, challenges, issues at least as fast as they arise. Things don’t then get worse! Stafford Beer1 suggested in 1974 that: ‘The relaxation time of the system is not geared to the current […]

The Productivity Spotlight: Planks and Splinters

2016-11-29

Working with numerous organisations in public, private and third sectors and across manufacturing, utilities and services I am increasingly struck by the extent to which the contemporary challenge of improving productivity needs to focus more on “the management” than it does “the workers”. Productivity improvement thinking, from Adam Smith (pin makers), through Frederick Taylor (pig […]

Don’t Reduce your Costs……

2016-09-25

………Improve your Processes. The costs of any organization, setting aside fraud, incompetence and stupidity, are largely a function of its processes (and adherence to them or not). The costs further reflect the supporting technology, the application of people’s skills and behaviours and, critically, the management attitude, i.e. the balance of autonomy and constraint as expressed […]

ICIF – Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

2016-07-31

This blog was written for the ICIF website but as is the way of things technological that is having a few hiccups so we are publishing here. Because it is a month since the original drafting I have taken the opportunity to refresh the content a little – the italicized words. Feel free to enjoy […]

What Aristotle can teach us about Service Quality

2016-06-06

The early quality movement from the 1940s adopted manufacturing process control techniques enabling consistent, reliable, standardised output. Great benefits are derived from that approach and with the shift towards service industries effort has been made to achieve similar benefits by ‘doing quality’ in services. Notwithstanding the valiant efforts of some (in particular John Oakland and […]

Doing More with Less NOT Doing Less with Less: Keep Taking the P**s

2016-04-01

Today I am cross. Sufficiently cross as to be considered borderline angry. This crossness is driven by crass behaviour and decision making of local authorities and, as it turns out, Central Government too! It is ‘Pig and Paper Day’ here in West Berkshire, the day on which, historically, the local farmers would bring their stock […]

University Challenged: Another Fine Mess

2016-03-02

http://blog.lboro.ac.uk/sbe/general/another-fine-mess/

Illusions of Control, Delusions of Management

2016-02-24

I have been working recently in two situations where the ‘doer’ of work is at a distance – in geography, in time, in culture – from the ‘manager’ who wants the work done. This led me to ponder the conventional ideas of control and management and, particularly, of traditional hierarchical organisation. In the first situation […]

University Challenged?

2016-02-11

I was giving a lecture on ‘The Intelligent Organisation’ 1 to a group of final year undergraduates and we got to that bit at the end…….. “Any Questions?” …..which is so often experienced as a profound and embarrassed silence punctuated by the occasional bleep of a digital device………… “Lecturer nearly finished yakking, with you as […]

Information and the Intelligent Organisation

2016-01-12

This blog was initially delivered at the 2nd International Data and Information Management Conference at Loughborough University on 12th January 2016. Summary John explores how organisations must use information to synthesise organisational performance through integration of people and process to deliver desired outcomes. He shows that organisational sustainability through learning, adaptation and knowledge management depend […]

Inevitable consequences

2016-01-06

One of the difficulties for the members of any organisation is to ‘see the world anew’ (Albert Einstein). Accustomed to ‘the way things are done around here’, inured to its challenges or simply blinded to its faults through the absence of an alternative view, we keep on doing the same thing not expecting a different […]

No matter how long you make the process chart ……

2015-12-16

  ……you never quite reach the customer! A senior official of a public services organisation, after reading The Intelligent Organisation, asked his assistant to purchase two more copies for other members of staff. Email One: Dear John,  This may be a very cheeky request but A would like 2 copies of ‘The Intelligent Organisation’, and […]

Whole Systems Thinking

2015-12-14

A short extract from a seminar on Whole Systems Thinking delivered to engineers at ARUP. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GR37lsB6I4g

The Intelligent Organisation – book launch

2015-11-28

Any book about management or managing organisations has to be sound in both theory and practice, management is after all an applied activity. Hence in launching the book I thought it important that the audience heard from both senior practitioners and academics. This is your opportunity to hear what everyone had to say – or […]

Protecting the public purse part 2

2015-11-16

 You couldn’t make it up….. Just when you think systems can’t get any sillier, an organisation ups the ante…. Dear John We work in a paperless office here so finding a stapler, or sellotape, to attach receipts to an expenses form is problematic so it’s a task that I do at home. This month I […]