“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
John Beckford is, perhaps, an unreasonable man. Like many, he believes that as we currently do things organisations can be dysfunctional places. He observes them getting things wrong, whether undervaluing their employees, operating with inefficient systems or mismanaging information. John is unreasonable enough to keep trying to change things and downright persistent enough to get results.
John is a cybernetician and management scientist with a deep understanding of how data is captured and can be converted into information for decisions and adaptation. He chairs the board of https://risemutual.org/ is a non-executive director of https://www.fusion21.co.uk/ and https://www.corehaus.co.uk/ and a trustee of The Under 17 Car Club Charitable Trust and Director of its subsidiary, U17 Drivers Pathfinder Limited. John is President of the Cybernetics Society.
John holds a PhD in Management Systems and Sciences from the University of Hull, is a Fellow of the Cybernetics Society, the RSA and the IET and a Member of The Institute of Management Services. John is Visiting Professor in the Centre for Information Management at Loughborough University and the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at University College London.
For over 30 years John has worked with directors and senior managers to improve the effectiveness of their organisations. He encourages them to make the most of the brains, as well as the brawn, of their employees, working with them to diagnose challenges, explore possible futures and develop therapies, treatments designed to improve things. Where appropriate John offers mentoring to key individuals
It is rare that organisations can talk about their problems in the singular: the challenges of contemporary organisations are complex, interdependent and often intractable to conventional approaches. The core thinking is systemic, holistic actions based on diagnosing issues, the development of a shared model for the future and the supported implementation of that solution. The real trick for John is to teach the organisation to learn!
John’s approach is substantiated through his three books and multiple other publications through which he has developed both theory and practice. The Intelligent Organisation shows how John’s approach can be applied to organisations of all sizes while in The Intelligent Nation he demonstrates how they might transform the way we think about national governance. Quality Management: Reconsidered for the Digital Economy, now in its 5th edition shows how the shift to a digital economy under IR4 will be transformative while it continues to draw on the well founded ideas of the quality movement.
Management scientist Stafford Beer described the role of a consultant with three letters – GPF – guide, philosopher and friend, and that’s how John sees his work. Unlike many large-scale consultancies, John focuses on developing a solution that is uniquely yours. Rather than taking your problem away and bringing back a perfect answer that doesn’t work in context, John believes you need to work together to develop a shared understanding of the world – and to recognise and accept differences between you. You need to know and trust each other if you’re going to embark on processes of change together.
John is proud of the working relationships he has established. People he has worked with for many years still ask him for help and advice when necessary, which he takes as a good sign. And they still buy him cups of coffee, which he takes as an even better sign. That’s not to say John is everyone’s cup of tea – or coffee – and he’s not in the business of forcing his services upon those who see the world differently. But some of John’s best clients are also the ones that give him the biggest arguments.
A believer in ‘light management’ John considers that if he makes decisions for you he’s going to be kept terribly busy, and he doesn’t want that. So he aims to make himself perpetually redundant by ensuring you have all the information and skills you need to effect change yourself. As Herbert Spencer said: “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools”.
John believes that practice and theory must be linked together in such a manner that each informs the other.
John works with a number of associates, several of whom are skilled researchers in their own right and each of whom brings a distinctive capability to support and complement John’s own skills.