What Aristotle can teach us about Service Quality


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


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


Illusions of Control, Delusions of Management


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?


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


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


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 ……


  ……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


A short extract from a seminar on Whole Systems Thinking delivered to engineers at ARUP.

The Intelligent Organisation – book launch


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


 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 […]

NIC: synthesise don’t analyse


  Whether or not the National Infrastructure Commission (whose brief is to deliver a politically independent infrastructure strategy) will be useful depends not so much on what it does but on how it does what it does! If it considers projects independently of each other (an energy project, a transport project) then it risks continuing […]

Thinking About Information Science


Thinking About Information Science John Beckford The role of information science in Universities and Business is changing rapidly, but what is Information Science? According to: “Information science (or information studies) is an interdisciplinary field primarily concerned with the analysis, collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information.[1] Practitioners within the field study the […]

A Bonfire of Conceits


A Bonfire of Conceits I have a vivid memory of Stafford Beer telling an audience at King Alfred’s College, Winchester, that none of us could disprove the existence of fairies. It was a typically profound and weighted message; that our cognition is limited and bounded. What most disturbs us is that which arrives through the […]

This is interesting…..


The One Eyed Man


It is often said that in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king.  Wrong!  In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man would probably be regarded as a raving lunatic.  Imagine the conversation, “SEES THINGS?  What does he mean, he SEES THINGS?”  Driving change can be very like the life of […]

Free wifi or not


Is it unreasonable to ask…. ….. whether this wifi is free or not? A UK based hotel chain recently ‘improved’ its customer offer by making its wifi offer free of charge. A saving of £3 per night and very welcome when many of their hotels (rarely in prime positions) suffer from poor mobile connectivity. Then […]

Directors of Change Management


Is it unreasonable to ask… … that Managers take responsibility? I stumbled across a job advertisement recently in a respected academic news journal. The advert, placed by a respected University, was seeking no less than: “three Permanent ‘Directors of Change Management”. (My emphasis) These poor, benighted creatures are expected to: “work with the Deputy VC […]

The IT is crap


Is it unreasonable to ask…. …when you say ‘the IT is crap’, is it you? Are you referring to the network? The device? The application? The output? Or the information itself – the data or report you are working with? ‘The IT is crap at <insert name of your particular organisation>’ is a comment as […]

Protecting the Public Purse?


If we assume that staff are dishonest why do we employ them AND let them loose on our customers? This note was circulated by the finance admin team of a university:   Subject: POLITE REMINDER re Out of Pocket Expense Claim Forms A polite reminder if we may…… It is not best practice to present […]