Delivering Public Services That work

A little bird told me there has been a interesting follow up to John Seddon’s book ‘Systems Thining in the Public Sector’ which is being described as ‘proof of the pudding’

Delivering Public Services that Work is a book of Case Studies showing how Systems Thinking has been applied to a particular public service in six local authorities. Each case study – written by the manager or project leader responsible – describes what was done, how it was done and the results achieved.

‘Someone rang me just to thank me this morning. They didn’t want anything. They just wanted to thank me. I’ve worked here for 8 years and that’s never happened before. I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say.’ Team member, Stroud District Council, quoted in Delivering Public Services that Work

Seddon’s prescription then and now (for the UK and for any other country using the quasi free market model for public services) is this:

  • scrap the myth of ‘choice’ (because the public don’t want a choice of hospitals, they want a good hospital)
  • scrap targets (because they don’t work and people spend their time trying to massage the statistics)
  • scrap specifications (because they’re wrong and they don’t work)
  • scrap inspections (because they’re expensive to do and to prepare for and they only serve to ensure that people are doing the wrong thing correctly – meeting bad specifications)
  • scrap ‘deliverology’ (because it’s nonsense)
  • scrap the obsession with sharing administrative and back-office services in huge call centres and ‘data warehouses’ (because they don’t work half as well as front offices where people talk to the public)
  • scrap the Audit Commission (because it’s a white elephant)
  • scrap the centralised regime that oversees the disastrous public sector (because it is the problem)

Then use systems thinking to understand and fix problems and deliver joined-up public services that …

  • work better
  • work faster
  • save money
  • delight the public and
  • delight the people who deliver those services.

This book offers practical examples of how ‘systems thinking’ can both save money and transform services.

“There is currently a lot of talk of ‘designing services around customers’, of ‘better community engagement’, and of ‘innovation in the front line’; all laudable ideas but with little more than hope that they will produce improvements in services.  This book showcases exactly how to go about realising those hopes; it lays out clearly the method to be adopted and demonstrates the results that can be achieved. It should be the first thing anyone aspiring to improve our public services should read.”
Andy Nutter, Director of Governance and Transformation, Islington Council