The Business Doctor

'eradicating the Mad Management Virus'

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Student Inquires.....Assignment Help

I assume that someone in UWIC or Cardiff has set an assignment on SEMCO and is, it seems comparing this to my work in various organisations as I have had several student enquires pouring into my inbox. 

However, my work is nothing to do with SEMCO, as it is based in Complexity, Complex Evolving Systems and Chaos Theory. SEMCO and indeed Ricardo Semlar the founder of this wonderful organisation based in Brazil, and who now has operations in over 16 countries, is a unique organisation, with only similar principles and some core values to what I am attempting to do here in the UK.

However, let me answer in more depth, to help those assignments. Management practices of this century have been and still are greatly influenced by Taylor's concept of 'scientific management'. Taylor's theories can be traced to the paradigm of Newtonian mechanics. Yet ALL organisations are non-linear and organic. It is simply the assumption by managerialist perspectives, and teachings that it should be something else, which traditionally is 'industrialist', mechanistic and 'clockwork'.

As you will see with my work, the Newtonian perspective, or current teachings could not be further from the reality of human systems. People are messy and a number of authors have stated that organisations are simply a collection of messes! Not cogs or parts in a machine. Systems can be understood by basic physical laws that describe a deterministic world in objective ways. The natural state of the system is equilibrium; disturbances to equilibrium are controlled via negative feedback. The complexity paradigm uses systemic inquiry to build fuzzy, multivalent, multilevel and multi-disciplinary representations of reality. This is where SEMCO is not BGCBC or any other company involved by my methods.

Current HR practices for example can be summed up by the mechanistic, simplistic, and rational perspective. This is nonsense compared to current thinking even in Science. And this is the core issue of my work, vis traditional thinking. Business thought has been greatly influenced by reductionism. These concepts and practices, all steeped in the Newtonian paradigm, came about in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which was good for its time: division of labor, the idea of task, interchangeability of parts, standard procedures, quality control, cost accounting, time and motion study, and organisational charts (George 1968).

As systems theory or complexity has been applied across the disciplines, a number of "theoretical fields" have developed consistent with the complexity paradigm. Here specifically with HR and what the HR lecturer is informing you, simplistically and incorrectly that there are just traditional v SEMCO, as there are several, along a continuum and multi-dimensional with two bodies of theory as an example - nonlinear dynamical systems (or "chaos theory"), and complex adaptive systems being just two to develop the relationships and change in my organisations yet I draw upon several as each case develops.

Chaos theory as an example has developed along two dimensions. Experimentalists found ways to discover deep and complex patterns in seemingly random, or "chaotic" systems. Prigogine and Stengers (1984), among others, use chaos to describe how order can arise from complexity through the process of self-organization.

Here is a summary of some of just a few of the main points from chaos theory:

(a) observed randomness may not be randomness after all,
(b) even simple deterministic systems can have limited predictability (HR rules example), and
(c) a system can move from equilibrium to chaos not only through structural changes but also parameter changes.

Here you will see that with BGCBC and even within BGCBC there cannot be replication of any practice or process to achieve a given end. There is no such thing as 'Best Practice' as often stated, only 'past practice' based on highly subjective, newtonian thinking. What I offer via Complexity is an Architecture to see/understand the world in which we live. It does not allow you to predict only provide a limited, and accepted understanding of the limitations of 'knowing' in a human systems world. To predict the outcomes of companies would simply place me back into the Newtonian, Mechanistic perspective!

BGCBC, is of course there to provide a service. However, when you adopt a Human, Individualist, Post-Structuralist perspective you move away from efficiency (as with pay scales etc.) to effectiveness (mess and individual systems). As with the Pay and rewards, once you provide the frontline staff with the budgets, salaries of all, bosses, admin, HR, etc. to get them to rationalise the contributions they make from the work up, not 'HR' or Management down. In simple terms it means treating people like Adults not Children! We are all adults if allowed to be, even Binmen or Admin staff. The result when you do this is breathtaking, spectacular and challenging to those who only think there is one way to achieve 'work'.

Regarding the success of BGCBC, well the documentary is out in March and as a post structuralist, Complexity Thinker I will let you be the judge of this, but it is already revolutionising Management here in the UK and the world. Lets hope that University Lecturers  who study books and fail to connect with real world practice, catch on soon or some students will I am sure be asking for their fees back quite quickly after venturing back into the real world.

Lets hope this helps..... I hate email at the best of times!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Carwyn Jones talks change

I was encouraged today reading about First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones, on the eve of the first Welsh Public Services Summit, talk about the drastic need for change across public services.  
He talks about the pressure across public services in the 21st century, the NHS, fire, police. education etc created by increased costs, decreased public funds available and an aging population. In my eyes, the amount of waste and excess across the public sector should be seen as an epidemic, compounded by often unnecessary reporting and assessment procedures.   But the government, local and national seems to be allowing some degree of recognition of this unsatisfactory state of affairs, to start filtering through.
Last week we heard David Cameron talk about the importance of the frontline workers and this week Carwyn Jones said:  “change will only work if it engages and empowers the workforce – often it is the front-line staff who know where the solutions lie, and they have to be involved from the outset.”
Hallelujah, I say! It echoes the work I’ve been doing across public and private organisations for years, and have been banging on about for even longer!  At Blaenau Gwent, a large county council, with many challenges, they’ve embraced the need for change and we’re making significant progress.  Like many workforces there are some brilliant human beings, who if allowed to flourish and shine can have a massive impact on the future health of the business and the profit!  Let’s hope the Summit comes away with some valid, efficient and fast action plans!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Cameron's Pledge is already real in Blaenau Gwent

I have to have my say on David Cameron’s pledge to give public sector workers the chance to form co-operatives and take on the running of services themselves.
The Conservative leader wants this to embrace primary school teachers and nurses, for example, allowing them to make decisions. A brilliant idea indeed. But these decisions would be within certain national standards…and there’s the catch. You can’t hand over power but then tell them what to do with it. If you hand over power to the frontline then that has to mean they get to decide what is a high standard. It has to be like this, because everything is context specific. You can’t – or shouldn’t - generalise.
Mr Cameron thinks this policy would "unleash a new culture of public sector enterprise". Not so new in fact – this is exactly what I am already doing in Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. The authority’s environmental services department has been turning itself upside down, quite literally, since last autumn. Recycling, the binmen, highways, stores and transport - all are undergoing a radical change which has seen the frontline staff allowed to take control. And this is in an ‘Independent Party’ authority and with full consent from the chief executive and corporate leaders.
In his speech, Mr Cameron said employee-owned co-operatives would be able to decide on management structures, "innovate" to cut costs and improve the standard of service. They’d also get to share any financial surpluses among the staff. Admirable stuff, but there’s another problem. When I start work with any organisation I’m faced with removing 19th century management practices. Getting managers to unlearn the past, treat people like adults, not children, and start to behave as they’d like to rather than as they’re conditioned to is a difficult process.
Nor am I sure where the surplus of money talked about would come from. Public services I come across are generally in – or in danger of being in - huge deficit. And anyway, at the risk of generalising too far, people don’t go into public services for the money. In fact, at Blaenau Gwent Council I’m working with the staff to re-invest “surplus” money back into frontline services.
The problem is not with co-ownership itself, which can and does empower frontline workers to achieve a high level of customer service. The problem is whether managers can give up their power, status and money as a result of the shift.
Mr Cameron also described how there are millions of demoralised public sector workers who feel disrespected, and lack recognition. Isn’t that incredibly obvious? It’s a result of being management-driven machines given targets and performance measures and treated, quite frankly, like children. Then today Durham University released evidence that flexible working creates happy staff and happy staff equals better performance… another exceedingly-obvious claim, but at least one now supported with ‘evidence’. I have been saying this for about ten years, and I see the results in practice time and time again.
I know that frontline workers in a democratic, management-free zone can boost productivity and staff morale and reduce absenteeism.  Even in a short period we saw a 2% reduction in sickness. Savings also ranged from the £100 removal of a fixed cost to nearly £500,000 in the reduction of ‘management’ cost/overheads to a service.
These ideas are no "gimmick". Even though the frontline staff at the Council have only been immersed in this for a few months the authority overall has been working hard at this transformation for more than two years now. It’s no quick fix – but nor is it a passing fad.
You’ll be able to see how the frontline staff have risen to the challenge in a BBC documentary to be shown in the next few weeks. Watch this space for more details…

Let the frontline respond!

“The Government could save billions of pounds by scrapping a flagship programme to assess and publicise the performance of local services”, a think-tank report stated recently.
The Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA), launched last year, brings together reports from six inspectorates to provide an overview of local services on the ‘Oneplace’ website.
The think-tank's chief executive, James Morris, said: "Local authorities are more accountable to central government than to their residents. Without doubt this has been a contributing factor in the disengagement of local people. The new system we propose can turn this underwhelming system of performance and assessment on its head."
This is welcome news indeed, recognition of the accountability that’s been forced on local government when the only true accountability should be to the taxpayer, i.e. the customer.  
My recent work with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (much more on this coming soon!) is focussed on working with the frontline workers, from the binmen to the receptionists, to the team that maintain council vehicles in fact everyone who provides direct services to the public.  Time and time again I’m amazed, impressed and encouraged by the ability of these people to devise and deliver the best, most efficient and relevant processes/services within their remit.  They are the people doing the job and therefore have the most knowledge when it comes to understanding what works best, simple really!  
A long process of assessment and response at a distant level from central government cannot have the insight and impact that the frontline people can have.  The assessment of public services should, I believe, be completely in the hands of the customers and the response to complaints or inefficiencies should be dealt with by the service providers.

Monday, 15 February 2010

DNA Wales at St Josephs Catholic Junior School, UK

In September 2009 the Head Teacher at St. Joseph’s Junior School, Mr Michael Daley, asked four pupils to embark upon a small business venture that would lead to an enhancement to the school environment. The four pupils were all in Year 6, the final year before moving to Comprehensive School, with their age range between 10 years and 11 years of age. All four children were the elected Year 6 members of the newly formed School Council and in Mr Daley’s words, “They were the perfect choice to embark upon such a new and innovative school project.”

Philip Crocker, School Parent and DNA Wales Adviser was invited to provide business advice and support to the fledgling school project.  Soon the four children Danny Dobson, Kathryn O’Leary, Kiara Parker & Caitlin Thomas organised themselves into a formal team, with a flat structure, operating as equal Senior Partners in the project. They named themselves “DKKC Project @ St. Joseph’s”.

It was decided the project would consist of asking school pupils to design 4 panels, each one depicting a colourful interpretation of the four Seasons. The results were overwhelming and a total of 130 pieces of Art were passed to Mr Davies to be incorporated into the final products.

DKKC set about developing their idea into a business with objectives, timescales and a framework for achieving their Aims. Having completed this phase of the project they then developed their ideas into a formal compelling business case. The project would be based around the notion that they could develop the indoor panels which could then be expanded in years to come with outdoor panels, ensuring the project would not be a one-off. The business case was comprehensive and very impressive.

On Tuesday 9th February, a Special Assembly was held at the school led by Mr Michael Daley. Present were the Senior Partners of the DKKC Project, Special Guest Dr Paul Thomas (DNA Wales Founder), Mr John Davies (Bright Ideas Ltd), and Mr Philip Crocker (DNA Wales Adviser).

During the Assembly much praise was given to the efforts of the four children and to all parties involved in the project. Dr Paul Thomas addressed the Assembly and spoke about the virtues of teamwork.

Much has been learned and achieved via this project but one of the most important rewards of all, must be the true and lasting friendships made.

Many thanks to Dr Paul Thomas (The Business Doctor); Mr John Davies, the DKKC Project and of course all of the pupils!

Philip Crocker