The Business Doctor

'eradicating the Mad Management Virus'

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Wednesday, March 17, BBC One Wales, 9pm

Like local authorities across the UK, Blaenau Gwent Council is under pressure to save money but improve services. As with other institutions, some practices have been set in stone with things done the same way over many years, just because it's the way it's always been.

Doctor Paul Thomas, from the University of Glamorgan, thinks it’s time for a revolution in management thinking - in short, he wants to remove managers and allow workers to take that responsibility for themselves.

And in Ban The Boss (Wednesday, March 17, BBC One Wales) he gets the chance to put his theories into practice in the public sector as Council bosses sign up for what could be a sobering period of change for both workers and managers.

Paul’s mission is to get the refuse workers, and the recycling and transport teams, to buy in to his vision - to see them making decisions themselves. In a bid to prove to them they can do it he removes the managers for a period of time, handing responsibility for the day job over to those on the front line.

The transport workers are the keenest to change, and embrace the idea with enthusiasm, while the recyclers, although lagging a little behind, start to see the benefits when they realise they can spread their recycling message into schools and among the public.

But the binmen are adamant they are not there to sort out management’s problems, and look set not to budge.

Will Paul’s methods convince the workers at large that taking on the task of running themselves can reap rewards in the long run?

And what becomes of the managers, who have been out of the office and fearful that chaos will ensue, when the workers are allowed to vote on whether or not they want to see their former bosses back in charge?


  1. It was very good to see some practical application of your ideas, and very impressive. How many managers did you manage to remove the Refuse/Recycling/Transport org? I am bit confused, as individual departments became much lighter in managers but the overall organization lost only 4 managers in total?

  2. I watched the programme last night with fascination, but for me there were so many unanswered questions. Are you advocating a completely flat organisation with operational staff being given complete freedom to establish core values, determine strategy, set budgets, monitor performance and progress etc. Inevitably there will be individuals who seize the moment, but equally there will be others who need the support, guidance and in some cases the discipline provided by conventional management. Where can I read more about the theory behind the programme?

  3. Hello both, thank you for leaving some great points...
    I have added a general update for everyone, but here are your specifics.

    There are now no managers left in this Department. We lost 8 managers in total during this process. All 26 managers are however gone, that is, the ones left are now leaders, or doing other jobs, and those that are left are 'managed' by the frontline staff. Its democratic and service led.

    There are structures, but they are emergent and dependent on the task in hand. Many in the Council struggle with this, for when they ring in to speak to the manager, they say 'there isn't one, we all are'....

    We spent about two months developing core values, setting budgets, changing work practices and judging how we monitor performance from the customers perspective and frontline driven. Not easy, but when the staff realised they could, they did with great results.

    One great example of change regarding disciplinary was in the Garage, where the the men on the floor actually took aside one colleague and told them to improve performance. Stunning, simple and polite.

    The theory behind my work is Complexity, Complex Evolving Systems and Post Structuralism.

    Hope this helps

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the programme and I always believe the best people to improve any business or organisation are the people who are doing the job day in and day out. They need to be able to make suggestions of how to improve things and not be managed by dictators who believe they know best and they know it all. You need to go into caerphilly cbc, torfaen cbc but all of them really.
    The royal gwent is crying out for someone like you aswell. They are not providing 21st century treatments in many depts which then has an impact on waiting lists, patient outcomes, people can often need repeat treatments, then this has a knock on effect on the beneifts system which gets overloaded. They are not efficient, effective or productive at present. Treatments approved by NICE are not get into the hospital for decades. GMC do not regulate consultants and ensure that they are keeping up to date with latest treatments as per fitness to practice guidelines. Also, patients have no feedback system like UHW who send out questionnaires. Staff should be encouraged to suggest new ways of working aswell.
    Lastly, headteachers need to be targeted. There are a number of them who believe they are celebrities and know it all about everything. They are unapproachable and have no idea when it comes to handling budgets. The people who work their way up through a school usually have more consideration for staff and pupils than people who are parachuted in and have usually only got the position through bull spouted at the interview. Very often they arrive at school with the big I am attitude and very often achieve very little for the school whilst aggrevating staff. This is a very common trait in headteachers quite sadly.
    I hope you make more programmes. Well done!

  5. This is what we are doing at Suma and what i do as a consultant and activist. Have a look at and
    The 'executive + supervisor' is an obsolete technology. Management can be a function and should not be a status. Suma, no CEO, no MD, no chairman but you wouldnt want to try and compete with us in our market.