How many times until you’re happy?

Bedtime in the Gilson household…

“Daddy, please tell me that story about the Vanguard Method of systems thinking again.”

“Well ok, but I’ve drawn you a little diagram because it’s quite hard to explain really.”

“Once upon a time there was a nasty land, where some large organisations had lost sight of why they were born and how they should treat their staff. A clever man called John* invented  the model for ‘check’ to help us understand what was happening in those organisations…”

“It’s important that we work our way from points 1 to 6. Beginning at point 1, we listen to what customers want from our service and decide what our purpose is, from their perspective.”

“Unfortunately, some of those customers get lost in our systems and processes and we don’t make them happy. That means they leave us by the wrong exit and they have to go back to the start and contact us again.”

“That’s a bit like snakes and ladders Daddy. Is that what you call Failure Demand?”

“Yes! It’s exactly like snakes and ladders for many customers – well remembered.”

“If the customers are sad, does that make the staff that talk to them sad too?”

“Yes, it does! Most staff just want to do a good job and help customers out.”

“By counting how many times people have to go back to the start, we can work out how good we are at doing what customers want. This is really important, but nobody bothers to listen to it.”

“Why don’t they listen Daddy?”

“Well, you know sometimes you put your fingers in your ears and go lalalalalalalalala? Most Senior Leaders often like to do this with their customers too.”

“You’re making it up now Daddy.”

“I wish I was, I really wish I was.”

“Once we know what our purpose is, we look to see whether we have any performance measures that tell us how well our systems are working to achieve it.”

“Computers are really clever now Daddy, I bet most organisations have loads of really good measures of things their customers care about, don’t they?”

“You’re close; most have lots of measures of things their shareholders and regulators care about”

“Oh, that’s a shame”

“After we’ve looked at measures we can follow customers through our systems, looking at all the silly things we get our staff to do that add no value in helping our customers get what they need.”

“Why would managers get staff to do things that don’t help their customers Daddy?”

“Now there’s a good question. That’s where points 5 and 6 come in – we look at all those silly blockages we put in our systems and work out why we put them there”

“And what do you find Daddy?”

“Well, we normally find that senior leaders have built their offices in places where they can’t hear their customers or staff. This means that they forget what customers and staff need and they make bad decisions and silly systems.”

“Oh, that’s really sad for everyone, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Is there a happy ending Daddy?”

“I’m glad you asked that, because some leaders are clever and they can put it all right.”

“How Daddy, how?!”

“Well, the management team spend some time listening and watching what happens to customers. Then they realise that they need to do quite a lot more listening and they get sad, but that’s a good thing. Once the leaders are sad, they start to change stuff and do what the customers want. They stop staff having to do silly things and get them to help design new systems that are better for the customers and more fun to work in. When we do that, everyone lives happily ever after.”

“Even the shareholders Daddy?”

“Yes, even the shareholders.”

“Good night Daddy, please can we have the one about the Taguchi Loss Function tomorrow night?”

“Do we have to? I wanted Charlie and Lola for a change”



* – John Seddon. If you’ve found this blog then I presume you know of John. If not go and find him!





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About Ian

Perfect Flow specialises in logistics, but good service is far too rare across all sectors in the UK. That is why I am driven by a strong desire to improve customer service levels. The Vanguard Method of Systems Thinking is my chosen methodology to achieve that aim. Why Vanguard Method? Because it works. I know it does, because I have used it myself. Perfect Flow have been named in the Smarta100 2012 - the 100 most innovative and disruptive small businesses in the UK

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