September 2, 2012

Policing is a public service that doesn’t often get viewed as a system or as a system of parts in the same way that health or government are. That was until Simon Guilfoyle, John Seddon and others looked at it. Simon is a serving officer with an interest in systems thinking and I had the pleasure of seeing a presentation by him earlier this year at a NET2 meeting. Following the meeting he kindly forwarded me a recent paper he’d had published entitled “On target? – Public Sector Performance Management: Recurrent Themes, Consequences and Questions“, Policing (2012).

As the paper’s title infers it puts policing performance management into the same context as the rest of the public sector with all the bad practices that are frequently pointed out there. In line with the theme of this blog there is the notion that public satisfaction rates are a potential indicator, although some refining may be required to gain understanding in context i.e. cold feedback won’t do on its own. The paper also warns of the likely effect of  gaming when employing emotive targets, something that Simon went into some detail in during his presentation.

In this context John Seddon is just starting his “The Evidence Tour” and launching the second volume of “Delivering Public Services That Work”. The presentations are free and I recommend those involved in public services give him a listen and ask questions. With the introduction of elected police commissioners later this year the whole matter of police performance targets is likely to take on added weight as pre and post election gaming occurs.


Systems thinking, control charts and philosophy

May 30, 2008

Spent an interesting few hours on the 29th May at a meeting of the ‘north of england transformation network’ meeting in Brighouse, West Yorkshire – www.net2.org.uk – thanks for the invite, folks!

Bizarrely, the talk by Dr Mark Wilcox entitled ‘Predicting performance – our debt to Shewhart’ was a fascinating journey through the sources of thought in both Shewart and Deming and brought up Heraclitus who I mentioned in an earlier item. Mark was relating the link with the philosophical school of Pragmatism, popular in the USA in the early 20th century, along with A.N.Whitehead. It appears that both Shewhart and Deming had read C.I.Lewis’s book ‘Mind and the World Order‘ on multiple occasions. Since Shewart was originator of the control chart, which is a fundamental aspect of systems thinking, hearing the part various other authors helped to play in its development demonstrated to me how it all came together and was still developing.

I also tested out my theory, that dissatisfaction would make a suitable metric for customer service in local government despite my inability to express it as a variation, without any serious disputes with some of the other attendees.

Perhaps some things are becoming clearer to me, if they weren’t before?

  • Those seeking to improve services before, since and during the e-government era, continue to do so!
  • Whilst seeing better ways of doing things, they might have failed to join up in a crusade against the promoters of targets (in practice) but are able to be joined up quite nicely around the theory.

Why I’m taken with this is that the promoters of lean thought argue for the sorting out of processes initially with the customer involved, then we do the IT stuff!