12 January 2011

Freedom From Command and Control:

A Better Way to Make the Work Work

John Seddon, Vanguard Consulting

Co-hosted with Newcastle University Business School, this meeting was held for the first time at the Centre For Life, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

“Most people imagine that the present style of management has always existed, and is a fixture. Actually, it is a modern invention – a prison created by the way in which people interact.”

W. Edwards Deming

John Seddon says he took these words to heart long ago. Once described by the Daily Telegraph as a “reluctant management guru”, he has become arguably the leading critic of what he calls ‘command and control’ management. He’s made it his goal to change the thinking behind it, taking on the principles and practices that form the basis of the prevailing style of management; the prison in which most of us work every day.

An outspoken opponent of bureaucratic ‘tick-box’ management, Seddon prescribes in his own eloquent, forceful and often humorous style eliminating many features of the modern organisational landscape, whatever sector you’re in, including:

  • Scrap benchmarking – “the fastest route to mediocrity”
  • Scrap managing budgets and people – “because managing costs causes costs”
  • Scrap all targets – “they become the de facto purpose”
  • Scrap inspection – “an expensive way to ensure people do the wrong thing correctly”
  • Scrap call centre factories and shared back-office services – “costs more and makes service worse”

But with all this scrapping, what does he think needs to be done instead?

On 12 January 2011, we were delighted to have John Seddon join us in Newcastle Upon Tyne to tell us what he sees as the alternative. In an entertaining, controversial but informed talk, he argued for real management that takes a ‘systems view’ to design work that works better and leads to improved results, faster, saving money and delighting customers and employees at the same time.

What participants said…

“Really appreciated the opportunity to hear John speak – and it was free!”

“Very interesting and provocative speech. Would have been helpful to have basic overview of ‘systems thinking’ at start for those not familiar with some of the terms used.”

“10/10 this time! Brilliant.”

“Would be better if more examples and/ or case studies were applied to the speech. Anyway, it was very inspiring and excellent.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed this event and would give it more than 10 [out of 10]! Thank you. Good start to the year.”

“It was refreshing and fascinating and I am all set to learn more.”


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