John Seddon

John Seddon is a British occupational psychologist and author, specialising in change in the service industry. He is the managing director of Vanguard, a consultancy company he formed in 1985 and the inventor of 'The Vanguard Method'. Vanguard currently operates in eleven countries. Seddon is a visiting professor at Buckingham University Business School.

Seddon's prominence grew following attacks on current British management thinking including the belief in economies of scale, quality standards such as ISO9000 [1] and much of public sector reform including "deliverology", the use of targets, inspection and centralised control of local services. The Daily Telegraph described him as a "reluctant management guru", with a background in occupational psychology.[2]

He is critical of target-based management, and of basing decisions on economies of scale, rather than "economies of flow".[3]

Seddon has published six books. In his 2008 book, Systems Thinking in the Public Sector, he provided a criticism of the UK Government reform programme and advocated its replacement by systems thinking.[4] His book The Whitehall Effect was published on 5 November 2014. In it he articulates a more productive role for government in public-sector reform.[5]

Seddon won the first Management Innovation Prize for 'Reinventing Leadership' in October 2010.[6]


John Seddon earned a BSc (Hons) in Psychology with the University of Wales in 1974, and graduated with a MSc in occupational psychology from the University of London in 1977.

Debate about local government management

His positions prompted discussion on the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) website with David Walker, Managing Director, Communications & Reporting, at the Audit Commission.[7]

The debate was also covered in newspapers including The Times, which featured it on 31 July 2009.[8]


Seddon wrote an open letter dated 31 January 2011[9] calling for the Rt. Hon Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud, the ministers responsible for Welfare Reform, to "halt the current programme of reorganisation associated with the Single Universal Credit and embark on a better course". In the letter, he says "This campaign is not about the concept of the Single Universal Credit as such. It is about the design and implementation of its delivery". He says the weakness in the proposals for online and call centre delivery of the new Single Universal Credit is the "continuing unquestioning faith in economies of scale". A petition was started on the Government e-petitions site [10] as part of the campaign on 18 August 2011. The petition calls for Iain Duncan Smith to rethink the centralised IT-dominated service design of Universal Credit.


  1. ^ Teaming Up With Local Teens, 18 June 2005, The Guardian. Accessed 3 August 2007.
  2. ^ "Bootcamp tactics won’t win the battle", Stefan Stern, Daily Telegraph, 16 February 2006.
  3. ^ Freedom from Command and Control: a better way to make the work work, John Seddon (2003), Vanguard Press. (ISBN 0-9546183-0-0)
  4. ^ Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: Case Studies 'Delivering Public Services that Work (Volume 1)' Edited by Peter Middleton Foreword by John Seddon. (2010-03-09). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Announcing the M-Prize Winners: Audacity, Imagination, Experimentation", Polly LeBare, 22 November 2010 Management Innovation eXchange (MIX)
  7. ^ Blackman, David (2009-07-22). "Walker v Seddon - the debate goes on". Local Government Chronicle.
  8. ^ Ford, Emily (2009-07-31). "'New way' thinker John Seddon aims at council targets". The Times.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Rethink the centralised, IT- dominated service design for Universal Credit - e-petitions. (2012-08-18). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.

External links

1974 in New Zealand

The following lists events that happened during 1974 in New Zealand.

1st Virginia Infantry Battalion

The 1st Battalion, Virginia Infantry Regulars, also known as the Irish Battalion, was raised in Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War and, served as infantry. It fought mostly with the Army of Northern Virginia.

The battalion was organized in May 1861, with men from the city of Richmond and Hanover County in five companies. It moved to western Virginia and participated in Lee's Cheat Mountain Campaign, then fought at First Kernstown, McDowell, and in Jackson's Valley Campaign. The unit was then assigned to General J.R. Jones' Brigade and was involved in many conflicts of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Day's Battles to Fredericksburg. Later it was assigned to General Headquarters and in November 1864, Provost Guard.

It lost twenty-five percent of the 187 engaged at First Manassas, had 3 wounded during the Seven Days' Battles and 3 killed and 19 wounded at Second Manassas. The unit surrendered 18 officers and 120 men.

Majors D.B. Bridgford, John D. Munford, and John Seddon were in command.

AD Navyplane

The AD Navyplane was designed by the British Admiralty's Air Department as a reconnaissance aircraft for use during World War I. Performance of the prototype was so disappointing that plans to produce it were cancelled almost immediately.

The Navyplane was designed by the Admiralty's Harold Bolas with the assistance of R.J. Mitchell of Supermarine. It was a pusher floatplane biplane with the pilot and observer being seated ahead of the wings in a streamlined lightweight nacelle mounted in the gap between the upper and lower sets of wings. A Smith Static radial engine and a pusher propeller were installed behind them.Two examples were ordered in 1916 for the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Serial numbers were allocated for seven Navyplanes (9095-'96, N.1070-'74) but just one prototype (9095) was completed. Tests of this Supermarine-built prototype commenced in August 1916 (flown by Lieutenant-Commander John Seddon) but proved seriously underpowered and unsatisfactory. The engine was replaced with an AR.1 rotary engine (which was later redesignated the BR.1 for Bentley Rotary 1) and retested in May 1917. However, even without a military load and observer, the Navyplane's performance still proved to be poor, and the design was abandoned on 27 August 1917, with no second prototype being produced.

Supermarine attempted to design an improved version to replace the Short 184, the design, the Supermarine Patrol Seaplane, being powered by a 200 hp (149 kW) Sunbeam engine. While contracts for six aircraft were placed, work was abandoned before a prototype was built, the Short 184 proving adequate in the patrol role.

Audit Commission (United Kingdom)

The Audit Commission was a statutory corporation in the United Kingdom.

The Commission’s primary objective was to appoint auditors to a range of local public bodies in England, set the standards for auditors and oversee their work. The Commission closed on 31 March 2015, with its functions being transferred to the voluntary, not-for-profit or private sector.

On 13 August 2010, it was leaked to the media, ahead of an official announcement, that the Commission was to be scrapped. In 2009-10 the Commission cost the central government £28m to run, with the remainder of its income coming from audit fees charged to local public bodies.

Barrow Nook

Barrow Nook is a small rural hamlet on the fringes of Bickerstaffe in the county of Lancashire, England.Stone quarried from Barrow Nook was used to build the church and school at Bickerstaffe in the early 1840s.

Barrow Nook Hall was the former home of Richard John Seddon, until he emigrated in 1866. He later became Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Cecil Purdy

Cecil John Seddon Purdy (27 March 1906, in Port Said, Egypt – 6 November 1979, in Sydney, Australia) was an Australian chess International Master (IM), writer, and inaugural World Correspondence Chess champion. Purdy earned the Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess title in 1953. He was also an influential chess magazine writer, editor, and publisher.

Command and control (management)

Command-and-control management is categorised by systems thinkers as the dominant method of management in the Western world. Key influences are said to include Alfred P. Sloan, Henry Ford, James McKinsey of the eponymous accounting firm, and Frederick Winslow Taylor. A well-known modern exponent is Michael Barber, himself a partner in McKinsey & Company.

It is characterised by some systems thinkers according to the following attributes:

Perspective: Top-down and hierarchicalDesign: Organisations divided into (ostensibly) independent functional silos. A practice propagated by Alfred Sloan and James McKinseyDecision-making: Separated from work. A separation spearheaded by Frederick Winslow TaylorMeasures: Arbitrary targets analysed by binary comparisonEthos: Control of staffChange: Plans delivered by Prince II methodologyMotivation: Control-by-seduction (carrot) and control-by-fear (stick)Attitude to suppliers and customers: Contractual.

Key critics of the command-and-control management ethos and techniques include members of the systems-thinking community and associated thinkers, including W. Edwards Deming, John Seddon, Kōnosuke Matsushita, Taiichi Ohno, Russell L. Ackoff, Donella Meadows, Alfie Kohn, and the outspoken Vanguard Method practitioner John Little. In the 21st century John Seddon in particular has been deeply critical of successive UK governments' propagation of command-and-control thinking in the NHS, local authorities, and other public services.

Organisations credited with having moved away from the command-and-control paradigm to a systems-thinking philosophy include Harley Davidson and Aviva, in addition to many Japanese companies, such as Toyota, Honda, and Panasonic.

Economies of scale

In microeconomics, economies of scale are the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to their scale of operation (typically measured by amount of output produced), with cost per unit of output decreasing with increasing scale. (In economics, "economies" is synonym to cost savings and "scale" is synonymous with quantity or the scale of production.)

Economies of scale apply to a variety of organizational and business situations and at various levels, such as a business or manufacturing unit, plant or an entire enterprise. When average costs start falling as output increases, then economies of scale are occurring. If a firm's marginal cost of producing a good or service is beneath its average cost of producing that good or service, then the firm is experiencing economies of scale.

Some economies of scale, such as capital cost of manufacturing facilities and friction loss of transportation and industrial equipment, have a physical or engineering basis.

Another source of scale economies is the possibility of purchasing inputs at a lower per-unit cost when they are purchased in large quantities.

The economic concept dates back to Adam Smith and the idea of obtaining larger production returns through the use of division of labor. Diseconomies of scale are the opposite.

Economies of scale often have limits, such as passing the optimum design point where costs per additional unit begin to increase. Common limits include exceeding the nearby raw material supply, such as wood in the lumber, pulp and paper industry. A common limit for low cost per unit weight commodities is saturating the regional market, thus having to ship product uneconomical distances. Other limits include using energy less efficiently or having a higher defect rate.

Large producers are usually efficient at long runs of a product grade (a commodity) and find it costly to switch grades frequently. They will therefore avoid specialty grades even though they have higher margins. Often smaller (usually older) manufacturing facilities remain viable by changing from commodity grade production to specialty products.

Failure demand

Failure demand is a systems concept used in service organisations first discovered and articulated by Professor John Seddon as 'demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer'. Seddon makes the distinction between 'failure demand' and 'value demand', which is what the service exists to provide. Failure demand represents a common type of waste found in service organizations.

Failure demand is discovered during the application of the Vanguard Method to service organisations.

The concept was first used in Seddon's 1992 book, "I Want you to Cheat" and again in his 2003 book 'Freedom from Command and Control'.It has since been used by managers in service organisations and borrowed by systems theorists, authors and management consultants across the world.

Seddon invented the concept when he discovered that the movement of ‘telephone work’ from local bank branches to call centres in the 1980s caused an explosion in the volumes of demand – the number of phone calls soared. He found that the rise in call volumes was attributable to the creation of ‘failure demand’, i.e. customers calling a second time because the bank had failed to solve their problem on the first call. The same phenomenon also occurred in the public sector as local authorities and housing associations moved telephone work into call centres. Demand was much greater than expected or planned for. Seddon argues that increasing demand was not the result of success but of failure. Seddon's work in local government shows that failure demand in such call centres can run as high as 80% of total demand.The concept of failure demand was adopted in 2008 by the UK Cabinet Office as one of 198 national targets for local authorities. The target was known as NI14 or 'avoidable contact'. The announcement that the indicator would be scrapped came on April 1, 2010. The intention of the target was to cut costs by reducing avoidable contact between local government and its customers. John Seddon was critical, arguing that turning the concept of failure demand into a target would not motivate local authorities to do anything about it. Instead, he said, it would motivate them to under report the amount of failure demand.

Faraday Discussions

Faraday Discussions is a scientific journal publishing original research papers presented at a long-running series of conferences on physical chemistry, chemical physics and biophysical chemistry which are also called Faraday Discussions, together with a record of the comments made at the meeting. The journal was originally published by the Faraday Society. The journal has been published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) since that society merged into the RSC. From 1972 to 1991, it was known as the Faraday Discussions of the Chemical Society. Traditionally there have been three Faraday Discussions a year, however, from 2014 around eight conferences (and therefore eight volumes of the journal) are organised annually.

Philippa Ross is the editor of Faraday Discussions and the present chairman of the Standing Committee on Faraday Conferences is John Seddon (Imperial College London). The journal has a 2017 impact factor of 3.427.

Herbert Seddon

Sir Herbert John Seddon (13 July 1903 – 21 December 1977) was an English orthopaedic surgeon. He was Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Oxford, where his work and publications on peripheral nerve injuries gained him an international reputation. His classification of nerve injuries forms the basis of that in use into the 21st century. He went on to become director of the new Institute of Orthopaedics in London and subsequently the first Professor of Orthopaedics in the University of London. In this role he directed basic science research into orthopaedic conditions and developed postgraduate training in orthopaedic surgery. He was President of the British Orthopaedic Association, and was knighted in 1964 for services to orthopaedics.

John Seddon (Unitarian)

John Seddon (1719–1769) was an English Unitarian minister.

John Seddon of Warrington

John Seddon (1725–1770) was an English Dissenter and rector of Warrington Academy.

London boroughs

The London boroughs are the 32 local authority districts that make up Greater London; each is governed by a London borough council. The London boroughs were all created at the same time as Greater London on 1 April 1965 by the London Government Act 1963 and are a type of local government district. Twelve were designated as Inner London boroughs and twenty as Outer London boroughs.

The London boroughs have populations of around 150,000 to 300,000. Inner London boroughs tend to be smaller, in both population and area, and more densely populated than Outer London boroughs. The London boroughs were created by combining groups of former local government units. A review undertaken between 1987 and 1992 led to a number of relatively small alterations in borough boundaries.

London borough councils provide the majority of local government services (schools, waste management, social services, libraries, etc.), in contrast to the strategic Greater London Authority, which has limited authority over all of Greater London.

The councils were first elected in 1964 and acted as shadow authorities until 1 April 1965. Each borough is divided into electoral wards, subject to periodic review, for the purpose of electing councillors. Council elections take place every four years, with the most recent elections in 2018 and the next elections due in 2022.

The political make-up of London borough councils is dominated by the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties. Twenty-eight councils follow the leader and cabinet model of executive governance, with directly elected mayors in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets. The City of London is instead governed by the City of London Corporation and the Inner and Middle Temples.

Pukekohe High School

Pukekohe High School is a high school in Pukekohe in the Auckland Region of New Zealand.

Richard Seddon

Richard John Seddon (22 June 1845 – 10 June 1906) was a New Zealand politician who served as the 15th Premier (Prime Minister) of New Zealand from 1893 until his death in office in 1906.

First active in local politics, Seddon entered the House of Representatives as the member for Hokitika in 1879. Seddon became a key member of the nascent Liberal Party under the leadership of John Ballance. When the Liberal Government came to power in 1891 Seddon was appointed to several portfolios, including Minister of Public Works.

Seddon succeeded to the leadership of the Liberal Party following Ballance's death in 1893, inheriting a bill for women's suffrage, which was passed the same year. Seddon's government achieved many social and economic changes, such as the introduction of old age pensions. An imperialist in foreign policy, his attempt to incorporate Fiji into New Zealand failed, but he successfully annexed the Cook Islands in 1901. He also purchased vast amounts of land from the Māori. Seddon's government supported Britain with troops in the Second Boer War (1899–1902) and supported preferential trade between British colonies.

In office for thirteen years, Seddon is to date New Zealand's longest-serving head of government. Sometimes derisively known as "King Dick" for his autocratic style, he has nonetheless been lauded as one of the greatest, most influential, and most widely known politicians in New Zealand history.

Seddon (surname)

Seddon is a surname, originating in Lancashire, England. Notable people with the surname include:

Bill Seddon (1901–1993), English footballer

Chris Seddon (born 1983), Major League baseball pitcher

Frederick Seddon (1870–1912), British murderer

Gareth Seddon (born 1980), English footballer

George Seddon (academic) (1927–2007), Australian academic

George Seddon (cabinetmaker) (1727–1801), English cabinetmaker

James Seddon (1815–1880), American lawyer and politician

Jimmy Seddon (1895–1971), English footballer

John Seddon, British occupational psychologist

John Seddon (Unitarian) – English Unitarian minister

John Seddon of Warrington – English dissenter minister

John Pollard Seddon (1827–1906), English Victorian architect

Ken Seddon (1950-2018), English chemist

Margaret Seddon (1872–1968), American film actress

Margaret Rhea Seddon (born 1947), American physician and NASA astronaut

Mark Seddon (born 1962), British journalist

Patsy Seddon, Scottish harpist

Rhea Seddon, retired NASA Astronaut

Richard Seddon (1845–1906), the longest-serving Prime Minister of New Zealand

Robert Seddon (1860–1888), England and British Lion rugby player

Thomas Seddon (1884–1972), New Zealand politician, Richard Seddon's son

Thomas Seddon (1821–1856), English landscape painterFictional characters:

Lewis Seddon, TV character (Waterloo Road)

Shared services

Shared services is the provision of a service by one part of an organization or group, where that service had previously been found, in more than one part of the organization or group. Thus the funding and resourcing of the service is shared and the providing department effectively becomes an internal service provider. The key here is the idea of 'sharing' within an organization or group. This sharing needs to fundamentally include shared accountability of results by the unit from where the work is migrated to the provider. The provider, on the other hand, needs to ensure that the agreed results are delivered based on defined measures (KPIs, cost, quality etc.).

The Vanguard Method

The Vanguard Method a is a proprietary methodology delivered by Vanguard Consulting used by service organisations to change from a command and control to a systems approach to the design and management of work. The method was invented by the occupational psychologist Professor John Seddon who began his career researching the reasons for failures of major change programmes. Based on what he learned he developed this method for change, which he describes as "a combination of systems thinking - how the work works - and intervention theory - how to change it".The method represents a translation of Taiichi Ohno's ideas behind the Toyota Production System for service organisations. The method makes the assumption that service is different from manufacturing. According to the Vanguard Method, there is inherently greater variety in customer demand, hence the need to design to absorb that variety. Proponents of the Vanguard method recommend that service organisations avoid the 'lean tools' developed for 'lean manufacturing' as they don't apply well in service organisations.

The Vanguard Method enables managers to study their organisation as a system and on the basis of the knowledge gained, re-design their services to improve performance and drive out costs. 'Failure demand' is a type of waste often discovered during the 'Check' phase of the Vanguard Method. John Seddon invented the concept of failure demand when he discovered that the movement of ‘telephone work’ to call centres from local bank branches in the 1980s caused an explosion in the volumes of demand – the number of phone calls soared. He found that the rise in call volumes was attributable to the creation of ‘failure demand’, i.e. people ringing back because they did not get their problem solved the first time. The same phenomenon also occurred in the public sector as local authorities and housing associations moved telephone work into call centres. Demand was much greater than expected or planned for. Seddon argues that increasing demand was not the result of success but of failure. Seddon has indicated that his work in local government has shown that failure demand in such call centres can run as high as 80% of total demand.

Systems types
Theoretical fields
Systems scientists

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