Target-based management takes a first knock.

This item appeared in Children &Young People Now a few days ago

Councils welcome abolition of Comprehensive Area Assessments
Children & Young People Now 20 May 2010,

The Local Government Association has welcomed government plans to scrap the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) saying the move will free up councils and enable them to better deliver frontline services

John Seddon, the prominent management consultant with a background in clinical psychology, who has been a consistent critic current British management thinking, such as the  NHS modernisation agenda and ISO9000, cannot conceal his glee:

Celebrate the end of CAA, by John Seddon
Posted in: PF blog

10:03 am, 24 May 2010 | John Seddon

The new government has abolished Comprehensive Area Assessments. Hoorah. Public servants will be breathing a sigh of relief now that the burden of self-assessment, a costly exercise in representation rather than accuracy, has gone.  The public couldn’t care less and those of us who know the ratings were at best spurious and at worst plain wrong will be pleased if the Audit Commission has its power to pontificate on management methods removed. CAA’s demise should herald the end of the era of compliance.

It represents an important opportunity for public service managers. They should assert their right to make their own decisions about how they are judged as managers. Matters of methods and measures should be their choice – that’s  why they are employed. Many have already stood up to the Audit Commission, with evidence showing how following the Audit Commission inspectors’ guidance, nay obligations, created poor service and higher costs.

Responsibility, promised by the new government, is the foundation for innovation; it should be the hallmark of the new era. Those who have eschewed the Audit Commission’s bullying have not only argued with the inspector’s judgements, they have shown how better methods and measures have led to performance improvement of extraordinary proportions. To give just one example: housing repair costs halved while making extraordinary improvements to service (all repairs completed in three days or on the day required by the tenant).

Innovation will flourish in the new era provided the psychology changes from compliance to responsibility. But, no doubt, many will fear a ‘loss of control’. They should appreciate how the regime of compliance has driven our services out of control. And they should take comfort in the fact that the era of responsibility will make any weak managers easier to root out; with CAA and the other centrally-promulgated requirements, managers only needed to comply to be hidden. We should not fear loss of control, we should celebrate getting control in the right place.

Professor John Seddon is an occupational psychologist, researcher, and authority on change in the public sector. He is MD of Vanguard, visiting professor at Cardiff University Business School and author of several books including “Systems Thinking in the Public Sector, the Failure of the Reform Regime and a Manifesto for a Better Way” and “Delivering Public Services that Work”.

This is not, in my opinion, the beginning of the end management by targets. It must be remembered there at least a generation and a half which has been trained in nothing else and whose raison d’etre resides in mantaining it as a model for years to come.


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