I’ve spent nearly 30 years in HR (some in senior leadership roles) pushing the "people are the issue" (the hint is in the title of the function!), and only in the last few years have I realised that whilst my intentions and motivations were right, my thinking was all wrong – mea culpa!
I fortunately did not have to endure some speakers’ public admonishment of their thinking by John Seddon, yet my private admonishments whilst reading copiously from John Seddon, Peter Senge, Alfie Kohn, W E Deming, Taiichi Ohno, Russell Ackoff, etc. has been no less painful. What I realised is that John Seddon and the others don’t attack the person, they attack our muddled and wrong thinking, and dearly long-held views, and it’s because it is precisely our ways of thinking that it feels so personal.
Many people complain that we use confusing terms when talking about systems thinking. The arguments about ‘plain language’ are all great intellectual fun, but what really matters is seeing Systems Thinking and the Vanguard Method put into practice by employees in organisations. They very quickly and readily "get it"! They soon begin to use words and concepts by which they can understand and explain to others in their organisation what exactly they are doing differently. They also soon realise that they have to get their heads around terminology in order to illustrate the differences in the approach.
To give you an example, recently I was visiting a public sector organisation in Edinburgh where I facilitated a Vanguard Method intervention in October and November 2009. The results since then are spectacular evidence of the changes effected.
Customers are getting better service (more orders in fewer days), costs have been reduced (savings in the thousands and more to come) and the employee morale is fantastic (4s and 5s on the scale of 1 to 5 where 5 is highly motivated/engaged) – so much so that other folks in the same organisation have even noted the changes! They did a mini survey of the staff and the feedback shows a consistency – staff saying that for the first time they feel they have ‘control’ over the work they do, they can change things with the support of their manager and they feel great about coming to work, and they want to continue to improve!