Is this How Jobcentres Operate? Beyond Belief Barely Covers it…..


This is revolting.
This is an evil system.
This is how Abhu Ghraib was created.

Originally posted on Ipswich Unemployed Action.:

From written Parliamentary Evidence just out (Hat tip  NB).

John Longden –Personal Adviser

A Statement on events witnessed by me at Salford Jobcentre Plus and Rochdale Jobcentre Plus between 2011 and 2013


1.0              Managers at both district level and in the local office created a culture which encouraged staff to view the customer (benefit claimant) as an obstacle to performance. The Jobcentre operations became wholly performance led. Sanctions of customers were encouraged by managers daily, with staff being told to look at every engagement with the customer as an opportunity to take sanction action. I was personally told by a manager to “agitate” and “Inconvenience” customers in order to get them to leave the register. The staff performance management system was used inappropriately in order to increase submissions to the Decision Maker and therefore to increase sanctions on customers. Senior HR managers condoned this behaviour by refusing to issue…

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Posted in Uncategorized

How to hide Fred in a performance report

These are clients of an Adult Social Care service, look how unhappy they are…

These are the symbols on the performance report for that very same service….


Why are these so different?

The faces of the old people are measuring what matters to them.
The managers of the service are measuring what matters to THEM.

They are measuring different things.

The clients have presented the Social Care service with a demand.
They need help with a problem they have.
Typical problems are…

  • “I want to continue bathing myself but am finding it difficult getting in the bath”
  • “It is hard climbing the stairs, I’m worried I might fall”
  • “I can’t manage cooking in my kitchen nowadays”

The typical Adult Social Care response is in two parts

  1. Assess eligibility; and if eligible
  2. Deliver care

This is what they do, and therefore this is what they measure.

Typical measures are

 1: Assess

  • % of clients assessed in 4 weeks
  • number of clients waiting to be assessed
  • maximum days in queue waiting to be assessed
  • average number of days clients wait to be assessed.

 2: Deliver

  • % of recipients of care who got their care package within 4 weeks
  • % of equipment and adaptations delivered within 7 working days

These are queue management measures.
They are for people whose job is managing:

  • number of items of work in a queue; and
  • how long those items have been in the queue for

These are typical industrial management tasks for managing demand and resources to produce services.

This model of work is found everywhere where management see their purpose as the two activitivies of managing the total amount of demand in queues and how long it has been there, it produces weird effects such as

  • Call Centre staff will get friends or other staff to ring up when it is quiet to boost answering times to it looks like they are processing work quicker.
  • Accident and Emergency room management where patients are admitted to hospital and occupy a bed regardless of their medical need, rather than breach the arbitrary 4 hour target. 59% of admissions were admitted in the last 10 minutes before breaching.

These silly results are produced by a mental model of work for producing. In the service sector it mainly produces sad people though.

  • Sad staff, whose job becomes processing people as standard work packages not helping them with their personal needs
  • Sad managers, whose job becomes “meet the numbers” and the numbers are always hard to meet; but most of all it produces…
  • Sad clients, who don’t get their problem solved

So, back to the top. Why are there sad clients but happy performance figures?


Not Fred.

Meet Fred* (not real name).

Fred had operations on his knees and finds it hard to balance now.

He is wary of getting in and out the bath, he is worried he will lose his balance and fall. His daughter lives too far away to pop around all the time.

Fred stops taking baths.

When his daughter finds out she calls the council and speaks with their Occupational Therapy team.

So there is a bathing assessment, a bath seat is prescribed, ordered, delivered and installed.

And it doesn’t work.

Fred doesn’t like making a fuss though, so he doesnt tell his daughter.

He hasn’t had a bath in months, so has been washing himself at the sink all Winter.

Where is Fred in the performance figures?


Fred is there, in the smiley faces and ticks.

Fred is there, in the failure demand caused by the failure to meet his need, when his daughter makes frequent calls to the service to try and chase the case.

Fred is there, in the file sitting on somebodies desk because they are off on leave.

Fred is there, in the increased demand placed on a service trying to reduce their demand by stopping doing things for their clients.

Fred is there, in the increased likelihood he will present again sometime in the future due to all the things that will result from inadequate personal hygiene.

Fred is most easily seen in a different sort of performance report though…


This is a different sort of assessment done by Gloucestershire Health Services. They concentrate on finding out what matters to the client from their perspective and measure the success of their service by how well it meets the clients needs.
Not by measuring how well they meet their own needs to manage queues within arbitrary target times.

The systems thinking lesson

You cannot parachute the right measures into the sort of environment that hides Fred’s poor service in terrible performance reports.
Targets and the use of binary comparisons between this month and last month to produce a colour or a symbol, these are silly but just getting rid of them does not get rid of the problem.

It is not a measurement problem that has to be solved.
The wrong measures reported the wrong way are a symptom of the wrong thinking.
The terrible measures that hide Fred make sense in the silly command and control world of industrial management.
The task is to help managers see that they don’t make sense in the real world of Fred.

Posted in command and control, customer, data, systems thinking | Tagged , , ,

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 61,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in systems thinking | Tagged

Merry Triangle! Again

Remember when I used to hate triangles?

Still do.

So here’s my most hate filled post about them from 2 years ago, to advertise ThinkPurpose’s Christmas break.

Ho ho ho, etc


Posted in command and control, systems thinking, systemz comix | Tagged ,

What writing this blog taught me about pull

There’s always been a strong tang of resigned self pity running through this blog, like the reek of faeces in a brace of grilled andouillettes.
This post however should truly please the connoisseur of bleak despair. Read on, and enjoy your schadenfreude Kind Reader….

About 50 days ago someone in the Executive Office of the President of the United States of America read this blog. Look, see. The actual Washington DC.





It was that one about learning to be a policy officer. My soulless prefabricated office in a business park somewhere in English suburbia is being plumbed for detail on policy making by the bleeding West Wing. How odd.

In the last three years this blog has collected a wide variety of regular readers and subscribers, but there’s been also the following groups.
IT people. Finnish, Swedish, foreign mainly. But LOADS of them.
Insurance company staff. Two large UK insurance companies.
Random consultants. Systemsy types.
Local government. Be surprising if there weren’t. Mainly councils from Wales, the West Midlands and the South West of England. There seem to be leylines of systemsy influence that run through those areas.

The above screen shots added a giddy excitement until I googled Executive Office of the President, and found it’s basically as exciting as the DCLG is.

Regardless though, I’m excited when I bag a new subscriber or am tweeted by someone clever and important. It validates and says to me that other people somewhere else are doing systemsy things and find my blog relevant, interesting and even possibly useful in what they do.
From looking at patterns of retweets, and clutches of views in the same organisation, I can infer there are networks of like minded systemsy types passing on links.
I am delighted and surprised when I get emails out of the blue, saying they like the blog and get fresh angles on things from it.
I love getting subscribers with local authority email addresses, because I can Google to find out exactly who they are, LinkedIn tells me their background etc and my curiosity is sated BUT….

DESPITE all the above, there has not been one single instance of anyone in my organisation ever looking at my blog unprompted.
Zero, apart from a few who I’ve strong armed into it, but only ever because I sit next to them and made them through constant drip drip drip.

I think this is because there is zero interest in anything systemsy therefore zero pull on any blog that is systemsy.

Looking at the West Midlands, Wales and South West councils, there seems to be a background to them of systemsy work being carried out, which I’m guessing leads to people Googling or following other systemsy types on twitter, and hey presto, that’s how links are made.

But with my place there is no interest, no background, no curiosity in this area, so there’s no reason why anybody out of the thousands of staff here, would ever Google to sate a curiosity they don’t have about something they’ve never heard of. So they haven’t.

This is FINE of course, my ego is quite big but not THAT BIG.
[compulsory modesty statement that i don’t believe]
Nobody has to pay attention to me…


…yes they do…



…of course they do…


…WHY don’t they!


What this blog has taught me about pull

There is an exquisite irony that this place provides such good material I can keep people in OTHER local authorities entertained and informed for years, but there is no pull from here to be in the slightest interested in learning from their own antics.

There are several Local Authority Directors who will get this post today, emailed direct into their work inbox. I don’t imagine they’re sitting their on the edge of their seat exactly…


“WHAT WILL TP SAY TODAY! I’m so excited, I’ll ring all my Director pals and tell them ALL about it!”

But there they are at least. In my place they aren’t, despite the fact that I sit directly opposite their offices.  This is the difference between the internet and a bureaucracy.

The internet is flat like a sheet of ice, if you want to pull something on it, it is dead easy. You can pull anything, from anywhere in the world, purely because you’re interested.

A bureaucracy is a pointy triangle. If you’re not at the very top then you’ve got to push uphill, and only if it is pushed very forcefully will it budge.

People will pull all sorts, when they want to or they need to. Until then, they won’t.
Just like you can’t make a bird fly. But when it wants to fly, it will.

Until then, it’s as flightless as an ostrich, and what do they do with their heads?

Posted in change, command and control, me doing it, public sector, systems thinking | Tagged , ,

Three  things that will make you a brill presenter

Q: What’s better than the world’s best PowerPoint?
A: No PowerPoint. Literally.

The internet is full of good stuff on how to do, and not do, PowerPoint. The VERY best thing to do is avoid it altogether.
Whatever you do, your chances of being good diminish with every slide you add, every transition, every bulletpoint. It is too dangerous, and only sheer geniuses can do anything even approaching mediocre with it.

In short, PowerPoint is for amateurs.  Someone hoves up and fires up their slides, they’re an amateur. You can stop paying attention, because they did the moment they thought that presentation is just another word for PowerPoint. It is for people to hide behind because they’re too afraid of speaking to people.
This is a systemsy blog, so I know this is a systemsy issue, not something located in individuals. But unlike the design and management of work, it is something in the control of most people who have to “do a presentation”. If you are one of those people, my advice is this.

Turn off PowerPoint. The purpose of PowerPoint is to make a PowerPoint set of slides. You will be sucked into the problem of making a set of slides. This is never anybody’s problem.
Turn off PowerPoint. It is the sign of the amateur.

Don’t worry because you should….


I know, it’s hard, you think you are, but you are probably not fantastic.

But the VERY MOMENT you realise you are not, that’s when you will be able to do a decent presentation.
Look at this man who thinks he is the “prize stallion”, his job is to sell and pitch, he thinks he is fantastic and looks what happens to him….

When I realised that I didn’t have to pretend to know everything was the moment I relaxed and enjoyed doing presentations. Most people think you have to be the expert, which is why you are standing up at the front. This man here skewers this…

Poor speakers create an artificial divide between themselves and the audience. They feel they need to do this in order to establish their own credibility.

Let me tell you – there is no such thing as credibility. In 100 years there will be no buildings named after any of us.

Somebody has to be on stage and some people have to be in the audience. That’s the only difference.

Don’t put any thought as to WHY you are on the stage or how you need to be “better” than the people in the audience. You aren’t better. You’re simply the speaker.

If you think you have to know everything, so that you don’t look a fool, then you WILL look a fool.
Instead  be confident in your stupidity and you’ll be almost awesome.
But to get actually awesome, you have to….


Q: What have all these got in common?
A: They all speak brilliantly to people.

More importantly, they never spoke to THE ROOM. Watch a rubbish presenter, they speak to the room. They look into the middle distance, or do that thing they’ve learnt of gazing rapidly from person to person, picking individuals and stating their bit before moving on.

They’re not actually speaking to anybody, it’s a trick. They’re speaking to the room. When they speak to the room they are speaking to four walls, a door, some carpet. And it shows.

Speaking to a person means you don’t read off a card, you don’t speak in paragraphs, you don’t recite techie facts at them.
Speaking to a person means you might be telling them something that happened to you, a story they might find interesting.
Speaking to a person might even be a conversation where you listen to them

There’s loads of tricks and hints and tips about presentations, but they all boil down to this one.
Don’t speak to the room, speak to the people in the room. Keep that in mind, and everything flows from there.

Posted in clarity of purpose, communication, psychology, systems thinking | Tagged , ,

How to run a call centre

The following story was provided by a fellow onion working somewhere in the world. I’ve changed the details to provide anonymity.


…there was a company that wanted to find out how to sell more to its customers.

It bought a voice recognition system that could understand what their staff were actually saying when customers rang up.

They worked out that other products were only mentioned on 40% of calls.

A chance to improve!


They then went off to implement the strategy of telling customers about other products on 60% of calls.

Staff were incentivised to hit the 60%  target. The calls were monitored using a speech analytics system to identify whether staff were now asking more .
Staff quickly identified that it was impossible to hit 60% but being a resourceful bunch figured out a way of getting around the issue .

If all they had to do was mention the name of the other products on the call for the speech analytics system to pick this up then that’s what they did.
So for example if the other products that were being sold were ‘tins of beans’then the call handler would simply shout out or whisper anywhere in the call ‘tins of beans’.


This confused a lot of customers but was quickly side stepped by the agent on the phone as background noise .

At the end of the month the management team patted themselves on the back as the ‘ask rates’ had increased significantly to over 80% . Well done everyone !

Strangely though sales had not increased .

The management response…

And round we go again .

In another call centre an incentive was ran  to improve ‘silent time ‘ on calls. This is where the call centre agent is doing some work and the caller is left on hold. They had found this was a major cause of customer dissatisfaction and was costing the company quite a bit as handling times were longer than planned.

The incentive would pay £40 for anyone with less than x% of their call in silent .

So what advisors started doing was not to put customers on hold, but keep them on the line and…

If the customer left the line to get some more details the advisor would start singing down the phone to avoid any silent time…

If the advisor had to add notes to the computer system then the advisor would talk the words that they were typing…

Strangely silent-time went down but customer satisfaction didn’t improve and handling time actually went up.

So what? As this blog asks at the end of every post, whats the pont?

I’m starting a new theme in thinkpurpose called …


Ruined by best efforts!

If you have any bizarre tales of how things muck up when people try their best to improve things, but don’t have a method, or act in ignorance, then send ‘em in and I will pour scorn on them using swearing and cartoons. I can’t guarantee I’ll use them, as I’m quite lazy and they may not be very good, but I’ve used people’s stories before. Who can forget this triumph? I’m particularly interested in any local authority stories where things are ruined by best efforts like:

  • managing demand
  • CRM and callcentres in general
  • services provided by the private sector
  • lean, sorry of course I mean LEAN
  • generic change rubbish. When things are just IMPROVED by waving a wand at it.
    and of course our favourite…

I’ll change any incriminating details, or you can before you send it to me, and you’ll have the honour of appearing in Britain’s Funniest Systems Thinking Blog, and I’ll get some material because I’m running out of ideas. EVERYBODY’S A WINNER.

Click on the contact me button at top, or email direct to

Posted in RuinedByBestEfforts, systemz comix, targets, tools | Tagged , , ,