Lean, OBA, Prince2 and Slimming World

Can you spot the odd one out?

Sorry, I trapped you. There isn’t an odd one out. They’re all the same.

When they don’t work they blame the user for not doing it properly.

Dieting doesn’t work.
Ask the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image if you don’t believe me. Representatives of the dieting industry including Slimming World and WeightWatchers, gave evidence to it and said,

“People have to get over the idea that you just diet once and that is it. It is a life-long commitment.” [link]

Imagine that! It doesn’t work once, or twice. It doesn’t work the third time you do it.
It only works if you keep going back and paying the money over and over again. Therefore, it doesn’t work I suggest. Yet, whenever people pursue dieting, and fail to lose or keep off weight it is NOT dieting that is seen as at fault, it is the person for “doing it wrong”.

I’ve seen the same thing with Lean/Prince2/OBA. There’s no platonic ideal of these that exists perfectly in some abstract realm, along with other ideals that muck up when people get involved, like democracy or marriage.

But people act as if there is. As if it’s only when people do it wrong, that they these abstract Platonic Gods send their representatives to berate people for failing to worship their gods hard enough. We’re at fault, we fail our Gods! Not the other way round.

Apart from Weight Watchers of course.

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4 Responses to Lean, OBA, Prince2 and Slimming World

  1. Prince 2 is over-rated. I prefer his Purple Rain period šŸ™‚


  2. antlerboy says:


    I suppose we could add to your account above, though, that lean (and dieting) do sometimes work, don’t they?

    And isn’t it true that people frequently make the same claim in *precisely* the same terms about all forms of systems thinking (and the Deming method, and ‘leadership training’, coaching, meditation, the Vanguard method, alcoholics anonymous, change management, complementary therapies, drug treatments, counselling, command-and-control management, plumbing repairs, holidays…. and indeed any form of intervention anywhere in our lives, anywhere in the world).

    The fact is that *nothing* works if it is done wrong or with the wrong approach. And nothing works all the time. And some of the factors in things not working could be defined as intrinsic, but some of them could be extrinsic – i.e. you could be doing the right thing, but still get the wrong results.
    So the question really is – if we’re on the inside trying to use an approach to do something to our organisation, what are we trying to achieve? If we’re on the outside, trying to make a point about our own preferred approach, what are we trying to achieve? We’ll find it quite easy to choose measures and analysis to suit if we already know what we want to do or prove šŸ˜‰

    Perhaps there are more interesting questions: is there something inherently self-defeating in some of these approaches which mean that they can ‘never’ work?

    What is probably not going to be interesting (to predict) is either argue based on choosing our own definitions, or to argue about definitions. Since every organisational intervention is different, and in different organisations, we need a better analytical framework than saying ‘lean’ or ‘systems thinking’ or ‘the Vanguard method’ – because everyone will *think* they know what is meant by those terms, but everyone will have their own definition.

    Our research, not perfect, broke down individual change interventions (workshops, communications, whatever) into very many different types of things, looking at the underlying intervention in each case. Then we get an overview of any change project or programme, based on the constituent parts (note: this is an analytic approach; it explicitly says nothing about the interaction between the parts – though we might feel that we can discern an emergent picture).

    What did it tell us? Well, that 70% of major change programmes studied ‘failed’ (in their own terms). So that hoary old saw has proved resilient. That programmatic solutions seemed to work where the problem was technical, and failed where the problem was emergent. That emergent solutions seemed to work in addressing emergent problems, and fail in addressing technical problems. That most problems were identified as technical, but (we think) turned out to be emergent. That the typical profile of failing interventions was 80% top-down, directive, technical and 20% bottom-up, emergent, meaning-based. And that a typical profile of successful interventions was 30% top-down, directive, technical and 70% bottom-up, emergent, meaning based.

    We’ve also found by significant experimental interventions in the system that potential clients find it hard to buy emergent solutions, and easier to procure technical solutions šŸ˜‰


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Your last few sentences. I’m reading Weinberg’s book on consulting, the free chapter iBooks allowed me to download anyway, and in it says the same thing, that managers would more often think they had a “technical” problem as then getting an outside technical solution would be fine, its a question of niche expertise. But admitting anything else, a people or “thinking” problem encroaches on their competence.
      I think it’s a bit like its considered ok in this country to admit or even boast that you’re no good at maths or “numbers” but nobody would say the same about language, reading or writing skills.


  3. ThinkPurpose says:

    Coo, thats longer than the original post. Thanks! Lots of evidence and numbers, the sort of reply I like.
    What’s up with the rest of you? Aren’t I paying you enough?


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