We’re number 2! We’re number 2! Yay us! Now who’s US exactly?

image004-25About a month or so ago I started getting loooaads of traffic for a really old post from when the blog was still good.

This one was about 4 German words we should all use, which is why it was called 4 German words we should all use. You should go read it, it’s quite good.

Anyway, I noticed that the source for the traffic was Google, meaning people were searching for something and it was directing them to this post.

I was curious so left a note on the post asking new arrivers where they’d come from. Turns out the word Verschlimmbesserung points to this post, if you google it and if you ignore Urban Dictionary which is the first link. So yay me.
This weird word is enjoying a brief period of being fashionable, it has appeared on some famous YouTuber’s..erm Youtube, and it also was on BBC radio! Go Verschlimmbesserung!


Click on the pic to google this word if you don’t believe me

This is excellent because Verschlimmbesserung is a one word encapsulation of this entire blog.

If you’ve got this far and still haven’t clicked on my post, here is the definition…

“A supposed improvement that makes things worse.”

If that isn’t command and control management in one hard to pronounce word, then what is?

So, what’s the point of this post then?

I never set out to type blog posts about German compound words, and yet here we are. I also didn’t set out to type blog posts that anybody would ever actually read, and yet here we are as well. This got me thinking. I found out specifically who was coming for the delightful Verschlimbesserung, but I have also found out over the years who is coming for everything else too.

In short, I know who I am, I’m a chippy lower-middle class oik, but who are you?


Ok, you undoubtedly know who you are, but who are the other people who click on this nonsense? Ever since I started I’ve been keenly interested in why and how people get here.
I just fire up my phone and here I am, but other people have to know about this place or somehow are led here.
I’ve been keeping tabs, and here is who you lot all are. There’s roughly THREE types of people who follow this nonsense….


A pie chart. An onion pie. Mmmm tasty

1: IT people

Loads of these. For some reason often from Finland. I think it could be because IT actually produce stuff, and so therefore have come up with models of “how to make stuff”? Unlike call centres etc, which don’t produce stuff. I HAVE heard of “Agile” and “scrum” and the like, though don’t want to know any more than that about those things, so I’m thinking there is a history of models of doing things in IT that just aren’t there in callcentres etc and this is why people come across this place. They are agilistas or whatever, and being IT types are also on the line, so and hence googling and following people who are akin to systems thinking they come across this place? You know, nerds

This is guessology of the crudest sort, but it’s all I have to go off, and I HAVE noticed that of all the corporate type functions, finance, legal, procurement etc, there is only IT in any appreciable numbers. I’m also guessing that they follow the usual route of dissatisfaction with the usual ways of doing things, and curiosity leads them to many places including this one. And as a provider of functionally illiterate systems-thinking memes, i salute you.


I’M a nerd, i like nerds. Not a criticism!

Or IT people are nerds.

2: Systemsy types

By which I mean, consultants, people who work as “improvement types” of a systemsy bent, individuals with a personal interest in and a pursuit of knowledge about systemsy things. People who are into organisations and why they are they way they are. Could be HR types, could be. No reason why not.

They run from people with Grand Titles like “Director of Systems Thinking” etc, to people who just have systemsy blogs to their name. Either way, they’re into improvement and organisations either professionally or unpaid, to keep their amateur status.

I’m guessing, again, that they come across this place as part of their ongoing professional or personal interest in organisations and why they don’t and could work properly. I’m in this group, but safeguarding my amateur status by being totally inept at it in real actual life.

I’ve noticed the more “practical” posts tend to resonate and get spread around a lot on twitter by this lot. Things like that marbles post or stuff to do with measures. From browsing around I’ve found out people actually went out and bought jars and marbles to do their own version! Fantastic.

And this one, this lot loved this one.

Best of all is the last group though…

3: Normal ordinary people

These are the best. This is what happens…


How would I know that somebody is a normal ordinary person? Well a person subscribes to blog…


Then I see who they are, roughly. Linkedin, or work email addresses tell you that, I’m not peering in their bathroom window at night or anything.
THEN somebody else from the same place soon afterwards signs up too, days or hours usually…


So now there’s a pattern. And then more….


I know then that they’ve shared links or posts around their colleagues and for some reason systemsy stuff resonates with a fair amount of people in the place. Not hundreds, but more than where I am. Which isn’t saying a lot. In fact it’s saying “more than none“.

Then I google said organisation, curious like, to find out more and turns out they’ve got someone in, like Vangrad, to turn the place systemsy.
Either that or a new broom has arrived to turn the place systemsy. Events happen, as events tend to do, and somebody googles a word they’ve heard like “demand” or “purpose” and hey presto they find something about the stuff they’ve been doing in meeting rooms, but this time with added knob jokes and crudely drawn cartoons.

As I often say when spotted copying cleverer people, I don’t create I curate. I don’t add something entirely new, I turn what exists into a slightly funner or at least shorter version of itself. This is a thing! There’s so many dull versions of systemsy stuff, or at least long versions, that funner and shorter is a viable alternative to those who don’t identify especially as systemsy types right now. “Just” normal ordinary people working in places that are getting better by studying work, thinking new thoughts and making things better.

This last lot of people are by far the most exciting. They are in banking call centres, insurance companies, large public sector organisations, all sorts. It is always exciting to see it start, as I know that means there are people who will be coming into work excited to do something worthwhile.

If you want to add a comment to say which of the 3 types you are, you are more than welcome as i love comments and finding out about people in other places doing systemsy things.

One more thing, as well as being number 2 for an obscure German word….

We are number 35!

The fantastic Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog, has done a listing of the top management improvement blogs. Wallowing around in the unfashionable end at number 35 is this one.



Go us.

This entry was posted in communication, learning, systems thinking, vanguard method and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to We’re number 2! We’re number 2! Yay us! Now who’s US exactly?

  1. posiwid4me says:

    Wow, great insight as usual TP, I believe I am all three. I work in IT, I do systemsy stuff and I am also normal (ish). Well maybe not that normal….


  2. bazhsw says:

    I started off as a 3, not because work did anything remotely useful but because someone who had been Vanguarded elsewhere had a chat with me once and we systemsy-clicked.

    I googled systems thinking one day because someone else asked me what it was and found here. I then became a ‘2’ because I got a ‘clever clogs’ job (by the way I have pinched that description you gave ‘improvement types’ and take great pleasure in referring to people who are removed from the work sticking their noses in, telling everyone the solution then wandering off.) Now I still don’t do systemsy stuff but this place and the amazing ‘squire to the giants’ give me my semi regular doses of sanity….


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Ha! Clever clogs! I’d FORGOTTEN that until just now! Thanks for reminding.


      • bazhsw says:

        Use it almost daily, I’m on a big project with loads of clever clogs, some of them ARE actually quite clever and some have the personality of a piece of wood with studs hammered in so it is quite appropriate. Example, ‘there are a lot of clever clogs in this room, has anyone thought to ask the people who do the work?’.

        I refer myself as ‘clever clogs’ sometimes to WARN the people I work with, ‘you’ve got to watch out for clever clogs like me wandering in and plucking solutions out of thin air. Truthfully, I’ll never know as much about the work as you do so….’

        I found the Curious Cat bog a year or two ago but hardly go there. I couldn’t get it to email when anything interesting is posted and I am too lazy to check regularly. I get a prod when you post anything ha ha.

        I am working on a project right now where on a daily basis I am contributing to a colossal Verschlimmbesserung so thanks for that also, that will enter the vocabulary tomorrow for sure!


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Funnily enough that curious cat website was my first foray into it all, cos there weren’t even blogs in those days. I don’t think. About 2000-2006? Probably were, thinking about it. But that place was great for Deming etc


  3. Mr B says:

    type 3, but with two email addresses! We have Vanguard in and are slowly and very painfully trying to transform the organisation. The blog is great, funny and takes some of the evangelism out of the method, (much needed) without harming the principles. Oh and it makes me smile, which as to be worth it.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Cripes, if the blog is LESS evangelical than Vangrad, i cannot conceive how evangelical THEY are! Great to hear it’s of use anyway, and I’m hitting both targets of funny and clever. Next year’s key strategic priority is big and clever.


  4. giantknave says:

    I started off many years ago as an accountant…but (I think) I’m okay now.

    I then became a ‘management consultant’…but (again) I’m okay now.

    I’m now just an awkward b’stard šŸ™‚


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Cripes, again. I always thought you were from Down Under, some basic stalking shows not entirely! So would you be a Type 2 then? Pro-Am ? Gets paid but dabbles on the tinter at weekends and evenings?
      I hope I spelled tinter correctly.


      • giantknave says:

        Yep, I’d settle with a ‘type 2’ Pro-Am. ‘Pro’, in that provoking and coaching is my day job. ‘Am’ when it comes to blogging!

        (Born and bred in England, but loving living in New Zealand)


  5. jaqueslecont says:

    I was one of those poor people who signed up years ago to become a ā€œLean Facilitatorā€.

    I then became a ā€œLean Programme Managerā€

    Then a ā€œProcess Engineerā€

    Then a senior ā€œProcess Engineerā€

    Then a senior ā€œBusiness Improvement Managerā€

    I finally realised that these are all impossible jobs in a C&C world, so now Iā€™m an operations manager.

    I can now do stuff like change measures and look at changing things from the customerā€™s perspective.

    Still tricky, but about a million times easier when you have some ownership rather than trying to persuade some other poor berk.


  6. Capt Crunch says:


    I have a question for german experts

    Would a duct-tape-bodge / ugly workaround be a “Verschlimmbesserung” or is it specifically a shiny,superficially-competent improvement that makes things worse ?


  7. Ian jones says:

    Probably normal person.
    Software engineer (but not IT)… and no idea how I found you.

    On the other hand posts do reflect on my company.


  8. Bob Ainsworth says:

    I’m a Number 2, not so much the slang version but I can be a little one at times when I see the mess my current company is in. Oh, I also let off steam now and again to you by way of email. You could be a systemsy bot for all I know. Point is, it’s good to talk.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s