Freedom, system thinking, politics, science, education, economics, pirates

Friday, 25 December 2009

Mark's Any Munchings

Happy Christmas!

I hope you had/are having a great Christmas

Update: Thanks to John Ward for the title of this post, which he put in a comment on my Facebook page. Cheers, John!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Money Money money

Brown has pledged £1 million to help Cumbria after the floods. Children in need raised £20 million.

A secondary school operating budget (80% spent on salaries) is £6 million

Brown's offer to Cumbria is a flyspeck, it wouldn't begin to replace a fallen bridge.

I can see that ordinary people can't get their heads around the sums of money involved in govt but Brown should have got it by now.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Anti-democratic bastards

1. Hugh Orde - elected commisioners will make police "political" and less democratic. WTF

2. Windbag Kinnock - Europe is too big and complicated to hold an election for president, it would be chaos.
America manages it!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Paul Clarke - another thought

If I found a sawn off shotgun in my garden, I'd call 999 straight away, not touch it and wait for the boys in blue go come and take it away. I'm guessing 2 nice boys in blue would knock on my door and I'd escort them to the garden, they'd take it away and thank me for reporting it.

It strikes me I might be nieve here so here's the scenario Paul Clarke may have thought of: I call the police and report a sawn off shotgun has appeard in my garden. Two van loads of armed police in riot gear break down my door at 2am, handcuff me while naked having dragged from bed and roughed me up a bit. I protest and fight back, so they shoot me.

Perhaps I can see why Paul Clarke preferred to present it to a senior officer.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Breaching a taboo

There is a lot of upset following Terry Henry's handball assisted goal that put Ireland out of the world cup.

Rules in football are broken all the time, especially considering what may or may not be a dangerous tackle, or whether a foul is professional or not. But handball is taboo, the foundation of the game. If other rules are changed, and they do get changed from time to time, remember screaming "Steps" at the ref when an opposed goalie took more than three paces while holding the ball? Doesn'tstter now. But handball is different, without the handball rule, football would be a different game, rugby maybe.

Is this is why the wailing is so loud?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Fraser in the NOTW on benefit culture Fraser Nelson on the welfare trap. The readers comments on the accompanying article show that folks don't get it - it is, as Deming would say, the system that drives the behaviour of the people. Hopefully this view of the welfare state and it's clients is gaining a foothold.

(shame about FN's idocy re AIDS)

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Don't get your hopes up

When I saw this headline I thought they meant something else...

never mind

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Apple magic mouse - first look

Apple have a new mouse out:

I went into the Apple store today to take a look: Wow! this thing is brilliant. People will be buying Macs just so that they can get one.

Book Review: Why Your Boss Is Programmed to Be a Dictator by Chetan Dhruve

This is a nice little book. Chetan is a systems thinker and he uses this technique to analyse the behaviour of bosses. I'm pretty familiar with this way of thinking and the worldview that goes with it, but possibly someone who is new to it would take more convincing of Chetan's argument.
The conclusion of the book is that to change managers' behaviour you need to change the way they are appointed. Sadly this is unlikely to start happening any time soon where I work, so it leaves me a little depressed to think that there is nothing I can do about it, other than leave.

Thinking about the boss problem, a cause is the ownership structure. Not only, as Chetan says, are all the bosses afraid of their bosses, the CEO is afraid of stock market analysts - maybe this is an idea Chetan could explore further.

Chetan is not able to propose easy fixes, because the causes run deep, but perhaps this book will be the beginning of a movement.

The book is an easy read and entertaining with a good selection of anecdotes & stories to illustrate his points.

If you liked "I want you to cheat" by John Seddon you'll like this.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


...stop digging.

In the Telegraph

"MPs are to be offered a pay rise to make up for a loss of income from expenses claims under plans drawn up by Gordon Brown to quell a growing back-bench rebellion."

They can't miss a chance to show off their they-just-don't-get-itism, can they?

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Legge up

Over at Samizdata there is an excellent post:

about the Legge report. I so hope the MPs refuse to pay and try to take the whole thing to court - they'll look like a bunch of tools and never ever see public office again.

Did they not read this part of the form

"I claim reimbursement of these costs which I incurred wholly, exclusivly and necessarily in the performance of my Parliamentary duties.

There are major doses of they just don't get it to be found everywhere. Even my favourite socialist Frank Field is whining about his cleaning & gardening bills.

So I popped over to Frank's to give him some advice, from a non-party voter.

Update: Frank hasn't published any comments; I wonder why?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Jan Moir of the Daily Fail

Twitter's take:

"Jan Moir is a Daily Mail (UK) columnist who wrote a column questioning the circumstances surrounding Boyzone singer Stephen Gately's death. People are tweeting their thoughts on her take, which are largely negative."

Says it all really.

If you haven't done so yet, pop over to and click on Jan Moir in trending topics. She is a class act.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

iPhone apps

Here's a list of the apps on my iPhone:

Facebook - nice interface for simplified facebook access

tweetie - fot twitter - good for managing your account, adding follows

TweetDeck - better for reading tweets than tweetie, but not as good for managing the account

Google reader - newsreader, easy to use

To Do's - very simple to do lists - should come with the iPhone

google app - voice activated search is awesome

Google earth - just like the PC version, but multi-touch control is better

Tunein – iCarRadio - hundreds of radio stations streamed across a GSM signal

TVGuide - now & next tv guide

Evernote - online storage of lists, links &photos

Jotnot - document scanner using the built in camera, squares up a document and ads contrast

Flixter - search for movies showing at local cinemas

Taptu - directory of iPhone optimised websites

iMathematics - maths handbook of formulae with scientific calculator and wolfram alpha access

Sky News - top news stories

Telegraph - simplified news interface

Wikipedia - optimised wikipedia interface

AccuWeather - location aware weather forecasts withhourly and 15-day forecasts

rightmove - how much is the house for sale in your street?

Ocado - online grocery shopping, very nice & simple

Amazon UK - iPhone optimised interface

eBay - iPhone optimised interface

BlogPress - post to your blogspot blog

AroundMe - find shops and sevices based on current location - yellow pages search tool

Yelp - similar to around me , slightly different database

Rise&Shine - bed side alarm clock

WiiTrack - find WiFi hotspots

Bell&Ross - clock based on the famous watches

FREE Wi-Fi - durectory of public wifi access points

RulerPhone - measure the world around you using the iPhone camera

iHandy level - electroic spirit level and angle finder

StepTrakLite - pedometer

Zipix Lite - fixes exposure and contrast in photos with one click

Shopping List Lite - make a shopping list and check off as you go

Flickr - search and upload to flickr

ITN News - similar to sky news app

NetNewsWire - newsreader - I prefer Google Reader, but this is a usable RSS reader

Microsurface - play with the touch controls using your photographs

Jaeger-LC - catalogue of beautiful watches

IcanHasCheezBurger - lolcats

XKCD - web comic

fix my street - complain to your council, it works!

urban spoon - restaurant finder

Tioti TV - tv guide, better than TVguide with more functions

Pirates lite - dualling pirate ships ahoy! Arrr

FreeCell - card game, free because you have to se an advert before each game

ParaPanic - save the cartoon parachutists

Sol Free - selection of patience card games

StoneLoops - match the coloured stones

GumDrops - match the coloured drops

Minesweeper - straight from windows

Centipede - by Atari - faithful recreation of the arcade game

Bejeweled - match the coloured jewels, by Popcap

Paper toss - throw balls of paper in a wastevasket (better than it sounds)

Pac-Man - faithful recreation of the arcade game

DietWordPop - word building game

Distant Assassin - shoot the cartoons

Solitaire city - another patience card game

UNO free - SNAP with a twist

Maze finger - drag your finger around the maze - harder than it sounds

iDaft - play your own mix of Daft Punk

TonePad - your own little Tenori-On

Tap Tap revenge - guitr hero type game

touch chords - learn guitar chords

iShred - guitar simulator

fluid - touch control demo, realistic liquids

Shazam - identified music tracks being played

Guitar rock another guitar hereo type game

Nubi D0 - to do list - more comprehensive than To-Do

Yahoo - search, directory and utilities

Autodesk fluid - another touch demo

Ruler - measure small things with an on-screen ruler

Chain Rxn - addictive bouncing ball game

SketchBookX - draw with your finger

Sky Sports Football Score Centre - real time football results and game information

ECB Cricket - excellent live cricket scoreboards

Yetisport - throw the penguin

RedLaser - fantastic bar code scanner and price comparator

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Dave's graphs

At last a politician has said it. A lone parent with two children pays a marginal withdrawal rate of 96% at an income of £150/week.

Here is a pile of figures and graphs observing the take home income for people in different circumstances with different incomes:
Yup, it is the government's own document - they know; yet still they do it.

I'm guessing Call Me Dave was shown page 43, there's Tracey in here council flat with two young children. If she gets a job making £150/week, she'll be allowed to keep 4p in the pound of what she earns. That is like a tax rate of96%! How hard would you work for 4% of your salary?

But it's worse than that: if she lived in rented accommodation, rent paid by housing benefit, until she earns more money, she would need to exceed £450/week to reach a point where working pays more than 4% of gross earned income. They should have shown Dave pg. 58

Hang on! What about the people down the street, nice hard-working married couple, surely they can't get caught in the benefit trap? They're on page 109.
Steve and Wendy, three kids: Aiden 6, Molly 7 and Kylie 13. They live in a rented house.
They have to earn £640/week (£33,600/year) before their marginal withdrwal rate drops from 90% to 70%!!

So, Dave has found this out, he has said he thinks it must stop - I wonder what his policy will be?

Here's the graphs:

Tracey, in a council flat or house:

Tracey, in a private rented house or flat

Steve & Wendy:

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Is Gordo on Tamazepan?

I'd be surprised if he wasn't.

Can you imagine how stressful his job is ( and how much his own incompetence has increased it) and how that would lead to depression or bipolar disorder.

The only way a normal human could do that job without getting stressed and depressed would be if they kept themselves in a state of complete denial.

So the question is: can someone do the job under the influence of anti-depressants? Or should someone who can do the job without be allowed to?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Labour 'could save schools £2bn'

From BBC News:

Education spending could be cut by £2bn by axing thousands of senior staff and "discipline" over pay, the schools secretary for England has indicated.

Ed Balls, the first minister to suggest possible cost-cutting moves, told the Sunday Times one option was to merge comprehensives to form "federations"

ED, look - why have you taken 12 years to propose your idea to save £2billion per year, with no impact on learning in the classroom. You have just admitted to wasting £24Billion for nothing. Good job!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Straw finally sees the light

Prescribing heroin reduces criminality. No shit, Sherlock.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, 18 September 2009

John Seddon talking to the Tories?

A good summary of John's ideas, from a participant in one of the workshops.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Where's you bin?

New bins came today

A blue for recyling and brown for composting to add to our existing green rubbish bin. Still getting weekly collections.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Child safety hysteria

There is a lot of noise in the news and blogs about the new child safeguarding process. It seems to me that a lot of this is mis-informed, lead by the Daily Mail shock horror reporting.

The new system consists of a new body, the Independent Safeguarding Authority which will hold a database of every adult who works with children or vulnerable adults, including volunteers. The information in this database already exists but is distributed across the counties.

A similar system currently exists today, of Criminal Records Bureau checks performed locally and List 99, kept by the DfES.

The key is to apply the system at the point of recruitment. When a teacher is hired, a football coach joins a youth football club or a school governor is appointed, a CRB check is made and a certificate is issued. This is done each time someone joins an organisation. If you are a school governor who teaches swimming in your spare time and teach in a Sunday School, you will have three certificates, each with a three year expiry. This has been going for years and is not controversial within schools, sports clubs, churches etc..

So what is different about the new scheme?
  • The CRB database is national rather than local. This means convicted paedophiles cannot get away from their record by moving to a different county.
  • You only have one entry in the database, no matter how many organisations you work with. It will save some of the bureaucracy, for example today, if a school changes its name all the CRB certificates have to be re-done. A new application is not necessary when you move job.

  • There is no expiry or renewal process. Any new conviction information will be added on and passed to employers immediately.

  • The old CRB scheme only covers criminal convictions. The new one includes recorded suspicions that were never tested in court. To me this is the really controversial element, hardly picked up in the Daily Mail hysteria. Malicious accusations are made all the time of teachers that a child does not like - these could find their way onto a record with no method of appeal and wreck a career.

The scheme will not apply to parents giving lifts to other children, unless it has been arranged by an organisation. If parents have their own rota for collecting from cubs that can continue. If Cubs asks you to volunteer as a driver to drive children unknown to you, you need a check.

Does it brand everyone a paedophile? I don't think it does. I have a CRB check for my work as a school governor, I don't think the people reading my application form suspected me to be a paedophile, this is just the system they have to find people that are, a needle in a haystack. The people setting this up and running it know full well that paedophiles are very rare. But as with bombers smuggling knives and explosives on planes being screened by X-ray machines and metal detectors, the screen that is supposed to stop them has to apply to everyone to work. Or consider the US Visa waiver form - are you offended that the US Govt thinks you are a Nazi or have convictions for Moral Turpitude? No, of course not, you know they are just covering themselves. The system will work, to the extent that it makes it less likely that known paedophiles are working with children, due to the "theatre of security" designed into the system.

The system has two functions: one to deter known paedophiles from applying for jobs or volunteering with children. and two to protect schools and clubs against employing someone with a criminal record involving child abuse. People with criminal records that don't involve children will still be employable, the Rehabilitation of Offenders act ensures this, the only exception is for child abuse convictions. You won't be barred from being a scout helper if you have 3 points on your licence or even if you did 18 months for breaking & entering.

Will the system completely protect children? Of course it cannot do that, there will be paedophiles today working with children who do not have any previous history. But there really are paedophiles out there, using the loopholes in the current system to access children. The changes to the system arose from the Bichard enquiry following the conviction of Ian Huntley for the abuse and murder of Holly & Jessica. The old CRB system did not catch, or more likely deter, Ian Huntley, hopefully the new system will deter future Ian Huntleys.

The information here was gleaned from a course I attended run by the child protection officer at my local council.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Jeff Randal making sense

Great post from Jeff today:

I hadn't twigged that is the Chinese buying gold. Gulp.

Monday, 7 September 2009


Now he has been demoted, does he have to get by on reduced rations?

-- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Funnies today

You're having a boring week then two hilarious things hit the news in one day:
Chelsea banned from registering players until 2011.
Farage to stand againt Bercow at the GE.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Ed Balls, celebrating job losses.

Asda is centralising it's homeshopping service into regional centres, rather than in supermarkets. Ed writes here about a new Asda centre in his constituency:

The justification for the centre is that it is twice as effecient as doing it in stores. Presumambly the 200 jobs in Morely are replacing 400 jobs across the region, either at Asda stores or Adsa's competitors. I bet those losing their jobs aren't celebrating with Ed.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Eduardo - beginning of the video referee

So Celtic have succeeded in getting their day in court for the penalty that Eduardo alledgedly "won" by diving. If the court agrees a penalty should not have been awarded will Celtic sue for compensation, or a replay?

Having set this precedent every major game will now be followed by a legal challenge. Once individual players are suspended by a court after a game, how long before other ref decisions are taken there and results challenged. Will we see the premier league won by the team with the best legal team, not the best players. The way to head this future off is to adopt video refereeing, as in Rugby, tennis and cricket where in-game video is commonly used.

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, 28 August 2009

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Immigrants do the jobs no one else will do

Here's an article from the Grauniad complaining about goby policies to limit immigrants access to benefits and citizenship. The question the writer poses is: Who will do the lobs the immigrants did when they've gone?

Answer: Our own unemployed. There's a lovely Polish lady working in the chipshop round the corner. If she should return to Poland, will there be any British unemployed person available with the skills to serve fish&chips? Of course there are, millions of them. But, if they took the job, they'd lose benefits almost £ for £, so being rational people, they don't take these jobs, leaving them free for immigrants who don't get the benefits.

So the key to the crisis of mass unemployment and jobs that are only done by immigrants is to change the benefit system, since it's design is the root cause of the problem. No Guardian writer could bring
himself to write that, though.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Govt encourages cycling - a great sucess (for the middle class cycling enthusiasts and bike retailerst)

There is a scheme run by the govt to subsidise bikes and cycling equipment for use to get to work. The cost of the bike & equipment (helmet, lycra shorts etc) are deducted from salary before tax and NI, so that's almost a 50% discount for a higher rate tax payer. The company buys the bike up front and leases it t the employee by salary sacrifice. The bike is carried on the company's books as capital, so gets a deduction for it and the employer's NIC is not paid, either.

What a great idea you may think: getting people out of their cars and onto bikes; great for the environment, great for their health.

So why am I pissed off about it:

I don't live within a reasonable cycling distance to work (in fact my office has just been relocated 14 miles further from home) so its not a benefit I can take advantage of. You can't get a nice bike if you don't ride it to work, though how HMRC will be checking this I don't know.

You can't get a bike for your kid to cycle to school, even if you drive them there at the moment.

If someone was driving to work, the decision to change to cycling can be funded entirely from the saving in petrol. Or if taking a bus or train, by the savings in fares.

All the people I know taking advantage of the scheme already have a bike, in some cases lots of bikes. They are using the scheme to buy enthusiasts' bikes costing £1000. I don't know of anybody buying a bike for the first time under the scheme.

If you don't have a bike and you want to start to cycle to work, you can get a new bike for £100, £50 at a boot sale or free on freecycle. The scheme effectively has a £1000 upper limit.

The scheme is only available if your employer feels like offering it and operating it through the payroll dept, although the employer also receive subsidies for running the scheme. The lower paid you are, the less likely your employer will be willing or able to run the scheme.

The scheme gives tax and NI relief on the payment, so it is much more advantageous to higher rate tax payers. Low paid workers presumably aren't as worthy as their middle class managers of a subsidised bike.

As a result, the scheme is not being used by the needy. Poor working class taxpayers are subsiding nice bikes for middle class people who have nice bikes already. Is this what the govt is supposed to be doing?

One for the bonfire

Here's a quango Calle me Dave can add to his bonfire, according to the Daily Mail (yeah, I know)

I have to ask; what scrutiny was there of this appointment and this contract. Public sector jobs like tese all seem grossly overpaid.

HT:Howard Clark at the Systems Thinking Review

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Quiet round here

I have't blogged in ages. Bloggers block and the distraction of Twitter on my new iPhone. I have a few things to get off my chest so watch this space.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Matt Wardman - What can Portugal’s decriminalisation experience teach us?

Mark Thompson of MArk Reckons has a good post at Matt Wardmans blog about Portugal's decriminalistaion of drug possession and use. The comments are a good read too.

I have tried to reply to a comment by Matt without success. Matt's blog, contact form and email all bounce from me, while others are posting comments successfully, IT glitch I suppose. So I'm posting my comment here instead.

Here's the text I was trying to respond with:


Perhaps I should be clearer: I agree there should be debate about the rule of law and I think a rule of law is important, to protect my life & property from others and to protect others' life and property from me and from each other.

However I think a basic principal is: it's my body and life and I can do with them as I wish.

Of course I can't go raping anyone - that would deny them the right to have the control over their body that I wish to have over my own.

A debate about drugs policy in the sense of "what drugs should we let people take" is what I inferred from your comment. I don't think that debate should happen - We should all be allowed to make our choices in life and live with the consequences, unless those choices impact on others, which is where the rule of law comes in (e.g. we allow alcohol consumption, but we don't allow drink driving).

Let's have medical warnings, drugs workers and education programs, but if after that people choose drugs, so be it. I'm happy to have a drugs policy debate about how to get to Portugal's point and also how to legalise so that we take criminals out of the drugs industry altogether, including the mafia and the taliban. Drugs could be supplied by licensed shops and drugs could carry tax sufficient to cover the cost of education and treatment. Purity and strength could be controlled and clean needles etc., readily available, greatly improving the safety of those who choose to take drugs.

The ideology I was complaining about is the idea you seem to have that some other people, maybe unknown to me, should have the right to restrict my choices, because they are concerned about my dribbling for 30 years.

The other aspect of your ideology I was complaining about is that you seem to believe that restricitions should be used even when it is proven that these restrictions do more harm than good or the restrictions cannot practically be implemented.

If you still think I am extrapolating too much from what you said, let's have more discussion. I certainly don't want to go round upsetting or misrepresenting people. I accept that "ideology" is not the best choice of words, maybe belief or idea is better.

I do think that what I said springs as a conclusion from what you said: "it is reasonable to restrict that course of action" opens a Pandora's box of state control.

My views on the state control you suggest:
1) It is wrong for one person to control the actions of another.
2) It doesn't work, in fact it makes things a whole lot worse."


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Audit commission attacks!

Over at an argument has broken out between John Seddon and David Walker. John has called for the scrapping of the Audit Commission because the model of work it enforces wastes money and makes services worse. Walkers' response it to call John names. The comments are very interesting and encouraging.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, 20 July 2009

Doing the right thing wrong

How Hounslow ditched targets to improve services, at thesystemsthinkingreview :

Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Helicopters to do for Gordon

Does anybody in the country believe Clarkson's idiot when he says no lives have been lost because of too few helicopters? Blogs like EU referendum have been going on about this for years. As more stories come out about deaths by IED, Gordon & Mandlesnake will sound more and more ridiculous as they argue something that is obviously untrue- and it's not about banks; it's about soldiers' lives.

Police state? Can't use facebook to organise a barbeque

Daily Mail says:

"Riot police raided a 30th birthday barbecue because they thought the organiser, who had invited his friends via Facebook, was staging a rave.

Four police cars, a riot van and a helicopter moved in on Andrew Poole's gathering which was taking place in a field owned by a friend.

The coach driver had invited 17 guests to an 'event' on his social networking page by private invitation and was about to light the barbecue when the gazebo suddenly started flapping wildly and the sound of chopper blades filled the air..."

Two things strike me about this story:

Police spending time monitoring Facebook for "raves" when they should be out catching burglars, rapists and murders.

The inability of police, once they have had a chance to assess the real situation to admit that they might have been wrong about.

I hope he sues their arses and gets a fat payout - sadly it won't come from the police officers' salaries.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Keeping the poor; poor.

Ian Cowie in today's Telegraph, Fraser at the Speccie, Douglas at TalkCarswell, all post today about the treatment of the poor, how high marginal withdrawl and tax rates trap the porest in unemployemnt & poverty by the design of the system.

Hopefully people are waking up.

Here's a reminder of my contribution, when I started this blog last March.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Ed goes for sympathy

Ed Balls is busy using Twitter to garner some sympathy for the long hours the poor dears put in and how they don't get to see their children. Diddums.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

me, chez Richie

  1. My comment to a mind-boggling post from Richard Murphy today.
    click here for his post.

    July 8th, 2009 at 00:30 | #15

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    You are Ricky Gervais and I claim my £10. Or do you really believe this stuff?

    The public sector does not create wealth. You create wealth by selling something for more than it cost you to supply it - that is the only way; no other method has been found. The Public sector pisses 50% of the wealth up the wall, having taken it from the public by force.

    Businesses selling food do not only not poison people because of regulations, they do it because poisoning customers is bad for business. Frozen food was not invented by state scientists, but by private enterprise looking for new ways to satisfy customers so that they could create more wealth,

tip o' the hat to Timmy, of course, Richie's nemesis.


I have to uncitizen myself:

You have failed the practice citizenship test.

Questions answered correctly: 14 out of 24 (58%)

Time taken: 05 minutes 03 seconds

What a ridiculous test - what cretin thinks a citizen needs to know what year divorce became legal?

Friday, 3 July 2009

Rethinking lean service

Here is an article/pamphlet by John Seddon laying out the principles that are explained in more detail in "Systems thinking in the public sector"

Here there are ideas that have been proven to reduce costs and improve service - something an incoming Tory administration should be interested in.

Please poke it under the noses of any influential Tories you come across.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Spanner in the streamlined works

In today's Guardian, Janee Dudman looks at back-office standardisation plans.

Her point is that maybe govt's plans to save billions through IT and back offices won't deliver.

Quote of the day

"The minister for Digital Engagement (sic), Tom Watson, was there; but readers may be aware he has since resigned. I imagine he is sitting at home, digit engaged."

John Seddon, of Tower 09

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Lord Mick of Gorbals

Troughing ex-speaker Michael Martin resigned following the expenses scandal. Don't fret though, he has been promoted to the Lords, so his sources of pension and cash are secure. And he gets given a new set of fancy dress.

A vetting panel thought it could damage the Lord's reputation (d'ya think?) but they did it anyway.

Politicians looking after their own, in defiance of the wishes of the people? - surely not.

Seddon for Tsar!

From John Seddon's monthly mailout:

"On being a Tsar

Thanks to all who have signed the Number 10 petition for me to be appointed public-sector ‘Tsar’. A small minority wrote to tell me that ‘Tsar’ was very ‘command and control’. One even described the number 10 petitions as Blair's cynical attempt to siphon off public energy; a fig-leaf of 'democracy' that enables the government's mopping up of dissent.

Well, for those who feel that way, take it easy! Do you think they’ll offer me the job? If they did, would I take it? Only on my terms.

Let me say this for the sake of clarity: ‘Command and control’ is the prevailing logic for organisation design (top-down, functional design etc). It is not about being bossy. In fact many of the best systems thinkers I know are bossy; they are just bossy about the right things. So, if they offered and I accepted, what would I be bossy about?

My manifesto

The first thing this Tsar would do is close down the specifications industry, the armies of people who spend their time creating specifications for public-sector managers’ compliance. This would create two savings: The money it costs to have these people (significant) and the waste caused by complying with their ideas (much larger).

The second would be to rein back the Audit Commission to following the money. No longer would the Audit Commission be able to coerce public-sector managers to comply with their and other specifiers’ dumb, ill-founded and without-evidence requirements. When auditing performance, the inspector will ask only one question: ‘What measures are you using to understand and improve performance’?

The choice of measures and method will be with the local service managers. It will foster innovation rather than compliance. And for the first time we will actually know who is responsible.

So there it is: from compliance to innovation and with more reliable audit to boot! If you want to vote for that (and have not done so already), please vote at: "

You can sign up for John's monthly newsletter at:

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Quote of the day

"I keep hearing that politicians need to be more transparent.
I think the public can see straight through us already."

Friday, 26 June 2009

Comment of the day

  • 26 Jun 09, 7:42pm (41 minutes ago)

    All the improvements, such as they are, have been paid for through personal and government debt. Because of globalisation and China, the old laws of economics were suspended temporarily over the last few years and there was money to pay for all this stuff - but the money was only on loan. By borrowing to 'lift children out of poverty' over the last decade we have probably condemned many more to a life of extreme poverty in the future.

    I know that you think I am "economically illiterate" for saying all this, but have you been listening to Mervyn King recently?

BuffHoon at CIF today

Hazel deosn't deal in pennies

Over at John Graham-Cumming's blog: Hazel doesn't deal in pennies

I love this forensic geeky maths stuff, with graphs and everything - go take a look, if you like to read about number crunching.

Jacko: Cardiac arrest, not heart attack ?

A heart attack = Myocardial Infarction (MI). This is when a cardiac artery is blocked or restricted causing loss of oxygen supply to the heart muscle. Depending on severity this can cause a chest pain or lead to loss of function of major parts of the heart leading to death. Sometimes an MI triggers VF.

Cardiac arrest = Ventricular Fibrillation (VF). This is when the electrical signals in the heart get confused such that the heart stops beating and fibrillates, or quivers. It is like someone threw the off switch. No blood is pumped and the patient dies in ten minutes or so, unless CPR (which keeps some oxygen going to the brain) is followed by defibrillation, which stops the erroneous electrical signals and allow regular beating to happen. 95% of people who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die of it. When someone dies of a cardiac arrest from out of the blue, it is called Sudden Cardiac Death.

I had a cardic arrest last August. I was driving to the shops in my car. If it wasn't for the two strangers who came to my aid and did CPR, I would be an SCD.

Question for th eBBC, Sun, Telegraph etc - could you please learn the difference ?

This charity is working on raising awareness of SCD and installing defibrillators in public places, to improce SCD survival rates.

Guardian says to Brown: Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!

"Until Mr Brown confesses that this is true, his attacks on the opposition will always be undermined by the facts."

Today's Grauniad: "Public spending: hard truths"

I am, of course, not going to miss a chance to point out the aid John Seddon could be to an incoming Tory govt in achieving cuts in spending while improving Services.

Hat tip to the idle pen pusher

Reader's letter of the day

From the Financial Times letters page:

"Scraping of burnt toast in the public sector

Published: June 25 2009 03:00 | Last updated: June 25 2009 03:00

From Dr Peter Middleton.

Sir, I enjoyed the excellent analysis of “the state of Britain” by Chris Giles and Simon Briscoe (June 23). They reported that “government expenditure will soon account for almost half of the UK economy” and that “consensus reigns on the need to shrink it but there is no detail on what should be cut”. The research and consultancy evidence would suggest that “cuts” are not the way to tackle the problem of high public sector spending.

The issue is that the dominant management thinking is to announce arbitrary targets and set up compliance mechanisms to ensure they are met. This approach inevitably leads to poor service, high costs and massive waste. The need therefore is to dismantle the targets and activity measures infrastructure and start managing organisations as systems.

In essence the next UK government must move from the bankrupt General Motors approach to management and adopt the more successful Toyota systems model. The required “cuts” will occur as waste is systematically removed from the system while services improve.

W. Edwards Deming’s joke – “Let’s make toast the American way: you burn and I'll scrape” – applies to the management of much of the UK public sector.

Peter Middleton,
Senior Lecturer,
School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,
Queen's University Belfast,
Northern Ireland"

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Get yourself over there

Lord Elvis is back. And asking you to sign up.

Quiet round here

I have not posted fora little while. My company has just move office from Basildon to Chelmsford, so my drive to work has tripled in time. I'm not best pleased. Still, I still have a job though.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Goodbye NightJack

This is the text of NightJack's post: " A survival guide for decent folk" I have a few printed copies in places I can easily find one.

"In these days of us increasingly having to deal with law abiding folk who have fallen foul of the “entitled poor” and those who have learned how to use us to score points and exact revenge, I thought it would be a good idea to give out a bit of general guidance for those law abiding types who find themselves under suspicion or under arrest. It works for the bad guys so make it work for you.

Complain First

Always get your complaint in first, even if it is you who started it and you who were in the wrong. If things have gone awry and you suspect the cops are going to be called, get your retaliation in first. Ring the cops right away and allege for all you are worth. If you can work a racist or homophobic slant into it so much the better.

Make a counter allegation

Regardless of the facts, never let the other side be blameless. If they beat you to the phone, ring anyway and make a counter allegation against them. Again racism or homophobia are your friends. If you are not from a visible minority ethnic culture, may I suggest that that the phrase “You gay bastard” or similar is always useful. In extremis allege sexual assault. It gives us something to bargain with when getting the other person to drop their complaint on a quid-pro-quo basis. This is particularly good where there are no independent witnesses. When it boils down to one word against another and nobody is ‘fessing up, CPS run a mile and you, my friend, are definitely on a walk out

Never explain to the Police

If the Police arrive to lock you up, say nothing. You are a decent person and you may think that reasoning with the Police will help. “If I can only explain, they will realise it is all a horrible mistake and go away”. Wrong. We do want to talk to you on tape in an interview room but that comes later. All you are doing by trying to explain is digging yourself further in. We call that stuff a significant statement and we love it. Decent folk can’t help themselves, they think that they can talk their way out. Wrong.

Admit Nothing

To do anything more than lock you up for a few hours we need to prove a case. The easiest route to that is your admission. Without it, our case may be a lot weaker, maybe not enough to charge you with. In any case, it is always worth finding out exactly how damning the evidence is before you fall on your sword. So don’t do the decent and honourable thing and admit what you have done. Don’t even deny it or try to give your side of the story. Just say nothing. No confession and CPS are on the back foot already. They forsee a trial. They fear a trial. They are looking for any excuse to send you home free.

Keep your mouth shut

Say as little as possible to us. At the custody office desk a Sergeant will ask you some questions. It is safe to answer these. For the rest of the time, say nothing.

Claim Suicidal Thoughts

A debatable one this. Claiming to be thinking about topping yourself has several benefits. If you can keep it up, it might just bump up any compensation payable later. On the other hand you may find yourself in a paper suit with someone watching your every move.

Always always always have a solicitor

Duh. No brainer this one. Unless you know 100% for sure that your mate the solicitor does criminal law and is good at it, ask for the Duty Solicitor. They certainly do criminal law and they are good at it. Then listen to what the solicitor says and do it. Their job is to get you off without the Cops or CPS laying a glove on you if at all possible. It is what they get paid for. They are free to you. There is no down side. Now decent folks think it makes them look like they have something to hide if they ask for a solicitor. Irrelevant. Going into an interview without a solicitor is like taking a walk in Tottenham with a big gold Rolex. Bad things are very likely to happen to you. I wouldn’t do it and I interview people for a living.

Actively complain about every officer and everything they do

Did they cuff you when they brought you in? Were they rude to you? Did they racially or homophobically abuse you? Didn’t get fed? Cell too cold? You are decent folk who don’t want to make a fuss but trust me, it pays to whinge and no matter how trivial and / or poorly founded your complaint there are people who will uncritically listen to you and try and prove the complaint on your behalf. Some of them are even police officers. Nothing like a complaint to muddy the waters and suggest that you are only in court because the vindictive Cops have a grudge against you. Far fetched? Wait until your solicitor spins it in court and you come over as Ghandi.

Show no respect to the legal system or anybody working in it

You think that if you are a difficult, unpleasant, sneering, unco-operative and rude things will go badly for you and you will be in more trouble. No sirree Bob. It seems that in fact the worse you are, the easier things will go for you if, horror of horrors, you do end up convicted. Remember to fake a drink problem if you haven’t developed one as a result of dealing with us already. Magistrates and Judges do seem to like the idea that you are basically good but the naughty alcohol made you do it. They treat you better. Crazy I know but true.

So there you go, basically anything you try and do because you are decent and staightforward hurts you badly. Act like an habitual, professional, lifestyle criminal and chances are you will walk away relatively unscathed. Copy the bad guys, its what they do for a living."

I wish I could say I will never read the Times again. I probably will. But it won't be the same.