“Freedom from Command and Control”
A Review of the book by
John Seddons Book “Freedom from Command and Control” catches the eye immediately with the promise in the title. Can there be such a thing as Freedom from Command and Control?
The workforce have longed to be liberated from the directive, destructive “Command and Control” that has passed for management strategy for such a long time.
In the title of Johns book we see the possibility.
From the word go John tells us that “Command and Control is failing us, there must be a better way to design and manage work. He shows us through his use of real life examples how management, by their disengagement from the shop floor, are frequently incapable of appreciating the nature of the real value added work and are therefore in the very worst position from which to Command or Control.
But they go ahead anyway causing untold damage through their assumption that they are in charge and that the workforce will do what they are told.
He tells us that adding resources to a wasteful system simply compounds those efficiencies, that a better way to progress is to seek out the waste and remove it.
The problem is that for many organisations it is the “waste” who decide on the changes that are required to produce savings.
John sites the example of the National Health Service which successive governments have thrown huge amounts of money at to convince the voters that they are a caring socially responsible government.
John points out that despite this increase in investment it is becoming increasingly apparent that the expected return in improved service is simply not happening.
The “waste” is absorbing the extra investment while the value provided by the Health Service professional is being made increasingly difficult to deliver due to the lack of resources, leading to further reductions in the level of service provided.
To get out of this destructive loop John insists that we must change management thinking, we must stop believing that inspection controls quality. We have to get away from measuring activity which results in people being active to achieve their measures rather than accomplishing the purpose for which they were employed.
This book reveals why, and what we have to do to initiate this change in behaviour.
This would be enough for most authors to include in a single volume but John goes on to take a considered look at several other management white elephants.
Customer Relations Management,
“Just because CRM software can do something does it mean that thing adds value?”
Seminars on “Culture”,
That “generate quagmires of pseudo-intellectual and psuedo-emotional nonsense.”
“An economic disease for which the UK should be ashamed.”
Investors in people,
“Instead of investing in people we should be investing in the re-education of management.”
“I have yet to see an example of the balanced scorecard that passes the test of a good measure.”
“The most important criticism is that there is no requirement for management to change the way that it thinks.”
“Managers are sold a dream that becomes a nightmare, full of features that suit the Command and Control view of management, but are they benefits?”
Public Service Investment,
Massive investment in public services that are not being matched by results.
“Police in one area as a result of investment in the new Command and Control IT technology report that a domestic disturbance (A husband and wife fighting) is now reported as two assaults, each on the other, recorded as detected with no further proceedings. It does wonders for their detection rate, but is it effective policing.”
John Seddon, in this book has presented us with a well argued tour de force.
Management by Command and Control, does not work. Telling people what to do, does not work. Setting targets, does not work.
It may have been a defence for this kind of behaviour in the past that managers simply did not know any other way to behave.
John Seddon in “Freedom from Command and Control” has shown the way.
After reading this book there can be no excuse for continuing to think of management in terms of strategies for Command and Control, unless the purpose of that management is to destroy the enterprise it is supposed to be managing.