John Seddon is an occupational psychologist, researcher, professor, management thinker and leading global authority on change, specialising in the service industry. He is the managing director of Vanguard, a consultancy company he formed in 1985 and the inventor of ‘The Vanguard Method’. Vanguard Consulting Ltd has franchises in Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Croatia and The Netherlands.
Vanguard helps service organisations change from a conventional command-and-control design to a systems design, using a proprietary method – The Vanguard Method.
John’s prominence grew following attacks on current British management thinking including the belief in economies of scale, quality standards such as ISO9000 and much of public sector reform including ‘deliverology’, the use of targets, inspection and centralised control of local services. The Daily Telegraph described him as a “reluctant management guru”, with a background in occupational psychology.
He adapted the Toyota Production System and the work of W. Edwards Deming and Taiichi Ohno into a methodology called ‘The Vanguard Method’ for improving performance in service industries. He is critical of target-based management, and of basing decisions on economies of scale, rather than ‘economies of flow’.
John Seddon has published five books. In his 2008 book, Systems Thinking in the Public Sector, he provided a criticism of the UK Government reform programme and advocated its replacement by systems thinking.
John won the first Management Innovation Prize for ‘Reinventing Leadership’ in October 2010.
Seddon, J. & B. O’Donovan (forthcoming), “An exploration into the failure of ‘lean’”, Journal of Technology Management in China
Seddon, J., The Whitehall Effect: How Whitehall became the enemy of great public services and what we can do about it (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2014)
Seddon, J. & B. O’Donovan (eds), special issue of the journal Systemic Practice and Action Research (SPAR) (2014), including 5 articles about the Vanguard Method:
- O’Donovan, B., Editorial: “The Vanguard Method in a Systems Thinking Context”
- Dunnion, J. & B. O’Donovan, “Systems Thinking and Higher Education: The Vanguard Method“
- Gibson, J. & B. O’Donovan, “The Vanguard Method as Applied to the Design and Management of English and Welsh Children’s Services Departments“
- Wilson, R., “Living the Life You Choose: The Introduction of the Vanguard Method into an Organisation Providing Support to People with Learning Disabilities“
- Watts, J., “The Perils of Command and Control“
Locality/Vanguard, Saving money by doing the right thing: Why ‘local by default’ must replace ‘diseconomies of scale’ (Vanguard, 2014).
Seddon, J., “Dissolving a Dangerous Enthusiasm: Taking a Systems Approach to IT Systems”, Cutter IT Journal 26.4 (April 2013).
Seddon, J. & B. O’Donovan, ‘The Achilles’ heel of scale service design in social security administration: The case of the United Kingdom’s Universal Credit’”, International Social Security Review 66.1 (2013), 1-23.
Seddon, J. & B. O’Donovan, “Process Innovation at Portsmouth Housing”, in Macaulay, L.A., Miles, I., Zhao, L., Wilby, J., Tan, Y.L. & Theodoulidis, B. (eds), Case Studies in Service Innovation (Service Science: Research and Innovations in the Service Economy, B. Hefley & W. Murphy, series eds, New York: Springer Science + Business Media, 2012).
Pell, C., The Vanguard Method in the Public Sector: Case Studies. Delivering Public Services that Work vol.2 (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2013).
Seddon, J., B. O’Donovan & K. Zokaei, “Rethinking Lean Service”, in McIntyre, M., Parry, G. & Angelis, J. (eds), Service Design and Delivery (New York: Springer, 2011).
Middleton, P., Systems Thinking in the Public Sector. Delivering Public Services that Work vol.1 (Axminster, Triarchy Press, 2010).
Seddon, J. & B. O’Donovan, “Efficiencies in Public Service Delivery”, in Richardson, J. (ed.), From Recession to Renewal: the impact of the financial crisis on public services and local government (Bristol: Policy Press, 2010).
Zokaei, K., J. Seddon & B. O’Donovan (eds), Systems Thinking: From Heresy to Practice (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
Seddon, J. & B. O’Donovan, “Why aren’t we all working for Learning Organisations?”, AMED e-Organisations and People 17.2 (2010).
Zokaei, Z., S. Elias, B. O’Donovan, D. Samuel, B. Evans & J. Goodfellow, “Lean and Systems Thinking in the Public Sector in Wales”, Lean Enterprise Research Centre report for the Wales Audit Office (Cardiff University, 2010).
Seddon, J., “Failure Demand – from the horse’s mouth”, Customer Strategy 2.1 (Winter 2009), 33-34.
Advice UK, “Interim Report: Radically Rethinking Advice Services in Nottingham” (London: AdviceUK, 2009).
Advice UK, It’s the System, Stupid! Radically Rethinking Advice (London: AdviceUK, 2008).
Seddon, J., Systems Thinking in the Public Sector (Axminster: Triarchy, 2008).
McQuade, D., “Leading Lean Action to Transform Housing Services”, Public Money and Management 28.1 (2008).
Seddon, J. & C. Brand, “Systems Thinking and Public Sector Performance”, Public Money and Management 28.1 (2008).
Pyke, W., “Is performance personal or in the system?”, Management Services 52.4 (Winter 2008), 40-47.
Jackson, M., N. Johnston & J. Seddon, “Evaluating Systems Thinking in Housing”, Journal of the Operational Research Society 59 (2008), 186-197.
Seddon, J. & S. Caulkin, “Systems thinking, lean production and action learning”, Action Learning Research and Practice 4.1 (April 2007), special issue: “Lean Thinking and Action Learning”.
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, A Systematic Approach to Service Improvement Evaluating Systems Thinking in Housing (London: ODPM Publications, 2005).
Seddon, J., Freedom from Command and Control (Buckingham: Vanguard Press, 2003).
Seddon, J., I Want You to Cheat (Buckingham: Vanguard Press, 1992).