Month: January 2009

The ‘resource intensity of society’ and the ‘avoidable contact’ target

 John’s excellent article. below  illustrates exactly, what this Blog calls the ‘Resource Intensity of Society’; as John says “Paradoxically, much of the failure demand currently consuming resources in the public sector has been created as a direct consequence of following Cabinet Office and other departmental guidance”

We continue to talk technology in creating our future, but mostly it must, and will be by eliminating failure demand, by doing the right thing right, every time.

This John identifies in his book ‘Systems Thinking in the Public Sector’ and this Blog tries to promulgate.

‘Quality of Life’ can only by improved by improving the ‘quality’ of the goods and services we consume.

This requires a synergy of stakeholder knowledge and skills to enable process learning, which after sensing external signals will liberate the ingenuity that can drive the process in the direction of sustainability.

A journey of continual quality improvement, not a destination, and one that must take account the risks and costs of environmental and social failures as well as the economic ones.

Failure to understand this and the immutability of the ‘One Planet Equation’ has placed us where we are today.

see also



Features: January 30th, 2009
By John Seddon

The Cabinet Office and the Improvement and Development Agency are urging public bodies to identify ‘avoidable contact’ with customers. National Indicator 14 is one of the 198 indicators against which local government will be assessed within the new performance management framework.

The indicator aims to reduce ‘avoidable contact’ between the community and local authorities. The author argues that creating a target to reduce avoidable contact is missing a great opportunity to think creatively about the whole system. Avoidable contact data gives the vital clues to prompt re-thinking about the whole system to achieve significant performance improvement.

Over the last two years we have witnessed the Cabinet Office trying to get to grips with the opportunity for improvement provided by removing ‘avoidable contact’.

Those who have watched the progress of this work will know that the original label was ‘failure demand’ – a concept I first discovered many years ago. Doubtless, the noise created by systems thinkers telling the Cabinet Office they didn’t understand the idea contributed to the label being changed to ‘avoidable contact’, but altering the name does not change the essential problem: the Cabinet Office promulgates an idea it does not understand.

Paradoxically, much of the failure demand currently consuming resources in the public sector has been created as a direct consequence of following Cabinet Office and other departmental guidance. And the guidance associated with ‘avoidable contact’ is no exception: it will only serve to exacerbate the problems. In short, the guidance on avoidable contact is just plain wrong.

The purpose of this article is to explain the concept of failure demand and show how it is possible to act with it in order to achieve significant performance improvement. It is also the intention to persuade the reader why it is necessary to ignore and repudiate the dangerous guidance of the Cabinet Office……………

Continues at

Related links


Putting intellect over instinct.

 The clip below comes from a source that would like to think that the free market is the route to freedom for the ‘common’ man and woman. It is, but only when we have confronted the reality of the ‘One Planet Equation’.

It will shape our future, whether we confront it or not. Confronting it we can liberate the ingenuity of our species constructively and hopefully avoid, pointless conflict over fast depleting, non-renewable resources.

We seem to have an unbounded urge to self-destruct and an inability to put intellect over instinct.


………………..These FUNCTIONALLY illiterate people DO NOT know from where wealth comes, how it is generated and accumulated, nor how it was by our parents and grandparents. Many have never understood that to thrive you must “produce more than you consume” and accumulate savings. This is what leads to rising middle classes and living standards. These truths and virtues are NEVER mentioned in school. People are taught that they can have anything now by borrowing and unwittingly becoming debt slaves of the banking community as the true PRICE (after interest and compounding) of the purchase is NEVER clearly explained to them. They believe wealth, as well as solutions, to their problems come from government, rather than from their own efforts.

People are taught that they can rely on government for health care, food and welfare. They do not realize that government is invested in making them dependants rather than independent. As dependants, the power over their lives comes from their government masters and their crony capitalist partners. As independents, the power rests in their own hands. Let’s take a look at the words of Ayn Rand, as this is where we have arrived TODAY:

“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.
What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”

John Gault/Ayn Rand

A wonderful description of this individual can be found in an essay by Christopher Hedges entitled “ America the Illiterate ” (click on the link to read it and weep). It signals the fall of the America we have known for generations. This person is the SOMETHING FOR NOTHING citizen, and once Obama’s Tax cuts for those who don’t pay taxes are implemented, ‘ America the Illiterate’ will constitute almost 60% of the US population . That is an enormous percentage of the population that will be completely illiterate in everything necessary to make good decisions. I refer to these people as CAPTIVE victims of the government and banking/financial systems. They have been and continue to be the sheep to be fleeced by the elites, public serpents, er … servants and crony capitalists.

Now they will be the instrument of the demise of the private sector as they provide the public servants with the ELECTORAL support to attack and rob the last of the productive and prudent parts of the G7 economies and transfer it to the morally, intellectually and fiscally bankrupt. As every government policy failure appears, public servants will stroke the fear in the ‘something for nothing illiterate’ and use it to nationalize and destroy more and more of the private sector. They will double down on the spending, borrowing, printing and taxing required to pay for the next absurd idea to come out of the G7’s capitals. Look no further than Obama’s “Economic Recovery and Stabilization” stimulus package which spends 12 cents of every dollar on economic stimulus and 88 cents for sustaining and enlarging government spending and programs. A perfect name to DUPE America the Illiterate……………………

complete article at

Canadian bishop challenges the “moral legitimacy” of tar sands production

This Blog tries to avoid a symptoms based approach to solutions but irrespective of Climate Change and morality, Tar sands production cannot solve our problems on the time scale we have. IEA graphs hardly show it on our future oil supply.

My letter in Professional Egineering makes this clear.

PE’s editorial frequently looks at sustainability issues but I note with concern that the article in today’s PE ‘Black treacle turns to Gold’ raises no such issues. Recovering  reserves of oil sands in the context of global warming is at the least contentious, whilst the use of images such as ‘slushes the ore with warm water’ – ‘pumped hundreds of kilometres’ and the ‘addition of Hydrogen’ – creates any number of questions, some briefly alluded to.

  • What is the useful energy gain created in this process?
  • What heats the water – gas – nuclear power?
  • How much water is contaminated in this process, where is it from and where does it go?
  • How do we create the hydrogen and would it not better be used directly in fuel cells etc.
  • How safe is carbon sequestration?

    We need to use the remaining easy oil and gas to create a low carbon future before the adverse energy equation becomes too much of a hill to climb – like trying to escape a black hole. I feel Investing in these schemes is a criminal diversion of resources.

Canadian bishop challenges the “moral legitimacy” of tar sands production Catholic bishop whose diocese extends over the tar sands has posted a scathing pastoral letter, “The Integrity of Creation and the Athabasca Oil Sands.”

The letter by Bishop Luc Bouchard concludes, “even great financial gain does not justify serious harm to the environment,” and “the present pace and scale of development in the Athabasca oil sands cannot be morally justified.” Equally powerful is who the letter is addressed to:

The critical points made in this letter are not directed to the working people of Fort McMurray but to oil company executives in Calgary and Houston, to government leaders in Edmonton and Ottawa, and to the general public whose excessive consumerist lifestyle drives the demand for oil.

We have met the enemy and he is us!

Other than sticking with the euphemism “oil sands” (see “Canada tries to tar-sandbag Obama on climate” the remarkably detailed and heavily footnoted letter is a brilliant piece of work dissecting what has been called the “biggest global warming crime ever seen.”

Bishop Bouchard notes that “The environmental liabilities that result from the various steps in this process are significant and include”:

  • Destruction of the boreal forest eco-system
  • Potential damage to the Athabasca water shed
  • The release of greenhouse gases
  • Heavy consumption of natural gas
  • The creation of toxic tailings ponds

He writes at length on all five, and concludes……………

Complete article at

The resource intensity of society – more absurdity in the stimulus

 Yet again we see the concequences of failing to confront the ‘One Planet Equation’ – of failing to understand that the need to reduce the resource intensity of all we do is paramount. This is especially so at this critical point.

Note that this Blog does not take a political stance.


More Absurdity in the So-Called Stimulus

Easily the biggest problem with the proposed stimulus is that instead of investing in things actually stimulate the economy, liberals are pushing their same tired agenda of bigger government and more centralized control.

Let’s take a moment and examine the broadband provisions in the bill:

$2.8 billion has been earmarked to expand broadband access in rural and underserved communities. Sounds great right? More people will have access to the new information-driven economy and more people will be able to expand their businesses through the web. Except that’s not what is actually going on here.

The money will be doled out through the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service’s Broadband Grant and Loan Program (RUS). As with many Washington-driven grant programs, RUS is rife with inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. It has repeatedly come under fire from both sides of the aisle, including liberals such as former Senator Tom Daschle (SD) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-3rd).

The chief compliant with the program is that, surprise, it doesn’t accomplish what it sets out to. Instead, RUS grants end up “overbuilding” areas that already have existing broadband service. This has two consequences. First, it drives out private industry that is already in the area because they are unable to compete with a government-subsidized program. And second, it actually ends up hurting other rural and underserved areas because broadband providers avoid entering those markets for fear of running into the problem elucidated above.

The big government borrow-and-spend bill is critically flawed because it does not take into account that all it is doing is throwing more taxpayer money at programs that range from simply inefficient to utterly worthless.

The $2.8 billion that is slated to expand an already failing RUS program could quite assuredly be better spent elsewhere.



4 Responses to Change

The pain of job loss is hitting hard and isn’t likely to end soon. Employees who lose jobs face enormous stress; those who keep their jobs often suffer from “survivor sickness” and struggle with the dramatic changes they face.

“One of the most traumatic changes an organization and its people go through is a reorganization paired with layoffs,” says CCL’s Kerry Bunker, author of the new book Responses to Change: Helping People Manage Transition.

In his work with organizations undergoing major transition, including workforce reductions, Bunker has observed four patterns in the way people approach and respond to organizational change. “People react by being entrenched or overwhelmed, becoming posers or learners,” he says. …………….

Continues at

Lateral Thinking, turning a product into a service

In 1999 I wrote to a manufacture of computer systems, founded near us in Blackburn, Lancashire. The Company grew into a large organization in the UK, then failed a few years ago.

This letter provided an opporunity for Time Computers to help reduce the ‘Resource Intensity of Society’ by turning a product into a service. A Unique Selling Point missed.

The product is now available but it still hasn’t been turned into a service.


The Managing Director

Time Computers Ltd


June 26, 1999


Dear Sir,


My experience of running a manufacturing company and interest in business management, systems integration and data supply and management has brought me to a point where I feel there is a need to provide positive assistance to the vast majority of small companies who need help to survive in the face of national and international competition and legislation.


The problem is these people are the ones who need to find the time and the information but feel they can’t.


What is needed is an attractive, dedicated, plug-in device that sits on their desk and boots up and speaks to them in language they understand.


A company such as yours has the opportunity of considerable income and kudos by supplying the device.


The device should be ‘must have’ and reasonable cost. I envisage a reasonable size flat screen device that will display web pages in detail, with integrated processor, USB bus and comms so that there is not a tangle of wires to fall over. It must be just plug-in and go.


Preferably a deal with a telecomm company would allow ISDN access at preferred rates with free Internet access and email.


The same device would obviously be of interest to such people as solicitors, schools etc. Indeed to anyone who needs Internet/Intranet technology to survive but is too busy to learn how to use a normal PC; and that is almost everyone.



Yours faithfully


Derek Deighton

See also


The ‘virtuous circle’ and reductionism

The clip below is part of my June 2005 comment on the UK Northwest ‘Economic Baseline Assessment’  and as I commented towards the end

“My firm feeling after six years is that the Western economies (not just us) are going down the reductionist/compliance route; which is making synergy impossible and innovation and ingenuity unlikely. There is also the real risk that knowledge and skills development will be concentrated in the wrong areas and vital areas missed.”


QED the Credit Crunch



In the Baseline Report only the economic strand of the ‘triple bottom line’  of Sustainable Development is being discussed, this may be possible in a report but it perpetuates the myth that they can be considered separately, although to be fair, challenge 6 in the Report does say they are interlinked. ‘Securing the future’ specifically recommends the use of the SIGMA Guidelines   which binds all the SD strands together.

    The challenges listed are

·         business (professional) services

·         skills gap

·         enterprise gap

·         innovation gap

·         knowledge gap


Professional services are increasingly at the core of the problem surrounding Sustainable Development, as is the tendency of large organisations to use complexity to ‘divide and rule’. The need for a ‘unique selling point (USP)’ leads academics and professionals to sell every ‘tool’ as a solution.


Next the tendency is to enshrine these ‘tools’ in ‘standards’, which in turn become certifiable to create a ‘standards industry’, and work for them. This burdens businesses with ‘appraisal costs’, which make them uncompetitive in world markets.


Far more insidious is the fact that it engenders a compliance culture, where companies live in fear of losing ‘ticks in boxes’ and the other four challenges are thus created.

What is needed is a synergy between all the stakeholders in a organisation to liberate the ingenuity that will drive the ‘virtuous circle’.

If we are to make ‘SD the route for competitiveness’, as was stated in the original Regional Development Stratery, then we have to work to continually improve ‘process design for sustainability’.


We can only do this with a synergy of all the stakeholders involved to pool knowledge and skills; to crosslink and identify and correct deficiencies. Doing this should ‘enable process learning’ to locate the problem areas.


Now we have to take account of external factors before, hopefully, the ‘spark of ingenuity or innovation’ is ignited to move the process in the direction of sustainability. This is conventionally termed ‘quality improvement’


My firm feeling after six years is that the Western economies (not just us) are going down the reductionist/compliance route; which is making synergy impossible and innovation and ingenuity unlikely. There is also the real risk that knowledge and skills development will be concentrated in the wrong areas and vital areas missed.


The most vital area at the moment is research and skills creation in the ‘demand side management of energy’ to mitgate the, now almost unavoidable, crisis coming.

Securing the Future