Month: July 2016

The Essential Value and Resource Intensity Impact Assessment – EVIA


It is clear that in an environment where resources are at a premium, or are absolutely constrained, creating other than Essential Value as perceived by a customer or society will lead to the demise of a business at the micro level or a society at the macro level. Recognising here that the availability of a local or global sink to dispose of the non-value byproducts of processes (Failure Demand) may also be constrained.

If resources are constrained, then the amount of Essential Value that can be created will depend on the amount of resources consumed in their creation. The Resource Intensity being the Resource use per unit of Essential Value created or retained.

Whilst this analysis is applicable to business and governance generally there are differences in emphasis and this post is concerned with the widely held view that the systems of governance globally are failing to grasp the situation facing mankind. The falling energy and resource intensity of societies. Coupled with the fact that the human intensity of societies is increasing globally, complicated by skewed age demographics.

Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Convention on Biological Diversity  gives the UNEP definition of an Environmental Impact Assessment.

“Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account interrelated socioeconomic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.

UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers. By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.”

This is fine as it goes but it does not ask “if we have limited resources available, is the proposed project or development adding value to society that will help sustain or improve the Quality of Life of its citizens. Is the project or development adding Essential Value?

For example we can investigate the possible Environmental etc. impacts of a proposed Airport Development in the light of the above and design aircraft to be less carbon intense and generate less noise but it does not ask the question “is unlimited discretionary air travel desirable or even possible in a resource constrained future?

The Essential Value and Resource Intensity Impact Assessment.

It is proposed in other posts here that the the governance of a society should be an in-control improvement circle driven by the creativity and ingenuity liberated by all the stakeholders in society taking into account external environmental, social and economic factors. Political and other agents only have the ability to make process changes through a moderation process requiring the generation of an Essential Value and Resource Intensity Impact Assessment.

It is not suggested that this should be an extensive and complex document requiring the employment of professionals but something that can be deployed at all levels of governance from local to national. The object of the exercise is to make agents making proposals to change processes within governance think objectively about the probable  benefits and demands over time the change would make.

Full EIA’s would still be appropriate for some forms of project or development once that, on a balance of probabilities, it was decided through moderation that they would add Essential Value to society at a Resource Intensity that was sustainable, and preferably decreasing over time through process learning and improvement.

Elements of an EVIA

In a world where resources are unconstrained, businesses and societies can go about creating goods and services which may be effective and efficient or not, try this and that which might or might not satisfy the needs or wants of a tiny minority or everyone. The amount of resources used in so doing are immaterial and the waste generated inconsequential.

In a world where resources, or even one resource or sink is constrained, this not longer is viable. Society then has to identify what it considers the Essential Value needed to ensure a satisfactory Quality of Life for its citizens and how it can maximise the creation and retention of this with the resources available and affordable, creating as little loss in the process as possible.

It must do this knowing

  • Creativity and ingenuity are limited in society
  • Human capital is plentiful
  • People are resourceful, resilient and enterprising
  • The most important forms of self actualization need not be resource intensive.
  • Survival is not compulsory.

Here there is no intention of developing the concept of the EVIA in detail but only in general terms.

Essential Value

As stated above “Essential Value is that needed to ensure a satisfactory Quality of Life for all citizens and in a wider sense, the stakeholders of a society”. In light of this imperative it can be stated, government, its service provision and businesses must

  • Satisfy emotional and spiritual need rather than gratuitous wants
  • Satisfy essential needs in the lower orders of Maslow’s Pyramid
  • Employ people rather than energy
  • Create or use renewable energy and other resources
  • Minimise water use or create the technologies that do
  • Create and deploy climate stabilising and mitigation technologies
  • Be increasingly local
  • Provide a service rather than a product
  • Practice life-cycle stewardship of their resources
  • Manage value rather than cost
  • Be able to operate at continually reducing resource intensity

The EVIA therefore must identify the Essential Value it is seeking to create and/or retain based on the above. Noting and justifying any trade offs required.

As stated, the EVIA is meant to qualitative rather than quantitative but must contain expected outcomes that can later be expressed quantitatively and tracked.

All process outcomes implemented as a result of an EVIA must be so tracked as to allow process learning and improvement or removal.

Resource Intensities

Resource Intensity has to be recognised as the equal of Essential Value in an EVIA as

Any process, product or service created in a resource constrained environment, that is other than Essential Value is total waste, as are the resources consumed; e.g. no matter how efficiently one digs a hole in the wrong place it still doesn’t create any Essential Value.

The First Law of Sustainability states that ‘In a resource constrained environment we cannot create growth faster than we can reduce Resource Intensity (RI)’

These are the cannot’s the Resource Intensity section of an EVIA must consider. We cannot

  • Waste or ineffectively invest resources
  • Freely transport resources or goods
  • Use a linear system of creation, use and disposal
  • Keep creating products and services that allow unlimited forms of self-actualization
  • Invest in inflexible technology, infrastructure and buildings
  • Design for obsolescence
  • Use Energy, non-renewable resources and water  ineffectively

As with the Essential Value section of the EVIA quantifiable outcomes must be identified and tracked for process improvement or elimination.



The Town Paper defines a Charrette

“A charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.

As stated at the beginning of this post the aim of the EVIA is not the creation of excessive bureaucracy, but the effective generation of one might benefit from the Charrette process. Locally this may be self-organised but at regional and national level some element of professional input may prove appropriate.


The Baby and the Essential Value and Resource Intensity Impact Assessment

I wrote in a previous post Rethinking Democracy referenced to the Diagram this diagram.


There is no direct connection between democratic accountability and in-process control. the connection is though a ‘moderator’ and political parties and their agents can only change control factors through an, independently moderated, Essential Value and Resource Intensity impact assessment.”

This is a simple statement to make and contains many issues in its formulation and execution, but it is easy to illustrate the concept of an ‘Essential Value and Resource Intensity Impact Assessment’ without recourse to the many analysis and evaluation tools available to specialists.

You are a couple who have created a system for yourselves that satisfies most levels of Maslow’s Pyramid to some extent but then you find that a happy event is due in a few months. You have of course an amount of money coming into your system that is supplying you with a certain amount of energy and other resources. (of course being part of a larger system other resources may be available, from parents or elsewhere)

However, as soon as you are aware of the imminent arrival of another human soul in your midst the average Resource Intensity of your life as individuals falls. (especially if resources available fall because one of you might have to give up work).

What do you do then? Well, formally or informally, you do an ‘Essential Value and Resource Intensity Impact Assessment’. Your system must work to identify, maximise, defend, retain and equitably distribute, over time, the Essential Value needed for its prosperity and growth.

What is the Essential Value in your system? What can you dispense with in the different levels of Maslow’s Pyramid? How can you defend it by ensuring resources are continuously available and retained thorough reducing losses from the your system over time?

How can you expand the Essential Value available to your system and distribute it equitably, recognising the extra resources that an infant and young adult will require.

If resources remain constrained or fall the only way the Essential Value created can be increased or maintained is by reducing it’s Resource Intensity, the Resource used per unit of Essential Value created. It being axiomatic that in a resource constrained system ‘Essential Value can only grow at the rate its Resource Intensity is reduced.

In an agreed formal format, the ‘Essential Value and Resource Intensity Impact Assessment‘, this is exactly what a political agent most submit for consideration by moderation before a policy change is made to the democratic process.

  • By defining the Essential Value that is hoped will be created or retained.
  • By considering how it can be defended and equitably distributed over time.
  • By consideration of the resource use impact on the system and how this can be reduced over time in terms of its Resource Intensity.

One implemented sufficient time must then be allowed to elapse to enable process learning and improvement.

Quality in the One Planet World


 All around us we are bombarded with messages telling us that we need to change, that the Earth is warming, that oil is peaking or we are in an power crisis. The messages are insistent and shrill but diverse and incoherent and all about our symptoms rather than the addiction we suffer, the hugely ineffective use of the resources and sinks that our only planet, the Earth, provides for us. As a result we are either paralysed into inaction or taking action that is neither systemic nor joined-up, to use a much hackneyed political expression.

Clearly the Earth as a ‘system’ is dynamic and complex and any attempt to describe it quantitatively and accurately is unlikely to lead to any clearer picture of useful action. What we need is a ‘mind model’, something that is powerful and evocative enough to provoke the right questions of societies, communities and organisations.A Mind Model 

‘A conceptual model of understanding, that once created, gives us the power to extract more information from it, than went into creating it.’ Such a conceptual, or mind model is the One Planet Equation.

The One Planet Equation

 We often are told we are enjoying a three planet lifestyle and this tells us that what we are doing is clearly not a sustainable state of affairs, but it is not clear from this what we need to do. We have in fact only ‘One Planet’ so the left hand side of our equation in a ‘resource constrained’ environment is fixed at 1.

The right hand side is made up of the population, their consumption of goods and services, and a factor which balances the equation. P x C x RI

There are clearly many interactions taking place here and there are inequities in resource distribution among individuals and societies; also the starting point assumes the footprint is no larger than the planet, however, a simple analysis shows us exactly what we need to do and gives us a paradigm in which we can form the correct questions to ask of ourselves, our institutions and our organisations.

We also express the population, consumption and resource factor, or intensity, aggregated as 1 lot of population and Consumption with a Resource Intensity of 1.

So at our starting point we have 1 = P x C x RI or 1 = 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 and as we move forward from this point, the 1 planet remains the same so the right hand product always has to equal one. The only way this can happen in a resourced constrained environment is if the Resource Intensity, (RI) is never more than 1/PC.

Simple compound interest does the rest and we can quickly see that if population stays the same and consumption grows at 5% for 40 years 1/PC is approximately 1/7 and if population grows at the predicted rate and consumption grew at 10% then 1/PC would have to be no greater than 1/70.

In round terms we would need to reduce Resource Intensity by a factor of between 10 and 100 by 2050. We can call this process dematerialisation. This can also be expressed as the ‘first law of sustainability’ that in a resource constrained environment, goods and services can only grow at the rate at which they can be dematerialised

Resource Intensities

 Whilst the above analysis is explicit in what we need to achieve, it will be useful if we can apportion Resource Intensities, within societies, communities and organisations.

A useful division includes

  • The Built Environment
  • Governance
  • Security
  • Mobility
  • Fulfillment
  • Learning
  • Failure Demand

It is clear from this list that they all overlap, which highlights the need to take a systems based view.

Intensity and Value Added

In this analysis there are areas that are beyond its scope, as the process with the least Resource Intensity is the one that doesn’t exist, and only society, communities, organisations and individuals can decide which are ‘essential’ and add value and which should be eliminated. For example, if a society considers unlimited, discretionary air travel adds value, then businesses will provide it. Whether this is a viable business model in a resource constrained future is a separate issue.

Loss and Genichi Taguchi

Once we have decided whether a process is essential within the bounds of our notion of added value, we have to decide if it is the right process to achieve the desired end and that it is carried out, without loss, correctly every time. That is, we have to be effective, by doing the right thing, right and then efficient, by doing it right every time.

Genichi Taguchi inspirationally made the connection that processes without loss were of perfect ‘quality’ and conversely, that less than perfect quality created a ‘loss to society’. It is also important to note that on a resource constrained planet, environmental and social losses can be as much, and perhaps more important than conventional economic ones.

In terms of this article, that loss results in an increase in the process ‘resource intensity’.

Intensity of Failure Demand

“Failure Demand’ is caused by a failure to do something, or do something right for the customer and ‘Value Demand’ – is what the system exists to provide”, – John Seddon. It is evident that such failure demand within systems will increase their Resource Intensity.

In the list above ‘failure demand’ is shown separately for emphasis but is, in reality, incorporated in the Resource Intensity resulting from the creation, use and disposal of the other categories. The Resource Intensity of Learning (RIoL) for example.

Continual Improvement

We have in the past thought that we can treat losses in processes as separate and that quality was a function within an organisation, focused on the customer, rather than that which

“Maximises the Essential Value added to and retained by society resulting  from the creation, use and disposal of products and services”

This must necessarily involve all an organisation’s stakeholders. It should also be stated, relating back, that it is society that decides what ‘adds value’ within its existent paradigm.

Losses in processes and systems can be environmental, social and economic and are best minimised by seeing the goal of sustainability as a journey of integrated, continual, quality improvement.

Creativity and Ingenuity

Shewhart created his circle of improvement, Plan, Do, Check, Act and it has stood the test of time but it doesn’t explicitly show the need for the creativity and ingenuity required to drive, integrated continual improvement, towards system sustainability.

A Virtuous Circle that, using ‘in process control’ and a synergy of the entire organisation’s stakeholders and their combined knowledge and skills will enable process learning and after sensing and absorbing the external signals will liberate the creativity and  ingenuity within to drive the process design in the direction of sustainability. As the process becomes more sustainable the losses are by definition minimised, reducing the need for appraisal costs and eliminating the costs and risks of internal and most importantly, external failures. With minimised costs and no external failures the profitability, public perception and value added to society are maximised.


The Right Questions

We have reached a point in our evolution as societies where innovation will shortly transition from being driven by technology and will by driven by resource constraints. It important that as societies, communities and organisations we ask the right questions based on the tenets that

  • our future is resource constrained
  • humans are creative and enterprising

These two tenets will ensure that as we transition into our resource constrained future, some organisations will disappear and be replaced; others, with exceptional strategic leadership and management, might survive and grow.

The task is simple, if not easy to accomplish, and again can by reduced to two key questions

  • Is our business model relevant to such a future?
  • Does our leadership and management, enable the liberation of the creativity required to continually reduce the resource intensity of the goods and services we produce, consume and dispose of?

This will need the most massive effort of ‘quality improvement’ the world has yet seen.


The message is clear; we have to change, but how? Our symptoms are plain for all to see but our addiction, the vast and hugely ineffective deployment of resources to create, use and dispose of the products and services we consume, remains untreated. Calling this addiction, Affluenza may be a representation of the truth in the developed Western Economies but it does not make clear the path we must follow to effect a cure.

Simply exhorting people to consume less is ineffective as is calling certain Jobs, Products and services, Green. There are many ‘essential’ jobs, products and services that cannot be considered in this light, many in the public sector, but their resource intensity is crucial in any attempt to balance the One Planet Equation. In the context of this balancing we can say that

‘There are no such things as ‘Green’ jobs, products or services, only those that increase or reduce the ‘Resource Intensity of Society’

This also highlights the absurdity of the Reductionist Paradigm, where Vauxhall Motors, in an ISO14001 video trumpeted energy savings in the order of £1m with a payback of 10 months, when GM should have been asking

“How do we evolve our business model and strategy to continually reduce the ‘resource intensity of mobility?”

Finally, the One Planet Equation is immutable, it drives our futures whether we choose to ignore it or not, and we have no option but to enter the future, either by design or negligence. Better, as far as possible by design.


‘Stand and Deliver’, A Design for Successful Government – Ed Straw

‘Stand and Deliver, A Design for Successful Government’ is Ed Straw’s attempt, from past experience and unimpeachable credentials, to analyse what is wrong with the democratic process and how current defects can be corrected. Details of his book and some reviews can be found here.

I recommend anyone with the coherence, nay, the survival of the UK at heart to read Ed’s book.

Whilst my credentials aren’t as extensive as Ed’s I have been writing on this problem for 16 years at least. Starting during the time I was the Chair of the Chartered Quality Institute’s Integrated Management Special Interest Group around the turn  of the Millennium.

I have not yet fully read Stand and Deliver and this is not a review of Ed’s work or analysis but only to say I largely agree with it, miss an index at the end and mention two issues that are missing as far as I can tell.

The missing index does not allow me to determine whether ‘Resources’ are mentioned and the text I have covered at this point does not seem to stress any critical energy and resource imperative although climate change is mentioned. My researches, without links here, lead me to the conclusion that these, together with how we respond to them, will determine our future. I put our Democratic Process at the top of a list of issues that will disadvantage the West and the UK at least eleven years ago in 2005.

Putting energy and physical resource constraints and the abundance of human resources at the focus of the analysis gives clarity to the issues in, what I label the creation and retention of Essential Value and the reduction in Failure Demand incurred whilst doing it.

Ed’s thoughts are clearly a valuable contribution to doing this.

Ed has also, probably sensibly, omitted diagrams from his book, using only one on Alignment. However, I have always felt there is a need for a clear diagram of the elements needed and their general flow. I obviously like the one I present below, modified from my organisational Virtuous Circle, but I do not claim its perfection. I’m sure though it could be modified to fit Ed’s Treaty for Government within the boxes.



Sole Aim of a Strategic and Sustainable System of Governance

The aim is to rethink democracy post Brexit in light of the reality that resources will be constrained (for whatever reason). The fact that we have to rethink democracy is now being openly spoken of as in the Guardian today.

Here, three factors are defined, without elaboration, and three relationships established.

Essential Value

Is the value that a society considers critical to maintaining a satisfactory Quality of Life for all its citizens.

Failure Demand

Is the opportunity cost in human resources, physical resources and energy to a society, in not creating essential value.

Resource Intensity

Is the resource used per person per unit of Essential Value created or retained.

Relationship 1

In a resource constrained environment a society has to maximise the creation and retention of Essential Value over time at minimum Resource Intensity.

Relationship 2

In a resource constrained environment a society can only grow its economy to the extent that it can reduce resource intensity per unit of Essential Value created or retained over time.

Relationship 3

In a resource constrained environment the Failure Cost incurred in created and retaining other than Essential Value is infinite.

From the Definitions and relationships above what can we say is the sole aim of a strategic and sustainable system of governance for the UK in a future of resource constraints.

It is to

“identify, maximise and defend the Essential Value to society created and retained over time and to distribute it equitably at continually reducing Resource Intensity and Failure demand”

From Risk to Opportunity Post Brexit

The World Economic Forum released a report in 2011 ‘WEF_Outlook_Global_Agenda_2011‘ that looked at six different themes.

• The challenge of a shifting balance of power
• The challenge of natural resource scarcity
• The challenge of inclusive growth and equality
• The challenge of economic uncertainty
• The challenge of fragile states and new conflicts
• The challenge of global risk management

This is a wide ranging Report that this Blog will come back to again and again, but it includes this comment that is critical to the situation we find ourselves in, as SystemUK, and Globally

“There are commonalities between all sorts of
disparate risks: the BP Gulf disaster, the terrorism
incident in Germany, Wikileaks, the euro zone crisis.
The interconnectedness is that they are all out of the
flow of day-to-day events. They are low probability
but high consequence events.”

Axel P. Lehmann, Member, Group Executive
Committee and Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich
Financial Services, Switzerland; Member of the Global
Agenda Council on Systemic Financial Risk

There was a time when organisations were increasingly aware of the work of thinkers in ‘Quality’ such as Deming, Juran and Crosby but those were simpler days and we have moved on to a confusing, reductionist world of CSR, Environment, H&S and Sustainability.

These ‘Quality Gurus’ understood the core concepts of Organisational Leadership’ and the costs of less than perfect ‘Quality’ of organisational and product/service performance , of not doing the right thing right, every time.The Big Q

Central to this was understanding the risks and costs of external Failure Demand arising from actions that ignore the consequences of the economic, environmental or social downside of decisions. The News International disaster is a current example.

Unless we rediscover these eternal truths there is little possibility we can create ‘Sustainable’ organisations and societies, as Quality and Sustainability are just the two faces of the same coin and ‘Sustainable Development’ is the journey of continual improvement towards perfect ‘Quality’



There is a piece in today’s Guardian by Linda Colley titles ‘It is easy to despair of our leaders, but Brexit has exposed Britain’s rotten core’ which says ‘The political class is not covering itself in glory, but our ills go deeper than mere individuals to governing structures.’

This is a post on this Blog from October 2011 and in light of the Brexit and the article in the Guardian I feel now is the time to revisit this opportunity for the UK.

The UK Public Accounts Committee has recently carried out a consultation exercise on ‘Strategic Thinking in Government’. A link to the submission made by me can be found below.


Background to the consultation

“Reasons for the inquiry

 In October 2010 PASC published a report, ‘Who does UK National Strategy?’, which concluded: The answer we received to the question, “Who does UK Grand Strategy?” is: no-one … As things stand there is little idea of what the UK’s national interest is, and therefore what our strategic purpose should be.


 The global system is increasingly multipolar, with power shifting East, potentially diffusing to international institutions and to different non-state actors (like civil society, business, high-net worth individuals, cities and regions, sovereign wealth funds, Diaspora groups, international multi-stakeholder fora).

 The development in social media that harnesses the ‘wisdom of crowds’, cyber-advances, and other technological progress is transforming the context of policy making. This challenges the capacity and nature of government but also provides opportunities for both stronger engagements with the public and clearer national leadership.

 The complex and unpredictable nature of many global issues, which stem from multiple and interrelated problems, require systems-based and evidence-based analyses if emergent strategy is to be effective and efficient. Within this context, many countries (including the UK) face implicit, diffuse and unpredictable risks, rather than explicit and identifiable threats.

 In a previous report, we identified a deficit of strategic capacity across Government. In its initial inquiry, the Committee found “little evidence of sustained strategic thinking or a clear mechanism for analysis and assessment. This leads to a culture of fire-fighting rather than long-term planning”.

 We wish to assess what progress has been made since then.

 Response to the PASC Consultation on Strategic Thinking in Government v2