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    We submitted a Petition to the Scottish Parliament asking them to consider the assumptions that underpin the methods the Government uses and compare them with existing research. And then open out a debate as to the underpinning assumptions across the rest of Scottish Society

    The petition was presented by Tony Miller, Mike McCarron and Andy Lippock. We got a good hearing. The next stage was to send the petition out to a range of Government offices. Not one department answered the fundamental question. We had the opportunity to reply. The Petitions Committee’s next step was to agree to a round table discussion – which was scheduled for 13th November ’12. They also asked for a report providing the research that supports our petition. We were allocated just one seat at these discussions, Gordon Hall, which, considering the breadth of thinking he was being asked to represent was somewhat daunting.  However he found that our MSPs were, on the whole, on our side; they do recognise that there is great scope for us moving forward. The Civil Servants, however, being in the administrative system, found the concepts being presented much more challenging. The outcome of the round table discussion was that the “guests” i.e. the non MSPs at the meeting  – were to meet to work up a proposal as to how we might address the whole (of Scotland.) This meeting took place on 6th December in Edinburgh. Again only one representative of the ULN was allowed to be present. The meeting was not successful.

    We have now been referred to the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. They were looking for “innovative” methods. We, of course, are saying that change happens at the thinking rather than the doing level. Still we had to have a submission into Parliament by 25th January, which we did – see below. Our fear is that we have been shunted into a cul-de-sac.

    So we following up the initiative by holding a Dialogue Evening on 28th January. A Successful evening in which over 30 attended. The write up of the dialogue evening is recorded on this site under Structure/Strategy.

    These are the links through which you can view the transcript of the round table discussion  pages 851-867 and the video of the meeting – the first 45 minutes.

    See below for the detail of the petition and the various reports and replies that have been made available to the Petitions Committee.

    The Petition

    We submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament which was heard on 17th April 2012. The gist of our petition was that change starts at the thinking level. We are asking the Government to identify the thinking that underpins present public sector management and compare that with modern fully researched concepts. We were represented by Tony Miller, Mike McCarron and Andy Lippock. There was a general feeling that we got a very good reception.

    Our Petition number is PE1423.

    This is the link to The Scottish Government web site concerning this petition .

    The Petitions Committee wrote to the Scottish Government, COSLA, trade unions, a selection of local authorities and NHS boards and the Improvement Service. Their replies are below. We then got a chance to respond to the replies – see below. The next stage was for the Committee to review the replies and decide what should be the next course of action, they met on 26th June and decided to hold a round table discussion which happened on 13th November ’12.

    Public Sector reply to the petition and our response

    The following is a list of the responses we received from the various government bodies – plus our reply to these responses. We have provided a link that will take you to the full text of each reply.  They indicated that considerable effort is being invested in moving the public sector forward, however none actually answered the question as to what were the assumptions that underpinned the methods they were using. Our concern is that they are layering new methods on top of traditional compliance systems (more commonly known as Command and Control) and the end result is that little progress is achieved.

    NHS Lanarkshire – K A Small – Director of Human Resources

    Glasgow City Council – Sharon McKechnie – Organisational Development Manager

    The Government – Joyce Clemie – Human Resource and Organisational Development

    The Improvement Service – Colin Mair – CEO

    NHS Tayside – George Dochery – Director of Human Resource

    NHS Ayrshire and Arran – Patricia Leiser, Director of Oragnisational and Human Resource Development

    Fife Council – Paul Vaughan – Senior Manager – Policy and Communications


    The next stage in the process was for the Petitions Committee intention to hold round table discussions. This took place on 13th November 2012. Only one place was allocated for a representative of the Unreasonable Learners.

     In preparation for these discussions we were asked to provide 5 examples of the research that would support our petition. This was duly submitted. We believed that they were looking for research along the lines of The Christie Commission; but our view is that this commission only identified problems and opportunities for improvement. It did not address the theoretical assumptions that underpin the methods being used by Government. The outcome would be that it initiated action from the same management paradigm that caused the problems. The report we submitted summarised the research on underpinning assumptions that has been on-going for the last 60+ years.

    The report was titled Research Its full name was “Existing Research and How it Could be Used.” We also provided  a Power Point slide emphasising The need to go back to how our organisations think

    Those attending the meeting on the 13th November were:

    MSPs:  David Stewart (Lab- H&I) (Convenor); Chic Brodie (SNP- South of Scotland); Adam Ingram (SNP – Carrick & Doon); Angus McDonald (SNP Falkirk) Anne McTaggart (Lab – Glasgow) Jackson Carlaw (Con – West of Scotland) John Wilson (SNP Central Scotland)

    Civil Servants and others  (Guests) – Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser (Bargaining and Campaigns), UNISON; Jim Mather, Chairman, Gael Ltd; Dot McLaughlin, OD Programme Manager, Change and Development Team, Improvement Service; Dr Nicola Richards, Deputy Director, Organisational Development, Leadership and Learning; Janet Whitley, Deputy Director, Workforce Engagement and Development, Scottish Government; Professor Richard Kerley, Professor (emeritus) of Management at Queen Margaret University. Gordon Hall of The Unreasonable Learners

    The outcome of the roundtable discussions were that the guests should meet to develop a proposal as to how to move forward. That meeting took take place on 6th December in Edinburgh. Unfortunately the meeting was restricted to have one Unreasonable Learners representative , Gordon Hall.

    This meeting was not successful – and we have  been directed to the Local Government and Regeneration committee. It is looking for innovative “methods” while we are stressing that change happens at the thinking level. We have howver, submitted the following report to this committee on 25th January.

    Report to LG&R Committee



    The Various ReportsPE1423/A

    From K A Small – Director of Human Resources – NHS Lanarkshire

    I write on behalf of NHS Lanarkshire to provide a response to Petition 1423 set out in the Public Petitions Committee letter of 1st May 2012.

    NHS Lanarkshire has been asked – What is our response to what the Petition seeks?

    NHS Lanarkshire places great emphasis on harnessing the contribution which staff make in the delivery of the highest quality care and services to the people of Lanarkshire.

    The NHS in Scotland has an established statutory Staff Governance Standard which forms the foundation and a framework for our approach – with a focus and clear emphasis on staff engagement and involvement, staff influence on planning and decision making, effective staff communication, continuous investment in staff training and development and treating staff fairly and consistently.

    NHS Lanarkshire recognises that our staff are our most valuable resource and through our approach to ongoing delivery against the Staff Governance Standard we continuously seek to encourage, develop, train, lead, support and reward staff to exploit their maximum potential to the benefit of the public, patients, services and colleagues.

    Whilst the work of the NHS has benefited significantly from developments in technology it remains the case that effective and high quality health improvement and health care relies heavily on the skills, values, motivation and contribution of staff.

    To this end NHS Lanarkshire has developed and implemented a Learning Strategy in support of our Health Strategy (A Healthier Future ). The Learning Strategy recognises the importance of direct linkage between what we seek and plan to do to develop and improve health and health services in Lanarkshire and the priority which we give to associated support, arrangements and investment for the training and development of staff.

    A key component of our Learning Strategy is the emphasis placed on regular Personal Development Planning and Review (PDPR) for every member of staff. An explicit linkage is made between PDPR and NHS Lanarkshire’s annual priorities, the context of personal performance, ambition and commitment and the outcome / outputs from PDPR are recorded and are used to inform the NHS Lanarkshire training and development priorities.

    This structured approach provides a level of organisational confidence that we are having regular and appropriately focused engagement with staff which links review of current and future performance with investment in training and development.

    I would be happy to provide further information on this matter as deemed helpful.
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    Glasgow City Council

    Our people are key to the delivery of services to the citizens of Glasgow and improving skills and capability is a core element of our strategy. During these challenging times where resources are shrinking and demand for improved services is increasing we are committed to taking an inclusive approach to public service delivery by being less bureaucratic and really encouraging ideas from all individuals within the organisation.

    Our Shaping the Future Strategy aims to promote innovation and enable staff to work collectively across traditional service boundaries. It encourages staff to be empowered and have permission to make real improvement changes. Although our organisation is complex with a diverse range of responsibilities we believe that it is possible to set a cultural tone that will permeate through to the frontline and encourage all employees to challenge the status quo.

    As part of the programme the Chief Executive, Executive Directors and Deputy Directors have explored and analysed the external and internal environment. This began with a meeting with leading Economist John McLaren, from the Centre for Public Policy for Regions, on the financial challenges facing the public sector over the next few years. This analysis has enabled the senior teams to consider the possible consequences for the city and to plan on how to mitigate the risks while maximising the many opportunities identified.

    This was followed by the Shaping the Future Seminar which brought together all senior managers from across the council. The Chief Executive outlined the work already undertaken and shared his thoughts on our strategic opportunities. This group was then tasked with suggesting and discussing any innovative ideas they had for transforming the organisation. They were advised to think big, be innovative and not just settle for austerity.

    This model is now being rolled out across the organisation with the intention that representative groups of staff from all grades will be meeting to discuss their ideas. There will also be smaller working groups of front line staff meeting to explore their ideas further.

    This approach to ideas management should generate a range of ideas from large corporate initiatives that will form part of the Service Reform Programme for 2012/2013 and beyond to front line operational initiatives that staff will be empowered to implement. There will be central governance in place to track progress.

    All of the Shaping the Future Strategy is underpinned by a robust Learning and Development Strategy where all staff have the opportunity to build their personal capability by working on live projects that will have a positive impact back at their work place. A brief overview of our programmes as follows:

    . Shaping the Future Master Classes – A range of Master Classes where we work with partners from the Private, Public and Voluntary Sector, these focus on three key topics:

    o Understanding and Influencing Organisational Culture

    o The Power of Collaborative Leadership

    o Building Personal Resilience . Leading with Impact is our leadership programme for senior managers where they work across traditional boundaries on a live project that is sponsored by a member of the Corporate Management Team. Once completed leaders become part of the Leadership Consultancy Pool and will have opportunities to work on Service Reform Projects with colleagues from across the organisation.

    . Delivering Tomorrow’s Council is a programme for middle managers where they focus on learning new skills but also sharing their experience with colleagues from across the organisation. The key focus is on Managing Change, Continuous Improvement and Building a Learning Culture.

    . The First Line Management Course offers foundation level management skills to junior managers and tasks them with coming up with a continuous improvement opportunity within their work place and working with their teams to deliver the desired outcome.

    . Our Employee Development Framework offers on line tailored learning opportunities for all staff and internal and external e learning courses. This is in addition to the technical training required for each role.

    All of the learning and development activity within Glasgow City Council is tracked via the Personal Development Plan which is completed in full annually with at least one review per year. There was a full review of the process in 2011 following feedback from the staff survey.

    There are several other initiatives in place that I believe supports the view of the petitioner. The Chief Executive has an on line facility for any employee to put forward ideas they may have for the organisation. Employees also have the opportunity to engage with him directly and ask any additional information on initiatives that they are interested in.

    The Chief Executive and members of the Corporate Management Team host regular events where staff from the Delivering Tomorrow’s Council Programme are invited to meet with them and can ask them any questions they may have about the organisation or put forward their views and ideas. This has had a positive response from employees and there are plans to consider extending this further to include other programmes.

    The Chief Executive also believes that the organisation should celebrate success and give staff recognition for their hard work so every year he hosts the Flourish Awards which are in house and celebrate the work of teams that have delivered exceptional projects or initiatives for the citizens of Glasgow. In addition there are Staff Awards that also recognise the achievements of individuals throughout the organisation.

    All of this work has been undertaken to demonstrate that the Chief Executive has real belief in his work force and that every individual has an opportunity to think differently and bring real and lasting innovation to the organisation.

    As with any large and complex transformation programme it will take us time to affect a cultural shift throughout the organisation. We understand that communication and feedback will be critical in keeping staff motivated and involved and will work hard to overcome these barriers.

    What the petition is calling for is fundamental to the modernisation of Scotland’s public sector management. Glasgow City Council fully supports direct engagement with staff to harness their innovation while moving away from the traditional workings of a bureaucratic organisation.

    We are keen not only to transform our own organisation but to also take opportunities to work in collaboration and share experiences with others. We have actively engaged with Police, Fire Service, Local Authorities and the Scottish Government. Renewing Scotland’s Public Services will require all organisations not to transform in isolation but to modernise leadership across Scotland as a whole.
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    The Government

    Your ref: PE1423 21 May 2012

    On behalf of the Scottish Government, please find the response to the Petition PE1423 as set out in Public Petitions Committee letter of 1 May 2012.

    Scottish Government was asked – what is your response to what the petition seeks?

    The Scottish Government agrees with the petition about the profound importance of the effective engagement of employees in creating effective services.

    The Scottish Government’s Business Strategy sets out our developmental opportunities as an organisation recognising that it is our responsibility as civil servants to support delivery of the Government’s Purpose -to create a more successful country with an opportunity for all of Scotland to flourish.

    As a high-performing organisation, we drive for continuous improvement through high levels of staff engagement by making the experience of working with the Scottish Government clear: with transparency and consistent approaches, manageable: set within the right framework for resources and meaningful: connecting to the motivation and aspirations of our people.

    Recognising the critical role our people play in delivering the Government’s Purpose, we engaged extensively with staff in developing our People Strategy. This Strategy sets out the ways of working we need now and in the future to ensure we have the right people in the right place at the right time and also create the culture and environment to enable individuals to thrive, develop, get opportunities and enjoy their work.

    Delivering our aspirations in the People Strategy will be achieved through ongoing engagement with staff at both a local level in making this real. for individuals and teams and in the delivery of corporate activity which covers areas including how we support line managers, manage our talent, improve our performance management and work across the public and voluntary sectors to develop our collaborative leadership capacity.

    We have established a People Board comprising senior managers and Non-Executive Directors to bring coherence, discipline and pace to our plans for workforce development, and for the continuing development of the organisation as an ambitious, flexible, creative whole.

    Scottish Government was asked – how does what the petition is calling for fit in with the work being undertaken in relation to Renewing Scotland.s Public Services?

    The Scottish Government.s response to the Christie Commission set out in “Renewing Scotland.s Public Services” in September 2011, identified Workforce and Leadership as one of four priority pillars which are vital to delivering the reform of public services we seek. Our approach recognises that reform must be an inclusive and collaborative endeavour involving the workforce at all levels. The expertise, energy and creativity of the public sector workforce will help to shape our evolving programme of public service renewal and improvement. We want all public servants to have the opportunity to have a say in how their organisations operate and be encouraged to contribute ideas about how improvements might be made. We are committed to enhancing the capability of the workforce and will continue to invest in workforce engagement and development and to support leadership collaborations across public service organisations. Growing mutual understanding and shared purpose breaks down barriers between organisations and frees the frontline to respond directly to the needs of individual service users.

    Increasingly, we will look to leaders of Community Planning Partnerships across Scotland to disrespect boundaries between public services and focus on the achievement of shared outcomes and cross-sectoral workforce development strategies. We will encourage effective management and strong employee engagement at every level in every workplace. By working in this way we aim to maximise productivity, raise job satisfaction and promote improved well-being across the public services workforce.

    Already the Scottish Leaders Forum of public service chief executives have committed to:

    . make workforce engagement and development a core priority. A sub-group of chief executives have set out priorities for action and released resources to take this forward; and

    . develop the fundamental principles of local leadership to be exercised by Community Planning Partnerships.

    Our future priorities include:

    . emphasising that Community Planning Partnerships have a key role both in maximising the shared capacity of the public service workforce and in maintaining positive engagement with the frontline staff who deliver public services to people and communities across Scotland day and night;

    . sharing the core learning and principles of the UK Employee Engagement Taskforce through targeted events in Scotland.

    I hope this information is helpful. Yours sincerely

    Mrs J M Clemie

    Head of HR Business Partner Team

    Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh EH11 3XD
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    The Improvement Service

     Improvement Service Letter of 19 May 2012

    The Improvement Service is happy to respond to the petition and the issues it raises, specifically to the concerns about individual as opposed to organisational learning; the need to take a whole system approach to the intractable, “wicked” issues facing Scotland; and the most beneficial models of leadership in the post Christie context.

     The Christie Commission states that there is a need for a “whole system focus on outcomes” and we are clear that this requires our organisations to respond and relate differently in order to deliver on this agenda. We cannot “do” outcomes to people, we require to find new ways of working that include collaboration, empowerment of both staff across public services and communities, engaging much more directly with their aspirations and implementing new leadership thinking and paradigms.

     In order to deliver on this agenda, we have been working with public service partners to create more organisational development and whole systems approaches aimed at promoting more appropriate and effective leadership. A multi-agency team including Scottish Government, NHS, and the Improvement Service, designed a leadership programme for 64 senior leaders across public services which sought to tackle the presuppositions we have about the nature of the challenges we face and the type of leadership which is needed to bring about improvement. The concept of wicked issues was introduced to the group and a process of collaborative inquiry was strongly featured, supported by the introduction to, and the use of, soft systems methodology. The purpose of this was to invite leaders to reflect on their own practice and to challenge their assumptions regarding the most suitable leadership models in the present environment. This included the need for collaborative responses, the use of listening and inquiry skills, and the need to hear all of the voices who have issues and concerns and a stake in improving the lives of communities. We were clear that we cannot apply “managerial” responses to such problems and we challenged participants about the way they thought about and applied their own leadership. We encouraged leaders to take risks, experiment, talk to different people, to use rich pictures, cause and effect diagrams and to formulate and ask powerful questions.

     Within this programme we looked specifically at command and control as a response to a critical situation or immediate crisis (for example a fire); management as a response to a tame problem (applying a known process); and leadership as a response to wicked issues.

     We continue to work collaboratively encouraging leaders to cross organisational boundaries, facilitating alternative interventions, such as action learning and seeking to build the leadership and organisational development capacity to support the outcomes, prevention, early intervention and co-production agenda inScotland.

     We would be happy to discuss this further and provide any other help required.

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    NHS Tayside

    From NHS Tayside – George Doherty Director of Human Resources


    Petition by The Unreasonable Learners, calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to review the considerable research into the thinking that underpins the approach to managing the contribution from staff that has been undertaken over the past decades and compare this with the assumptions that underpins existing management practice; and subsequently to use the findings to ensure that it harnesses the talent of its staff.

    NHS Tayside was asked -What is your response to what the petition seeks?

    As an NHS Scotland organisation and governed by the terms of the statutory Staff Governance Standard, NHS Tayside is firmly committed to ensuring the talents of its employees are brought to bear in delivering the highest possible quality of care and service to the people of Tayside and beyond.

    To this end, NHS Tayside has comprehensive Workforce and Staff Development strategies, plans and polices, and regularly assesses our performance against these at Board level in public session through our Staff Governance Committee.

    Additionally all staff working within NHS Tayside – clinical and non-clinical -are required to agree annual personal development plans which frame key learning and link clearly with NHS Tayside’s corporate objectives, reflecting best practice.

    This approach offers both transparency and confidence that the learning agenda is at the heart of our organisation’s and staff practice.
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    Ayrshire and Arran

    Petition on behalf of The Unreasonable Learners, calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to review the considerable research into the thinking that underpins the approach to managing the contribution from staff that has been undertaken over the past decades and compare this with the assumptions that underpins existing management practice; and subsequently to use the findings to ensure that it harnesses the talent of its staff.

    NHS Ayrshire & Arran has been asked to respond to the question:

    • What is your response to what the petition seeks?

    NHS Ayrshire & Arran strongly supports the view that staff are our most important resource in order to ensure delivery of high quality care and services to the people of Ayrshire & Arran.

    Under the statutory Staff Governance Standard all staff are entitled to be:
    • well informed;
    • appropriately trained;
    • involved in decisions which affect them;
    • treated fairly and consistently; and
    • provided with an improved and safe working environment.

    NHS Ayrshire & Arran has a Staff Governance Committee reporting to the NHS Board, whose remit is to ensure that a culture of support for the above Standard exists for all staff within NHS Ayrshire and Arran, and that this is built on the principles of partnership. Under the ‘appropriately trained’ Standard, staff have the opportunity to participate in their personal and professional development, which is tailored to their individual needs and those of the organisation.

    To this end, the Committee monitors the outcomes of an action plan aimed at embedding and sustaining qualitative Personal Development Reviews for all staff within the organisation.

    As part of our Learning Strategy, there are a number of initiatives on-going in the organisation, including leadership development, learning sets, coaching and mentoring. Staff needs are identified through Personal Development Plans, and additional diagnostic work can also be carried out to identify what development an individual would benefit from.

    NHS Ayrshire & Arran is, therefore, committed to developing and supporting the future potential of our staff in order to best meet our future service challenges and priorities in a planned and sustainable way.

    Patricia Leiser
    Director of Organisation & Human Resource Development
    NHS Ayrshire & Arran

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    Fife Council


    Fife Council considers that the considerable research on managing the contribution of staff already impacts on the approaches taken within the council for devolved service delivery and decision taking, and leadership and management development. Recent examples from Fife in developing these approaches include:

    Area Management and Committees

    Area Services Managers ensure the delivery of responsive and high quality services that meet the needs of customers and communities through:
    • coordinating a wide range of Fife Council services at an area level to meet area priorities;
    • developing close ties between local and Fife-wide services to ensure greater coordination of service delivery; and
    • effective communication between strategic and operational elements of the Council.

    In addition, these managers carry out the Lead Officer role for the Area Committees. These committees are important for engaging with local communities, devolving decision making and allowing elected members to ensure local services meet local needs and priorities

    Process Excellence

    The Council has adopted a Process Excellence framework. The approach incorporates ‘Lean’ as the key tool for interventional improvement and for establishing a colleague-led culture of continuous improvement. For each identified process, a three-component approach is being used:

    • Focused Improvement Projects Implementing an improvement project, potentially including a Lean event, to drive a step-change in the performance of the process.
    • Team-level Continuous Improvement Once a process is improved, the team operating the process is empowered and provided with the capability to continue improving the process (continuous improvement culture) through embedding the Lean work-system.
    • Strategic Ownership and Control In tandem with the team training, the improved process is controlled and ongoing change managed through appointing a Process Owner who leads a governance forum consisting of representatives of all functions within the end-to-end process.

    Leadership and Management Development

    The council has recently agreed a revised leadership and management development framework. The Framework is built around best practice and includes access to the following development opportunities:

    • Mentoring
    • Defined skills programme
    • Cross organisational / partner project placements
    • CMI or equivalent approved management qualifications
    • Opportunities for self-assessment & feedback
    • Access to self-directed learning resources
    • Development Centres
    • External collaborative working
    • External development programmes

    In addition, the framework will continue investment in core and key skills and introduce a formal Council wide talent management approach.

    Collaborative Leadership

    The Fife Partnership launched Fife’s first Post Graduate Certificate in Collaborative Leadership in March 2011, providing a unique and challenging approach to leadership development across public sector bodies in Fife. Collaboration has been the focus of every aspect of the course. Participants attend as members of collaborative teams rather than as individuals, with their team projects being integrated into the learning process. Successful completion will gain participants 60 credit points at Masters Level from the University of St Andrews School of Management.

    The results being achieved by course participants are second to none and provide striking evidence of their commitment to this programme. The course has been conceived, designed and delivered through a collaboration between St Andrews University, NHS Fife and Fife Council. The initial programme will provide valuable feedback for the future development of the course and its role in improving the practice of collaboration and collaborative leadership in Fife.

    I hope these examples prove informative on how recent management research and good practice is being incorporated into the day to day operations of the council.

    Yours sincerely

    Paul Vaughan
    Senior Manager
    (Policy & Communications)

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    The Unreasonable Learners Response to the Replies to the above Petition


    Opportunity: We believe that The Petitions Committee have a significant opportunity to take a massively influential role in accelerating the organisational learning of the Scottish Parliament, Government and Society at large (For a definition of organisational learning see note 1)


    We would hope that this reply to the responses from the public sector bodies will encourage the committee to continue with this petition, especially through the suggested round table discussions. The discussions would be around the challenges ahead and how they might be addressed.


    The Petition

    Our starting point is to recognise the broad based intention of moving Government and the Public sector forward; plus the considerable effort being invested in achieving the desired goals.


    Despite this significant effort the public sector is still constrained by the pervading paradigm of management, which is characterised by a system of compliance (often referred to as a “Command and Control” culture). This paradigm has limits. It has targets that encourage the distortion of data; it has regulations, audit and inspection regimes that become the customer rather than the service user; there is undue growth in bureaucracy with its inherent waste; we measure the wrong things and it has engendered a risk averse culture. (see note 2 – The Continuing Problems)


    Furthermore we are failing to learn from successful projects (see note 3 – A Lack of Learning)


    We cannot solve our problems from the same level of thinking that created them; and the sign of madness is doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results” Albert Einstein


    The issue that this petition wishes to put on the table is that expressed by Einstein and the vast array of enlightened “management” thinkers over the past decades. That if we want to secure change
    we do need to identify and challenge the very basis of the thinking within our organisations. Our argument is that we have not made the expected progress because we have tended to layer new approaches on top of old thinking. Furthermore traditional thinking has acted as a barrier to an array of excellent intentions. Our call is to move our focus from the application of methods or tools, and onto the use of a cyclical learning discipline that includes the identification of the theoretical assumptions, or thinking, that underpins practice. (see note 4  – The Learning Track)


    When we apply new thinking, in say a particular project area, there is no doubt gains have been secured. There is a significant improvement in performance as well as a considerable uplift in the morale of the people involved. (see note 5 – It Works)


    The responses from the seven public service organisations reflected laudable energy being invested in the challenge of moving forward. The Improvement Service talked about the need for new leadership thinking and paradigms. Glasgow City Council talked about the opportunities to think differently and enabling staff to be innovative in defeating bureaucracy. Fife Council talked about lean and process improvement projects. And there is considerable effort being invested in the development of staff.


    However none of the respondents addressed the fundamental request of the petition which was to identifying the underlying assumptions of their organisation.  No one identified and challenged the assumptions that underpin our current compliance culture (Command and Control) that is so damaging to the morale and creativity of front line staff.


    The whole basis of this petition is Einstein’s recognition that if the underlying assumptions of the organisation are not challenged and remain the same, then we fail to learn and the outcomes will be largely the same.


    As an aside, the answer is not in the development of people. Front line personnel do not need to be told that they are intrinsically motivated to do a good job, nor that the design of the system in which they work has a massive impact in their ability to provide a quality service to their the customers.


    Another crucial consideration is the measures the organisation uses to monitor its operation. There is little doubt that what passes over the CEOs desk has a major influence on how the organisation behaves.


    At the hearing of the petition several important questions were raised. They included:-

    • if Government was to move away from “targets” how would it manage and maintain control of the public purse;
    • if we encouraged learning through experimentation how would we deal with public perception when experiments “fail;”
    •  how do we maintain long term continuity,
    •  how do we enable the electorate to take their share of responsibility for the limits of public expenditure.

    All these questions relate to the holistic challenge of how our society thinks – a major challenge in the way ahead.


    We are asking the Petitions Committee to start the ball rolling in addressing a massive paradigm shift across our society.


    But we have technology on our side. The modern internet and social media are powerful tools that can involve our citizens. Furthermore there are many forward thinking groups in our society – the Unreasonable Learners being just one – who are committed to Scotland’s future


    Recommendations and Proposals:

    Opportunity – we believe that the Petitions Committee has a significant opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to Scottish Society. The following are some suggestions as to how we might make progress in this regard.


    The Starting Point – Round Table Discussions – we very much liked the proposition of having open round table discussions with MSPs and invited guests to explore the opportunities and challenges of creating an organisational learning culture based on new ways of thinking. The following might be some of the considerations that would come out of these discussions.


    Research into the Actual Theories in Use with the Public Sector – A project could be initiated to deduce the actual theories in use in the Public Sector. The information would be secured through consideration of the methods that are employed and the measurements that are taken. The project would also gain an understanding through open and extensive conversations with front line staff and the service users. The findings would be compared with recent researched findings about motivation and systems. It would also explore the thinking that has underpinned the highly successful projects.


    Monitoring Data – As mentioned above the data collected by an organisation has a major impact on how it is managed. Furthermore the data collected from a basis of new thinking is very different from that gathered within a Command and Control organisation. A study could be conducted to define the data that would be collected in the future and how it would be utilised to more effectively manage the public purse.


    Facilitating National Debates – Again as mentioned above there will be a need to involve citizens in the paradigm shift demanded by recent research. How this might be achieved could be a major part of the round table discussions but it is envisaged that modern technology and social media would play a major role. A study could be initiated as to how this might be achieved.




    Gordon Hall

    For The Unreasonable Learners.





    Note 1 – Organisational Learning

    In the past we have had a mindset that learning is wholly in the domain of the individual. However it is now recognised that an organisation, a community and society has a learning ability. An organisation is a collection of individuals plus the connections between the individuals. The term organisational learning refers to the continual improvement of the design of the connections between the individuals.


    Note 2 – Examples of the Continuing Problems

    The   Control of Drugs

    Cost   £3.4 billion

    The   Death of Alison HumeA Mother   and Lawyer
    The above three   examples demonstrate the problem.

    1. The first diagram is a systems   diagram of the process to change a £4.50 three pin socket in a council house.   It portrays how the continual attempts to control all possibilities have   allowed bureaucracy to run wild.
    2. There is a growing recognition   that efforts to prevent drug harms over the past 40 years by the “command and   control” approach of blanket prohibition of certain substances has fallen far   short of expectations in Scotland and globally. High levels of health and   social harms exist in Scotland with socioeconomic costs of some £3.4 billion   annually. At the same time a completely different approach is taken regarding   alcohol and tobacco. This split in policy is an example of reductionist   thinking. There is now a need for society-wide discussion about  a more integrated approach to the   prevention of substance abuse including an evaluation of the potential   benefits in Scotland of some measures of decriminalisation in the short-term   as is increasingly the case in many other countries.
    3. The third picture is of Alison   Hume (A Lawyer) who fell down a mine shaft in Ayrshire. The front line Fire   and Rescue personnel were stopped from rescuing Alison until the established   procedure could be adhered to. She was eventually recovered through a copy   book rescue, except that it took 7 hours instead of 3, and Alison died on the   way to hospital through a heart attack brought on by hypothermia. The   regulations became the customer rather than the service user.




    Note 3 – Lack of Learning

         The graph portrays the   improvement achieved on the justice system project in Grampian. It was   facilitated by Vanguard Consulting. It was able to reduce the time taken from   when a person is charged to the conclusion of the court case. The measureable   outcome was a reduction from 245 days to 33 days. The unmeasurable progress   was the significant uplift in morale as front line staff felt that they were   actually doing the job they were paid for.

    This project utilised different underpinning assumptions to achieve its results. Unfortunately the long term outcome was that lessons were not learnt, the status quo thinking was not challenged and the results were, with time, eroded back the original outcomes.

    Jim Duffy when he was the improvement officer with NHS Tayside oversaw a project with the Community Physiotherapy department. By studying the system and involving front line staff the team were able to reduce waiting times from 98 days to just 5, eliminate the problems of “patient not attending” (DNAs) and reduce overall demand by 45% – and of course give the patient a much better service. The success of this project was down to applying different thinking. The NHS as a whole did not learn from this example.

    Note 4 – A Learning Track

    Learning throughout the   centuries has been through a cyclical process of postulating a theory,   conducting experiments and then checking the validity of the original theory,   namely “Scientific Method.” It has been the basis of the remarkable progress   in engineering and medicine over the past century.  The call over the past decades – from Einstein,   to McGregor, to Kuhn, to Deming, to Dan Pink has been for “Management” to   adopt a similar cyclical discipline to the development of their profession.

    Dr Tony Miller in representing the above cyclical learning track called for us to move our focus from methods to theories. We should also recognise that this is not an academic process but a daily process of studying outcomes relative to the above cyclical process – action research.

    He also emphasised that he was not promoting specific theories. One set of theories may be applicable to one situation while another might be more appropriate in other circumstances. He simply asked that when a method is proposed then the underpinning theories are fully discussable.


    Note 5 – It Works

    While Dr Miller was at pains to point out there is no one set of applicable theories, modern research has identified two prominent theories that conflict with those in use in the public sector. They are:

    1. That we are intrinsically motivated – the vast majority of us come to work wanting to do a good job. (according to Fredrick Hetzberg “if you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do”)  If we apply extrinsic motivators such as bonuses, targets, punishments, etc. we actually demotivate our staff. We damage the inherent intrinsic motivation of the individual. As this may be counterintuitive to our understanding, it is worth viewing Dan Pink’s explanation of the research in this excellent 11 minute animate video on the RSA site.
    2. That it is the design of the system in which people are asked to work that is the major determinant of outcomes. It is not the diligence and competence of the individual. Systems thinkers estimate that 80-95% of the outcomes are determined by the design of the system. There is a short 5 minute video from Vanguard which shows a young sales manager going through the learning process of coming to terms with this recognition. – see

    Over the past 20 years there have been numerous successful projects and interventions based on the above two assumptions. Basically they focus on the design of the system and then involve those at the work face and the customer to secure a more streamlined and cost effective design. They have achieved remarkable results.

    A prominent consultancy working in this area at present is Vanguard Consulting. The Petition’s committee are already in possession of a report on the many Vanguard projects that have secure remarkable improvements.

    Back to list of replies


    Local Government and Regeneration

    A response for a call for evidence for
    Mapping an “Innovative” way forward

    This submission follows on from the Petition PE1423 submitted on behalf of the Unreasonable Learners.

    The theme of the petition explored Albert Einstein’s age old statement:
    “We cannot solve our problems from the same level of thinking that created them.”
    And the follow on which says that it is madness to believe that new methods and strategies based on the same thinking will provide different results.

    We are fully supportive of the findings of the Christie” report, but we are aware that the report did not address the thinking that underpinned the problems identified. The danger is that considerable effort will be invested in addressing the issues raised, but if that effort is based on the original thinking very little progress will be achieved.

    The Petition also underlined that many of the systems in place within Government and Local Authorities have been designed based on fundamentally flawed assumptions. This is especially the case in context of enabling the intrinsic motivation of staff and in the design of systems in which people work.

    These flawed assumptions have been highlighted by the many many eminent “management” gurus over the past 50+ years.

    Douglas McGregor in his seminal book “The Human Side of Enterprise,” written in 1960, likened the situation to an engineering designing an aqueduct on the assumption that water flows up hill, or designing a fire extinguisher filled with kerosene. We do not tolerate these types of flaws in our physical world, so why do we accept flawed thinking in our social world?

    The application of flawed thinking is extremely wasteful and is costing the Scottish Government and the tax payer an extraordinary amount of money. It is also destroying the willing commitment of public sector staff – all to the detriment of the service user.

    The above point has been supported by the papers submitted through the Petition process; in particular by the paper “Existing Research and How We Can Use it”

    Call for Evidence – Methods
    The call for evidence is focused on “Innovative Methods.” In considering the innovative methods that are being submitted, we ask that the Committee consider in depth the thinking that underpins the successful method. For Example:

    Employee Ownership: – We are aware of the submissions by David Erdal and Jacqui Mitchell in context of organisations that are structured round employee ownership. This model has been proven to be highly successful, The John Lewis Partnership being the most prominent. This model is based on a belief in staff, in their ability to appreciate their whole business and their part of it. “Management” report to the front line staff and are therefore acutely aware of their views and contributions. This, of course, is a complete re-thinking of current “government” thinking where regulations are written remote from the work face, and full compliance is demanded. Little time is invested in listening to staff. Rather than a fundamental belief in staff, as in the employee ownership model, current practice believes that staff cannot be trusted and have to be directed and controlled. They have to be “motivated” to do a god job through such means as targets, appraisal and performance management strategies. This contrast in perception of staff was expanded by McGregor in 1960 when he contrasted X&Y Theories of Management. For some yet to be fathomed reason, in context of management, we are inordinately slow to learn from research and the successful application of the findings.

    Systems Thinking: – Within the original petition case studies were submitted by Andy Lippock (ref. PE 1423B) highlighting the success of the application of Systems Thinking, especially as developed by the Vanguard Consultancy.

    The essence of systems thinking is that outcomes are predominately a function of the design of the system in which staff are being asked to work. In fact the research has identified that at least 90% of the outcome is dependent on the design of the system, with less than 10% down to the diligence and skill of the individual. The implication is that when seeking improvement the primary focus should be in the design of the system.

    Not one of the respondents to the original petition had appreciated this fact, which, by the way, has been known since the Second World War. They all believed that improvement would be secured through better trained people. The evidence points to the recognition that The Government is yet to appreciate the implications of all the research into systems thinking that has taken place over the past 50+ years.

    If the committee, The Parliament and The Government wish to “Regenerate” public services then they have to start at the thinking level – as per Einstein quotation. A focus on methods without appreciating the underpinning thinking is – in Einstein’s words – Madness.

    A Way Forward
    The Public Petitions Committee asked that the Unreasonable Learners join with those members of the Civil Service who attended the Round Table Discussions to develop a strategy to address how we think. To devise a way forward that would address how the whole of Scotland thinks.

    A meeting was held on the 6th December which proved inconclusive. The Unreasonable Learners are now facilitating a “Dialogue Evening” on 28th January involving 30+ forward thinkers from across Scotland. The aim is to start the process of devising this holistic strategy. All members of the committee would be very welcome to participate in this process. We will, naturally, be reporting back when the strategy has been finalised.

    Back to the conclusion of the Summary

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