Professor John Seddon

John SeddonJohn Seddon is an occupational psychologist and management thinker credited with translating the Toyota Production System (TPS) for service organisations.

John began his career researching the reasons for failures of major change programmes. This led him to W. Edwards Deming, whom John credits with introducing him to the importance of understanding and managing organisations as systems and Taiichi Ohno who showed the practicality and power of doing so in manufacturing. The economic performance of the TPS is legendary. John has translated the principles behind the TPS for service organisations. In service organisations change can be much faster than in manufacturing, but managers firstly have to be prepared to change the way they think.

In his time John has been a leading critic of management fads, in particular ISO 9000, which he describes as being based on bad theory. Most of his criticisms of management and their fads are based on his view that it is management thinking that needs to change. John has been an ardent critic of the government’s approach to public sector reform, in particular the adverse consequences of targets and specifications. These, he says, are components of the ‘command and control’ philosophy which, he argues, is a failing management paradigm. John proposes instead managers learn to adopt a systems perspective.

John is a visiting professor at the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, University of Cardiff. He is an entertaining, controversial and informed speaker. John’s latest book (“Freedom from Command and Control”) and other publications are available from the Vanguard web site:, or direct from Vanguard, Villiers House, 1, Nelson Street, Buckingham MK18 1BU.


Systems Thinking in the Public Sector

A pioneer of systems thinking in practice, and innovator of the Vanguard Method, John Seddon will talk about his latest book which exposes the failure of targets and other specifications to deliver improvements in public services. As well as acidic criticism of the regime, his book illustrates how systems thinking achieves everything the ministers want but relies entirely on ignoring ministerial edicts.