About theVanguard Method

About the Vanguard Method.

The Vanguard Method, created by Leading Management Thinker and Occupational Psychologist, Professor John Seddon is now being recognised as the principal method for improvement in service organisations.  Producing fast, effective, tangible and sustainable results.

Applied in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Sweden and South Africa, the Vanguard Method has produced remarkable improvements in a wide range of service organisations, from telecommunications, utilities and financial services organisations to health & care, council services, emergency services and public housing providers.

The Vanguard Method  in the private sector leads to redesigning customer shaped services, enabling better ways for attracting, acquiring, growing and retaining customers today and tomorrow.  Customer centricity is reconceived and operationalised.  Continual innovation is designed in.  Private sector clients have achieved improvements in customer satisfaction, it’s been better for the people that serve customers and the shareholders have seen the benefits of improved profits.

The Vanguard Method in people centred services is the biggest opportunity to significantly reduce costs and, more importantly, to improve people’s lives.  We understand how to design public services that actually work.  As a result costs fall dramatically.  But that’s not all.  The wider consequence of providing services that work is that demand falls.  Not only do you wipe out the strangling effect of high failure demand, you learn that fewer people experience problems.  Happier people, better families, strengthened communities.  Isn’t that what public services ought to be about?

A short bit of history.

The Vanguard Method originated in the 1980s and has been evolving ever since.

During the 1980s John Seddon was engaged in evaluating the failure of large scale programmes of change.  Millions and millions of dollars were being spent on these programmes, with little result.  The problem John learned was that the theory implicit in these programmes was diametrically opposed to the theory of the organisation, so what do you suppose won?

Change programmes were based upon changing the individual people who worked in an organisation.  John knew, if you focussed your efforts on the organisation you’ll have far greater impact.  It quickly became evident that an alternative method for redesigning organisations was required.

John Seddon and the original Vanguard pioneers set out to create a better method for helping service organisations achieve substantial, rapid and innovative change.  They developed the Vanguard Method; a combination of ‘systems theory’ – the design and management of work, and ‘intervention theory’ – how to change it.

Vanguard invented the concept of failure demand when we discovered that the movement of ‘telephone work’ to contact centres from local bank branches in the 1980s caused an explosion in the volumes of demand – the number of phone calls soared.  We found that the rise in call volumes was attributable to the creation of ‘failure demand’, i.e. people ringing back because they did not get their problem solved the first time.  The same phenomenon also occurred in the public sector as local authorities and housing associations moved telephone work into contact centres.  It is also evident today when organisations go ‘Digital by default’ – more phone calls come into contact centres.

To achieve profound change in months, not years, we know that organisations require a profound shift in the design and management of work. It requires reversing current norms and placing the development of workers, individually and collectively, at its heart. If organisations want to get better at what they do, then their people have to be able to learn. Working within a rigid framework that is designed on outdated norms makes it almost impossible for employees to learn.

Maximising the ability to handle variety is central to improving service and reducing costs. The Vanguard approach employs the ingenuity of workers in managing and improving the system. It is intelligent use of intelligent people; it is adaptability designed in, enabling the organisation to respond effectively to customer demands.

Vanguard have worked with a variety of clients in the private, public and third sectors, resulting in dramatic improvements in customer satisfaction, efficiency, revenue and morale.  They achieve profound change in months, not years.  We pride ourselves on the evidence.  A variety of books, articles, academic papers and news items have been written about the successes of the Vanguard Method.  To put it simply, it’s a change programme that works.


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