John Seddon

John Seddon is a British occupational psychologist and author, specialising in the service industry. He is the managing director of Vanguard, a consultancy company he formed in 1985 and the inventor of 'The Vanguard Method'. Vanguard currently operates in eleven countries. Seddon is a Visiting Professor at Buckingham University Business School.

John Seddon is an occupational psychologist, researcher, professor, management thinker and leading global authority on change, specialising in the service industry. His prominence grew following attacks on current British management thinking including: the belief in economies of scale, quality standards such as ISO9000 [1] and much of public sector reform including 'deliverology', the use of targets, inspection and centralised control of local services. The Daily Telegraph described him as a "reluctant management guru", with a background in occupational psychology.[2]

He is critical of target-based management, and of basing decisions on economies of scale, rather than "economies of flow".[3]

John Seddon has published six books. In his 2008 book, Systems Thinking in the Public Sector, he provided a criticism of the UK Government reform programme and advocated its replacement by systems thinking.[4] His book The Whitehall Effect was published on the 5th of November 2014. In it he articulates a more productive role for government in public-sector reform.[5]

Seddon won the first Management Innovation Prize for 'Reinventing Leadership' in October 2010.[6]


John Seddon earned a BSc (Hons) in Psychology with the University of Wales in 1974, and graduated with a MSc in occupational psychology from the University of London in 1977.

Debate about local government management

His positions prompted discussion on the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) website with David Walker, Managing Director, Communications & Reporting, at the Audit Commission.[7]

The debate was also covered in newspapers including The Times, which featured it on 31 July 2009.[8]


Seddon wrote an open letter dated 31 January 2011[9] calling for the Rt. Hon Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud, the ministers responsible for Welfare Reform, to "halt the current programme of reorganisation associated with the Single Universal Credit and embark on a better course". In the letter, he says "This campaign is not about the concept of the Single Universal Credit as such. It is about the design and implementation of its delivery". He says the weakness in the proposals for online and call centre delivery of the new Single Universal Credit is the "continuing unquestioning faith in economies of scale". A petition was started on the Government e-petitions site [10] as part of the campaign on 18 August 2011. The petition calls for Iain Duncan Smith to rethink the centralised IT-dominated service design of Universal Credit.


  1. Teaming Up With Local Teens, June 18, 2005, The Guardian. Accessed 3 August 2007.
  2. "Bootcamp tactics won’t win the battle", Stefan Stern, Daily Telegraph, 16 February 2006.
  3. Freedom from Command and Control: a better way to make the work work, John Seddon (2003), Vanguard Press. (ISBN 0-9546183-0-0)
  4. Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: Case Studies 'Delivering Public Services that Work (Volume 1)' Edited by Peter Middleton Foreword by John Seddon. (2010-03-09). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  6. "Announcing the M-Prize Winners: Audacity, Imagination, Experimentation", Polly LeBare, November 22, 2010 Management Innovation eXchange (MIX)
  7. Blackman, David (2009-07-22). "Walker v Seddon - the debate goes on". Local Government Chronicle.
  8. Ford, Emily (2009-07-31). "'New way' thinker John Seddon aims at council targets". The Times.
  10. Rethink the centralised, IT- dominated service design for Universal Credit - e-petitions. (2012-08-18). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
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