#JohnSeddon has developed a simple approach to service design, which he and his followers call "systems thinking", much to the annoyance of everyone else in the systems thinking world. He has also developed a critique of what he calls The Regime, including some very pertinent observations about the failings of the target culture.
Seddon adopts a highly political language in attacking The Regime, and this hasn't always been helpful in-the-large for tackling the problems of the UK public sector. In my previous post Easier Seddon Done, I noted his complaint that when he wrote a letter to representatives of the regime explaining their errors, he got a “snotty, curt reply”. (Well, who could have predicted this?) Today I found another example of this kind of thing in a heated debate started by @leanblog, The One Where John Seddon Might Be Lying (or Has His Facts Very Very Wrong) (October 2010). In his contribution to the debate, Bill S points to the Vanguard Newsletter Feb 2010 where Seddon admits to harrassing the head of HMRC.
The great systems thinker C. West Churchman identified politics as one of the enemies of the systems approach. Seddon's campaigning approach has resulted in a considerable politicization of the "systems thinking" label. Seddon himself certainly understands the POSIWID principle (in his books he refers to "de facto purpose") so he must take some responsibility for this.
Some additional points about lenscraft
The first point about lenscraft is the principle that no single lens is adequate to solve difficult problems. That principle applies both to the UK government's obsession with targets (which it is thankfully now backing away from) and to Seddon's simple service design alternative. It is when the claims of a given lens are overstated that politicization occurs.
The second point about lenscraft is that any lens can be useful sometimes. There may well be specific contexts where targets are valuable (although I can't think of any right now), and there are probably situations where Seddon's way of looking at the world is useful.
The third point about lenscraft is that any lens needs to be used reflectively and critically. In other words, we need to pay attention to the nature of our own intervention in the situation, and the limitations of the lenses we are using, rather than imagine we have some privileged observation platform. For my part, I am particularly wary of the claim that a given lens is "integral" or for that matter "holistic", because such words imply a kind of cognitive closure, as well as inviting arguments with proponents of rival lenses.
The question this discussion raises for me is what kind of practical systems work is viable (both politically and financially) in an ecosystem that is dominated by such claims and counter-claims.
Easier Seddon Done (June 2008)
Changing How We Think (May 2010)
Demanding Change: Lenscraft