The disastrous NHS IT project , the great symbol of the pursuit of illusory efficiency (in this case at the cost of £12 billion) began with a meeting in 10 Downing Street in 2002 between Tony Blair, Bill Gates and associated hangers on.
As early as 2004, seven years ago, the systems thinker John Seddon predicted that it would fail.
He now predicts the same for the IT systems being designed at vast expense to deliver the Universal Credit. And for the same reason: these huge IT systems which are supposed to deliver services efficiently are too inflexible. They assume that public services are conveyor belts of standardised people.
Consequently, they rack up the costs because so many cases do not fit the protocols and they bounce around between front and back office, hugely inflating the time and costs involved in dealing with them – or, more usually, failing to deal with them.
This is a prime example of the way that services are becoming far more expensive than they need to be by removing the human ability to deal with complexity and make relationships, the subject of my new book The Human Element.
But we are debating this and related issues at the Royal Society of Arts at 1pm on 3 November in an event called ‘Is there a better kind of efficiency’.
I will be speaking, and nef’s Anna Coote will be in the chair. John Seddon will be there too, and Nesta’s Halima Khan to relate all this to co-production. Hope to see you there!