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Telling consultants how to consult – will the Education Committee ever stop?

Fresh from the challenging and controversial speech from Ed Straw on HQS Wellington, the Education Committee is seeking to stir further productive controversy....

The next evening seminar from the Education Committee ('educating the profession of management consulting') is generously by DAC Beachcroft, on 15 June 2015.

The subject: “Systems thinking and the organisation of organisations: why are consultants behind the curve?”

Benjamin Taylor says:

“Bringing new thinking into an organisation, especially challenging thinking, opens you up to the risk of rejection – especially as a consultant. Too many immature but enthusiastic ‘systems thinkers’, as with any new approach, run in and actually do more damage to themselves and the ‘cause’. There are a whole set of skills around introducing new thinking which involve both maturity in presenting just the right level of challenge – and self-management of one’s own emotional states when you desperately want to get people on the right track – and you can see them going wrong!”

Patrick Hoverstadt, Chair of Systems and Cybernetics in Organisations (who are jointly hosting the event) will be joined by Angus Jenkinson (the inventor of customer journey maps and personas – see ), and the chair of the committee Benjamin Taylor cheekily taking to the panel, kindly chaired by our own Dr Simon Davey.

Expect an evening of robust debate on the merits of systems thinking in consultancy, some illumination about the subjects, conversation, conviviality, and with wine and excellent finger food in good supply! £25+VAT, so £30 cash on the door - open to all so spread the word! Members can also book and pay at or email

If you're interested in the subject, you might also like to attend the SCiO open day that preceeds it, 9.30-5pm, at BT Centre near St Paul's. Only £10 for the day and four world-class systems thinkers, including a reprise of Ed Straw... book at

The Education Supper – Ed Straw offends Etonians and inspires the hope of a more rational system of government

You can see from the picture to the right the level of animation Ed Straw brought to the education supper on HQS Wellington on 14 May. The questions he was answering included:

  • What can a management consultant teach a government minister?
  • Does organisational analysis hold the key to world class government?
  • What does root cause analysis say about the election of 2010?
  • What does the culture of airline Qantas tell us about Health and Safety regimes?
  • Should the method of investigating air crashes be applied to failures in government – from banking to deaths in custody?

Ed Straw, a management consultant for over 30 years, who has spent a lifetime in and around government, becoming more and more frustrated by the political process, the bureaucracy, and by the performance of governments, woke up one day and started analysing government as an organisation – bigger, more complicated, and more important than most, but an organisation nonetheless.

Applying lessons learned from several business schools, a multitude of clients, and the wisdom of colleagues, this consultant concluded that nothing will improve until we grasp that the present system as a whole is itself what stands in the way of successful government.

This particular consultant went on and concluded that the underlying reason why governments fail is that they have never been designed for their modern remit. Being a diligent consultant he then produced a comprehensive solution: a Treaty For Government.

Ed began the speech with “something doesn’t add up” about government – something we can all be comfortable complaining about:

“All the time, despite these failures, public sector reform rumbles on. Or does it – apart from its high costs? The NHS has been under perpetual reform since 1981, every govt has reformed it on average every 4 years. And yet it still isn’t finally reformed.

“I remember a management guru saying if you find that you keep cutting costs, and keep restructuring, and nothing improves then it’s time to look elsewhere for a solution:  at the business model.

“There were three fundamental reviews of legal aid in 13 years under New Labour – guess what happened after each one? Expenditure went up. This government sensibly went after it -but in isolation. Family law legal aid squeezed, but then we find for big inquests the legal aid bill is £30k whilst the Police spend £1.2m on lawyers.

“Hang on. Something’s not right…”

He then went on to sketch out the failure – in mutual, muted success – of confrontational politics:

“I used to believe in politics as a force for beneficial change. I’ve seen great liberating change in the provision of free universal contraception, legalization of ‘homosexual acts by consenting adults’, abortion. And politics used to be about huge choices – socialism vs capitalism, social justice vs inherited justice. But that’s done – it’s a scoring draw – regulated market capitalism and social justice.”

The prescriptions in the book – signed copies of which given to all guests include, critically, the creation of a feedback loop for government:

“There are three separations of powers now in the constitutions of all democratic countries – Judiciary, Executive and the Legislature. We need a fourth – the Resulture.”

The evening produced some enjoyable controversy and learned and challenging questions from participants, as well as the savouring of some good food and excellent wine, furnished of course by our very own wine club. The HQS Wellington proved a pleasant and fitting venue – with no reported seasickness – and will play host to the Education Supper in each of the next two years. Dates in diaries please!

Ed ended on a rallying cry:

“You’ll find in the book that, I hope, this all fits together – alongside existing parts – to produce a coherent system. There’s no risk in doing it, only the prospect of vast improvement. So, if you want to sort out government….. don’t go to a politician…… come to the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants.

“If we do this, there within our grasp is a world where:

·         many more right decisions are made

·         high standard public services are the norm

·         taxes are fair and a lot lower, or the savings spent well

·         wealth and income are proportionate

·         our everyday lives get easier

·         people feel part of decisions

·         power is redistributed

·         and a world without sleaze, ineffectual politics, those mind numbing vacuous adversarial tv interviews!!”

See or for more!

Look out for video and possibly, we're told, instagram of the Education Supper coming soon as well!






Liveryman Benjamin Taylor