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Postcards from Scotland

Biography of John Seddon and other participants

Professor John Seddon is an occupational psychologist and management thinker credited with translating the Toyota Production System (TPS) for service organisations.

John began his career researching the reasons for failures of major change programmes. This led him to W. Edwards Deming, who taught him the importance of understanding and managing organisations as systems and Taiichi Ohno who showed the practicality and power of doing so in manufacturing. The economic performance of the TPS is legendary.

The principles behind the TPS are counter-intuitive to the command-and-control mindset but in service organisations change is much faster than in manufacturing; provided managers are prepared to change the way they think.

In his time John has been a leading critic of management fads, in particular ISO 9000, which he describes as being based on bad theory. Most of his criticisms of management and their fads are based on his view that it is management thinking that needs to change. John has been an ardent critic of the government’s approach to public sector reform, in particular the adverse consequences of targets and specifications. These, he says, are components of the command-and-control philosophy which, he argues, is a failing management paradigm. John proposes instead managers learn to adopt a systems perspective.

John is a visiting professor at the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, University of Cardiff. He is an entertaining, controversial and informed speaker. John’s latest book (“Systems Thinking in the Public Sector”) and other publications are available from the Vanguard web site: www.systemsthinking.co.uk, or direct from Vanguard, Villiers House, 1, Nelson Street, Buckingham MK18 1BU.

Taroub Zahran, Chief Executive, Glasgow Housing Association

Taroub joined GHA in November 2002 from the Greater Glasgow Primary Care NHS Trust where she was Head of Organisational Development. She worked for the health service in Glasgow for the previous ten years in a range of roles. Taroub took over as Chief Executive on 27 July 2007.

Zoe van Zwanenberg

Zoe is an experienced executive and non-executive director, consultant and teacher in the field of leadership and organisational development. She has worked in a wide range of organisations from the NHS to the Railways and was until recently the Chief Executive of the Scottish Leadership Foundation. Zoe is the Chair of Scottish Ballet and a Director of Scottish Youth Dance. She is also works as the Project Co-ordinator at the Centre for Confidence and Well-being on a part time basis.

Jim Mather MSP: Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism

Born in March 1947, Jim Mather MSP was educated at Paisley Grammar, Greenock High School and Glasgow University, where he studied accountancy, law and economics. In 1964, he became an apprentice chartered accountant, going on to work in the computer industry, latterly running his own business, before entering politics.

From 2000 until 2004, he was the party's National Treasurer. At the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, Jim was elected as a Highlands and Islands MSP. As Shadow Enterprise and Economy Minister, he was a member of the SNP's Shadow Cabinet. Mr Mather became the MSP for Argyll and Bute at the 2007 Scottish Parliament election and was appointed Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism. He has been involved in the development and promotion of the Economic Case for Independence and is a Director of Business for Scotland. He is married with two children.

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