Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 39–55 | Cite as

The Vanguard Method as Applied to the Design and Management of English and Welsh Children’s Services Departments

  • Joanne Gibson
  • Brendan O’DonovanEmail author
Original Paper


This paper follows several case studies where the children’s services departments of English and Welsh local authorities have fundamentally redesigned the way they worked following the application of the Vanguard Method (Seddon, Systems thinking in the public sector, 2008), a particular form of systems thinking. After first studying the way the children’s social care service worked as a system, the social workers in these authorities were able to demonstrate the way that government-prescribed IT and performance measures were restricting the way they could do what was shown to matter to the children in their care. The paper will document how, after being granted ministerial permission to suspend the use of their old performance measures and IT, a new set of operating principles was developed and employed. The redesigned system has shown encouraging early results. Evidence from these case studies (following Yin 2009) is presented in the form of recorded operational improvements and statements from participants. The paper will be of topical relevance to all involved in social care in the light of the government-commissioned Munro Review (Munro, The Munro Review of child protection: final report, 2011). The issues discussed will also be germane to the many other public sector partner agencies involved in the delivery of social care services (e.g. police, health, housing associations).


Munro Review Systems thinking Vanguard Method Children’s services Social work 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vanguard ConsultingBuckinghamUK

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