After yesterday’s post I was thinking about the idea of lean systems (about which John Seddon is a leading exponent). I am not an expert in the design of lean systems but what I understand about it is that it requires the system to be designed from the customer’s point of view. Ideally a system will only produce what the customer demands, and it will do it right first time. This minimises waste. For example, it is better for a car manufacturer to build exactly the cars that customers have ordered rather than produce a huge car park full of cars of all models and colours and then try to find customers for them.
On that basis the proposal for councils to publish a pile of raw data of all payments over £500 is the exact opposite of lean thinking. It is tantamount to the old-style paternalism of local government: here’s the data, get on with it. Council will still receive requests for information as they do now, partly because the public are interested in more than just payments to suppliers and partly because people would rather have the data customised for them by the council. There’s a risk here that councils will have to do the work twice, a waste of resources at a time when they are being urged to reduce their expenditure.