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Treat service provision like a developing brain – be reasonable

Amal Lad
November 23, 2020

There’s an inner child wanting to learn and develop better ways of being and better ways of working,

As the parent of a young child, I am learning about child development so that I can help my son learn and maybe even learn from him! As I do so, it strikes me that the parallels between the development of the brain and SIAM (or implementation of a service) are, well, striking. The resemblances are obvious, and there are many of them, but as I progress through the book, I will undoubtedly draw on some less obvious ones. For now, I focus on the expectations we set, and those we don’t. The latter leads to some dangerous expectations from the child/service that materialize based on our own desires.

Many of the things I mention below have been covered before, but we still get them wrong. I think they are worthy of a revisit, but by using an analogy I’ve not considered before.

Before I begin, let me provide a synopsis of some similarities between children and services, along with some key considerations:

  • Like children, most people in service strive to do their best
  • We must not treat deliverables during transition as one-off transition deliverables and expect perfection from the start, but rather a living, developing artefact for how people should work together
  • We must start with a blueprint and then allow room for improvements and customizations
  • We must treat stumbles/failures/errors as a learning tool rather than a reason to give up or reprimand.

Let me set the scene. Think of the brain as an organization’s ecosystem. The different components of the brain can be the different groups (internal and external), and services (business and IT), and the neurons can be the operating model, relationships, contracts, enabling technology, and governance. It’s easy to get carried away with the parallels and I’ll stop there, but you get the picture. Just as the different parts of the brain need to work together (integrate), with neurons firing to ensure peak performance – suppliers, internal groups, IT, etc. need to work together (integrate) to achieve the desired outcomes.

As with the developing brain that is being wired and rewired as it matures, a transformed ecosystem and operating model or new external service will mature, and things will be improved and optimized through an iterative process. Just as we don’t expect a child to be able to ride a bike without training wheels at the first attempt or be able to speak/communicate coherently as soon as they are born, when implementing a new op model or service, it is unreasonable to think there won’t be bumps along the way – conflicts and disagreements between parties involved during transition and during operation, processes not being operated optimally and tech failing. It will happen, but the upside is that we are not (and must not be) held captive by what goes on early in the development of our brain or implementation of new service.  Setting expectations based on lessons learned will go a long way to enabling a collaborative outcome though.

We should expect the challenges I mention, and we should set expectations based on the things we have experienced and learned through the hundreds/thousands of transformations executed and new services implemented. This is similar to the fact that we have learned and written countless books based on the millennia that the human race has been raising children in various environments. In both instances, we inevitably still get plenty wrong, remembering that everyone is unique, and thus we can’t account for every person’s behavior.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to people.

We must set expectations on outcomes, the potential challenges and conflicts, and only then will there be a collaborative and effective approach to dealing with (or preventing) failures when they inevitably occur – again, they will occur! Setting and managing all expectations, being open and honest, will also provide the platform for a healthy relationship.

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