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Archive for the ‘services’


A Proposal for Collaboration on a Pattern Language for Service Systems 0

Posted on February 15, 2014 by daviding

A meeting of systems scientists and systems engineers together as the Systems Science Working Group at the INCOSE International Workshop 2014 provided a forum for “a proposal for collaboration on a pattern language for service systems (science, management, engineering and design)”.  The title is deliberately long, and required some hours to unpack the content in the slide deck.

A Proposal for Collaboration on a Pattern Language for Service Systems (Science, Management, Engineering and Design)

The initiative has been presented as ambitious.  Writing a (good) pattern language is non-trivial.  The originator of the pattern language, Christopher Alexander, published his first work in 1968, and then spent 9 years in collaboration until the 1977 release of the landmark A Pattern Language: Towns, Building, Construction.  In a 2010 interview, Alexander was asked about his perception on similar efforts.

[Rob Hoskins]: What’s been your opinion of subsequent peoples’ attempts at doing Pattern Languages – I’ve seen a couple of different ones, have you seen many?

[Christopher Alexander]:  Some. They’re not that good. The reason I say that is that the people who’ve attempted to work with Pattern Languages, think about them, but are not conscious of the role of morphological elegance in the unfolding. In a biological case, they always are elegant and the unfolding morphology is a sort of magic. But it’s very simple.  It’s not as if it’s magic because it’s complicated, it’s just … like that.

[Rob Hoskins]:  I guess when we were talking before about how a Pattern Language goes from the large down to the small, maybe when we were talking about it as going outwards maybe it is more like an unfolding process?

[Christopher Alexander]:   I think it is yes. The business of going from the large to the small was more for convenience….you could make sense of the book most easily like that but it isn’t necessarily the way to actually do it.

While contributors to this project can learn from prior art in pattern languages, there’s some basic contexts to be understood and appreciated.

A. Service systems (science, management, engineering and design)

Service systems are described in the context of the 2008 report on “Succeeding through service innovation” by the Cambridge IfM and IBM.  The science, management, engineering and design perspectives are from the 2009 Spohrer and Kwan article on”Service Science, Management, Engineering, and Design (SSMED): An Emerging Discipline — Outline & References”, with ten basic concepts underlying a service systems worldview.

B. Pattern language (c.f. pattern catalog)

The working of a pattern language is described with extract of the 1977 book A Pattern Language, with 127 INITIMACY GRADIENT.  The history of the Hillside Group, with a software (design) pattern (definition) illustrates application in a domain other than the built environment.  The variety of forms of writing patterns has been described by Martin Fowler.  Ties between pattern language and systems thinking are drawn by James O. Coplien and Neil Harrison 2004 and by Werner Ulrich 2006.  Christopher Alexander’s “Quality without a Name” is described in Richard P. Gabriel 1996.  Addition domains with ongoing work with pattern languages are evident in Scrum, in group facilitation processes, and in communications in the public sphere.

C. A starter set?  7 conditions from service systems science

Why do power failures seem rare in our Toronto neighbourhood? 0

Posted on December 23, 2013 by daviding

At our home in South Riverdale of Toronto, we rarely seem to have power outages when others report them. Why might that be so?

(1) We live within walking distance of 8 electric substations.

Electric substations in Toronto, South Riverdale

From a link on “Toronto Hydro’s not-so-hidden residential substations” | Derek Place | Oct. 13, 2010 | blogto.com, I found a list of assets for Toronto Hydro from By-law No. 374-1999 at http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/bylaws/1999/law0374.htm , and mapped out the addresses close to us.

(2) At least some of the TTC is powered by equipment in a electric substation near us, on Carlaw Avenue.  There was a procurement order in 2004 as “Procurement Authorization – Replacement Of TTC Traction Power Equipment In Toronto Hydro Owned Substations“, so maintenance should have been performed relatively recently.

(3) Toronto Hydro has a 12-acre Service Centre at 500 Commissioner’s Road.  The Toronto Portlands Company saw this development as so important that it produced two videos on the project that started in 1994, originally a Shell Canada site since the 1930s.

Conclusion:  If the power is on for Toronto Hydro and for the TTC, Riverside (South Riverdale) should also have power!

Using logic for productive presentations and reports | Mark Buckwell | Jan. 31 2013 | buckwem.wordpress.com 0

Posted on August 08, 2013 by daviding

The style of reports in the original IBM Consulting Group style is explained well by @buckwem, with presentation slides in landscape format following Minto’s pyramid principle structured with horizontal logic and vertical logic.  I never met Mark Buckwell during my IBM career, but he’s been there since 1993, so we “went to the same school”.  If I’m not using this style in a presentations, it’s for a conscious reason, as this way of writing and presenting is always in the back of my mind.

On Slideshare, Mark has shared Using logic for productive presentations and reports 31-jan-2013 – speakerdeck in the series http://www.slideshare.net/markbuckwell

Mark first surfaced Using Logic for Productive Presentations and Reports while teaching a chemical engineering course at Birmingham University, on a blog post at http://buckwem.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/using-logic-for-productivepresentations-and-reports/.

The Pyramid Principle from Barbara Minto was first written over forty years ago and defines a logical way of writing reports and presentations. The technique first came from McKinsey and Company but it is now used by many management consulting companies including IBM Global Business Services.

On a subsequent blog post, he provides a rigourous “Checklist for Presentation Logic” at http://buckwem.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/checklist-for-presentation-logic/ .  This knowledge is normally imparted situationally by experienced engagement managers, so the checklist could seem intimidating for individuals coming up the learning curve.

Human capital spin-offs, free agent (learners), encore careers 0

Posted on September 26, 2012 by daviding

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 was my last day as an employee of IBM Canada.  I have been with company for almost 28 years, and was offered an option for an “early retirement” as an exit from the organization.  However, I expect that I will continue to work (and study) elsewhere for at least 10 to 15 years.  Since I’m not expecting to draw from the Canada Pension Plan any time soon, the label of “retirement” as applied by the company isn’t the same as that as applied by the government.  Statistics Canada has three categories in the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics.

  • Career employment means having employment income or Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, no pension income and not reporting retirement as the major activity.
  • Bridge employment means having employment income or EI benefits, pension income or reporting retirement as the major activity, and not out of the labour force for more than six consecutive months at the end of the year.
  • Retirement means having pension income or self-identifying as retired with no employment income or EI benefits, or having pension income or self-identifying as retired with employment income or EI benefits, but out of the labour force for more than six consecutive months at the end of the year [Hébert and Luong 2008].

I don’t intend to take myself out of the work force in the near future.  It seems as though it’s not uncommon for retirement-eligible individuals to work.

Chart B: The prevalence of bridge employment doubles after age 60

Not only are the numbers of age 50 to 69 individuals active in bridge employment increasing, but so is the proportion increasing with aging of the baby boom cohort.

There’s three ways (and probably more) in which I could portray myself:

  • 1. A human capital spin-off
  • 2. A free agent (learner)
  • 3. An encore career

Each of these descriptions has a balance between accuracy and understandability (by the layman).

1. A human capital spin-off

A spin-off is normally viewed in an organizational sense, but there’s little in most definitions that couldn’t be extended to individuals.  One description comes from research specifying a base taxonomy.

Is that affordance essential? (HSSE) 0

Posted on July 25, 2012 by daviding

For the 1st International Conference on Human Side of Service Innovation, I had been asked  by Kelly Lyons to contribute an article for a session on Frameworks for Service Systems.  I had worked on the article in fall 2011, but leading a 6-day conference in San Jose immediately before the start of the HSSE meeting in San Francisco made completion improbable.  Having prepared an abstract and outline for “Is That Affordance Essential? Pathology in service systems and redesigns for sustainability”, I couldn’t squeeze in an article by the winter publication deadline. I was, however, prepared to share a presentation on research-in-progress.  I expect that I’ll be able to finish this research paper over the next year, (and hope that I’ll get a longer time slot to present than the 15 minutes allotted at HSSE).

The original abstract for my presentation reads:

A service systems may exhibit pathologies, i.e. an abnormal, unhealthy, maladjusted or inefficient state that is maintained in a living system for a significant period. Correcting a pathology may require a history-making change where significant capital investment is needed.

As a way of reframing the definition of a service system, interactions between parties are expressed as an interaction where a provider offers affordances and clients may have varying levels of ability. The needs and expectations of high-ability clients can be contrasted to those of low-ability clients. Portraying affordances as essential or discretionary may enable segmentation of client target groups into coproducing or full-service arrangements.

Some example service systems, in municipal services, pension plans and open source communities are described to illustrate considerations of pathologies towards potential pursuits of sustainability.

Alternative approaches to correct the pathologies are related to theories of ecological complexity, in panarchies and supply-side sustainability. Directions for further development are outlined.

The slides are available on the Coevolving Commons.  The 15 minutes gave enough time to describe some motivating cases, and then work my way down a list of definitions supplemented by pointers to originating sources.

As the presentation was ending, time was allowed for one question.  Jim Spohrer asked about the definition of affordances (with abilities) that I used.  My initial response wasn’t sufficient, so he probed some more.  A moment later, I figured out that Don Norman — who is renowned for the idea of affordances in The Design of Everyday Things — was sitting beside Jim.  We didn’t get a chance to complete that conversation, as the next speaker came on.  Not recognizing Norman in the audience probably saved me from being intimidated and more self-conscious during the presentation.

While I had researched Norman’s view on affordances previously, the citation that is in the working paper is not in the 15-minute presentation.  In an essay on “Affordances and Design” on Norman’s web site, he revises the label of “affordances” in his book to “perceived affordances”.

A Theory of the Offering, and Changes in Business Strategy in a Neo-Industrial Age 0

Posted on June 29, 2012 by daviding

In the service management literature, a “theory of the offering” is an alternative to a “theory of the firm”. Leading up to the ISSS San Jose 2012 meeting, Rafael Ramirez asked if I was aware of a 1989 chapter on “A Theory of the Offering: Toward a Neo-Industrial Business Strategy” by Normann and Ramirez. I responded that no, I had not seen that. My understanding of offering comes from the 2006 Business Orchestration book by Johan Wallin, the 2000 Prime Movers book by Ramirez and Wallin, and the 1994 Designing Interactive Strategy book by Normann. These are rooted in an appreciation of distinctions between a cause-effect relation and a producer-product relation (of coproducers) from the 1972 On Purposeful Systems book by Ackoff, based on the 1959 Experience and Reflection book by Singer and Churchman.

I’ve always been a fan of the perspective of service systems taken by Normann and Ramirez, as the thinking is well-aligned with systems theory. This 1989 paper enlightened me on the context in which offering was first developed, that I missed in reading the later writings:

  • 1. “Service management” evolved to focus on systems in the secondary (production) sector, over the tertiary (service) sector.
  • 2. A “theory of the offering” is a not about measuring economic activity, but is instead an alternative to a “theory of the firm”.
  • 3. Distinctions made between product and service businesses in the early 1980s gradually became less relevant.
  • 4. Sellers help customers create value for themselves, as co-producers (and potentially as competitors).
  • 5. Offerings can be viewed in three strategic dimensions of depth (of coproduction), range (of products and services), and choice (as bundled to unbundled).
  • 6. Transformations in a neo-industrial business strategy can be enumerated as single, dual and triple changes in the three strategic dimensions.

The full article is worth reading. Only snippets are provided here, with the hope that interested readers might look to their libraries, or request a softcopy from Rafael Ramirez. My assessment is that the 1989 book is difficult to find in libraries, and should be considered for republication somewhere more accessible.

1. “Service management” evolved to focus on systems in the secondary (production) sector, over the tertiary (service) sector

In the emergence of “service science”, there’s always been some confusion across the labels of “service”, “services” and “service sector”. The 1984 Service Management book by Richard Normann, can serve as one foundation. I have been advocating the clarity of a label of “service systems”, which has led to “service systems science”. Normann and Ramirez saw similar challenges in labelling in 1989.



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