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The wonderfully convoluted worlds of Capabilities, Processes and Services

The wonderfully convoluted worlds of Capabilities, Processes and Services

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”, by Confucius.

A recent flurry of articles and posts reminded me of how complicated simple ideas can be. This simple quote captures the state of the beautifully convoluted worlds of capability, process and service based analysis and planning. 

On the other hand, It is not surprising that these discussions consume a large bandwidth since organisations, strategies, and businesses have existed long before ideas such as capability become fashionable. ‘New kids on the block’ are the talk of the town until people can understand, accept and work with them.

It is easy to find discussions that go around and around and around with no end in sight. People argue for their ways of thinking and doing that fit their practice. The nature of discussions is often advocacy (to influence) and not inquiry (to understand). In many cases, experts claim their ways and practices are the right ways and the others are wrong and don’t understand. Not very inspirational, motivational or productive! Many of the convoluted debates seem to be persistent in the fields of business architecture, enterprise (IS/IT) architecture, service architecture, and information modelling.

In a series of articles, I intend to look behind the discussions and explore what is similar and different regarding the ideas of capability, process, and service. The approach I’m taking is human centric, work oriented, and instrumental. A use of capability, process, and service ideas and analysis techniques must be worthwhile to people in work they do with others.

I’m not going to fall into the trap of claiming others are wrong. I’m not going propose a new specific approach that competes with everyone else's. Instead, I’m aiming at providing you with insights and reasoning tools so you can create your own approach or practice, or evaluate and adapt others.

Why is this happening?

There are quite many possible reasons for the convoluted nature of these discussions:

  • A single word (‘capability’, ‘process’, ‘service’) is used in many and varying senses, thus obfuscating discussions.
  • A sense is imported from an adjacent field such an economics or strategy and then adapted to someone’s own field and practice.
  • Authors of frameworks and practices…are not aware of underlying assumptions and hypothesis they have made.
    • don’t care to show underlying assumptions and hypothesis when promoting their approach.
    • have problems understanding, and integrating other peoples and possibly conflicting theories, findings, practices into their own work. 
    • need to use a specific variant of a concept to fit what is already in an existing approach, framework, or theory. That is, “the new kid on the block” needs to fit in.
    • have an approach, tool or product that can be used so it should be used.
    • have several interconnected concepts in their theories and all must have uniques names and distinct characteristics.
  • There are professions that are focused on working with definitions such as ontologists, information modellers, and enterprise architects. They need to or perceive themselves need to be precise when creating large frameworks, approaches and practices. As an effect, debates about definitions becomes more frequent than discussions about value-in-use, acceptability, and agreability.
  • Companies and book writers are selling ideas, services and products and are less inclined to adjust or align to others point-of-views, work and approaches.
  • People may experience a personal need to be heard, be visible, and successful in discussions.

What to do?

In this series of articles I take a behind-the-curtain look at the ideas of capability, process, and service using a human centric, work oriented, and instrumental approach. The method I’m using comes from years of experiences with global, international and industry-wide standardisation (UN, ISO, ITU, GS1, OMG, W3C, ODETTE, etc.), mega projects, research, and multidisciplinary (re-)learning.

What do you gain from this articles and approach?

  • Simplicity: Thinking about capability, process, service, and how they fit together becomes easier.
  • Common Frame of Reference: A common frame-of-reference and a tool that reduce confusions. The frame-of-reference assists when reading work from, talking to, or discussing with practitioners, subject field experts, researchers and pundits.
  • Interdisciplinary bridge: Knowing the meanings behind common words makes it easier to talk to your professional neighbours.
  • Adjust to Work to be Done: Become able to adjust or configure the underlying ideas and lenses of Capability, Process, and Service to your work you do with others. Become better at creating work products and decision making material that are workable, beneficial, material, acceptable (personal), and agreeable (interpersonal) to more than experts.
  • Reduce Waste: Become focused on your work instead of wasting time and energy on roundabout discussions.

This article is the starting point. More to come shortly, stay tuned!

Enjoy!

/Anders W. Tell

/WorkEm Toolsmiths

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