Notes on Jeff Sussna’s The Self-Designing Organization

(From Jeff’s 3/30/16 MX 16 talk, link here. I’ve only summarized the second half–so go to the link for the rest!)

Welcome to the service economy!

  • Value is no longer simply dumped into a product that’s handed to a customer in exchange for money
  • Service value doesn’t fully manifest until the product’s services are used
  • An airport with airplanes and shops and coffee places doesn’t have value until someone goes to fly somewhere
  • Customers bring their needs, moods and experiences, which intersect with your services–as your employees bring their needs, moods and experiences also
  • Value arises from this intersection (an important point–poor customer service can sink a great useful product)
  • So the “back office” is now brought forward as part of the value equation and directly impacts the user experience

So how do we design for service?

  • Orgs have to shift our attention away from our org and product to help customers accomplish larger goals
  • Services bring value by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve
  • Improving what customers can accomplish with your products–that’s the aim. Everyone in the org at all levels are service providers
  • Your employees shouldn’t have individual goals, they should have collective goals to enable the customer’s success

What is a service in this scenario?

  • A service is a set of promises
  • Amazon’s promise is to get you anything as quickly and cheaply as possible. They promise if you pay extra, you’ll get extra services (next day delivery etc). They promise that though they automate everything they can, their customer service folks art still there to help when needed
  • A promise is a strongly stated intention to provide benefit
  • Promises may or may not be honored–sometimes they get broken by failure, or by having made the wrong promise
  • Promises unify systems and organizational design–are they keeping their promises?

Design continues over time, throughout the entire product lifecycle

The fundamental mind set shifts from “This is what I do” to “This is who I help”

About Jeff Sussna, from his LinkedIn: I use DevOps and Design Thinking to help digital service organizations increase speed and responsiveness. My experience spans Fortune 500 enterprises, product and service startups, major technology companies, and consulting and design agencies. I’ve built large systems and held leadership roles across the development/QA/operations spectrum.


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