Lean Service Creation, part 2 – The Training

• 28.05.14 •

Risto Sarvas • Service Designer, Professor, Company Culture Engineer

Everyone wants innovations, and everyone feels the need for change to create those innovations. The path to change is having the right attitude, knowing the tools and methods required, and an organisation that supports individuality and freedom of choice. Every product manager knows this, Nobel laureate economists preach it, and we at Futurice help our clients to do it. Here is what the good people at Helsingin Energia have to say about our collaboration with them in making the change actually happen. We call it Lean Service Creation Training:

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Good ol' Modernism

The Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps visited Finland last weekend [1]. His message was that the Western societies, mainly Europe and the U.S., have lost the ideals of modernism: individuality and freedom of choice. In the past century, these values have been replaced by corporatism: tripartite negotiations between businesses, the state, and labor unions, and each from their individual point of view [2]. As a service creation company, we see this in practice almost daily. Where the rubber meets the road is in how large companies innovate. Or in Phelps's words, the ideals of modernism are often absent when large companies, the public sector, and the unions try to change. In this corporatistic environment it is hard to create new services, products, and processes. And anyone following news in the past years knows that this is especially hard when digital technology is involved.

Dude, Your Society Is Fermenting

Organisations, and our European society in general, are in an era of ferment [3]. In many sectors the old dominant ways of working have proved to be incompatible with the changing world. Products and services are no longer competitive, processes and structures hinder change rather than encourage it, and the slow economy makes it very easy to focus on cost cuts rather than investments and risk taking. Innovation is slow or absent. Here at Futurice, we firmly believe in getting things done. If there is a choice between the perfect plan and learning by doing, we always go for the latter. This is because things are changing too fast to afford meticulous planning beforehand. People's routines change fast, markets change fast, and competition emerges rapidly from unknown places. Both for us and our clients. Therefore, the only way to stay in the avant-garde is to continuously learn by doing. The best way to understand one's customers, is to build something for them and experiment. The best way to figure out the market is to go out there and compete. The best way to change companies internally is to do things in a new way and get results. And all this in very fast cycles, so that every cycle is optimised for learning only the most important thing.

The Training: Getting Stuff Done

This philosophy is what we have been bringing into our clients' worlds the past decade. In addition to the software we design and build, we have always brought our culture: attitude, tools, methods, criticism, spirit, and a few crates of beer. In the past year we have made this a formal business: Lean Service Creation Training. A combination of coaching and actual service creation tailored for our clients, such as Helsingin Energia and Itella Parcel Services. We also teach this at Aalto University, and last year our Lean Service Creation course got awarded by students as one of the best in Computer Science. What we do in our training is teach the product and development managers the tools, methods, and thinking behind service design, the Lean Startup buzz, basic business planning, and agile development. We also spend a lot of time applying the teachings to their actual service creation work. We believe that in teaching, the best learning happens when applying the knowledge to one's own real work. What we have learned in these trainings is that getting stuff done requires three things: a specific personal mentality, good understanding of tools and methods, and an organisation supporting individuality and freedom of choice.

"Now I know Kung-Fu"

The best results we have seen is when people realise that now they have the tools and methods to start changing their own mentality and attitude, that they can make a change and get stuff done. Once they realise this, they can start also focusing on their own organisation and the changes required in the processes, structures, and overall culture. In our training, the concrete lessons people learn are the tools and the methods, and how to apply them. However, we believe that the bigger change we have been able to achieve is to plant and cultivate the seeds of the kind of modernism that Phelps talks about: individuality and freedom of choice in traditional organisations. By giving the right tools and gently pushing to a new way of thinking people can get things done and make positive change happen.

[1] Nobelisti purkaisi sääntelyä, Helsingin Sanomat 26.5.2014.
[2] Phelps, Edmund S.(2009) 'Capitalism vs. Corporatism', Critical Review, 21: 4, 401–414.
[3] Anderson, Philip & Tushman, Michael L. (1990) 'Technological Discontinuities and Dominant Designs: A Cyclical Model of Technological Change', Administrative Science Quarterly, 35:4, 604–633.

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