In an ideal organisation, there would be no requirement for an executive team. The responsibilities held by the executive, and the activities required to act upon those responsibilities would be conducted entirely by a single individual. However, given constraints of time, complexity and expertise it is unlikely to be possible. Therefore the executive is responsible for augmenting their own skills with the addition of executive team members who speak with the voice of the executive.
The role of the executive
The executive has a number of roles and responsibilities in OSOM:
- Establish, disband, assess and hold services accountable
- Allocate budgets to services
- Review and analyse fitness data & maps
- Issue mandates to manipulate the service network
- Review Correction of Error documents
- Consider, publish and endorse guidance
- Endorse Communities of Practice
- Mediate between services
- Monitor and advocate better decision making
Establish, decommission, assess, alter, and hold services accountable
A key role of the executive is to establish services; conduct assessments on them as they progress from discovery to alpha, alpha to beta, and beta to live; disband the services when no longer needed, and hold the managers of those services accountable throughout the service lifecycle.
The Executive establishes a service by publishing a Service Contract, allocating a budget and appointing a Service Manager for the service. Typically, a new service will start the service lifecycle in discovery and progress through alpha and beta where the contract and how it is delivered will be refined until it is live.
In some instances - for example, as OSOM is adopted in an existing organisation - a service contract may be written for a service that already exists. In this case, the service may not progress through the service lifecycle as normal, but in all other respects should be governed as any other service.
Services should be assessed at every stage in their lifecycle, as they progress from:
- Discovery to alpha
- Alpha to beta
- Beta to live
Once a service has reached its live state, regular assessments should be conducted to understand service improvements and changes over time.
In order to ensure the organisation functions both efficiently and effectively, the Executive should decommission a service when either:
- new user needs are established that it is unable to meet and...
- another service better meets the user's needs now or...
- the user’s needs no longer exist.
Occasionally a service contract as written and established through the service lifecycle will require alteration - a new user need may be identified, or some other element of the contract may need to be adjusted.
The executive can do this, but should only do so sparingly: a contract change has associated risks that should not be ignored.
Hold services accountable
The Executive is responsible for holding Service Managers accountable for the services they operate. This includes performance, conformance to guidance, methodology, decision making, and any other consideration the executive wishes.
It should be noted that the Executive does not have the authority to dictate any of these elements to the service, via the Service Manager, but it does have the authority to appoint and replace the Service Manager if it sees fit.
Allocate budgets to services
Services and their service managers must have budgets to operate, and the nature of the budgets will be different depending on where in a service's lifecycle it is, and the type of consumers the service has.
Budget allocation is a complex task that needs to be carefully considered. One approach to this is capital flow management.
Review and analyse fitness data & maps
The executive reviews and analyses fitness data published by services, and Wardley Maps of each service produced by their Service Managers. The fitness data is used to understand the performance of the service: is it meeting the needs of the users as intended?
The fitness data from services should also be considered in relation to other services too. For example, in a hypothetical service network for an e-commerce website, the cost of hardware infrastructure per customer transaction could only be derived from aggregating fitness data from multiple services. It is up to the executive to determine the aggregations they consider to be important.
Wardley Maps of each service should be maintained by their respective Service Manager. The executive uses Wardley Maps to consider the entirety of the service network, and answer questions such as: are the services operating in the right way? Are there other services that could be introduced to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service network? Are there services that should be challenged to industrialize their delivery? Are there services that should be decommissioned?
Benefits realization should be reported through these mechanisms.
Issue mandates to manipulate the service network
When changes to services or the service network are foreseen or desired, the executive issues mandates to the appropriate service managers. A mandate shouldn’t alter a service contract, but it may have an impact on the way a service manager chooses to meet the needs enumerated in the contract.
Review Correction of Error documents
When problems arise inside services, Service Managers are expected to publish Correction of Error (CoE) documents to the organisation, which help it to learn and grow. The executive should review and consider those CoE documents to understand if there is additional guidance that should be considered for publication.
The executive should consider conducting a regular meeting with all Service Managers where CoE documents are reviewed publicly to ensure a high level of awareness of opportunities for improvement throughout the organisation’s service network.
Consider, publish and endorse guidance
The executive is responsible for considering and publishing guidance for service managers to consider. This may include guidance on technology selection, architectural patterns, security policies, procurement processes, etc.
This may be guidance from outside the OSOM organisation in the form of legislation or best practice, or it may emerge from within the service organisation as a result of considering Correction of Errors.
Where possible, the guidance should be advisory in nature. In general, Service Managers should be able to consider and reject the guidance where it is not applicable or appropriate for their particular service - while being asked to account for the decision in their service assessments.
Lewis Eisen's work provides practical, concise help for people who want to write better policies that people want to follow.
Endorse Communities of Practice
In any service-based model, it can be hard to ensure people are evaluated fairly, or that they become aware of practices and opportunities outside of the services they work in. Communities of Practice (CoPs) exist in OSOM to bridge the gap between the profession and the service.
CoPs are freely associated with anybody in the organisation. It is up to the executive to determine when a community has reached a sufficient level of maturity to assist service managers with guidance on evaluation for its practitioners, and then endorse that CoP to do so.
The executive should work with communities of practice to ensure that where possible all professions are represented by one or more Communities of Practice.
Mediate between services
In any service network, disputes will arise between services that serve each other. When this occurs, the executive must mediate those disputes and find resolution through the mechanisms it already has: mandates, contract alterations, assessments, etc.
Monitor and advocate better decision making
Each of the elements of OSOM has been designed in conjunction with the application of those behaviours, and the executive is responsible for constantly being aware of opportunities to alter the operating model more in line with them when needed.