Service governance, holacracy and design

Adapt and adopt has, rightly, been the approach ITIL has recommended to service management, and ITIL, I think it is good advice for all frameworks. In the 5 ITIL 2011 books, 'Adapt' and 'Adopt' appear in every volume - 'Adopt' in 210 sections & 'Adapt' in 96.

ITIL has continual improvement at its heart, so it is, itself, always improving - people, rightly, point out things that usefully can be added to it.

Twitter is an odd place to chat. It takes a bit of getting used to the disjointed style - a bit like having a conversation at a cocktail party where, unlike real cocktail parties, fortunately, you can hear everybody else. Last night, I stole a little time from the work mountain I'm currently climbing, to join a twitter chat with Majid Iqbal, Stuart Rance, Charles T. Betz, Daniel Bresto, Bob Sutton, William Goddard and myself. It all started out with the question of whether Kanban was better than ITIL - the wrong question, I've thought, they're both important in different ways, and ITIL would benefit from incorporating more of the Kanban style of thinking.

The discussion ranged over quite a few areas - what ITIL actually does say - whether the advice in Service Strategy is carried through to the other volumes of ITIL - whether ITIL is wrong, deliberately, to avoid discussing organisation. Near the end, Bob Sutton mentioned the holacracy of Zappos (I'd spell it 'holocracy', from the English prefix holo- from the Greek ὅλος ‘whole, entire’ - but it's actually from the Greek όλα, 'all'). For me this tied it all up quite neatly.

'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings', was how Shakespeare put it in Julius Caesar. Holacracy is an anarchic way of running a company (I couldn't say 'organising' or an 'organisation', because that's part of the point, it isn't an 'organisation', it is self-organising people), that offers some interesting contrasts to the conventional social hierarchy (there's a nice discussion of it here: ). As with most things, this isn't a new silver bullet to be jumped upon as the answer to everything - adapt and adopt, remember.

However, it does give a clear picture of one aspect of 'the problem' - if not the whole view of it, which might not be something anybody can see. As I see it, the problem is this:

Workers do not wish to be governed

Governors do not wish to govern

This is a matter of observation, and at the heart of much of what is wrong with the attitude, behaviours and culture of many organisations. The board likes to believe it is in control, but it surrenders (it doesn't delegate, which would be a good thing - but much more difficult to do) governance to the executive, to managers, in the case of IT, to IT - hence talk about 'IT Governance' in Cobit. They're trying to do what the board ought to be doing - which is why, though there is much excellent stuff in Cobit, it, ultimately, doesn't work, unless it is a part of genuine corporate governance.

So, who does want governance? Should we, as consultants, experts in service management, or IT, or policy, be upsetting the applecart by trying to force organisations to go somewhere that they don't wish to be?


The people who want, and need, and require (an important word, because that particular 'require' must be part of the requirements used to design services to solve business problems to produce value) are. The other stakeholders - namely:





The world at large, the rest of us, who are affected by the outcomes (as the Adaptive Service Model, ASM, makes clear, the actual result of a service, including all the unexpected and uncontrollable consequences, as well as just the service outputs).

The importance of the King Commission is that it recognises just that. Corporations have an obligation - they are obliged to the us real humans because we've given them the right, by means of the legal fiction that they are people, to be citizens - to act as good corporate citizens.... Really act.. Not just say they'll act.. Not just fill in a mountain of word documents saying that it is their policy to act.. but actually, day to day, govern themselves so that they act as good corporate citizens.

How can they do this? Boards, at least many directors on many boards, shy away from their responsibility to understand what is going on - in the past they even got away with saying (in court when it had all gone badly wrong) that they knew nothing about the finances of the company, they left all that stuff to the finance director. Similarly board directors like to leave IT to the IT director (if the board is sensible enough to have one) or to the CEO, an employee, a person who is supposed to be governed by the board. The CEO is the Chief Executive Officer because his job is to execute the will of the board.

The answer, of one part of the answer, is that, yes, directors will have to either retire, take up another job or learn how the company functions. They must understand the finances and understand the services.

This is where Service Governance comes in. The service portfolio (not, notice, the 'IT Service Portfolio'), is the portal through which the board can see the company operating. They can understand which services are contributing good value to the stakeholders for reasonable cost and those that are doing the opposite - and, as the governors (the word comes originally from 'A steersman, pilot, captain of a vessel' [OED]) they can steer the ship by dictating what shall by done to the services that are not shaping up and also to provide the ship with the new services that it will need to, for its voyage, design, develop, transition and operate, under continual improvement, in order to increase the value that the company delivers to its stakeholders.

This has the interesting side-effect of freeing up the individuals in the organisation - it deals with the problem, stated above, that workers do not wish to be governed and governors do not wish to govern. The service portfolio becomes the map of the journey, a living map, that the board can use to govern the route, and the workers can use, operationally, to decide how to follow it. This allows for a holacratic company, or organisation. Teams can organise themselves in the way that fits the purpose best - not necessarily an old-fashioned, rigid, social hierarchy. All the advice in the ITIL books and from other frameworks is of value, the structure of services and ways of working and the understanding of the capabilities needed to respond to demand are all part of this dynamic whole, instead of, or as a parallel alternative to, the conventional hierarchies, where they make sense.

Service governance allows services to become the compass, the navigation, the controls and the measurement of success for the organisation to become a good corporate citizen.


Last modified on Monday, 28 July 2014 07:01
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Peter Brooks


  • University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, BSc. 1979
  • Major Subjects; Maths & Physics

Industry Qualifications

  • ITIL V2 Manager’s Certificate in IT Service Management
  • ITIL V3 ITIL Expert Certification
  • ISO20000 Consultant’s Certificate Management
  • Fellow in Service Management (FSM)® (prISM)


  • Certified ISEB instructor for ITIL Foundations + Service Manager courses
  • FISM - Fellow of the Institute of IT Service Management
  • Marketing and Business Development Director itSMF International
  • Marketing Director itSMF South Africa
  • Member of itSMF South Africa Western Cape

Consulting Delivery

  • Governance
  • Policy Consulting - start up organisation
  • Service Governance
  • Business Analysis
  • OpenView Network and System Management; design and implementation.
  • Secure web implementation.
  • HP Service Desk implementation.
  • Application, System, and Network Consolidation.
  • Business Disaster Recovery process consulting, implementation and testing.
  • ITIL process management (practical consulting delivery):
Service Portfolio    Service Strategy    Service Desk
Incident Problem Configuration
Change Release Capacity
Financial Availability Service level

Specialties and interests

ASM Adaptive Service Model
Service Governance Business Analysis
CSF Capacity
Consulting Demand
Governance HP OpenView
KPI Metric Design and Implementation
Metrics Open Source
Policy Requirements
SANS15000 Security
Service Desk Teaching
Training Service Management
Dialetheism :Service governance
Physics :Philosophy
Psychiatry :Maths


I have never been further
As08-16-2593.jpg north Helsinki Helsinki 60°10′15″N 024°56′15″E
south Dunedin Dunedin 45°52′S 170°30′E
west Sausalito Sausalito Coordinates: 37°51′33″N 122°29′07″W ]
east Rotorua Rotorua 38°08′16″S 176°15′05″E
... and higher than Title=3.050 m3.050 m
... and Title=faster than 320 kphfaster than 320 kph (on the ground)






Adopting Service Governance

Collaborative Consulting
ISBN: 978-0113314652 ISBN: 978-0113313914
Webinar: Adopting Service Governance: Governing portfolio value for sound corporate citizenship Review in International Best Practice
Issues in corporate governance and service governance as a solution  
AXELOS interview with Peter Brooks  
Service Governance in the Cloud  




Adopting Service Governance.png
Adopting Service Governance - Governing portfolio value for sound corporate citizenship - AXELOS 2015 ISBN: 978-0113314652
Collaborative Consulting.jpg
Collaborative Consulting – TSO 2013 ISBN: 978-0113313914
  Review - Ivor Macfarlane
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An Integrated Requirements Process - Governing Cost & Risk in Business Analysis - itSMFsa 2013 ISBN: 978-1490489162
  Review - David Lowe
  Review - Karen Ferris
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Metrics for Service Management: Designing for ITIL – VHP 2012 ISBN-13: 978-9087536480
Metrics for IT Service Management.jpg

Metrics for IT Service Management – VHP 2006 ISBN-13: 978-9077212691











Definition of Service Governance

Service Governance describes the means of achieving effective corporate and portfolio governance, within the ‘comply or explain’ framework, by designing the service portfolio as the overarching management system that monitors & controls corporate financial performance & value delivery.

From '''Adopting Service Governance''' Service Governance - Best Practice

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