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An interview with Simone Jo Moore discussing the human side of AI, the future of training, and the meaning of VUCA. Along the way, we discussed mixology, frameworks, and “outside-in” service.
HDI’s SPOCcast is your single point of contact podcast for service management and support insights. For Episode 7,
What follows here is excerpted; for the full impact, I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast.
RA: Simone, one of your favorite terms is VUCA, and for those who don’t know what that means, can you explain it a little bit? And how is it different from FUD?
SJM: Well, VUCA is and old term—an old military term, actually—and it is really describing the kind of context or the environment which we operate in. And VUCA itself is a mnemonic, and it stands for Volatility first of all, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. I guess it’s the extension of FUD—Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. I think what the thing is that the VUCA matrix that we use to help put things into context—the one thing it doesn’t really talk about is the emotional side, which FUD does have—the Fear…. But I love VUCA; it’s a great tool. It really is a thinking tool, a tool to help you understand what’s going on in your environment…. When we do occasionally…have an emotional hijack, you’d be surprised at how creative the heart and mind can actually be to survive, and that’s what normally happens in a VUCA environment.
So, volatility, if we think about it in all the change that’s going on in our world, volatility is about the rate of change.… That can be quite minor; it can be quite slow, or it could be volcanic—if you want to think about V as volcanic. So it can be quite fast, hard, and sharp, and in some cases, quite destructive—or disruptive, if you want to think of it that way.
Uncertainty is about being unclear about the present—what’s happening in the moment. Not sure of what’s going on around us. You might only have bits and pieces of information, but there’s not a lot that’s going to give you any concrete understanding.
Complexity, well that just means there’s multiple key decision factors. Those can be coming from all sorts of environments. It could be internal issues that you have; it could be external issues. It’s called complex for a reason.
Ambiguity is having lack of clarity about the meaning of an event, lack of clarity about the focus, lack of clarity on the goal or the objective.
RA: I think that one of the characteristics of people who tend to do fairly well in volatile, uncertain, or complex situations—emergencies, etc.—would be resilience. When we’ve talked previously you mentioned resilience and resistance. Can you talk about those two things and where they fit together or don’t? Not only in terms of individuals, but also in terms of organizations.
SJM: I think one of the key things in a VUCA context is understanding that, in this changing world, you have to be continuously ready. I think that’s a really interesting thing. Like the Coast Guard has their motto of Always Ready (Semper Paratus) to meet whatever challenge they have. And an interesting aspect of the way the Coast Guard has gone about designing their service, or designing their business focus, is really working it backwards. Their customers are very visible; their customers’ needs are very clear. And if the Coast Guard fails in its service, we know lives can be lost. So they work out, from that visibility and the need of the customer, they then work backwards to develop their services, and in a true sense, what they’re doing—that’s the essence of our digital environment now, where it’s not just about the technology to automate core services—but they [the Coast Guard] completely have, then, shifted power to their customer, and that need to continually adapt the technologies and process and cultures around the customer’s ever-changing environments. The resilience actually comes into being where their ecosystem of what they actually work in. It remains relatively unchanged when it’s confronted by a disturbance, whether it’s a storm, or some kind of cataclysmic event even, if you want to take it to the extreme side of things. They have a level of resistance. They’re not really needing to have any reorganization. They’re going to move with it but come back to a sense of stasis, or a sense of equilibrium where they’re not really changed. However, with resilience, you do have to end up internally reorganizing. It implies that you have to go through a mosaic of patches at different stages of reassembling yourself after being through these events.
And that’s pretty much what business is going through with digital transformation. If we think about the visibility of the customer and their specific needs and how those needs are now changing in this VUCA environment. How resilient do we need to be versus resistant? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with resistance where we’re protecting something that needs to stay the same. But if it doesn’t need to stay the same, then we need to look to building the resilience in order to internally reorganize ourselves, to come to a new state of equilibrium.
RA: You mentioned the Coast Guard thinking from the customer backwards, which is…something that Steve Jobs said as well: You start with the customer and think backwards to the technology. So you try to understand what they want—and in Steve Jobs’ mind it was what they would want or what they will want—and work backwards to develop the technology. That’s a really “outside-in” way of looking at business and our world in technology.
Speaking of our world of technology and uncertainty and doubt, ITIL4 is coming soon, and VeriSM is garnering an audience, and DevOps continues to grow, and COBIT is coming out with a new version, and there are all of these frameworks and methodologies out there. Are there too many? And do we have to choose?
SJM: I think there’s always going to be too many. It’s like walking into a lolly shop (candy store) isn’t it really? Ooo, which flavor shall I have this month, or “I don’t like the taste of that anymore. Can I try something else, please?” For me, it’s not really that we have too many, it’s the misunderstanding of how they can work together and what it is that we really want.
I like to bring it back to the art of mixology. A good mixologist is the supremo bar person. But before you can make your perfect margarita, you first need to know what you want to drink. The reason I have this analogy of being a mixologist when it comes to the frameworks is the journey of finding the perfect margarita. Now, it’s a very simple cocktail. It’s made of very, very simple ingredients, and if you watch how it’s being made, that’s’ one aspect of seeing it. But the actual taste of it is another thing. It has to be a perfect balance.
And that’s what people are looking for with these frameworks. They’re trying to find what it is that’s going to balance their outcome. What’s going to balance the return on investment? What’s going to balance the people against the process against the technology? How are we going to find the right combination that works? So besides first knowing what you want to actually drink, you have to understand how you’re going to mix these things together to find what you want. Neither of them replace the other. There are elements in all of them that you’ll find are common. It’s a very delicate thing, and each person will have a slightly different flavor. Some people will want a little bit more tequila, and others will want a little more lime. Some will need the extra salt.
RA: I guess a question arising out of that is, how, within an organization, does it get decided what parts of particular frameworks are going to be adopted. Is this something the service management office, if there is one, should be looking at and thinking about? Does there need to be a team that assesses the adoption of frameworks, do you think?
SJM: The word you used was team. That’s an important aspect. But who makes up that team is the key question here…. All of these are a business decision. They’re methods, techniques, approaches, ways of being. They impact culture, process, and technology. I think a core place where this decision belongs is to have a cross-functional team formed that involves people from each part of the enterprise. Because…there are other business frameworks. You talk about ITIL, VeriSM, DevOps, or COBIT; they’re still very IT-focused even though they talk a lot about the business. People naturally associate them with the IT side of things. What about all the HR techniques? What about all the financial techniques? What about all the sales and marketing techniques? These are things that need to come and work together…because they’re all part of our capability in the organization as a whole.
RA: Were very good at jumping into new technologies. There certainly has been plenty of talk this year and recently about artificial intelligence, automation, bots of different flavors—chatbots and so on. What, from your perspective, is the human side of all this? How do we fit into this changing world which is becoming increasingly technological, and how do we navigate through it?
SJM: I’ve been doing a fair bit of research in this side of things. I call it machine humanity. Looking at AI, the EI (emotional intelligence) or what I call the H2H component or the human-to-human component… I really love sci-fi fantasies, like Ex Machina. But there was a line in that, that said, “To erase the line between man and machine is to obscure the line between men and gods.” How far are we really willing to take AI?
Humans are emotional, but not always emotionally intelligent. So it is quite possible that we’re limiting the technology we’re creating as much as the technology we create may turn us into automatons, and we can lose ourselves in what we create. I think we really need to look beyond IT when it comes to how we’re working with this technology and what it might mean for us.
When we think about doing new things, or doing things in new ways, I think many of us are still in that “quicker, faster, cheaper, greener, easier” mode. Some people are looking at doing the old things differently, which is good; we’re trying to reassess how things are done. And others now are just looking for things we couldn’t manage before, and this is where the emerging technologies can be taking us, going “Wow, didn’t know that this was even possible.” And then moving into that ultimate mode where it’s doing things you can’t even imagine yet.
So, there’s some pretty amazing stuff that artificial intelligence can help us with—look at how it works in health, the ability to have chips inserted between the nervous system and the new robotic hand that’s now their new hand because they lost their old one in some trauma…. Build me a new hand. Build me a new brain inside my server room: What’s that computer brain going to be about?
So, the human side of it is really thinking about what are all the biases that we build in, what are the kind of techno-ethics that we want to have a look at? Are we doing this from a human-centered design basis? Are we doing this from a human operations understanding? Humans build and fix systems…humans get tired and stressed. We feel happy and sad. Are we outing those things into the system? Do we want those things into AI? So, I think there’s some very potent questions going on in the research.
RA: As a trainer and a trainer-of-trainers, when you look at how training is going to be in the future and the skills that are going to be required…how do you feel that we’re going to have to start to step up here—to learn the skills that we’re going to need to inhabit this world that we’re building? How do you see us approaching that as trainers and teachers?
SJM: I think first we have to understand who we are as the trainer or teacher…. Digital technology is merely the catalyst…. We’re always looking to maintain our operational sustainability, but we want to be more agile in the organization, in our strategy…and we want to build a better culture yet we want to make sure that we’re able to stabilize it at the same time.
AI was always seen to…oh, it’s going to take people’s jobs away, when in fact, more than anything it’s just changing the way we work. They talk about us being in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and in fact there’s a really good video from the World Economic Forum on that and what I found quite interesting …one lass from a car manufacturing company, her view was, “But we fit there…As humans we come in and take the extra step to help the technology.” Which is the complete reverse of what we’ve been looking at, which is how does the technology help us do our job? So now we’re talking about us helping the machines.
I think one of the biggest [skill sets] is still coming back to that human element, is understanding that AI and EI interaction.
Talent acquisition is transforming. Businesses are having to become a “destination company” from now on—rather than us trying to source people, we’re trying now to attract the talent the other way in.
About Simone Jo Moore
Thought-provoking and relevant, Simone Jo Moore is a service management mixologist who probes the hearts and minds of what makes businesses and IT tick, jumpstarting people's thinking to evolve behavior and actions at any level. People connected, knowledge shared, possibilities discovered, and potential realized are her active values. Simone is a senior consultant, master trainer, course author, podcast co-host, and framework mentor (ITIL, DevOps,Agile, VeriSM, KCS, SFIA, and others). She combines these skills with a background in HR to create and share deep leadership experience with her clients, at global conferences and across social media. She is on Twitter @simonejomoore.
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson.