Elementary, My Dear

We hope that you have arrived here from the Three Colours Cxi page. If not, we suggest you click on that link and read it first. Otherwise this might not quite flow as intended.

You have been introduced to the three elements of the trichromatic approach. As with chemistry, elements imply the lowest level of building blocks. It is the combining of the elements that enables the creation of incredible things. First however, we need to examine them in a little more detail.

Let’s start with control.


Trichrom Detail


We don’t need to say too much about this. Contemporary service organisations and those who work within them are expert at this topic. Best practices, top-down management, targets and processes – these are all control.

It is important to stress that control will still be necessary in the trichromatic future. The tri prefix exists for a reason: three colours. The approach is not about removing control as some think. Rather, the philosophy encourages the painting of a service picture using all three colours – not just red. Having said that, introducing trichromy into a service function will mean that you’re going to use less control than you’ve been used to.


Autonomy describes giving staff more freedom. In many ways it is the opposite of control. This element allows service employees the freedom to make a judgement call, to decide when something will be delivered, to advise customers (using their knowledge and skill) what the best solution for the issue at hand might be. Autonomy is not being bound by processes or targets or what the boss says.

And it can be scary to many contemporary IT managers.


In trichromy, values are individual and human. They are not the values of the organisation, but the values of each employee. The IT service organisation is required to understand values to make the trichromatic approach work. Luckily there is a considerable psychological research literature on this topic (and people such as ourselves) that can help with it.

These then, are the three elements of trichromy. The good news is, as with many of the best ideas, the whole is much more than the sum of the parts.

In other words, the real magic occurs when the elements are combined.

Next: Trichromatic Interactions