Trichromatic Interactions

The three elements of the trichromatic approach were explained in Elementary, My Dear. It is perhaps advisable to read that page before tackling this one.

At the end of that post we explained that it is the combination of the elements that creates the magic.

Trichrom Fine Detail

Before continuing, we should say that the combination must always be a three way one. What we mean by this is that control and autonomy alone will not deliver the required end result, nor will a two-way mix of values and control. The same also applies for autonomy and values. An optimal service organisation needs to be designed using all three of the trichromatic elements.

The new three-way thinking might be tricky for some – a little like learning to juggle with three balls after years of playing catch with a single one.

For instance, too much control results in the type of IT service that is commonplace today. Alternatively, control mixed with autonomy alone also does not work. Like oil and water, they resist each other; one always seeks to dominate.

Control is absolutely necessary in an organisational philosophy. Indeed, a workplace which is built without taking account of control will find this element present anyway (as naturally-occurring constraints in interactions between people). There are other good reasons why control is important but we should skip them for now otherwise this might get a bit technical.

Autonomy is the space in which innovation, responsiveness and an excellent customer experience is allowed to happen. However, it has a potential downside: destructive chaos – the thing which IT managers fear.

Trichromy works because values gives direction to the autonomy, and allows organisations to utilise the power of employee freedom to highly valuable ends without fear of the chaos.

As shown in the diagram above, the goal of trichromy is to position the service organisation in that sweet spot right in the middle; the pure white light where the three elements are nicely balanced.

That’s where incredible happens.

Perhaps you think that this is a little too theoretical-mumbo-jumbo for you. Well then, consider the following real world example from Google.

Next: Trichromy in Silicon Valley