Service Thinking Introduction

What Is Service Thinking

Service Thinking is about helping teams and organisations become more effective, primarily through a focus on the delivery of value to customers.

We believe every team and organisation ultimately delivers value to a customer, and therefore can get some benefit from Service Thinking, regardless of whether they’re a small commercial or HR team, a product organisation using a scaled agile framework, or a 250 person Government Department.

Our material is structured as a set of guidance notes. Adopting them all will not make you successful, and you can be successful without adopting them all. Our only aim is to give you some inspiration for how to make your team or organisation better, one step at a time.

About This Material

This material is currently in a draft form, and constantly emerging and evolving. We know there are elements that are rough, immature, and need to be reworked. There are also lots of elements we’d like to add that don’t yet exist. We welcome contributions, feedback and questions, and expect this material to continuously grow and expand.

We focus on the what and not the how - this is not a set of practices, but a set of principles and guidance notes with supporting information and further reading that should help you understand what’s right for your context.

We focus on being practical - this isn’t conceptual theory, but a set of ideas that can be easily and directly applied.

We are terminology agnostic - we have some standard terminology we use, but you can and should use whatever is right for you. If the intent behind a guidance note is met, it doesn’t matter what the solution or practice is called.

We aim to supplement rather than replace existing frameworks or libraries of practices. So whatever you use today, you should be able to find ideas here for how to make it better. See the topics under the serv-think-alignment tag for our thoughts on how Service Thinking aligns to common frameworks and libraries of practice.

We are open source - there is no licence fee, no certifications, no cost. The only thing we ask is that you let us know how you get on, that you contribute back new ideas, proposals, or suggestions, and that you link back to this site if you re-publish any of the material.


Although we think this guidance will be of value to any team or organisation in any context, we believe there are some foundational elements that if present will enable and underpin its adoption:

  1. Teams and Organisations (rather the individuals) are the organisational unit that objectives are assigned to and performance measured against. This introduces the concept of a second team-based organisational model that complements the traditional line management hierarchy which now focuses on personal and professional development.
  2. Teams and Organisations are directed through the agreement of objectives and not through direct tasking, are empowered and have delegated responsibility and decision making in how these are achieved
  3. Teams and Organisations are responsible for innovation, change and run, and have end to end responsibility for products and services across their entire lifecycle, rather than these being separate elements owned by different teams or different parts of the organisation.
  4. Budget and Headcount is allocated on a rolling basis against Teams and Organisations, rather than against specific initiatives or solutions, and reviewed and adjusted based on performance and changing business priorities.
  5. Team and Organisations have the ability to flex their budget and headcount across their activities within agreed constraints, and to change and adjust their roadmap based on learnings and changing priorities.
  6. Success is measured based on the delivery of customer value, cost, and the delivery of outcomes (and not outputs), and experimentation, learning, and failing fast are supported and encouraged
  7. There is investment (of time and money) in the performance and efficiency of Teams and Organisations

Expected Benefits

We think there are a number of benefits that come from adopting this guidance:

  • Being customer need focused, and measuring success based on how well you serve that customer need, and the cost and effort to do so
  • Focusing on leadership over management, with empowerment of teams, delegated decision making, and trust enabled by transparency over rules and regulations
  • Focusing change on outcomes rather than outputs, and measuring success and progress accordingly
  • Innovation with a purpose and with pull through - by the organisation to help it meet it’s long term vision and goals and to explore and meet its customer need
  • The regular delivery of value, with prioritisation to ensure that delivery capacity is always focused on the most valuable activities
  • Experimentation and adaptation, with the ability to react and pivot quickly and effectively
  • Putting humans first - being a great and fulfilling place to work, respecting your customers and partners, and investing in people
  • A strong performance culture - a focus on what is being done, why it is being done, quality, care and continuous improvement


This has primarily been created for UK Government Organisations, so is built around some of the intrinsic properties of these organisations, including a strong hierarchy and fixed annual budget cycles, however our belief is that it is applicable outside of this context as well - please let us know.

It is an accumulation of our work with multiple clients over many years, including work we’ve done in partnership with Cprime.