In October 2019, I will have been an independent consultant and contractor for 9 years. This blows me away.
It's not been an easy 9 years, with my finger hovering over the "apply for benefits" button on one occasion because I hadn't been able to get work in for 6 months, and a couple of applications for permanent roles made, just because I couldn't see the light at the end of a long dark tunnel. I still say "never say never" to permanent roles, because if the right thing comes along, I would be silly to turn it down, but it's not my priority.
However, the positives have outweighed the negatives and I am SOOOOO glad I did it.
Being independent has enabled me to:
Will being independent work for you?
I'm a consultant, so I am legally obliged to answer with "it depends". You need to:
So these nearly 9 years have been challenging. They have been satisfying. They have been enlightening. Has it made me rich? Not financially. Emotionally? Yes.
If you have been a client, a colleague, a friend or my family, THANK YOU!
I've written before about what teams get out of The Phoenix Project simulations and how they can learn the principles of DevOps in an experiential way. However, that was always focussed on DevOps.
Now, ITIL4 is a big change in the ITIL world. ITIL didn't fundamentally change from V2 to 2011 and while the world skipped off to embrace agile and lean thinking and play with the cool kids of DevOps, traditional Service Management and IT Operations seemed to continue to do things the same old way. ITIL4 is now kicking stones around the outside of the group of cool kids and may even join in soon. It too has embraced lean thinking, using Service Value Chains, iterative improvements, and the whole Guiding Principles approach, introduced with ITIL Practitioner. All things that many good consultants and experienced service management practitioners were doing as they adopted and adapted ITIL, but it wasn't as clear in the framework before.
The MarsLander simulation from GamingWorks has been redeveloped to allow teams to experiment and experience how ITSM and IT Operations teams can operate in a more lean and agile method. This brings obvious benefits in organisations where development or project teams are more agile and the Operations teams continue to be more traditional. They can all start to think the same way. It also allows those IT teams that don't need to change because of outside influences, but just want to change so they are operating better, to learn about and try different approaches. Then there are those teams who have gone through ITIL4 Foundation training and know the theory. MarsLander allows them to put it into practice and see how to use that knowledge.
Aprill Allen - aka Knowledge Bird - and I are currently working with a client, as part of the Good Guidance collaborative team, to help them adopt a new and improved way of working. As a Managed Service Provider, they have been operating well for a number of years, always reviewing how they can improve and deliver greater value to their customers, but now it has been decided that a fundamental shift in thinking and working is required. As part of their learning experience, I ran a MarsLander simulation for a number of their team, including CEO, CDO, Service Delivery Manager, HR Manager and a number of technical people including Service Desk. I'm not going to go through their findings and learnings with you here, as that would take the fun out of you experiencing the simulation, but there were some key outputs which resonated with them, and every other team who has run the MarsLander or Phoenix Project simulations:
An earlier blog of mine pointed out similarities between different ways of working and thinking, with regards to learning, so the gods must be trying to tell us something.
What do you need to do to make change happen?
There's a lot of change going on in the way that organisations work. For many years we have, generally, carried on in the same manner, working in the same way. Whether this is in IT, HR, Finance, Logistics, Retail, or any other part of the organisation, we've pretty much done things the same way for several years. There have, of course, been small changes in the way things have been done, but, at least within the IT world, we seem to be rolling out new ways of thinking and working at a rather busy rate.
In the last few years we have seen a formalisation of SIAM (Service Integration and Management), VeriSM, ITIL4, COBIT 2019, Lean IT, DevOps, Agile ITSM, Cynefin, etc and along with those approaches, we have introduced teams to ways of thinking and working that have been used elsewhere for a while, like visualisation of work, Kanban, Value Stream Mapping, Theory of Constraints, servant leadership, constant organisational change management, agile management.....a growing list.
Don't get me wrong, this is all very good stuff and is needed in many organisations. Some are further down the path of change than others, but that has always been the case and always will be.
All these "new" (to some) approaches can be overwhelming. The other weekend I felt like I was back in the technical world, which I left because it was all changing too quickly for my little brain to cope, with what felt like a barrage of new approaches to thinking and working. However, when you take a step back and think about it over a nice cup of tea, it's not too bad.
Many of the approaches I have mentioned are fundamentally saying the same things. In no particular order and in a very simplified view:
There's nothing in that list that we shouldn't really be doing in our everyday life, is there?
If there is one key point from everything that is going on, it's that last point: Allow people to have time to try things and learn. In DevOps speak, this is part of the Third Way. Rob England & Dr Cherry Vu also talk about this in their book "The agile Manager"; Em Campbell-Pretty talks about it in her book "Tribal Unity"; Karen Ferris discusses it in her book "Game On! Change is Constant" and I'm sure in countless other places.
Knowledge Bird recently published the inaugural Knowledge Management Career Survey and one part of the results jumped out at me.
This highlights what we are all trying to do, or should be. Ways of working are telling us to create environments where people and teams can experiment, try things and learn from it. We are saying that people need to have time to learn, while at work. This goes beyond only learning something new when sent on a 3 day training course, or having to learn at home.
This survey points out that among many other things, one of the key things people want to create improved knowledge for, is to "extend capabilities within their role". The teams are telling us all that they want to learn more. The approaches to new ways of working are telling us that we need to create cultures where people can experiment and learn.
What are you doing to make this happen in your workplace?
Over the last 12 months, I have been lucky enough to be able to deliver business simulations to organisations who are either going through change, or who are looking at different ways of working.
These simulations have been created by GamingWorks and go by the names of The Phoenix Project and MarsLander.
The Phoenix Project simulation focusses on helping teams to explore and learn about DevOps and Agile ways of working. MarsLander helps Service Management teams explore how a more agile approach can help them deliver faster, with more value and use the ITIL4 approach in their everyday working. However, with the latest update to ITIL taking onboard the learnings of DevOps, Agile and Lean and applying them to ITSM, these two simulations help attendees explore, experiment and learn these similar concepts but in different ways.
The teams who have taken part in The Phoenix Project have come away from the day, and it is a full-on day, telling me and their colleagues that they understand the need to collaborate better, that the “business” representatives (as opposed to the IT team members) “get” what they need to do to work better with IT, that “business” and IT people understand why they need to communicate better, that they all understand the benefits of limiting their work in progress.
The teams who have participated in MarsLander, tell me and their colleagues that they understand the need to collaborate better, they understand why they need to communicate better within teams and with their customers (internal or external) and suppliers / partners, that they all understand the benefits of visualising their work and limiting their work in progress.
Senior participants - CIOs and IT Managers - tell me that they want to promote greater visualisation or work and encourage greater preparation, not just planning, within their teams.
Those at the pointy-end of delivering IT services tell me that they want to get their management teams on the simulations so that they understand the need for improved ways of working.
Non-IT attendees go away with a greater respect for their IT colleagues and talk to me about running the simulations within their teams - non-IT teams.
All team members also come away from the simulations as closer teams. Some were brand new teams only meeting for the first time on the day, but after an hour or two, you wouldn’t have known that.
So if you are looking to improve collaboration between or within teams, looking to explore different ways of working, or to understand how the DevOps principles or ITIL4 approach can help your teams deliver better services, get in touch. I may have just the simulation for you.
Recently we ran a number of Phoenix Project simulations for an organisation who are in the process of developing product teams, which the CIO noted “...will be self-contained, self-managed and empowered to deliver services associated with critical business value streams”. Part of this transformation involved the IT department’s lead team experiencing The Phoenix Project simulation for themselves and then, having agreed on the benefit, running a further two, so far, for two of the new product teams.
Both groups who took part in the simulations included technical roles (Developers, Testers, Support, Monitoring, etc.) and representatives from the business teams for each product, including CIO and Directors. One of the teams was new; so new, that the day of the simulation was their very first day working together.
I’m not going to provide any spoilers about how the days went, other than to share some findings.
With a mix of IT and Business representatives taking part, we made sure that IT team members took the roles of Parts Unlimited business representatives (CFO, HR & Retail Operations) and those from the wider business, took IT roles. Within the IT representatives, we made sure that nobody had a role similar to their day job. That mix created some good talking points from the very start.
As round one was started some people dropped into their day job role and took control of certain aspects of the round. For one team, this worked really well and round one was a roaring success. For another group, less so. However, following the reflection and some advice provided on how improvements could be made, the team who didn’t do so well in round 1, listened and used their preparation time to improve their approach. The other team, who did well, didn’t prepare as much and struggled in the second round.
As the day progressed, it became apparent that those IT representatives in Business roles in the simulation were learning much about the value of planning, and they were sharing what they learned. All, eventually, understood the value of preparing along with a few other key things which I won’t share here. The Business representatives in IT roles for the day were able to see what was required from them in their usual roles and identified improvements they could make.
The days went well with both groups having many takeaways which would help them establish their new teams and drive collaboration and improvements based on the principles of DevOps. The team who were together for the first time, started as a room of individuals and left as a team, made up of IT and Business people. Both groups left as more cohesive and collaborative teams than when they started.
So what can you get from participating in The Phoenix Project?
If you are interested in running The Phoenix Project simulation at your organisation, get in touch.
A while ago I responded to a statement that millennials and Gen Y people expect to be able to use any device of their choosing at work. My response (and I can't remember where I had this hissy-fit) was along the lines of "Tough! Once we grow up, we have to toe the line, and sometimes that means using and doing stuff that seems daft". However, going through the VeriSM BoK and there is a statement that goes:
"the nature of teams is evolving, moving away from the traditional hierarchical structure, to empowered and collaborative work units. The workers of today and especially tomorrow (Gen Y & Gen Z) have been raised in the teamwork culture and organisations need to be prepared to offer that same work environment." (emphasis mine)
Now, as a dad, I know everything, right? Nope. My initial reaction to the above statement was along the lines of "Pish!", or to be less English and more Kiwi "Yeah, Nah!" but then I got thinking. When I was at school, we sat at individual desks, in columns and learnt. Science classes were the only ones where we sat and worked in small groups. My daughters at Intermediate School and College (high school) only seem to work in groups. It's what they know. Could they join the workforce and be expected to work individually? Yes. Would they excel in that format? Probably not.
So we do need to change the way that work environments are created, not just because they are "self-entitled" Gen Y people, but because we have created that environment in schooling.
Does you work environment allow for a culture of team working (not just "in a team" but actually part of a team)? Or do you expect people to be doing their own job while working in the Finance team, or the HR team, or the Asset Management team? And I'm not saying open plan offices are the answer.
When consulting with clients about DevOps, I reinforce the culture, collaboration & teams aspect, which of course if you are considering becoming part of the DevOps movement in your organisation, means changing the culture across the whole organisation, but this needs to work across all teams in all organisations whether DevOps is something being considered or not. I also always like to create self managing teams when helping organisations to identify and drive improvements of any kind, but this has just been a lightbulb.
Maybe I am late to the realisation party, but that one sentence has made me take stock of everything I have ignored about the way most organisations work. I don't have all the answers, but I'm thinking about it.
I recently wrote about the differences between leaders and managers, but since then I have been thinking more about the type of people we interact with, rather than the role itself.
Whether you are a member of a team, a manager, team leader or any other role in an organisation, is the way you act having a positive or negative influence on those around you? Over the years, I have been lucky enough to work with a variety of different people in many organisations across the globe, some huge companies of thousands of employees and some small local organisations with less than two dozen employees. What stands out in all of them is how some people influence their colleagues positively and others manage to bring the mood down immediately.
Is that important? As Phineas from Phineas & Ferb would say, "Yes, Yes it is". I have worked with some people, at varying levels of hierarchical influence, who have made people glad to be there because they always have a cheerful demeanour, they are happy to help anybody out with any task, and when they aren't around, they are missed by the teams. Others start to moan about something as soon as they walk through the door, whether it is the traffic, politicians, how much they ache from the gym, their partner or anything else that pops into their heads. We all have moments where something winds us up and we want to vent, but if it is all the time, it brings people down.
So what should you do to make sure you influences people positively? My personal recommendations are:
All of the above are key to creating a positive vibe in the workplace. Whether your day is turning up, doing your job and going home, leading people through organisational change, running a company or looking after children at home, you need to display positive attributes to ensure that you are a good role model. Empathy is, as I have hinted at previously, a key skill. However it seems to be lacking in many people. So can I ask that if ALL you take away from this post, is that you will focus on being more empathetic? That will help you become the right kind of role model that many people need.
If you feel you or your colleagues would like assistance with anything mentioned, please do get in touch. I can help.
I have been having a brief chat with someone about whether they should be hiring a leader
or manager and the discussion seemed worth sharing.
So, is a manager or a leader right for a role?
These two terms often get used interchangeably, or even by people who consider a leader to be less than a manager. After all, you progress form a Team Leader to a Manager, don't you? But what is the difference, if there is one?
There are a plethora of sites and articles out there defining the difference between the two types of role, but in the end it doesn't really matter what you are or have, as long as it is right for the position.
In very simple terms, because you will be able to find something on the internet that disagrees with me, a manager is one who ensures that things get done and focuses on tasks. So if, for example, you have a position which needs to ensure that certain services or products are delivered in a set way by a set time, and the team just need to do that, you probably need a manager in that position.
Again, in simple terms, a leader understands and shares a vision and encourages or helps people to deliver it. Another example might be where a team needs to deliver certain services to a customer but it is not prescriptive in the way that the services is delivered, then a leader might be right in this situation. "We need to clean this house. Make sure that there are no dirty carpets, curtains, windows and the oven is clean". The vision has been set, and all get on to deliver that service. The leader might help to move furniture and do some of the tasks, but doesn't tell the team how to clean the carpets, unless they are struggling and need help.
This is a relatively new term to many people. Within agile teams. Servant Leaders, such as Scrum Masters or Agile Service Managers, in that environment will lead the teams to become self-organising and remove any impediments that might slow down or stop delivery. They are part of the team and not separate. As Robert K Greenleaf puts it
"The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible."
So should you have, or be, a manager or a leader? Well, I am a consultant, so my response would have to be; it depends.
Managers will probably be more focussed on getting tasks delivered in an agreed way. e.g. Finance Manager or HR Manager.
Leaders will be focussed on helping a team to deliver against a vision. I believe that IT Operations Managers or Development Managers should be leaders more than managers.
Servant leaders will be focussed on helping the team become self-organising and enabling them to deliver with minimal hurdles. Think Scrum Master or even Service Desk Team Leaders.
There is no right or wrong role. It really needs to fit the position. A leader won't always fit in a management role, and a manager won't always fit in a leader role. Work out what you need, and then find the right type of person to fit that need. And if you are a natural leader, understand that if you move into a management position, it just may not suit you and you might become frustrated.
Mike Elgan wrote an article about the fact that, in the US at least, laptops will not be allowed in cabin of aeroplanes and of the demand, whether current or future, for access to smartphones by border patrols.
While this is worrying for many people, businesses need to plan for this. Those organisations that have staff members travelling to and fro from the USA, and many other countries soon, need to be prepared.
The equipment mentioned is, for those travelling for work, likely to be owned by the organisation. So what happens for that business traveller when the laptop is irreparably damaged in the checked-in luggage, or stolen? What happens to the data stored on it? What happens if border patrol demands access to the smart phone? This isn't a case of "Call IT and get it replaced". This has a huge business impact.
Business Continuity Plans are (supposed to be) written by business units to document how to handle and recover from threats to an organisation or business unit. They are generally written as a response to major disasters, or issues that stop staff from attending offices (flood, fire, disease, etc). Most won't consider this as a large enough impact. They should.
Business continuity planning (or business continuity and resiliency planning) is the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company. Any event that could negatively impact operations is included in the plan........
Businesses cannot, nor should they, expect IT to be handling this for them alone. IT will be able to respond with an IT Service Continuity Plan, based on the Business Continuity Plan, but not second guess the impact to the wider business.
If you are a senior manager in an organisation where anybody travels overseas for business, you need to consider the impact, what your staff will do if they lose the laptop or smartphone, and what you will do if the data stored therein is compromised.
Should staff have company data on the laptop or phone? If so, is IT aware of this and have you asked them to come up with a way of protecting that data?
This is no different to staff having laptops stolen out of cars, but it now needs to be front of your mind. Don't expect IT to know what you want. IT are a part of the business and you need to work together to ensure that you have considered the impact, understood the risks and planned for it.
Prepare your plan and provide all travellers with a towel. Then, you can, as Douglas Adams advised in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Some days it feels like everyone is talking about Devops. If you read industry blogs, follow groups such as Back2ITSM on Facebook, or talk to people in our industry, someone will start to mention DevOps fairly quickly. That’s fine if you work in an organisation that does software development, but surely it doesn’t matter to you if you don’t. Or does it?
A year or so ago, I was talking with Rob England about Devops and I couldn’t see how it would affect the types of organisations that I generally consult to; small, “traditional” IT shops with off the shelf software being used, with no development. We had a great discussion about it as part of an ITSM Crowd recording.
I now feel that I understand DevOps better, although there is still plenty more to know as DevOps evolves and more people get involved in it, but my understanding is still very much on the Ops side of DevOps.
So, if, like me, you have your heart in Operations, what does DevOps mean, why should you care and can it help you?
What does it mean?
According to DevOps.com:
"The first sentence on Wikipedia defines DevOps as “a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information technology (IT) professionals.” Well, that’s a fairly dense definition, yet still pretty vague. I think DevOps can be explained simply as operations working together with engineers to get things done faster in an automated and repeatable way."
DevOps, at it’s core is all about bringing together Dev & Ops and the wider business and ensuring that the cadence of development delivery can be matched and managed at the same pace by Operations. DevOps also encourages the use of the goals of CALMS; Culture, Automation, Lean, Measurement and Sharing.
Very (and I mean very) simply, they mean:
Culture; The culture of collaboration is one of the key ones and guides the bringing together of Dev& Ops and the wider business. It’s not about them and us, but about us all working together to get things done better, quicker and cheaper. It doesn’t happen overnight though.
Automation; Wherever possible, automate tasks. Automate testing, deployment, integration, incident resolution, everything that can be.
Lean; Reduce waste. If it doesn’t need to be done, don’t do it. Move quickly and continuously learn and improve. If you try something and it fails, never mind, try something else quickly. You are allowed to fail in DevOps.
Measurement; Measure what you need to to ensure that you know that you are improving.
Sharing; Share responsibility & knowledge between Dev & Ops. It’s what it’s all about.
Why should you care? Well, the world is changing. While there are still many organisations out there who “only” do traditional IT and use the ITIL framework as the loose guide to handling calls and changes, we need to acknowledge that there are different and often better ways to do the job. So you need to be aware of what is happening and be open to changing the way you work. Do you want to be that person who says “We’ve always done it that way!” or “ That’s not how we do it here”?
Can DevOps help you? Yes. It can make you work together and remove some, if not all silos in IT. It can also help you work closer with the wider business so that everyone understands the drivers and priorities for the work that IT does. It can help you to trust each other more and move away from the blame culture that still persists in some organisations. It can allow you understand that it’s ok to try something and fail. It can make you think about automating stuff through scripts or pre-approved changes. It can encourage sharing.
There is a lot of good stuff in DevOps which can and should be adopted by those with no Dev.
So how do you start the thinking?
There is training in DevOps, which provides you with an understanding of the principles and the language used, DevOps Foundation, which I can provide through on-line training.
There is also the Phoenix Project business simulation workshop which is based on the book by Gene Kim et al and takes you through the usual issues experienced by IT and guides you through applying DevOps principles.
Get in touch and see how we can help.