Way back in 2015 I wrote a couple of posts about meeting etiquette. One was for physical meetings and one for online / phone meetings. Things have moved on with online meetings and following a post on LinkedIn from Kendra Ross I thought I ought to update my thoughts. So, once again, in no particular order:
It's interesting to see how over the years, certain things are always at the fore of an IT Operations Manager's sleeplessness.
So how can this be addressed, so that you can sleep at night without alcohol?
If you would like help introducing or improving any of these areas, please get in touch and let's work together to make you look even better than you did this morning.
Ok. This might seem odd for some of you to hear me say this, but it's true.
I'm not going to go into too much detail here, because I have written a way too long thing about it for Scopism, but most frameworks or ways of working just require you to understand and use a few principles.
ITIL - ITSM
That's pretty much all most of us need to do our jobs well. And fundamentally they all agree with each other.
However, if you want to know more about any of these, check out the training options I have available.
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.