Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dispair, dispair - pt2

I attended a workshop yesterday.  It was quite well run, with a series of "topic based tables" that everyone circled around.  Each table was chaired by a "facilitator", a senior manager (or in some cases, 2 senior managers) who were more often than not giving output under the guise of asking questions, which is of course not facilitation.  But that's not the issue that I want to talk about.

There were a few things that really disturbed me.

Firstly, one of the issues was that users had got some money and started buying IT with it.  This didn't fit in with the IT department's plan to control IT in entirety.

I listened to this conversation for a while, which centered around "how can we stop them buying IT" and eventually I had to ask the question - "What are you not doing that's causing them to buy IT?"  So it now became a conversation about the market gap.  So these terrible, rogue users were buying IT because the IT department wasn't turning around requests quickly enough, they were too expensive, and they weren't supplying what was requested.  So, there was clearly a market gap that the users were having to fill themselves.  But instead of the IT dept saying "we should be trying to understand the customers better and respond to their needs", they were saying "how do we prevent these users buying stuff" which in my view is cutting the user's throat.

The second thing that concerned me, was the "how do we all get on the same page?" question, which was effectively suggesting that the users all should get on the same page.  Well senior managers, I'm going to tell you something.  As soon as you all get on the same page, then you'll have a better much better chance of getting the staff to do so.

To do this requires senior level consensus, the building of a shared view of the landscape - and that must happen at a senior level.  That means that you have to lock yourselves in a room and get to an agreement of what the shared picture looks like.  Then you have to share that with the teams and all work to it.  Simple, but it won't get done because you're all too focussed on how much more stuff you can scoop up.

There are also people going into positions because they're senior...but they have no idea how to do the role.  So, in this case you need guidance from SME's.  My input to this was "develop a process that you can follow, publish it, follow it and iterate".  As I say "In the absence of any other plan, my plan is the best plan".  So plan, but remember that no first plan ever survives contact with the 'enemy' (Sun Tzu).  Agile working isn't so much making it up as you go along, but more about having an approach that's good enough to begin, and then building on that over time.  But make the process repeatable and known, put the logic in there and judge things against that.  Then, change what doesn't work.

Thirdly, I heard voiced a few really terrible statements "we're going to focus user engagement on the big ticket change, not the day-to-day stuff, but then a failure to realise that the everyday stuff IS the big-ticket stuff that you should be consulting the users on.  Projects aren't the big spend that you think they are!  Your 'aspirationally' mobile, flexible workforce would tell you that they want mobile devices (they wanted that 10yrs ago) and you're still buying them desktop PC's and deskphones.  So, you'll end up buying both and lots more besides because you simply didn't bother to understand the requirement from the user perspective and that was because you were talking and not listening.

The final thing, which was actually 75% solved in the first five minutes was "first line keep closing tickets before the problem is solved" which got the question "Do you think that you may be measuring the wrong behaviour?" - so you're rewarding people based on number of tickets closed, rather a mix of customers served and satisfaction?  If you close a ticket early, that just leads to two tickets and an overall unhappier customer.  Encourage and embrace the problems, fix them properly and then close the ticket.  Think like the CCTV engineer that was on unpaid callout - "I don't want to have to come out to this twice".  So, don't close the ticket until you're sure that the job is complete.  Coupled with that, if your process is designed properly, then you'll be measuring the correct things and not things that drive the wrong behaviours.

There are still some mindsets that need to be changed ASAP.  Without that mindset change, the shape might be different, but everything couldn't be more 'same'.

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