‘Smile or Frown’ – The face of the CEO

Mission Director Log: 30 July 2020

The good news is less hectic, stressful travelling. Fewer ‘Air miles’ and zero international trips as a result of COVID, however I am clocking up a lot of ‘Mars miles’ and planetary trips with all of these remote MarsLander online workshops’ thought the Mission Director, smiling.

However, it brings with it a new set of stress. Remote communication and collaboration of MarsLander mission control teams isn’t easy.  Even harder when trying to get these Agile, Lean, DevOps and ITSM people to play nicely together’ thought the Mission Director, the smile disappearing.

Will the team be able to effectively collaborate? Will they be able to effectively align these ‘practices’ – ITIL4 being the latest? Will the team be able to demonstrate the value of ITIL4? Will the team be able to demonstrate they understand what value is?’ A frown appeared on the brow of the Mission Director.

End of Log:

The magnificent 7

A team of seven delegates attended an online Marslander simulation workshop organized by Glenfis to explore how to effectively collaborate remotely and to explore more about ITIL4 and its value.

Everybody keeps using the word value, but what is value? Value for who?’ asked the Mission Director.

The delegates played the roles of Sales Director (Product owner), Flight Operations (Business as usual), Customer support (feedback and technical debt), IT development, Systems engineering, Service Desk, vendor, Change management and Service Management. All with different perspectives on value.

The team was challenged with a growing backlog of opportunities and demands and limited resources. Not all value could be realized. How would the team optimize value?

Undesirable behaviors – ‘Collaborate and promote visibility’

As the team walked through the simulation scenario they captured undesirable behaviors that were impacting the end-to-end value stream, and issues that were impacting value realization. For the purpose of this session looking particularly at issues around Communication and collaboration. One of the guiding principles of ITIL4 is ‘collaborate and promote visibility’. This is what the team discovered. Which of these do you recognize in YOUR organization?:

  • Poor facilitation skills of the remote reflection and improvement sessions
  • Lack of pro-active suggestions from all stakeholders
  • Lack of ownership for making a business case and arguing a standpoint
  • Challenges of engaging with all members to gain feedback and input
  • Raising lots of questions and suggestions without making a decision
  • Unclear decision making authority
  • Internally focused IT terminology and perspectives on value
  • Lack of understanding of business
  • Lack of business sharing goals, value drivers, vision, risks
  • Lack of visibility of the information needed to support decision making
  • Lack of asking ‘what value? When?’
  • Waiting for somebody else to say something
  • Not asking for help or clarification when using new collaboration features
  • Off-line and disengaged when decisions were being made and no confirmation that ALL understood decisions.
  • Assuming people had heard and understood what was decided
  • Assumptions about who could prioritize
  • Lack of feedback and improvement suggestions to the way we communicate and collaborate remotely

It was clear that remote communication skills such as active listening, summarizing agreements, clarifying decisions, eliciting input and verbal confirmation discipline was a struggle. People were missing the body language signals they used to rely on. People needed a facilitator – a coach to help them practice these new collaboration skills and behaviors.

I was getting frustrated at the lack of situational awareness to be able to have effective discussions and make fast decisions, and frustrated at the lack of a ‘focus on value’ declared the Mission Director.

In terms of ITIL4. The teams recognized the following improvement opportunities after first exploring the ‘Service Value System’ (SVS). How many of these improvement opportunities do you recognize in YOUR organization?

  • Unclear prioritization causing gut feeling choices or prioritization by who shouts loudest – not linked to value (risk to value realization)
  • Unclear how to prioritize improvements and who prioritizes e.g. end-to-end value stream improvements? Working on biggest constraint? Prioritization based on customer feedback? (No focus on the value of Continual improvement)
  • Unclear how to prioritize conflicting business demands and opportunities, e.g. sales wants ‘Value and Outcomes’ , Flight operations wants ‘Risks mitigated’ (no conscious, weighed decision making or governance relating to strategic value drivers)
  • Lack of a Continual improvement focus embedded into everybody’s behavior e.g ‘progress iteratively with feedback’ (missing opportunities to reduce value leakage, missing the value of feedback in relation to continual improvement)
  • Unclear role division between Product owner/Service owner with work prioritization and improvement prioritization (sub-optimized value, risks with conflicting resource allocation)
  • Unclear view and visibility into ‘Value’ – unclear goals, vision, direction (Risk to strategic value realization)
  • Unclear how work contributes to value or risk (risks that wrong value work will be prioritized, impacting value realization)
  • Unclear which end-to-end decision makers need to get together to prioritize when conflicts arise (delays in decision making, value delayed, wrong value prioritized)
  • Poor visibility into information to enable fast decision making and prioritization of resources (delays to value realization, risks to sub-optimized value realization)
  • Need to learn to speak business language to make business cases for improvement work (Missing value opportunities, risks to future value realization)
  • Poor recognition of different types of opportunities and demands – value creation, value leakage, and value improvement work and prioritize against all 3 (risks to value optimization)

Focus on value is all about mindset and behaviors’ added the Mission Director ‘It is clear that these undesirable behaviors can negatively impact value realization and pose a risk to business goals, resulting often in invisible ‘value leakage’’.

The team concluded that value is a multifaceted, continually changing concept, perceived differently to different stakeholders. A ‘Focus on value’ needs to be translated into desirable behaviors, this means understanding and speaking the business language, effective decision making and prioritization mechanisms to make the best possible choice to optimize value when there are too many opportunities and demands for the scarce resources available. Value leakage will invariably occur, it is consciously deciding which value leakage is acceptable and which is not acceptable’ concluded the Mission Director.

In the end, after using the Service value System and applying the guiding principles ‘Focus on value’, ‘collaborate and promote visibility’ and ‘progress iteratively with feedback’ the team managed to optimize business value’ smiled the Mission Director. ‘If only ITSM professionals could translate ITIL theory into desirable behaviors in reality’ added The Mission Director frowning deeply again.

Take aways

At the end of the workshop session we asked the team to capture actions they would take away and apply in their organizations:

  • Focus on learning new lean-agile methods, such as Value, voice of the customers, value streams. ITIL4 focus on value streams will help align ITIL with more agile methods.
  • Improve end-to-end collaboration for better value (understand value from different perspectives) + everybody has a stake on continual improvement (foster a culture of continual improvement and ‘progress iteratively with feedback’).
  • Always think about value before starting a task. If you prioritize one task over another also ask ‘what is the consequences of NOT doing a piece of work? – question around ‘Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks).
  • Collaboration with different key stakeholders of an agile environment needs to be ‘fostered’ and facilitated.
  • Value thinking culture change to be supported and enabled. Changing mindsets and behaviors to ‘Focus-On-Value’.
  • Design correct governance (decision making, prioritization) for ITSM and ‘Engaging’ with Business and DevOps (end-to-end Value stream focus) to understand different perspectives on value.
  • Foster improved collaboration and use better collaboration techniques, e.g. facilitation skills, visualization, workshops, voting.

The Mission Director smiled. ‘How to translate theory into practice!’ he thought. But the next question is ‘Will they take ownership to carry through on these takeaways?’

If YOU recognized any of these challenges and improvement needs what will YOU now do’?

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