Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Make the most of a conference experience without one

Another service management conference is underway (Fusion16) and unfortunately some of us are not able to attend for one reason or another. Fortunately there are several conferences which exist to meet your needs which means you may be able to attend another one down the road. 

In general, whether you are not able to attend a conference as a result of time availability, corporate financial constraints, or geography (personally I am always dying to speak in Europe) how can you get value today without attending while still building a case for attending the next conference.


Firstly look at the agenda for the conference which you can’t make. Take note of the presenters or vendors that want to see and think what specifically would be the benefit for attending their presentation. It may be possible that the material is being presented in another venue which might address the constraints for your inability to attend this conference.


In addition the presenter may already have the content already uploaded on Brighttalk, SlideShare or on their own site. While you may not get the same context as seeing this line you may be able to view the content and then connect with the presenter in a form of social media to ask any questions you might have.


Unfortunately one of the things that many conferences have which may be more difficult to reproduce is a workshop. However it is possible that there are others in your community which are also unable to attend this conference and there may be interest in the same workshop material. Check your local training organizations or consultants; they may have similar workshops available. Alternatively if you’re not already a member you should consider joining an organization like itSMF, Business Relationship Management Institute or ISACA to name a few and connect with people in your area and organize regional activities.


The other component of a conference which may be hard to reproduce is the networking. While it is not the same as face to face, connecting with social media will allow you to broaden your horizons and get valuable insights into global service management challenges rather than local ones. It will also give you the ability to connect with pundits who have had vast amounts of experience in culturally diverse situations. 


 Not all conferences are put together the same. So really look at what content they are presenting and how you and your organization will benefit from you (and possible your team) from attending. In my experience trying to get management to sign off on you going to Las Vegas for example can be a battle in itself. So you really need to market this to them in a way which leaves them saying “who else should we send?”


Link up the reasons for attending to address challenges for your business. You could phrase it like “one of our top challenges at “Our Co” is that we don’t have a good sense of understanding our business, there are two presentations and a half day workshop which might help us to improve this.” This type of preparation will get you farther than just blindly asking to attend. Also the materials you see in the conference are generally attainable and you could share them with your team upon your return. Marketing is important.


In summary, despite the fact if you can attend a conference or not, there are vast quantities of information out there for you to leverage. Poke around, ask questions and get involved.


You can connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie or on LinkedIn

Make the most of a conference experience without one

Another service management conference is underway (Fusion16) and unfortunately some of us are not able to attend for one reason or another. Fortunately there are several conferences which exist to meet your needs which means you may be able to attend another one down the road. 

In general, whether you are not able to attend a conference as a result of time availability, corporate financial constraints, or geography (personally I am always dying to speak in Europe) how can you get value today without attending while still building a case for attending the next conference.


Firstly look at the agenda for the conference which you can’t make. Take note of the presenters or vendors that want to see and think what specifically would be the benefit for attending their presentation. It may be possible that the material is being presented in another venue which might address the constraints for your inability to attend this conference.


In addition the presenter may already have the content already uploaded on Brighttalk, SlideShare or on their own site. While you may not get the same context as seeing this line you may be able to view the content and then connect with the presenter in a form of social media to ask any questions you might have.


Unfortunately one of the things that many conferences have which may be more difficult to reproduce is a workshop. However it is possible that there are others in your community which are also unable to attend this conference and there may be interest in the same workshop material. Check your local training organizations or consultants; they may have similar workshops available. Alternatively if you’re not already a member you should consider joining an organization like itSMF, Business Relationship Management Institute or ISACA to name a few and connect with people in your area and organize regional activities.


The other component of a conference which may be hard to reproduce is the networking. While it is not the same as face to face, connecting with social media will allow you to broaden your horizons and get valuable insights into global service management challenges rather than local ones. It will also give you the ability to connect with pundits who have had vast amounts of experience in culturally diverse situations. 


 Not all conferences are put together the same. So really look at what content they are presenting and how you and your organization will benefit from you (and possible your team) from attending. In my experience trying to get management to sign off on you going to Las Vegas for example can be a battle in itself. So you really need to market this to them in a way which leaves them saying “who else should we send?”


Link up the reasons for attending to address challenges for your business. You could phrase it like “one of our top challenges at “Our Co” is that we don’t have a good sense of understanding our business, there are two presentations and a half day workshop which might help us to improve this.” This type of preparation will get you farther than just blindly asking to attend. Also the materials you see in the conference are generally attainable and you could share them with your team upon your return. Marketing is important.


In summary, despite the fact if you can attend a conference or not, there are vast quantities of information out there for you to leverage. Poke around, ask questions and get involved.


You can connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie or on LinkedIn

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Membership – Should I Stay or Should I Go

Oddly enough hot on the heels of the brexit vote I received an email reminder for renewal for a professional membership. If membership has its privileges what is the value point that tips the scales to renew.

The email I received outlined the usual benefits. Networking, content, discounts to events. However as of late I have been more value focused and began to scrutinize the cost benefit for renewal. From what I could tell most of the ‘benefits’, at least in this organization, were not that defendant on membership.

Here’s how I broke it down….

Networking

I would be able to connect with people in the same manner that I would without membership via things like social media. This particular organization did not have an online community that I could access so getting connected with like-minded professionals was pretty well left to me in the first place.

Content

Almost all professional organizations have content that is only permitted to members, which is one of the draws of initial membership. However once you have been to the shop a few times you can see that the way that they are managing their knowledge is not luring you to come back for more. The white papers, slide decks and templates become dated and lowers the value for a return consumer.

Discount to Events

At some events I found that some people even did the math on membership discounts over the year to see if they would come out ahead. While this organization may have great events the ability to enjoy them or participate was not improved with a membership.


Even looking at it from overall not all chapters in these organizations are managed equally. Some countries have a larger resource pool for people volunteering and as a result can be managed in a way that allows for increased value as compared to others.

So what do you do? For me finding a collaborative space within social media allows for a broad networking space while still attending events in a non-member capacity allows me to keep my local connections up to date. A professional organization which from my perspective is a great model is the Business Relationship Management Institute. As a member I find that they have a blend of all things I need at price that right with regularly curated materials including a body of knowledge, blogs and webinars.

So again I pose the question to you, what is a key driver in not only becoming a member but staying a member year after year. Reach out and let me know what you think.



Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie and/or on LinkedIn



Thursday, 9 June 2016

My PINKNorth16 Experience


This past week I had the opportunity to speak at a PINKNorth16 in Toronto. While I have attended a few Pink events in the past, this was my first time presenting there. The event itself is what you would come to expect from Pink Elephant; well organized, fast paced and full of diverse content for connoisseurs of all things service management.

While my presentation was on “7 Top Tips to Start and Sustain Problem Management” there was a wide variety of topics including IT Asset Management, Business Relationship Management and Organizational Change Management to name a few.

Aside from absorbing all the content you could possible handle in 2 days there was an excellent opportunity to network with like-minded professions from all levels. In my opinion, networking coupled with content enables you to get a balance of information at an event of this nature.

The key to get yourself at one of these events is to make a case to whoever pulls the purse strings at your organization. You will need to frame it in a way that will outline the return on investment for attending the conference. Take a look at the sessions and tracks and apply them to your current organizational hurdles. For the most part the session will only be the beginning of the discussion as many presenters like me are available to discuss and answer questions that might apply to your organization.

If given the opportunity to speak at a Pink event again I would jump at the chance.

Until then feel free to reach out and connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie and/or on LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions


Monday, 16 May 2016

How to Work on the Right Problems

In some cases the problems with problems are that we isolate the process from the rest of the world. This is a process that should not be a secret and should be working with all aspects of service delivery. So it should come as no surprise that a key to the success of problem management is a strong link with incident management. This needs to be managed at a root level which relies largely on communication and collaboration within all service management processes.

In my opinion one of the challenges is that as incidents are pouring in, we assume (dangerous word) that problem picks them up and works on them. The trouble is that without some solid communications and collaborative work between incident and problem we will not effectively be able to manage the problems we work on.

Here’s why,
Depending on how problem management prioritizes the influx of work, without some solid understanding of things like business impact, we may be working on the ‘wrong things’ from the start.

To fix that ...
Start by ensuring that all stakeholders impacted by the problem management process are communicating with one another right from the beginning. This should include (but not limit) a representative from the service desk, change managers and incident managers. Whether we have people whose role is a problem manager, or it is a role carried out by others, allowing for a touch point to review as a group will allow the problem review to ensure that we are looking at the right incidents in the first place.

When we start to get people with varying perspective on how incidents are impacting the business together we get a better ‘big picture’ sense of what is important to the business. The best way to validate this is to actually ask the business. This is where your business relationship manager might play a role in your review of the incidents.

While in some cases we in IT might see that the more incidents we have the more there is impact but having a representative from the business will provide that validation that we are looking at the right things. In some cases the biggest issues are the ones that are no longer getting escalated because the business has lost hope that we will even look at it, never mind fixing it.

Have these reviews regularly and review what has happened since the last meeting and ground you have covered or need to unblock. This will strengthen not only the ability to create, prioritize and work on problems but also to build out abilities in its related processes like knowledge and change management.
 

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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Tips for Getting Problem Management off the Ground



Growing up, there was an abundance of kids in the neighborhood who were riding skateboards. As would be expected there were some that were really good and others, like me, who were not. One summer the city brought in a half pipe and located it at the local rec center, likely to keep us skating in one place and out of trouble. For those who are not aware a half pipe is a large ‘U’ shaped ramp. The fact that this was in our area was a huge deal so everyone lined up nice and early on the first day it was open. The crowd was enormous; everyone was eagerly waiting to get up there to try it out. The first guy that got on this thing was a real pro, he was able to do things that not only looked good but he made it look effortless. The next 5 or 6 people were epic failures. The second to last guy had to be helped off the ramp by some friends. It was at this point that the line to try it out was getting smaller and smaller. People were realizing that this might not be as easy as it looked and the consequences of failure were somewhat painful.

Problem management can be viewed in a similar light. Some organizations make it look effortless, while others have a more painful experience with it and the rest of us stand there watching on the sidelines not wanting to try at all.

Here are some simple suggestions to get things going

The first piece of advice is that you don’t have to do this alone. You might need to get a subject matter expert to help you coordinate your efforts. This might involve short or longer term engagements but getting things off on the right foot is going to be critical to get you where you need to go. Getting some feedback from people in the IT community is also a good place to bounce ideas around.  

While I listed this tip second, it is equally as important. Keep it simple, we don’t need to boil the ocean, so take an agile approach and make iterative improvements. Having small objectives will simplify the ability to achieve your goals and in return allow you to demonstrate that you are making progress.

In the theme of keeping it simple we also want to ensure that this is cost effective. We don’t necessarily need to hire an army of problem managers or buy a new tool to get the job done in the beginning. While this could be something we look into later we will allow our results and organizational need determine that.  

Tip number 4 is to plan your progression in stages that work for your organization. Getting a cadence of activity will help will allow teams to schedule activities in advance and work on them on allotted time frames. Each organization will have a different appetite for what timing looks like so go with the flow in your organization

Lastly, this is not a ‘side of the desk’ activity so ensure that you allocate the appropriate time to complete activities. In the end it will always come back to helping the business to achieve their goals. The business is not concerned on what ‘problem management’ is, they care about results.

While my career as a professional skateboarder might have never taken off, following these steps will allow your team to get off the sidelines and make some progress to improve or implement problem management.


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Monday, 11 April 2016

Get Rolling on Feedback

There is always a desire to continually improve. A key component to this is the ability to collect and share feedback as it pertains to the area that you are looking to improve upon. From our first memories we are getting feedback on how we are performing. From our parents, coaches and teachers we have a history of getting some level of review from those around us on daily activities. So it should be second nature to solicit, receive and take action on professional feedback, right?



Well in some cases, despite our best intentions, we have not built in a strategy to account for particular levels of feedback for defined improvement initiatives.

So, how do we proceed?

First, target an area for improvement. The key word here is target; keep the scope simple to ensure you are able to make incremental improvements. Feedback works best when it relates to a specific goal. Outlining what we want to improve in the first place will better set us up for asking for the right information on feedback forms such as surveys.

Next, we need to plan how we will review and respond to,  feedback provided. People will be far more receptive to giving us information if they know that it is actually making a lasting difference in ways that matters to them. Plan to review and where appropriate respond on a schedule. This provides consistency for those receiving a response, but remember that keeping this simple will allow for you and your team to be able to consistently provide responses. It can be very easy to let this get out of control. Determining a timeline for the process of collection and review will depend on the improvement strategy which you are setting. For example some improvement initiative may revolve around workplace satisfaction which may be conducted annually as compared with a survey on speed of service for a particular customer interaction which may be more frequent

Once we have the feedback, translating it into something we can work with this the next step. In some cases the feedback on a personal interaction may need to be presented in a way which will reinforce the goal we are trying to accomplish in a ‘positive’ way, this is not say we should sugar-coat the feedback. However people may dwell more on a comment with a negative connotation rather than the issue it was meant to describe.

In the end collecting and responding to feedback will allow for your organization to improve not only the service which it provides but improving communication between you and your business as well.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie and/or on LinkedIn

 

 

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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Importance of Job Shadowing



When a colleague from SAIT (my college alumni) had asked if I was interested in participating in a job shadowing program, I jumped at the chance. The reason for wanting to do this was that this was opportunity I was not afforded when I finished school and wished I had. The students, who are wrapping up their final semester, are getting ready to enter the workforce with all the optimism and uncertainty that they can manage. Given the current economy I felt that I had even more in common with these students as I graduated in a bleak economic period with little on the job horizon as well. Reflecting on that time frame I wondered how different my graduating experience could have been if I was able to bounce questions off someone who had some level of experience in the industry.


The objective for the students, in their three hour window with me, was to observe and to ask questions revolving around how a typical day went and share some advice as it applied. While I could have had the students sitting with the team and watching them work, I decided that the time was best spent in them asking questions and then tailoring the visit based on the discussion


The question that I was asked the most, in fact by all of them, was “if there is one skill that you would say was the top skill, what would it be?”


Interesting, but not surprising, was that the answer to this was likely something that was not going to appear on anyone’s resume - it was networking.


I explained that especially in a tough job market the thing that differentiates people from a pile of resumes was that there is some level of connection to the person filling a position.


With each of the students I identified that there are many lines of networking to consider. There are several places to find connections. They range from professional associations, conferences, campus events, various social media platforms and mentoring opportunities such as this one. When I had finished school this was an area that was lacking to me only because I did not have direction on what to look for. As a result I always felt as though I was pushing a boulder uphill to get some traction on where to start.


I mentioned that getting the ‘foot in the door’ is a marathon rather than a race, and to not get discouraged when they get the sense that people only see them as ‘fresh out of school’. While that will happen, there are many more people who would see their fresh perspective and enthusiasm as a benefit rather than focusing on their lack of professional experience. In many cases, I explained, teams are looking for people who can ask the right questions rather than necessarily giving the right answers.


This experience was as much a benefit to me as it was to them. It provides me a networking opportunity also. After all there is a chance that I could be working with, or for, one of these people someday.


Take the time to connect and mentor with someone today.



Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie and/or on LinkedIn


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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

How You Triage Incidents

Everyone deals with incidents in their own way. At a recent networking event I was speaking with a manager whose main responsibility was to manage the incident process from escalation to resolution. During the conversation he explained that they managed it much like a medical triage. Since I must have had a somewhat confused look on my face he outlined that in a past career he worked in a medical center and that this triage seemed similar since his organization was dealing with a multitude of incidents every day (I will get back to that). He said, "You probably already manage your incidents in a much similar way, but let me break it down for you in this way."


Like an emergency room, escalations will come into the service desk and we need to identify which one of the incidents needs to be managed first.


Red Tag
We need to assess which incident has the most immediate need for restoration based on severity and impact. In a medical sense this might be represented by a red tag. The red tag symbolizes those who cannot survive without immediate treatment but have a chance of survival. In this organization they treat critical applications as priority 1 incidents and are managed by all available resources.

Yellow Tag

After this assessment the triage identifies what incidents are not immediate but will need to be addressed once the resources are no longer working on the priority 1 incident. Much like a medical yellow tag these patients are not in immediate danger of death but do require attention.
Green Tag

Lastly, he explained that there were also escalations which were low on the priority scale. These 'walking wounded' or green tags would represent issues that would get looked at after all other issues were addressed or might have had a workaround that would get them by.

I asked what about the ones that couldn't be saved, the black tag..... he didn’t find that amusing. “We don’t have those.”
Not yet, I thought.

The first thought that I had as he described this method of triage was whether this was improving service delivery long term or not. The issues that are less impactful may in reality be slowly bleeding the organization to death, to follow the medical theme. An initial review of the health of the organization may give us a better picture of what requires improvement to build a long term strategy. This way we do not need to worry about the triage as much as the resolution of the issue at hand


From a continual service improvement perspective it might be time to take a look at the bigger picture and see where the support teams may be spinning their wheels. In this particular scenario the manager indicated that this might be impossible since all hands are on deck every day. The focus of improving the customer experience clearly needs to be changed from a reactive to a proactive perspective. This means we need to STOP, think, and re-focus on how we are providing the support.

From the business angle we can all agree that while issues are addressed quickly they would really rather not have to deal with them at all. Some time and effort must be taken to see what recent issues are in the green, yellow and red tags before the IT department becomes a black tag.


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Monday, 22 February 2016

Do you work with an Incident Barometer?


At a recent service management event I was sat at a large table with various service desk managers who were reminiscing about incidents similar to someone reliving old athletics stories from when they attended school. While all the stories were different and amusing in their own ways, there was one common thread to them all. Each company seemed to have a person who always escalated the issues with regularity. They were THAT person.

No matter if the issue is noticed first thing on a Monday morning or on a seemingly slow Friday afternoon, when you see their name on the call display you know that potentially nothing good is happening. It is almost as if these people unknowingly have an ability to find errors and issues that some other may not see or overlook. They can almost sense an incident.

When I suggested that they were an Incident Barometer most of the people laughed, but despite it being comical in nature I thought how we need to harness this power for the forces of good.

Anyone who has dealt with people escalating issues knows at least this one fact. People will only escalate as long as they feel it is getting them some value. If they escalate an issue and don’t see results they will stop escalating. Some people might call this the WIIFM factor. Call it whatever you want, if you have someone escalating with regularity we want to find ways to not only ensure that they continue to do so but also channel this energy into other activities.

For example, one such activity might be to have them performing additional user acceptance tests for changes which are being implemented. While we want to admit it or not we know that changes can cause incidents. We might be able to improve upon this if we insert a person who uses the tool regularly and often is looking for and identifies issues post implementation.

Another example would be to get their input regarding training programs which could encompass new functionality releases all the way up to go-live events for new tools in general. Leveraging their experience may generate many questions that can be reviewed by a project team early on to allow them to get in front of this before they get to the actual training where these questions may be raised. Addressing these questions or concerns as a requirement rather than a function of training or deployment will minimize business impact down the line.

Whether they are escalating because they are in early, because they are a manager or some other reason, the fact remains that they are communicating with you. It is your job to continue the dialog. Doing this will allow you to continue to improve your relationships with the business and enable the improvement of service delivery.

Now it’s your turn, do you work with an incident barometer?


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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Well Rounded ITSM


The other day I had a chance to catch up with a colleague who was eagerly anticipating the start of a new incident manager in his group. He explained that they had quite a few really good candidates, but the role was a large one and right now they were feeling the crunch being short a person.

Initially I thought that they might have been looking for someone to oversee the process but it turned out that they really needed someone with experience at the role of managing the incidents and to be able to hit the ground running since there were quite a few issues each day that needed to be managed to resolution by a seasoned pro.

Because I am curious, and this discussion was already starting to prompt me for a blog post, I wondered what he meant by dealing with loads of issues each day. We explained that it wasn’t one thing that always was an issue it was that within the sea of applications and infrastructure they supported there always seemed to be an issue with something.

“Bottom line, it’s because our change management process isn’t very mature, we still have loads of issues as the result of a change going bad.”

He also outlined that many mornings seemed to be a panic state, people were correcting small issues from a change gone sideways or that a change had not completed on time. The perspective from the business was that there were regular issues. The reality in these types of situations is that suppport teams tend to go into firefighting mode, and as we all know once you are in that state it can be hard to get out. we can hear our business say "Get it fixed as fast as possible"

They did this so well that the incident team was required to have a mastery of resolving issues, so much so it was an expectation. The trouble here is that because this process was not really working in a well-rounded way with other inputs and outputs there was no real way to make overall lasting improvements.

This is likely a loop that will continue until they stop and take a closer look at the big picture.

Let’s expand this one level
Why are we seeing issues in the first place? This isn’t to say that we are looking for what caused the issues. This is typically how this incident centric organization ended up in this rut. They are consistently looking at the technical reason that these failures occur but are not applying what they find to the area that will improve this situation. In reality when we start looking at a larger, more process centric view, we can see that the change management process clearly has some areas for improvement since we have several failed changes or changes which exceed their windows.

Expand one more layer
The magnification for the issue shouldn’t stop there. Once we make an improvement in the initial process we can look for what inputs and outputs are still gaps and make some enhancements in those areas. It’s almost like a domino effect. To continue with this example this organization might focus on processes within Service Operation or Service Transition, but we should also start to think about what this looks like from Service Design and Strategy. For example as we look to make improvements within change management we might find that this is the result of how we manage demand from the business.

Expand one more time
If we were to magnify this again we might identify that all causes for our challenges are the result of poorly managed communication. Do we know and understand what the business outcomes are? Are we in a position to know or understand what they are? When we ask these questions we need to really be sure that we can get the answer without any level of assumption. Are the business goals clear and do they drive the overall decisions that we make every day within the organization.


While our ability to restore service as the result of an incident is important, having a well-rounded approach to service delivery is far more sustainable in the long run. Continuing to pile on resources for break-fix work has no real value. It is also detrimental to improving and fostering a partnership with the business that you support.
 

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Make Improvements and Avoid Groundhog Day


If you were to look back at how your organization has handled certain initiatives over the years it might look like they are in a repeating cycle of trial and error.

For those who may not have seen the movie “Groundhog Day” it is a story about a weatherman (played by Bill Murray) who wakes up every morning and it is February 2nd. No matter what he does throughout the day he will wake up the next morning on February 2nd - Groundhog Day.


Does this sound familiar?


There are times where we might find ourselves in this same type of endless loop where no matter what we do, we end up at the start with no measurable improvement.
So, what do you do?

The trick here is to start to think why it hasn’t worked in the past. It is likely that we already know, and understand why we are in this seemingly endless loop. In fact we are probably complaining about it in repeat mode to just about anybody who will listen.

The first step is to stop and really think about what is the roadblock for getting your goals accomplished. When we run through this exercise, don't focus on only immediate constraints, think bigger scale. For example if it is related to someone in leadership who is challenging this activity. Understand what is preventing them for seeing things in a way which moves us forward. Avoid the blame game as this is never going to help produce results.

As an example let’s suppose that we are having difficulty getting problem management off the ground. We all know that there are many positive benefits of this activity so why are we not performing it. We know that to improve service we want to reduce the number of business impacting incidents. Sounds simple enough, so let’s break down the reasons that our example organization is not able to jump this hurdle.

Out team doesn’t have the people to do this work
Instead of using this as a crutch, let's focus on how we can get around this. Many organizations will say that they don’t have the bandwidth for other activities. Perhaps we need to find a way to ensure that the teams that are impacted by the incidents have the tools to investigate and manage the issues in a proactive way. We may not have a ‘problem manager’ but by managing the work load we can reduce the waste work generated by incidents. People might just see this as ‘more work to do’ but if this added effort is marketed in a way which shows long term work reductions than we can move the needle on this.

We don’t get traction with the problems that we work
Firstly. Make sure you are working on the right things. Working on an issue which might be the result of a memory leak might be a suitable problem by the books, but we need to start thinking outside of that thought pattern if we are going to gain some momentum on how problem is perceived. Is the work and results of resolving this issue going to do that? Instead we might want to take on a problem that impacts tasks which would be better if they were automated (password resets) or even training issues that could be managed by a knowledge article.

No one understands what problem management is
I have news for you, they don’t actually care. However they do care about what a solid problem resolution can produce - results. Learn to celebrate your successes. Communicate when you are able to achieve wins by making progress. Even if they are small to you they can build up to something substantial.


In the movie Groundhog Day the main character, Phil Connors, is finally able to escape this loop by connecting with the people in the town of Punxsutawney where he is trapped as well as sharing his experiences with them to improve their lives.

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Monday, 18 January 2016

Communication is like Europe



At a local event I was speaking with a person who was having troubles with finding a common ground for communication with their business counterpart. She explained to me that while the business would tell them in their own words what they want but her team could never seem to deliver on what was asked.

She went on to explain that her team went to what they believed to be great lengths to improve on the delivery of service and be a better partner but they seemed to continually miss the mark.

I explained to her that degrees of communication are like Europe. She had a bewildered look on her face, so I thought in the spirit of communication I had better explain.

Some years ago I took a trip to the continent and did a fair bit of backpacking. Before I left I planned which countries I would visit and since this was before the advent of smart phones and apps I didn’t want to carry translation dictionaries for every language so I put down the top phrases for some and none for others.

Greece was one of the farthest gaps I experienced, while at most places people spoke English, the places in off the beaten path places was in Cyrillic. Which left me totally lost or at the mercy of others. In other words there were significant communication challenges.

In France I found that while my French was lacking I had a better handle on communication since I had some background on the language. Aside from understanding many of the words in the printed form, I was also able to pick out enough keywords from the quickest speaking Frenchman to put things together.

In England one would assume that I would have no challenges whatsoever since English was my principal language. If you have ever conversed with an Englishman you would know that not all English is the same. This might be the best indication of where business and providers are seeing this level of communication breakdown.

Here are some tips to improve on your communication skills

Ask questions

There are no stupid questions, but if you don’t get the information you want that there could have been smarter questions you could have asked. Leverage the 5 W’s and get an answer that has a comprehensive explanation rather than a one or two word answer. Take the information that you are given and ask the person in your words just to ensure that you have hit the mark. This will improve you comprehension of the information that you are given.

Face to Face

Like many of the places I visited I was in a way better position to understand what was going on because I was speaking directly. I found that if I had to speak with someone on the phone the lack of engagement and ability to see their body language would generally end up with me booking a night in the worst hostel in town.

Listen don’t talk

Some people feel the need to finish off another person’s sentence as a way for them to understand (or believe to understand) what is being explained to them. In many cases the most important detail of what they are explaining will come to the end and by speaking for them we over-write the most important details on our own assumption.

In the end you need to wrap all of this together to get the big picture. Some information has been shared with you. You gathered all the details from the business and then validated the information with the business in your words to ensure that you understood what they said and then had them confirm that you understand. The trick is to continue the dialog regularly to ensure that you continually stay on target for the communication process


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