Is Darth Vadar in your ITSM project?

darthWhen I started my current role of Total Quality Manager, my CIO lovingly dubbed me “Darth Vader”.

In his view, Darth is the ultimate project manager and the CIO wanted the same qualities in me.

The CIO needed me to brutally prioritize tasks, make decisions based on data, honor commitments, manage risk, be persuasive, take on the big problems, and not be afraid to get my hands dirty.

Recently, the CIO asked me to morph out of Vader mode, so I thought I would take opportunity to reflect back on Vader moments in an ITSM project.

Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed

A lesson early on, an ITSM project is not about technology. The technology will only be as good as the process constructed. If your incident management process does not work when you execute it on paper, adding any technology is just going to accelerate the pain. Remember to include your stakeholder in the design and to put people first. Even if the process does not work, the people, if you have gained their trust, will quickly find a good workaround and help improve the next iteration.

Lesson Learned: Involve stakeholders and communicate intent. Use technology to accelerate good processes

Don’t underestimate the Force

As with any project, you will have your Jedi and Sith plus a lot of people simply trying to get through the rebellion. Dealing with Jedi and Sith is the easy part. The “political” alignment is easy to spot and understand. For me, the Jedi are teammates who help lead the “we’re not changing” attitude (i.e. the ITSM rebellion). While my Sith brethren actively and proudly helped build the “Death Star” (i.e ITSM processes).

The difficulty in my ITSM project was dealing with the “just trying to get through” crowd. We had:

  • Uncle Owen – wanted nothing to do with the rebellion (“just leave things alone”)
  • Greedo and Boba Fett (bounty hunters) –  worked to “take out” new process and changes
  • Droids (but not C-3PO or R2-D2) – folks you really could not communicate with and simply seemed to be focused on doing the next programmed task
  • Lando Calrissian – people who seemed to be on your side but you still are unsure of their motives
  • Admiral Ackbar – people who kept reminding others the project is “a trap”

This group is easily swayed by the Force and Jedi mind tricks from the Jedi and Sith. As we all know, the Force in our organizations is culture, and this is what binds everything together. Small shifts in the Force can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Need an example? Ever brought up an idea, just as a concept, with no intent of doing anything more than creating a discussion and suddenly you are fielding questions/comments/concerns about this idea? “When are we doing this?” “Nobody discussed this with me!” “You just can’t decide on your own to change my job” If you dig a little, you find members of the Jedi used the Force and Jedi mind tricks to build FUD and sometimes to derail the work.

Lesson Learned: There is a fine balance of culture in an organization. Little things (changes, ideas) may not upset the balance but a buildup of little things can cause a great disturbance. A lot of change can happen, sometimes quickly. Keep communication channels open. Let people express their concerns and take each concern seriously. Work to displace FUD.

And now, your highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base…

I knew we had “shadow systems” running in our support environment. Proving it, along with the issues caused, was difficult. We got to a point where we started asking, “If a shadow system works (really) well, should you disrupt it just because you are adopting a service management framework?”

We tackled this issue by talking to our Service Owners and finding out why the system was in place. In several cases, it was simply old design and the system worked so well, nobody felt there was an issue to address. We used the ISO/IEC 20000 standards to help determine if the system met the level of quality we desired. If it did, we worked to formalize the process. If not, we worked to transition to an appropriate process. Along the way, we continued to build trust and fight Jedi.

Lesson Learned: If something works well, meets your goals, and satisfies customers, stick with it.

You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor!

Confronting those who actively worked to disrupt the project is one of the most difficult and challenging aspects of the job. In any project, you must understand the FUD statements. Determine why your colleague(s) feel this way. It is important to listen carefully. Find out why they perceive the project as a “threat” to their job/career/lifestyle. Make sure you address why they feel they way they do.

Lesson Learned: LISTEN. Use crucial conversations. Remember, we’re all in this together.

What is thy bidding, my master?

You will receive many opinions while managing an ITSM adoption project. Keep in mind two things:

  • You are charged with getting the project to completion
  • Know who charged you to get this done.

Comedian Jerry Clower tells a story where he was hired to perform at a show. When Jerry walked into the theater, the lighting director walked up and asked “Mr. Clower, how would you like the lights tonight?” Jerry thinks for a moment and then responds, “Son, I don’t know. You’re a professional. Just make everything look as good as you can.”

Next, the makeup artist asks Jerry, “How would you like your makeup done?” Jerry responds with “You know, you ain’t got a lot to work with…just make me look as good as possible. I trust you”.

Finally, the manager of the theater asks, “Mr. Clower, would you mind coming through the audience and shaking hands as you come on stage?” Jerry responds with “Sir, it would be my pleasure to do so!” The manager pauses for a moment and then says “Mr. Clower, I’ve been talking with my staff. All of them tell me you are so friendly and trusting of their abilities. We get a lot of artists in here who just are not that way. Why are you so different?”

Jerry looks the manger dead in the eye and responds, “Son, did you forget? You hired me.”

The point of the story – don’t forget who you work for. The CIO wants this project done. Know the reasons why. Also, know and understand the level of support from the executive team, the service owners, and process owners. Everyone has to be on the same page for this to work.

Lesson Learned: It takes a village to adopt ITSM. Know the key reasons for the project. Know the stakeholders and their expectations. Remember who you work for. 

May the Force be with you

Finally, here are some additional thoughts:

  • You may be Darth Vader in your project. Just remember to stay true to people first then the project. Don’t give into the Dark Side.
  • Search your feelings – Always use as much data as you can but don’t forget to use intuition and the counsel of others to help make decisions.
  • “I’m altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further” – Remember, it’s a project. It’s not a recipe, cookbook or set of instructions. Know the scope of your efforts and be flexible as possible without compromising the quality of the project.

Can you relate to this? Which Star Wars character are you when it comes to your ITSM project?

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