Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Everyone can innovate, so why aren't they?

At a recent engagement I was told that the team I was about to lead was VERY seasoned.  I thought this was great.  An opportunity to leverage their combined expertise to build a world class ITSM practice for this client.

What I found though was not a team eager to innovate and impress their customer.  I found a team that were paralyzed by fear.  They were being held back by two things.  The first was a fear of making a decision without prior management approval, the second was the fear of any type of change.

It's easy to see that years of mismanagement or micro-management was the cause of these two issues but how do you get them out of this cycle and even better, to a place where they innovate?

The first step is to set a direction, let them know what your overall vision is for the team and then empower them to make working level decisions based on their knowledge of that vision.  If they are the slightest bit intelligent, they should be able to make decisions to direct you all towards a single goal.  Yes they will occasionally make mistakes but don't threaten to splatter their blood on the walls if they do.  Instead either clarify the goal or direction or, if necessary, change it!  As long as you clearly set some direction they will follow it and if they don't you have an HR issue to deal with.

The second step is to give them the time to innovate.  The team I inherited were told they could ONLY work on something if the request came from an approved client.  The result of this was periods of padding the time spent on approved work to cover time spent waiting for more approved work.  This is a great example of someone taking something they read in an ITIL book and applying it without the filter of common sense.  Yes everything they work on should be recorded but it should also be realistic.  If there are points of inefficiency in your process, how are you going to find them if the numbers have been changed to show 100% utilization of all resources?

If there is any downtime, find some way of using it to innovate.  Allow the team to look for continuous improvement opportunities.  If there is absolutely no downtime then you need to build some innovation time into the work flow.  Without it, the current situation will never get any better and if your business picks up you will not have the resources to cope.

If you're leaving the innovation to management, you are wasting a huge amount of capacity that the team possesses.  Letting everyone know what the team is trying to achieve and not only enable but expect the team to innovate will not only provide results, it will increase engagement, morale and ultimately customer satisfaction.

For more information on building effective ITSM teams, contact tony@tonydenford.com.

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