ValueFlow Thinking

Service Management as a Lifestyle

New Year’s Resolutions.  Sometimes you achieve them, other times not, some years you don’t make any.  The ideas can be many-fold, but to make change stick, it must be habitual; you must live it.  Lifestyle begets Goal.

For example.  I’m incubating the idea of a return to karate to prepare for my second Dan ranking – a significant goal.  My lifestyle will need to adjust: making sacrifices to free up time, re-visiting diet, channelling energy to ensure my family relationships and work outputs actually get better – not suffer – as a result (inspired by Antifragile).  And to further the challenge; do I quit the lifestyle once my goal has been achieved, or is this goal just a signpost to the next?

The Aha Moment

I was watching a farming programme called Country Calendar when visiting my beloved New Zealand earlier this year. The story centred around a husband and wife team had come to hate their farming enterprise so much, they considered walking away from it.  The husband then said “if you hate something, work harder at it”.  This got my attention.  Attitude shifted, lifestyle adjusted, and their business turned around: new markets opened up, they won business awards, and taught overseas visitors about their innovative practices.  The turnaround was truly inspiring.  It did reinforce that you have to be passionately invested to reach worthy goals.  You have to live it.

I read the Bratty Redhead blog recently about DevOps as a lifestyle.  Technology, yes; process, of course.  But a lifestyle?  Lets explore that.  The success of DevOps, to stitch together the tools and process, first requires people – from different silos – to create a shared understanding of the problem and the solution.  This isn’t a one-off activity, it’s a habit, how work is normally done; it’s team over function.  The notion of lifestyle, as the way we operate holistically and normally starts to make sense.  I say extend that notion across service management as a whole: the Service Management Lifestyle.  When we’re at work, this is how we live: organisational silos become secondary to ensuring the flow of the value stream across silos.  Imagine that battle going away!

Tell me how

OK, big and noble idea.  How?  Lets be clear, the People-Process-Technology framework to organise problem solving, just works.  But I’m advocating the Service Management Lifestyle, so it starts with People.  Kris Buytaert sums it up nicely [paraphrasing] “DevOps is not just tools, its talking to each other”.  He advocates getting together over a beer (he’s Belgian).

Choose a burning issue and mash together a small, cross-functional team.  Skunkworks it if you have to.  The issue you want to solve should clearly relate to improving value creation, i.e. the utility and warranty of a service in production, and the cycle time to get it there.  You want kudos here because you’re justifying your lifestyle.  Task the team to brainstorm the problem statement with a measure of the current state, and hack the root cause(s) and solution(s) and measure the improvement.  Make it visible.

Repeat the approach for each bottleneck: Build-Measure-Learn.  Start visualising the value streams: where are the constraints, who’s involved? Start conversations and focus on the problem statement, the tools and the process.  You’re already doing the people bit.

All this is a cost to the business though.  I’d find an executive champion and bring them into the tent from the start.  That person will be the beachhead for change at the Management layer.  I think an outcome here is to have Management behave as Scrum Master; actively removing constraints to the flow of work.

Remember, worthy goals require you to adopt a certain way of behaving, of habits, i.e. lifestyle.  But, as Michael Port says “we get executing big ideas wrong because we try to add more and more things, we overload”.  To get a hotter fire, sure add more wood, but don’t smother it; it needs oxygen too, it needs space to breathe.

Breathe, and keep your lifestyle balanced – in and out of work.

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