10 Things You Need to Know to Be a Better ITSM Leader – Part 2

Being an ITSM leader

In my previous blog, I recounted how I had recently finished the book The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson and how the ten life lessons or truths that he knows are “sure things” inspired me to think about my IT service management (ITSM) equivalents. That blog listed my first five sure things, which related to being a better ITSM leader, especially when starting to adopt ITSM within an organization.

Here I share my next five sure things – this time they are more personal in nature, they are more about you as an ITSM practitioner rather an ITSM leader, and are again a mix of my own, and industry, truths.

6. A Certification Does Not Make You a Practitioner

Knowledge is important. Taking courses helps you to gain that knowledge. But just because you sat in a class, or in front of a PC, and passed a test does not make you knowledgeable. A certificate is three things: a) your name on a piece of (digital) paper; b) a record that you showed up; c) a record that you paid enough attention to answer a series of questions. Certifications really set a perception of what you should be able to do rather than the fact that you can actually do it.

Like anything else you’ve tried, you will not be perfect at ITSM work on your first try, which is completely okay and acceptable, unless you tout how great you are because of the certification you’ve been awarded. Certification does not make the practitioner; practice makes the practitioner.

7. If You Want an Expert Craftsman, You Must Allow Them to Be an Apprentice

When you start doing something for the first time, you should not expect that you’ll be perfect or that your output will be polished or pretty. I think back to my first attempt in middle school shop class to build a cutting board. In my mind, I had this beautiful and pristine, finely finished, wood block. I imaged my mother would proudly display it to friends and relatives saying “Oh, yes, look at how smooth the surface is and the wonderful contrast between the bands of wood.”

In reality, I didn’t measure correctly, so one side of the cutting board was two inches longer than the other. I didn’t glue the board together well, so the board had one concave side and one convex. Poor sanding left many rough edges. And finally, not cleaning the board properly before finishing left a gritty surface. Yep, lots of mistakes (give me a break, I was only 12 years old) but lots of lessons learned. I was able to apply those lessons and make much better wood working pieces in the future.

The same is true for building ITSM processes in your company. Most of the people involved, including yourself, may not have done this before. Even though you may have wonderful coaches and consultants helping, you may not produce a pretty or perfect product on the first attempt. Or the second. Or the hundredth. This is okay but only if you learn from each iteration. Importantly, work to not repeat the same mistakes.

8. You Cannot Copy the Journey of Others and Expect the Same Results

On a daily basis, we all see public posts on various forums and social/professional networks that go something like “…my company is looking to implement <insert process name here>…can you please share your templates?” There are a few points to consider here:

  • Don’t use the word “implement” – the best processes are “adopted” not implemented by people.
  • It’s okay to see what other people are doing – the sharing of ideas helps you grow in knowledge and provides salient points on pathways to help you succeed.
  • However, if you expect to take the work of others, apply it to your situation, and expect the same outcome, you will fail. Your situation is unique. It is a snowflake. The purpose of designing a service strategy is to meet the needs of your customers. Therefore, you cannot just take others work, drop it in place, and hope that your customers will be okay with it. Hope is not a strategy.

Yes, it seems easy to simply look at the work of others to “just do what they do” but remember that your job is to help position your company to meet the needs of your customers. You’ll always need to do the work to understand what your customers need and build/design processes to help customers gain the value they desire.

9. You Have to Be You

Now, this might seem like a “Well, duh!” statement, but I think it’s one of the toughest skills to master.

At work, and possibly in life, you will be bombarded with well-meaning people who may advise you to “…be like <insert perceived organizational superstar name here>…” or make statements such as “…you are too harsh/soft…,” “…your concepts are too difficult to understand…,” or “…this is not the operational priority for my team, you need to align your approach to meet my needs…” And all this advice can cause personal confusion, especially if the people providing the advice are giving it as opinions versus statements of fact. For instance, for those of us who are “people pleasers,” opinions that ask us to change our delivery or tone are often difficult to process and may result in kneejerk reactions that cause us to abandon methods that actually help us communicate well.

Knowing yourself and how you communicate is critical. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do your core values match up with the departments core values? Are you willing to compromise your opinions in order to help the team meet a goal? There are many more questions like this, but knowing the “answers” can help guide you through bad criticism and counterproductive advice or coaching.

10. Never Stop Learning

I cannot stress this enough… read more! Read blogs, white papers, analysis, product reviews. Read anything from reputable sources that you can get your hands on.

When you go to conferences, interact with the people. Learn from their stories of what worked and why. When you return from a conference, share your key takeaways and post the presentation slides for your colleagues, and discuss the most important/interesting slides with your team. Do anything and everything you can to increase your knowledge and change/challenge your thought process. Remember, you are the person responsible for furthering your education and knowledge.

So, there you have my ten “sure things” for being an ITSM leader and practitioner. Which do you agree with? What would you add?